Nutritional Advice: What You Need to Know
Those who look to seek out ways to better their health are stepping in the right direction no doubt. Any effort to improve our well being, that is of good intention, should always be commended.
So with this effort, especially in the realm of fitness, individuals may turn to two different people for advice: a personal trainer and a “nutritionist.” I mean, diet and physical activity are the two main components for a healthy body, right? Correct, my friend. You’ve got it.
But there are a couple things you’ve got to know, specifically in the world of nutrition, in order to maximize your results and minimize risk of complications. That trainer at your gym that’s writing out your macros may be breaking a few rules, and you’ve got to keep an eye out to be able to determine this.
There are two different titles that you will run into: Registered Dietitian (RD) and Nutritionist. It is extremely important to understand the difference between these two terms. A specialist with their RD has obtained a degree in dietetics, and has passed the Registered Examination of Dietetics to gain the right to place “RD” next to their name. Just like doctors are assumed to have extensive knowledge and qualifications to practice medicine, Registered Dietitians are assumed to have extensive knowledge in the world of nutrition, and are allowed to prescribe nutritional advice just like a doctor can prescribe medicine.
A “Nutritionist” is a very loosely-used term that can apply to almost anyone. It is non-accredited; it is not protected by the law, and can therefore be used by anyone, regardless of their level of education in the field in the nutrition. This means that “Person A” with an over-night nutrition course certification can call themselves a nutritionist just as easily as “Person B” with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences.
Where The Line Is Drawn
When it comes to both nutritionists and registered dietitians, both are allowed to provide nutritional education. If you have a question about what a certain vitamin does or how protein helps build muscle, these two specialists are allowed to provide you with endless information. However, this is where the line is drawn between what a Registered Dietitian is allowed to do and what a “Nutritionist” is allowed to do.
Nutritionists are, by law (dependent on state), not allowed to prescribe any type of customized plan to an individual like an RD is allowed to do. This means that your certified personal trainer, your friend who is a nutrition fanatic, or even your doctor cannot prescribe a diet plan for you. That is the duty of a Registered Dietitian. Specifically, 35 states regulate dietetics through state licensure, implying that you must be an “RD” to practice. 11 states regulate dietetics through statutory certification, meaning that certain titles cannot be held without certain credentials met (RD or Certified Nutritionist). Only 3 states don’t regulate dietetics.
You are more than welcome to seek nutritional education from anyone. Asking your gym’s trainer questions about nutrition isn’t going to hurt anyone. If a Nutritionist does not have “RD” next to their name, they are still allowed to inform you on basic nutrition. They can even tell you what foods contain what nutrients or recommend certain substitutions. The main reason that they cannot prescribe diet plans is because of the lack of credentials and assumed level of knowledge. Yes, some nutritionists may have extensive knowledge in the field, but that RD implies a guaranteed source of credible information, just like someone with an MD is implied to have extensive knowledge on the medicine prescribed.
When it comes to your health, you want to be sure you’re being supplied the best advice and best counseling possible, and you want to be SURE that the person supplying this has the expertise to do so. Because “nutritionist” is such a widely-used term by people of various levels of nutritional education, you can never be 100% sure if what they’re pitching to you is the absolute best. One guy may know all there is to know, but another may gain all his knowledge from bro-science articles and faulty sources. Keep an eye out for credentials, know when someone is stepping outside of their scope of practice, and make sure to consult a professional for any personalized diet prescription.