Nutrition Education – Why Bother?

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diet, nutrition, mens health, DR Gary Mendoza, LEAN Man System, nutrition education, nutrition courses

Nutrition Education - Why Bother?

Very often when I teach nutrition to prospective personal trainers they are a bit baffled as to why they have three days training. After all it’s just a case of knowing about how much protein, fat and carbohydrate (CHO) we need – Right? Well the truth of the matter couldn’t be further from this misguided belief. I have spent the last fifteen years studying and researching nutrition and I still don’t feel like I know it all. In fact when it comes to nutrition you are always learning and the minute you think you know it all I would suggest you need to retire.

How can nutrition be that complicated?

To fully understand nutrition you have to have some very fundamental underpinning knowledge without this you will never be able to fully appreciate what happens to nutrients in the body. You first off have to understand the physiology and biochemistry of the digestive system. The gastrointestinal (GI) system is complex as is the way the body utilises and stores nutrients. A degree qualified nutritionist or dietitian will do similar physiology and biochemistry to a trainee doctor in the first two years at university. Having got this foundation in place you now need to understand the complexity of the molecules that make up foods, after all this is what is now going to interact with the body’s GI system. Having got the molecules into the body how do they interact at a cellular level? So this is your starting point as far as understanding.

You now need to appreciate the effect that these nutrients have at different life stages from the new born right through to the elderly. At each life stage the requirements will be different and there can be any number of confounding variables you have to account for within each group. Finally over the top of this you can layer sport and exercise requirements. This adds a whole different set of factors to the nutritional equation. The very fact that the English Institute for Sport insists their nutritionists hold a masters in sports nutrition should be an indicator that this is not a straightforward science. So the next time you think you know enough about nutrition perhaps you should have a bit of rethink.

There are many courses available on nutrition but you do need to ask yourself what information will I be given and how useful is it. The bottom line is that if you want to deliver nutritional advice to all segments of a population in all circumstances then you need a degree in nutrition. This will give you the foundational knowledge that will form the basis to your ongoing education. You can then specialise in a specific field of nutrition should you want to. If you just want to be able to help people improve their dietary intake then short-courses are OK. Providing the individual doesn’t have any underlying medical condition (this is the field of a dietitian) then you can offer advice. However this advice should be evidence based on peer reviewed scientific studies; “I know someone who or they say” does not count as scientific evidence. Any course you study should be thoroughly referenced and the tutor should be well qualified to deliver the material. You wouldn’t want to be taught physiotherapy by someone who has completed a two week sports injury course or taught to drive by someone holding a provisional license, well the same should be true for nutrition education. Ask if the tutor is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) or a certified dietitian. If the tutor does not possess this depth of knowledge to underpin their teaching you are going to get a poorly delivered product with a lack of clear explanation. The choice is obviously yours but if you are spending good money then you should make sure you are getting value for that money. After all you are now going to pass on this knowledge to others and the last thing you want to be doing is passing on advice that is not accurate and has the potential to cause injury.

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