Finding the correct fitness and nutritional advice that works for you can be a daunting task, and almost everyone you meet will claim to be an expert or have some sort of advice that they swear is the best. Unfortunately, what works for one person will not necessarily work for another, and in some cases the advice people are giving can be misleading. The wrong advice can be harmful to our health and overall wellbeing, so it’s important that whoever is giving nutrition or fitness advice is qualified to give it.
Where can I find reliable nutrition advice?
When it comes to advice around nutrition, it’s very important to go to a reliable source.
A dietitian is a qualified health professional who applies their knowledge of food and nutrition to promote health, prevent disease, and contribute to the management of disease. A dietitian is the most qualified person to provide guidance on a healthy person’s food intake and diet, and the only qualified person to provide guidance on using food and nutrition to manage health conditions and illnesses.
Dietitians are regulated healthcare professionals who are fully licensed to assess, diagnose and treat nutritional problems.
Becoming qualified as a dietitian takes years of study, training and taking exams. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals that can be employed by the HSE to work in a clinical environment with patients. You can find a list of registered dietitians in Ireland on the website of their regulatory body, CORU. The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, which is the professional body for dietitians, also has further information.
What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?
The main difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is that the profession of nutritionist is not medically accredited. The term dietitian is protected by law, so only individuals with proven appropriate qualifications can refer to themselves as a ‘dietitian’. The term ‘nutritionist’ is not regulated or protected by law, so anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even if they have no qualifications.
Trained nutritionists normally have a Bachelor of Science Public Health Nutrition, Human Nutrition or Nutritional Science. Dietitians have a dual qualification, which means they are qualified to practice as both a dietitian and a nutritionist.
Pay close attention to the qualifications of the person you are seeing if you want to go to a nutritionist. Find out where they trained and if they have a reputable degree in nutrition. If a nutritionist heavily promotes supplements, detox diets, or offers to run tests for medical conditions, like allergy tests, make an appointment with a dietitian instead.
Where can I find reliable fitness advice?
The best place to go for fitness advice might depend on your needs and abilities.
Gym instructors and personal trainers
Gym instructors and personal trainers can offer advice and guidance in the area of fitness, and in particular can advise on things like building muscle, losing weight, or working on areas you would like to tone up. It’s always a good idea to talk to a gym instructor or a personal trainer if you’re new to working out or if you want to try something for the first time, like weight lifting. They can help you to make sure you’re approaching the exercises in the right way to avoid injury.
A gym instructor or personal trainer may offer nutritional advice, but they may not be qualified to give such advice. It’s always a good idea to get nutrition advice from a qualified health professional, like a dietitian, before altering your diet.
A physiotherapist is likely the most qualified person to offer advice on fitness, especially if you have any injuries, mobility issues, or an illness. If you have had an injury, they can also advise you on the best way to take care of it and heal so that you can continue to exercise while helping the injury to improve and preventing injuries in the future.
Like dieticians, physiotherapists are regulated healthcare professionals who have completed years of training and exams at university and are the only professionals who can be employed by the HSE to work in a clinical environment. Physiotherapists are experts in movement for people of all ages, and have specialist training in the diagnosis and treatment of movement problems, muscle and joint pains and injuries.
If you think you might need to see a physiotherapist, talk to your doctor and ask if you can be referred to one in your area.
There are many health, nutrition and food websites that offer advice and information. When searching online for information about nutrition and fitness, try to find information that has been written by a registered dietitian (RD), a physiotherapist, or another medical professional as often as possible.
A lot of nutritional information online comes from ‘pop’ nutritionists and media personalities. While these people may sometimes hold certifications or have experience in nutrition and fitness, they sometimes use this as an excuse to push current dieting fads. Always be wary of diet advice that you see online, especially fad diets or people who guarantee results in a short space of time.
All of the content published on SpunOut.ie goes through a validation process to make sure the information we are providing is reliable and factual. This means that at least two experts review our content before it is published, so that you can trust what you find on our website. Visit our heathy eating and exercise sections to find information on leading a healthy lifestyle.
Can my doctor offer diet and fitness advice?
While it is always a good idea to discuss any change in your diet with your doctor, especially if you have a medical condition or are on medication, remember that a GP is not necessarily an expert in nutrition. Sometimes a doctor might recommend cutting certain foods out of your diet or put you on a restrictive diet that does not meet your unique nutritional needs. If you are unsure about the advice your doctor has given, discuss this with them. You can also ask your doctor to refer you to a qualified dietitian if you need nutritional advice.