Should PT’s recommend supplements?

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The personal training industry has always prided itself on its integrity and has been so successful because of that very reason. It offers the public an individualised service with tailor-made workouts, carefully planned goals and a kind of confidentiality that we relish and use to justify the price tag which accompanies the precious one-to-one sessions. In the healthy lifestyle vein, alongside exercise often comes nutritional advice and though PTs are well versed and suitably knowledgeable about meal plans, a provoking question now is whether or not they should be recommending supplements to their clients.

One of the fastest growing industries around, the nutritional supplement group produced around $32 billion in revenue in 2012. That’s a lot of vitamins and minerals. From Prograde to Herbalife, Isogenix to Shakeology, the market for these supposedly diet and life-enhancing products is booming. So who is buying? Ten years ago, it was just the musclemen and gym warriors but now it seems a decision not to take supplements regularly is becoming a minority position, with utilisation extending to the full spectrum of men and women, young and old.

The demand, then, is huge and PTs are increasingly turning to supplement programs to make additional income since many of them are commission based. The potential to enhance their income so passively is a difficult lure to resist to the extent that some PTs now risk their own personal reputation. The money-making schemes which lurk behind the nutritional promises of supplements are having a blinding effect on the integrity of the personal training industry. As a result, trainers fail to properly research the usefulness, effectiveness, and value of the product that they are basing their reputation on.

It is not illegal for PTs to recommend or even try to sell supplements to their clients, but it means they are liable if something negative were to result from supplement use. In the case of selfish interest whereby PTs are just interested in how much cash they can make, it is also an abuse of the trust that a client has placed in their trainer. It is arguably not just a coincidence that the most expensive supplements offer the most appealing commission programs, and thus the client ends up spending a fortune on a seriously overpriced product.

We are not suggesting that PTs shouldn’t offer their clients any advice about supplements. Moreover, as long as they have done their due diligence, any commission the trainer may receive as a result of a sale is great for them. We just want to be sure that PTs are not responsible for perpetuating this problem by falsely promising results by way of a product which they have not researched themselves. If a trainer chooses to recommend a supplement, the majority of which are expensive and therefore a thoughtful investment on behalf of the client, the trainer has a responsibility to be familiar with its make-up, any side-effects and how effective it actually is.

This research should be non-biased and nutritionally accurate. It will take time because of the wealth of studies, stats and information but we hope that as a PT, you’re aware of the value of a reputation. It takes years to build and seconds to lose, so why risk it? Trainers are in a position of education and they need to become part of the solution rather than the problem by helping their clients identify the trusted supplements from the ‘miracle’ minerals.

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