Personal training has evolved in recent years.
The internet has changed every industry, and fitness is no exception to that. With the development of blogs and online coaching, there’s a bewildering array of diet plans available to anyone with a wifi connection. Countless articles on how to start a healthy lifestyle too.
This has made it easier than ever to get high-quality information (like us!) but it’s also made it far easier to be overwhelmed with the hundreds, or thousands, of options on the market. With this saturation, and the drive for attention and page-views, you’d be forgiven for having too much choice to make a decision.
So, what we’re going to discuss today is what this looks like, why it’s happened, and how you can use a few simple rules to cut through the nonsense. If you’re trying to figure out what to do, you need to read on before diving into the variety of “gurus” and their diet plans!
Why is this a Problem?
The place to start is one simple question: why are we in this position? Why do we need to write this article?
The simple fact is that with the freedom of information, the real nutritional science out there has been diluted because anyone can shout their opinions into the internet. You don’t need to be certified to provide dietary advice – like you would do if you wanted to be a professional dietitian.
This means that every man and his dog has an opinion about what makes an effective diet. And many of these half-work! That’s why they’re getting traction on the internet. If they provide 50% of the possible benefits, then people will come out with testimonials about how it worked for them.
This has really diluted the discussion of nutrition and diet, and these half-truths have taken over. It’s basically the same as taking dietary advice from that jacked guy at the gym – it relies on the idea that success makes you knowledgeable. This is why Instagram “celebrities” and personal trainers have come to a position of prominence when discussing diet and training plans.
To cut this whole conversation short, it’s this simple: you don’t need to know what you’re talking about to sell diet plans over social media, and more people are doing exactly that to try and monetise their following.
What’s wrong with the Market?
The problems with this approach are due to the fact that these individuals are selling fads or are underqualified to deal with nutrition properly. You might get a re-hashed program that isn’t designed for your needs, or something that is only 50% effective.
It would be better if the information came from specialists in strength and conditioning from experts in Soccer or Rugby for example. Coaches and trainers that have been involved in Rugby training for years and have data from 1000s of players. We end up with bad advice from coaches that have limited data and ones that haven’t worked on a mass scale.
While this isn’t going to ruin your life – and it may well work – it’s also sub-optimal. This is fine, except that you’re paying for this type of plan and you can get most of the information you need online for free. You can lose weight on any calorie deficit, but that doesn’t mean that the diet is the best use of your hard-earned cash.
To start with, it’s obvious that this money would be better spent in a consultation with an actual dietitian. The opportunity cost is the first problem – there are better uses for your money.
Depending on who you’re dealing with, unqualified or misinformed dietary advice can be legitimately dangerous. This is especially true of ‘influencers’ and other popular fitness figures who have no idea how the body works – or have built their own physiques using anabolic steroids.
There are countless examples of well-respected individuals providing diets with dangerously-low levels of essential macronutrients. For example, a very-low-fat diet has been advocated by fitness models to their trainees without regard for the risks this can pose to their endocrine health. This is just one example, and it becomes even more complicated.
The real risk is getting a seriously unbalanced diet. The secondary risk is paying for something that simply isn’t that effective, or doesn’t account for your specific, individual needs.
Bunk is the term we reserve for supplements that don’t work and training/diet plans that aren’t worth your money. They’re common on the market and they actually have functional similarities.
To start with, look out for the “this is the only solution” approach. There isn’t just one approach to dieting and training that will work, and if you’re buying a diet plan that claims to be a miracle cure, it’s probably marketing hype.
Any diet that focuses on something totally extraneous to weight-loss or muscle-gain is also likely to be bunk. If your diet is about what cavemen ate, what snakes eat, or some other weird criteria, it’s probably not much use for what humans should eat – or what you specifically need.
This is our next key principle: don’t buy a diet plan from anyone who doesn’t ask about you, your medical history, or your goals. These are essential pieces of information for building a diet plan and, if they’re not asked, the diet is a cookie-cutter plan. This is how you get sold bunk, but also puts you at risk of a plan that flies in the face of your needs (such as carb intake for a pre-diabetic).
With the vast array of different options on the market, you’re not alone in worrying about the quality of these products and where you should spend your money. This is not a comprehensive guide, but it provides you with a few simple lenses for judging a diet plan.
Making an informed choice is essential when it comes to your diet. This is a huge player in your health and fitness – it can make or break your fitness experience – so you need to get it right. Invest some time in figuring out your needs and goals, and work with someone that has respect for those variables.
Consulting with a dietitian for a need-analysis or even a full diet plan is the best way to start this process. However, if you want nutrition coaching for sport performance or physique (dietitians exist in both of these spaces), make sure they comply with this diagnosis and tailor a diet to you.
Stick with this advice and be willing to say no. You need to use your standards to filter out the bunk – you’re paying money for this service, you have a right to pick and choose. We hope this article has been useful, and that you use these simple rules for judging a diet or fitness plan.