Category Archives: news

The Conflict of Interest with Dietary Supplement Recommendations

Personal Trainers always are always look to maximize their time and money while doing training sessions month after month.  Once established as a certified personal trainer, you set your rate with clients (or your training facility does), and fill your schedule with as many clients as you can until inevitably trainers reach a plateau. Either you have some sanity in your day, and allow a healthy work/life balance, or you have more clients than you can handle and work 14 hour days training non stop. Either way your income hits a snag, and the certified personal trainer looks for alternative sources of revenue to boost their bottom line. The growing trend seems to be advising clients and other health conscious people on diet and workout supplements. This article will address some of the issues with the personal trainers and companies selling nutritional supplement to make extra money.

The client/certified personal trainer relationship is meant to be based on trust as well as a trainer having a competent understanding of the body and how to get their client to exercise safely, efficiently, and effectively. This is in the personal trainers scope of practice, to practice and preach what they learned either from a degree or certification, or both. Today, more personal trainers are veering away from their scope of practice and offering nutritional and dietary advice to their clients with no training in order to make more income. The conflict of interest arises when trainers get paid money make to make recommendations for certain dietary supplement companies. Whats even worse is you have lay people also recommending these products with no knowledge of whats in them.  You may have seen reps for companies such as Advocare, BodyByVi, Herbalife, and Juice Plus just to name a few.  They use a MLM system to recruit trainers as well as everyday people to pitch their fitness products to the masses in hopes of getting more people to rep product. The issue with many of these products is that they have never been reviewed by the FDA, and their quality is only “certified” by the companies who distribute them.

Due to The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the FDA has limits on when and how they can act when it comes to dietary supplementation.  To many peoples surprise the supplement industry is very loosely regulated by the FDA. Basically, there is no regulation until a product is brought to the FDA documenting harmful affects.  A perfect example of this was back in 2009, the #1 dietary supplement on the market Hydroxycut which claimed to help burn body fat. Hydroxycut was finally was pulled after it was determined to have caused 23 serious health concerns including liver failure, and a fatality. This goes to show that what people can potentially recommend for you has no safety factors and potentially could be very harmful to your body. Shortly after being pulled from the market, Hydroxycut changed their formula and now can be found in supplement stores nationwide.  They also reformulated a second time after another death occurred while some was taking their product.

To best illustrate the conflict, I can look back at my story and the decision I had to make while considering a job offer. I moved to Atlanta in 2011 looking to break into the fitness industry.  I was certified and ready to make a difference in peoples lives through exercise.  I had a job interview from an in home personal training company whose owner also happened to be a representative from one of the companies mentioned above.  Since I was not trained in nutrition, or a R.D. I did not feel comfortable going beyond my scope of practice.  Here are two of the email exchanges:

Me:  I am interested in the personal training aspect especially if it’s around the city. I’m not thrilled about the product or a lot of the reviews it’s getting online and it’s reputation. If any due diligent customer did some research on the product they would at best get mixed reviews. If there is a market in the city then I would like to train those people but until I review the product more I would not push it to every client. Would that be a problem?
His Response was as follows:
I know you are skeptical man, and I don’t blame you.  If its not right for you now, maybe it will be down the line sometime.  I look at the Redacted angle like this;  I have been recommending Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey for the last 5 years.  I feel confident in them because they are the #1 protein brand in the world.  I bet I have convinced well over 100 people to buy the product.  And what has that gotten me in return?  The answer is NOTHING.  When I go buy the product, its still FULL price.  When my clients go buy the product, its still FULL price.  At some point, we need to be compensated for our recommendations.

This was the introduction I received in the fitness industry, regardless of the benefit of the product to the client, make sure you are compensated.

So in conclusion, I hope that before you opt to put something in your body, please do the research. Do I need this? Can I get these same benefits from food? Does the person have proper training to recommend this product?  If you can ensure well balanced meals are eaten on a regular basis, there shouldn’t be a need for supplementation. Combine healthy eating with exercise and the health benefits are exponential.

Counting Calories for the purpose of losing weight

Is counting calories the best way to live our lives?  Everyday, we hear the term calorie as an expression of how much we eat on a daily basis. Technically, a Calorie is a unit of heat measurement used to measure the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.  In this article I will discuss why is it so difficult to accurately count calories.

In America it has become increasingly popular to see calories on menus, see people reading food labels at the grocery store, and in general people obsess about calorie content. So how do those numbers make it on labels and menus? In order to see those nutrient values, scientists burn food samples in a bomb calorimeter. The result of this reaction then becomes the value for nutrient databases that are used today.  Unfortunately, there are several issues with the process.

  • Analytical methods are imprecise
  • Product variety
  • Soil and growing conditions
  • Ripeness at the time of harvest
  • Animals’ diets
  • Preparation method

The way we currently test nutrients and energy doesn’t always provide reliable results, so the analysis can only be as good as the testing method.  Besides the analysis we have to look at food as a whole.  No food is ever going to be the same, different batches of the same food will have different nutrient values, thus testing a food at a single point in time to describe all batches is extremely inaccurate. Produce is grown all over the world in different climates and varying soil conditions.  It would be improbable to say that produce grown in different regions would have the same nutrient estimates. Nutrient values are also different when picked during peak season versus out of season.  Nutrients in milk, meats, and eggs, vary based on how the particular animal lived and ate. Eating raw will have a much different affect that cooking produce. In fact, research has shown cooking provides more energy available for humans to use.  So with all these contributing factors related to food how accurate are the labels?

Foods listed in the nutrient database, or on food labels are as much as  +/-  25% off. Additional research has shown some frozen foods contain 8% more calories, and some restaurant meals are as much as 18% higher than listed on the menu. All this leads to one undeniable fact; you can’t rely on calorie counting for an accurate way to measure your weight. While this article is not meant to answer what is the best method to lose weight, hopefully it has shown that managing your weight by counting calories is time consuming, difficult, and extremely inaccurate.