If I had to describe the principles I hold regarding my approach to nutrition, it would be that I follow an ‘evidence based approach’.
But what does that even mean?
Read on and I’ll explain what it means to me, and why it’s something you should hold in high regard.
Evidence based nutrition practice involves using the current best evidence from research, combined with ‘in the field’ experience which AT ALL TIMES considers the goals, needs and preferences of the client.
For me, the key word is integrity.
If selling magic beans (supplements with outlandish claims, weight loss coffee) is one end of the spectrum, then evidence based nutrition practice is at the opposite end.
As a coach, once you decide to follow this type of approach you are a student for life… always learning, always reading the latest research, always looking to improve and stay informed.
You might be wondering why you should care about what research says?
Scientific research is systematic investigation to try and establish facts.
This is done across numerous fields of study, but the area people probably think of first would be medicine.
If a tablet or vaccine is to be made available to the public, research must be done to establish whether or not it is safe for human consumption.
Replace the vaccine or medicine with a supplement, or the value of a certain exercise, or optimal daily protein dosage. If you can think of a question on exercise/nutrition, chances are some kind of research has been done and it will point toward the most/least effective way of doing something.
If you look in the right places, research will offer guidance.
It can, however, be tricky to navigate research as sometimes groups or individuals have a bias and want to prove certain things (usually for financial gain).
‘I really think this is the best way of doing things, let’s set up some research to prove it’ – this is a biased approach to something, quality research is not done with bias, but by the act of trying to ‘disprove’ as well as ‘prove’. It should look for ‘facts’.
For a coach who follows evidence based practice it is important that you are aware of YOUR OWN biases, and that you always, always place them to one side when dealing with a client. If your bias is the ideal fit for the client, great, but you should never be looking to place square pegs into round holes.
The protection against bias is that there is plenty of scrutiny within the field of research, and there is a hierarchy by which the validity of the research is related to, so findings are held to a certain standard depending on how the research was carried out.
If something was proven in an animal study, it is barely credible compared to a controlled human trial.
This means that not everything can just be seen as ‘gold standard’.
Also, research must be ‘peer reviewed’ before it is accepted for submission. Basically, people will try to identify flaws in the methods or the findings.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because there is SO MUCH misinformation peddled around, especially via social media. We live in a time where it’s hard to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Look for credible sources.
Here’s some examples related to the field of nutrition;
Science has clearly established certain facts, an example here would be that ‘to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit‘.
This has been proven time and time again, and there is no evidence anywhere to show otherwise.
But many questions HAVE NOT been proven beyond doubt. Research can heavily point a certain way, but that’s not to say things will not change in the future. It has to be kept in mind that research is a relatively new field in the overall grand scheme of things.
An example of something that it points toward but may change is artificial sweeteners.
There are no known negative health effects for moderate intake in humans (Butchko et al. 2002), but that’s not to say this is fact.
Artificial sweeteners haven’t been around for a long time (relative to human consumption) therefore it might become evident in the future THERE IS a negative health effect.
Then there are areas where there have not been any clear findings at all because the area hasn’t had any quality research done yet e.g. gut microbiome.
This falls in with artificial sweeteners as well… they haven’t been shown to be ‘bad’ for us, but we do not yet know whether or not they affect gut microbiome.
How does it all apply to someone who prescribes nutritional guidelines?
For me, it comes down to integrity and the willingness to constantly learn. You are looking to provide the best information to your clients, FOR your clients.
No fads, no shortcuts. I want someone to look and feel their best, but underlying everything is the fact I want to help add years to their life.
Find the path to the client’s goal which promotes good health, sustainability and longevity through FACTS.
This is a tough sell because it requires a lot of hard work on both sides – client and coach.
The benefit for the client is that they are following LEGITIMATE advice which has their best interests at heart, and as long as they are willing to put in the work they will achieve amazing results (ask any of my clients).
I say this to all of my clients, ‘time will pass regardless, what you do in that time is up to you’.
We’ll all be here next year, do you want to have made amazing progress and feel/look your best?
Or do you want to have wasted time and money on a shortcut which you already probably know isn’t going to work.
It’s a difficult path, the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know (try reading some scientific research and you’ll understand!).
Evidence based nutrition practice is NOT the easiest way of doing things as a coach, trust me.
But, I love every minute of it.
The principles are based on facts, it is the hardest road to take to seek knowledge, and the practitioner wants to empower and educate the client so they have autonomy…and that’s why I believe it is the ‘gold standard’ for nutrition practice, the top of the pile.
…And it all comes back to that word – integrity.