Mixed messages over ‘healthy’ diets are causing ‘significant’ confusion among UK fitness fanatics, according to a study.
Conflicting expert reports over what is right and wrong means the vast majority of regular exercisers don’t know if the food they eat is really doing them any good.
Eight in 10 admit they are ‘clueless’ over the nutritional benefits of different food types – and have no idea what they should be consuming in order to bulk up or slim down.
Seventy-two per cent of the 2,000 regular exercisers polled believe misleading food adverts are partly to blame for a lack of understanding over what is or isn’t healthy.
But this doesn’t tell the whole story – 44 per cent regularly get nutritional information from internet searches which can provide unsubstantiated claims.
While a quarter believe internet influencers are a reliable source for healthy eating advice – even though they may not have any medical background whatsoever.
Commissioned by Optimum Nutrition, which has launched a nutrition education course for personal trainers and fitness experts, the study found just 15 per cent utilise peer-reviewed studies and books.
And fewer than one in 10 tend to seek advice from a personal trainer (PT) – however 30 per cent would consider doing so in the future.
Paul Coppin, UK marketing director for Optimum Nutrition, said: “It’s surprising to see a large number of consumers so confused about nutrition when it comes to training for sporting goals – with many consumers potentially using unreliable sources for their nutritional information.
“With more than 30,000 PTs in the UK, they’re at the frontline of consumer queries on physical advice and we believe that this group of experts are well positioned to offer even more support to their clients through nutrition.
“Many PTs qualify through programmes with very little and often outdated nutrition instruction, therefore we’re launching the Optimum Nutrition for Health & Performance course, which aims to arm PTs throughout the UK with evidence based nutritional advice that consumers are looking for and need.”
The research also found around one in 10 actively rely on influencers on social media for their healthy lifestyle advice – despite them potentially issuing inaccurate information.
One in seven have even purchased a ‘nutrition product’ after seeing it advertised by an online influencer even though they didn’t know if the item had proven benefits.
Carried out through OnePoll, the study also found a lack of understanding over what is good for you could also be dangerous when it comes to working out.
Typically those polled spend four hours a week exercising and two fifths have experienced lightheadedness, shakiness or dizziness during a workout.
Of those who have suffered these symptoms, half believe they didn’t eat or drink enough – and nearly a fifth fear they ate the wrong things.
While a third said they don’t know how soon to eat before or after exercise.
The study also found just a fifth are very confident they understand the benefits of protein when exercising.
And the same proportion feel similarly about the rewards of carbohydrates.
Although there is confusion over nutrition, nine in 10 are clear that what you eat is as important as exercise.
Seven in 10 believe it’s not just regular exercisers who are confused when it comes to nutrition – they believe consumers are puzzled by what’s ‘good’ and ‘band’ too.
Crionna Tobin, head of science and education for Optimum Nutrition, said: “The new course addresses the most common queries and nutritional myths, from the principles of weight loss, demystifying diets, to how to eat to support performance.
“It’s built on solid evidence along with addressing the practicalities of applying this knowledge in a real World setting.
“We want to empower PTs and fitness pros to coach their clients on how to change their nutrition habits.”
The Optimum Nutrition For Health & Performance Course launches this week and is available for PTs and fitness experts – further details are available at www.optimumnutrition.education.com/