Hey everybody, welcome to our Trainer Academy Nutrition Certification Review.

It’s important to have a go-to list comparing and reviewing the best nutrition certifications in the industry.

This article reviews the best nutrition certifications for personal trainers, nutrition professionals, and future dietitians looking to expand their clientele.

All in all, we will be covering:

  • Course content, study materials, and required books
  • Exams, exam costs, and program costs
  • Continuing education credits, prerequisites, and other certification requirements

We assure you that, after this article, you will be able to make a great decision when choosing your optimal nutrition certification program.

Let’s dive into the article.

Using a laptop to show the "best of" article while also showing all of the nutrition textbooks, precision nutrition, NCSF, ISSA, and ACE

Why are we qualified to recommend the top nutrition certifications?

Our Trainer Academy team holds certifications through all the major nutrition programs.

We have worked as nutritionists in gyms, health clubs, and other facilities both in the US and abroad. Our staff also holds certifications in personal training, strength and conditioning, and many other fields of fitness.

Finally, we’ve been on the hiring end of the process as well and we know what employers like to look for from a fitness certification.

Our Top Nutrition Certification Pick

ISSA Nutritionist Certification

  • The #1 rated and reviewed certification program
  • NCCA Accredited, 10,000+ Gym Partners
  • Huge variety of self-paced courses that you can do remotely
  • ISSA exam is an untimed, open-book test and available online
  • Students who pass final exam are set up with a free professional website
  • Best overall: ISSA Nutritionist – International Sports Sciences Association
  • Most respected: NASM CNC – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • Best for sports nutrition: NCSF SNS – National Council on Strength & Fitness
  • Best coaching network: PN Level One – Precision Nutrition
  • Best for habit change: ACE FNS – The American Council on Exercise
  • Best holistic approach: AFPA Nutrition – American Fitness Professionals & Associates

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Best Nutrition Certification Reviews

The best nutrition certifications, showing the textbooks for precision nutrition, NCSF, ISSA, and ACE

Best Overall: ISSA Nutritionist

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thumb_up_line Good business tools thumb_up_line Well rounded thumb_up_line Best customer support


thumb_down_line Not the most inexpensive thumb_down_line Online videos feel dated


ISSA, or the International Sports Sciences Association, has been around since 1988, and, in the last few decades, they have raised the bar in terms of the possibilities of education delivery.

ISSA, a distance-based learning institution, allows you to learn completely online, from studying to taking the final exam.

We rank ISSA quite high in terms of popularity and recognition, often sitting in the top three alongside juggernauts like NASM and ACE.

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Starting at $640

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

When it comes to nutrition, ISSA gives you all the tools you need to succeed.

They understand the value nutrition provides in health and fitness prescription. What’s more, ISSA understands the value of good business knowledge.

As a fitness professional, you need to know more than just how to help clients with their nutrition needs. In addition to this, you need to know how to find clients and maintain your roster. 

Business development and entrepreneurial skills often remain underutilized when it comes to fitness credentials. This is something we can say ISSA definitely nails with its curriculum. 

In the ISSA Nutritionist you learn things like how to write a business plan and how to manage your client list. None of the other major nutrition certifications explore these topics save Precision Nutrition which covers some good business practices as well.

ISSA’s nutrition certificate program also covers all the requisite topics you need to know like energy balance, macro- and micronutrients, the Stages of Change model and more.

Part of the benefits you’ll be enjoying when you opt for ISSA is the opportunity to pick up a personal training certification alongside the ISSA nutritionist certification.

Having the two certifications will not only make you better at your job as a fitness trainer but increase your customer base and revenue. You can combine nutrition coach salary with trainer’s pay.

Apart from the above, ISSA also offers the Elite Trainer package, which is a 3-in-1 combo comprising the personal training cert, the nutrition cert, and one other certification of your choice.

Having a specialization will give you extra gear in terms of marketing yourself as a trainer over other candidates out there.

We all know experts get paid more, so don’t miss an opportunity to become one and fast-track your career. Anyone can benefit from this experience.

The Elite Trainer 3-in-1 is the best value you will find.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime offer you can’t afford to miss.

Click the link to benefit from the ISSA combo promos (the CPT/Nutrition certification combo, and the Elite Trainer 3-in-1 package).

We have a review of the ISSA personal training certification, ISSA exam info, and a comparison of ISSA vs NASM to help you decide which one you want.

There is also a full individual ISSA Nutritionist certification review if you want to dive deeper into looking at that cert.

The ISSA Nutrition textbook with a journal and and pens ready to study.

Most Respected: NASM

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thumb_up_line Most comprehensive textbook thumb_up_line Best study system thumb_up_line Good value with Elite Trainer deal


thumb_down_line No business skills coverage thumb_down_line Expensive


NASM is one of the most popular, if not the most popular cert agency of the bunch.

Widely recognized in the industry as the most reputable cert, NASM remains a gold standard in fitness.

NASM stands for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and as mentioned, is one of the most accepted and recognized certifying agencies in the US. 

They were founded in 1987, bringing decades of heritage and cultivated expertise to the modern fitness pro.

NASM offers the highest number of fitness certifications and specializations, including things like their Group Exercise Certification (which they added to their arsenal after acquiring the AFAA). 

As for nutrition, the NASM-CNC (certified nutrition coach) is one of the most recognized nutrition specialist credentials in the field.

This will land you a higher likelihood of getting a good nutrition coach job!

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Starting at $599

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

Following the tradition of NASM’s proprietary OPT model, the CNC is designed to enable trainers to correct the nutritional habits of their clients for improved and optimized lifestyles.

A unique take on the combination of scientific principles and practical skills is what makes this one of the best sport fitness nutrition certification programs in the industry. It’s definitely comparable to some of the big names if you look at the ISSA vs NASM nutrition certification.

The NASM textbook is over 700 pages in length with 24 chapters, making it one of the most thorough of all nutrition certifications.

In particular, we found the sections on how to understand research methods and discuss nutritional misinformation with your clients extremely helpful. There are so many fad diets out there and being able to dissect them with your client will serve you well in your career.

NASM also includes a chapter on hydration, managing alcohol intake alongside nutrition choices, and multiple case studies, so you can see examples of nutrition coaching in action. 

At Trainer Academy we have a NASM CPT review as well as some great resources to help you with the exam like a practice personal trainer test and a free NASM study guide.

Check out the latest price for the NASM certification.

Finally, we urge you to double check if NASM is currently running their Elite Trainer bundle, which gives you 6 different certifications at a low price.

As mentioned earlier, the more specializations you can add to your name, the higher likelihood that you’ll stand out from the competition and get more fitness opportunities with the flexibility to work with different populations.

More knowledge means more confidence too.

You are even able to improve your coaching for your current clients, because you’ll learn new techniques with each certificate that will be invaluable to your training career. Go to the NASM site for full details.

Best Coaching Network: Precision Nutrition

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thumb_up_line Best cert for online coaching thumb_up_line Great coaching software thumb_up_line Good business skills


thumb_down_line Expensive thumb_down_line Wait-list

Summary: Precision Nutrition is quite an outlier compared to the other choices we’ll be dealing with.

The Precision Nutrition Certification Level 1 (PN1) is the brainchild of Dr. John Berardi and was founded in 2005.

Berardi developed as a way to foster nutritional principles and business acumen within qualified coaches, so PN takes a different approach to nutrition education.

That’s because it isn’t technically a certification, as far as accreditation and the recognition that brings are concerned. It is just an information and business resource learning and delivery platform.

PN’s mission is to equip them with knowledge and tools that will elevate one’s nutrition practice as an entrepreneur.

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Starting at $999

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

Despite this non-accredited certification status, PN stands out as one of the most iconic and recognized nutrition institutions in the industry.

Precision Nutrition also has massive endorsements by sporting organizations and corporations and athletic teams in the industry.

Founded by some of the top nutrition experts, PN is a hub for cutting-edge, evidence-based nutrition coaching methodologies fine-tuned through an entrepreneurial scope of practice.

You learn the role of nutrients in foods, but also behavior change coaching, feedback of results, and how to work with different personality types. 

The Precision Nutrition software offers one of the best way to coach clients online.

You can seek out our Precision Nutrition certification review for a full overview.

To get more value out of your Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification, it is advisable to register for it through the ISSA website.

Doing this will make it possible for you to schedule the nutrition program at your convenience rather than waiting for 3-6 months when it will be available on the PN website.

Another benefit you will enjoy is getting the ISSA personal training certification alongside the PN cert at the same cost (That is a massive discount for you) Becoming a personal trainer who has a nutrition and fitness certification gives you an edge, a better understanding, and treatment of the client’s issues.

It gets even better.

Signing up for PN through ISSA means you have access to two different support channels that will gladly help you resolve any problem you may be facing.

Awesome, indeed!

Click here to get it now!!

Two of the Precision nutrition books along with a journal and two pens ready to mark and study the textbooks

Best for Sports Nutrition: NCSF

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thumb_up_line Up to date content thumb_up_line Lowest cost cert thumb_up_line Great bundle deal


thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line No in-person exam options

Summary: National Council on Strength and Fitness is a reputable certifying agency and has been around since 1996.

NCSF is widely accepted and is known for its deep academic approach to health and fitness, peering into the effective use of program design. Our NCSF CPT review mentions how this agency certification is newer, but since it came on the scene, it has made a big splash for its high quality no-nonsense approach.

If you want to add some credibility to your sports nutrition knowledge, this is a good place to start. 

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Starting at $349

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

The NCSF-certification has the standard requirements you’d expect from most general PT certs.

You’ll need to be at least 18 years old.

This will help you decide which one is best for your circumstances and career ambitions.

The Sports Nutrition Specialist (SNS) is a unique certification on this list as it means you specialize in athletic nutrition.

Lectures include the basics of nutrition science, but also diet strategies for different sports and information about performance-enhancing supplements.

So, if you train general population clients only, this may not be the nutrition coaching certification for you. However, if you are a coach working with athletes, or want to learn how to fuel high sports performance, this program will be perfect.

Click here to find great NCSF-SNS deals.

Best for Habit Change: ACE

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thumb_up_line Best behavioral coaching thumb_up_line Low cost cert thumb_up_line Great customer support


thumb_down_line Not full certification thumb_down_line Lacking nutrition science coverage

Summary: ACE is one of the most recognized certifying agencies out there, known for their training and group fitness certifications.

This organization ranks closely with NASM in the top two most popular institutions when it comes to health and fitness.

ACE, short for American Council on Exercise, is a leader in the field of general population training.

Their international reach and global network mean they have transcended borders to deliver some top-notch trainers to the industry.

Founded in 1985, ACE has been in the game for quite some time.

That’s why ACE certified instructors are among the most sought after with ease of access to job opportunities.

The ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist gives you plenty of content to supplement your personal training certification at a great price.

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Starting at $379

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

When it comes to nutrition, ACE certainly has an “ace” up its sleeve.

That’s because their nutritional protocols, just like their take on exercise, are aimed at helping general population groups improve their daily lives through correct nutritional habits.

The ACE Nutrition course takes this a step further, employing the principles of their IFT model to create a system of performance-enhancing nutrition.

This is exactly what makes ACE Nutrition one of the best nutrition certification programs online!

The coursework includes unique lessons like how to teach clients to shop for healthy food at the grocery store.

Their behavior change coaching content is also top notch and ACE’s study system gives you lessons in audio, video, and text formats, perfect for all learning styles.

The only major downside with the ACE FNS is that is not a full certification. Rather, it’s a specialization intended to bolster your existing CPT. But, you still learn the basics and beyond that, plenty of skills to use in your nutrition coaching sessions. 

To make your fitness journey with ACE more meaningful, it is important to have acquired the ACE trainer certification. We have a great breakdown of ACE vs NASM PFT certs alongside a ACE practice test and an ACE personal trainer study guide so you can complete the journey.

Don’t forget to check out the current cost for the ACE cert here.

Best Holistic Approach: AFPA

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thumb_up_line Multiple certification options thumb_up_line Low price thumb_up_line Good for health coaching


thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line Not NCCA accredited

Summary: The American Fitness Professionals organization was founded in 1994 as a way to bring health and fitness certifications to passionate coaches at an affordable rate.

The emphasis on science-backed coaching principles is the driving force behind this institution.

AFPA also pushes towards the wellness sector as evidenced by its approach to holistic practices.

For that reason, AFPA also has numerous different nutrition options, which makes sense since the wellness sector is very much dominated by nutrition principles.

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Starting at $599

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

Under AFPA, learners have access to 8 different nutritionist certifications. These are:

  • Holistic Nutrition
  • Nutrition & Wellness
  • Nutrition Consultant
  • Weight Management Specialist
  • Sports Nutrition 
  • Senior Nutrition Specialist

As you can see, AFPA offers the best online certification programs for holistic nutrition, along with health coach courses and other classes.

This shows us that nutrition is a priority with AFPA, something that not too many fitness certification agencies can say for themselves. Most of these companies focus on training courses and nutrition is an afterthought, while the reverse is true with AFPA. 

Some of these specializations could also be good for fitness instructors embarking on exercise science careers.

We have another article comparing various certifications for aspiring health coaches, which you may want to view. 

Low Cost Option: NESTA Nutrition

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thumb_up_line Low price thumb_up_line Good business skills coverage thumb_up_line Best customer support


thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line Re-test fees

Summary: NESTA, the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, also referred to as the Spencer Institute, has been around since 1992.

Today, NESTA boasts over 65,000 global members and counting.

NESTA, the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, also referred to as the Spencer Institute has been around since 1992.

The organization was founded in Southern California where it is still headquartered.

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Starting at $447

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

NESTA is one of the few NCCA accredited certifications with a focus on the business side of things, something we will discuss later.

As for nutrition, NESTA offers one of the best sports nutrition certification programs, which is very business-centric, at least compared to the others.

It also comes out as the cheapest cert, but more on that later in the article.

We have our top picks among the best nutrition certificates that we usually recommend to a potential nutritionist.

Clicking on the links below will reveal them to you.

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What to Look for When Choosing a Nutrition Certification?

Make sure to pick a certification that focuses on the areas of knowledge you want to learn at a price that you can afford and remember to consider the total cost with study materials and test re-takes.

How to Get a Nutritionist Certification

To get a nutritionist certification, you need to consider your career goals, budget, and learning needs, select the nutrition certification that makes the most sense for those goals, then study and pass your nutritionist exam.

Below we included some topics to think about.


The first thing we’re going to look at is accreditation.

Especially when searching for the best sports fitness nutrition certification, accreditation is key!

Accreditation is an official stamp of authenticity, a sort of seal of approval that guarantees that the knowledge and skills you will gain are up to standard.

Accreditation also guarantees that how the courses and certifications are administered meets the required standards for effective teaching and learning.

Accreditation is issued to a certifying body by a national accrediting authority once it meets the industry criteria.

When it comes to health and fitness, you’ll mainly be dealing with the NCCA, or National Commission of Certifying Agencies.

This is a body of the highest qualified individuals and organizations gathered to ensure only the best of the best are recognized.

There are, of course, other legitimate, albeit less recognized, accrediting commissions out there, such as DEAC.

Let’s look at the breakdown of accreditation from each nutrition cert.

ACE Fitness NutritionNCCA
AFPA NutritionNCCA
ISSA NutritionistDEAC
ISSA Sports NutritionDEAC
NCSF Sports NutritionNCCA
PN Level 1None

Top 8 Nutrition Certifications

As you can see, most of these certs are accredited by the one and only NCCA, this is the gold standard in health and fitness education in North America, and even globally in some instances.

We do, however, have a couple of outliers.

As we mentioned, another popular accrediting board is DEAC, short for Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

As the name suggests, this board is structured around the authentication of distance-based learning institutions.

ISSA is one of the big cert agencies that stand primarily distance-based, hence their affiliation with DEAC.

While DEAC is not as recognized as NCCA, it is still a worthy and legitimate authority.

Then we have Precision Nutrition.

This institution doesn’t offer any accreditation. Technically, with PN, you’re not actually getting certified in the traditional sense.

Top 8 Nutrition Certifications

What you are gaining is knowledge and business tools that are made to help you gain leverage in the nutrition coaching business.

Their statement about not being accredited is a bit snarky and somewhat condescending, but they do present an incredible body of knowledge and some great business resources.

So in this exceptional case, accreditation or the lack thereof isn’t a major deal-breaker.

Accreditation isn’t just about getting a stamp of authenticity on your certificate, it’s also about quality control.

That’s because a lot of chancers, opportunists, and outright scam artists are out there to capitalize on the ever-growing demand for recognized health and fitness credentials.

To this end, you will find numerous “quick-fix” courses and certifications floating around.

A lot of these provide substandard and even incorrect or outdated knowledge and won’t serve to get your foot through any worthy doors.

Nutrition Certification Cost

As you go further into deciding which is the best nutrition certification to get is for yourself, another important consideration is cost.

The cost of packages will determine what you can go for based on your financial circumstances, just like you would if you wanted to know the cheapest personal training certification.

We’ve managed to pull data on all the nutrition certs in question so you can have a look at how much they each go for. 

ACE Fitness Nutrition$599
AFPA Nutrition$499
ISSA Nutritionist$799
NCSF Sport Nutrition$299
NESTA Nutrition$297
PN Level 1$799

As you can see the costs vary quite greatly.

The cheapest option is NESTA, which will set you back only $297.

The most you will pay is $899 for NASM-CNC. All the ISSA certs and Precision Nutrition go for $799.

It’s also important to note that many of these options have different pricing tiers based on the study material included in the various packages.

For example, ACE Fitness Nutrition is available in the standard, cheaper package, featuring just the e-book as well as the ebook plus hardcopy option for an extra $100.

ISSA on the other hand is an example of a certification that is presented in only one package.

In any case, we’re going to give NESTA the win, simply because it is the cheapest in this category.

Kindly note that change is the only constant thing in life and these also apply to the prices of each certification.

A quick click on the links below will show you the current costs of each:

Remember also that many of these organizations allow you to split your fee into payments, which can alleviate some of the pressure to pay everything up front. 

Quality of Study Materials

After looking at the cost, we need to evaluate if the juice is worth the squeeze.

That is to say, does the price match the actual value of what you’re paying for?

In other words, is it really the best certification for sports nutrition?

Let’s take a look at the study materials on offer and rate them out of ten.

Each rating below will help you decide which certification is actually the most valuable, regardless of the ultimate price.

CertificationRating out of 10
ACE Fitness Nutrition6
AFPA Nutrition6
ISSA Nutritionist8
NCSF Sports Nutrition7
NESTA Nutrition6
PN Level 18

The course materials you’ll typically get with a standard nutrition cert are pretty barebones when compared to the CPT (personal trainer) packages you’ll typically get from each respective certifying agency.

Quote 3a

NCSF and Precision Nutrition do stand out, however, offering a great suite of student support resources to help you gain that edge when it’s time to take the test.

NCSF Sports Nutrition has 3 packages.

We highlighted the price of the cheapest option which is the exam only. 

However, the other tiers include a comparatively deep variety of study materials when compared to the other certs.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

NCSF Sports Nutrition

Exam OnlyCourse + Exam
Sports Nutrition Specialist ExamSports Nutrition Specialist ExamSports Nutrition Specialist Exam
Sports Nutrition Textbook 2nd Edition (Digital)Sports Nutrition Textbook 2nd Edition (Digital)
Instructional VideosInstructional Videos
E-Learning AccessE-Learning Access
Lesson NotesLesson Notes
Practical ActivitiesPractical Activities
Review QuizzesReview Quizzes
Instructor SupportInstructor Support
Sports Nutrition Textbook 2nd Edition (Physical)

The variety only really kicks in with the last two tiers, but it’s pretty good when looking at them.

Remember that most certification study materials are there to prepare you for a blind event, i.e. the exam.

If you really want an edge and want to optimize your chances, you should get your hands on one of our nifty study packages.

The reason is we design them based on having taken the exam. 

That essentially means you’re getting an insider walkthrough rather than over prepping and underperforming with shot-in-the-dark first-party material. 

Click here to access these study materials and get started.

Exam Layout and Passing Grade

All the preparation and consideration done during your nutrition cert leads up to the final exam.

The culmination of all your hard work and effort.

For that reason, it’s important to go in knowing what to expect.

The first thing you can be certain of is that each certification has a different way of dealing with its exams.

From something as mundane as the variation in the number of test questions, all the way to administration protocols and pass criteria.

When looking at these exams you will find however that most of them are multiple-choice, and most focus on the practical applications of the concepts you will learn rather than the theory.

This is excellent for equipping trainers with solid skills to use in the field, let’s take a deeper look.

CertificationNumber of QuestionsPassing GradePass RateRetake Fee ($)
ACE Fitness Nutrition150500 Pts65%199
AFPA Nutrition25085%70%75
ISSA Nutritionist20075%54%Free
NASM CNC10070%90%Free
NCSF Sports Nutrition15070%
NESTA Nutrition10070%66%95
PN Level 118075%79.15%Free

As you can see, these exams vary tremendously in the way they are laid out and administered.

Quote 1a

For example, the ISSA certs, as well as PN all, have online self-paced exams.

That means you can take them at your own leisure in a preferred comfortable place, so long as you make sure you have a working computer and a stable internet connection.

ISSA and PN are also open books, meaning you have full access to all your prep material as you take the test.

You might think this makes the exams perhaps too easy, thus limiting the quality control barrier for trainers who certify.

It’s easy to think this, but after taking a look at the exams, it’s kind of clear that the in-depth practical approach isn’t made any easier by the open book nature.

You would already need a firm grasp of the skills and concepts in the exam to know what you’re looking for.

For example, the ISSA Fitness Nutrition exam includes some essay and case study questions. These types of questions cannot be answered by simply regurgitating facts.

You will need to be versed in the procedures and actions that are assessed, and drawing from course content only helps to supplement that.

The other exams on this list are administered in a more traditional sense.

Click here to have access to these study materials.

Quote 6a

That is to say, you will need to take them to a physical testing facility where they will be proctored.

You can, however, take these NCCA exams remotely and online. This is done through a live remote proctor.

Remote proctoring works through your webcam or capture device linked to your PC while you’re online.

This allows monitoring of your exam as would be the case in a real testing facility.

The exam passing grades also vary quite tremendously.

ACE is quite interesting in that each quiz is scored based on a points system rather than a percentage.

You will need a minimum of 500 points out of a possible 800. Doing the math, that equates to a 62.5% passing grade.

Others hover between the 70%-75% range.

AFPA Nutrition seems to be the most demanding with a whopping 85% minimum required to pass successfully.

ISSA Sports Nutrition has the biggest exam with a total of 352 questions.

It comprises 3 sections.

The first one consists of 230 multiple choice questions, the second has 120 multiple choice questions, and the final section consists of 2 long-form case studies and essay questions.

This is a callback to how ISSA generally used to layout their exams. It has since changed for many of their certs, which now exclusively sport multiple-choice questions.

This category isn’t one of the winners and losers, for that we’ll have to rate the difficulty of each exam!

Exam Difficulty and Pass Rate

Just as the format and administration of each exam from each institution differ, so too does the level of challenge.

This is important to consider for a few reasons.

Firstly, it will determine your time investment.

The harder the final certification exam, the more time you will need to complete it.

Many factors will affect your time commitment, and we’ll get to those later in the article.

Another reason difficulty is important is based on your financial circumstances.

Your budget will need to account for potential retakes, and the harder the paper, the more likely it will be that you might have to fork out for a second or even third attempt.

Lastly, the difficulty will determine which cert is best for you based on your learning style.

Different strokes for different folks as they say, so the difficulty of each exam will somewhat correlate to your individual persona with regards to learning style.

With that said, let’s actually get into some of the exams and see just how difficult they are.

Because we haven’t got any reliable data on the nutritionist exams themselves, we’ve gone ahead and use pass rates based on the CPT exams of each respective cert agency (except for PN of course).

Click here to access crucial study materials and start studying right away.

Quote 4a

CertificationPass Rate
ACE Fitness Nutrition65
ISSA Nutritionist89.9
ISSA Sports Nutrition89.9
NCSF Sports Nutrition77.43

From this data, we can estimate that ISSA has the easiest exam.

This certainly makes sense since it is an open book, self-paced exam in both cases.

But perhaps easy isn’t the word to describe ISSA. maybe more along the lines of non-restrictive.

That’s because, as we pointed out, the exam, especially in the case of the ISSA Sports Nutrition cert, requires you to have a firm grasp of practical application.

That makes the ISSA exam more of a skills-building exercise rather than an all-out difficulty test.

As far as tough criteria are concerned, AFPA might have a more difficult exam. We don’t have any data to present regarding pass rates,  but when it comes to a passing grade, 85% out of 250 questions are quite grueling.

NASM and ACE are considered middle-of-the-road in terms of difficulty when it comes to their general certs. We can safely assume the tradition carries on in the realm of nutrition.

Having a proper understanding of the study materials helps a lot in acing the exams and having a 99% pass rate.

Go here to start studying today.

Retake Fee

Failure is never an option but is always a possibility.

Even if your odds of passing are 99%, that 1% still exists.

Looking at the previous category of exam difficulty, it’s plain to see that failing an exam can and does happen.

When that is the case, you will need to retake the exam if you are set on success.

Most exams, when failed, require you to pay a nominal retake fee.

Let’s break down what each cert would charge under such circumstances.

CertificationRetake Fee
ACE Fitness Nutrition$199
AFPA Nutrition$79
ISSA NutritionistFree
ISSA Sports NutritionFree
NCSF Sports Nutrition$150
NESTA Nutrition $95
PN Level 1Free

The most expensive retest fee is coming from ACE Fitness Nutrition. It costs $199 for North American test takers and $299 for international candidates.

You will need to retake your ACE exam within a year of your initial attempt.

Another interesting statistic is how half of the certs offer a free retake for your first failed attempt.

ISSA is well known for this, but certainly not NASM, which traditionally charges a $199 retest fee.

This is another example of the more relaxed approach towards nutrition certification as opposed to the CPT cert policies.

Precision Nutrition allows a total of 5 attempts after your initial one to get it right.

After unlucky number 5, you will need to re-enroll in the program, which is quite arduous due to the annual waiting list.

Moral of the story? Try not to fail. Make sure you prepare adequately and take care to master each of the modules.

And if you need insider help with that, we have you covered.

Trainer Academy has developed several amazing materials you can use to gain an advantage, developed by successful candidates.

Certification Popularity

This certainly isn’t a popularity contest, but the level of notoriety or reputability of a cert leads to an indication of the weight it holds in the industry and the quality it exudes.

Our perennial favorites and those of the health and fitness industry are ACE, NASM, and ISSA. 

Let’s break down how popular they are as well as taking a look at the other half.

This data comes from how many times people search the phrases Below in Google. From our research, this is one of the best indicators of certification popularity.

ACE Fitness Nutrition70
AFPA Nutrition110
ISSA Nutritionist590
ISSA Sports Nutrition140
NCSF Sports Nutrition10
NESTA Nutrition20
Precision Nutrition140

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Expected Study Time

Expected study time stats give you the ability to map out your study journey efficiently and effectively.

There are two ways of looking at study time.

The first is how much you have, the second is how much you need.

How much you have is essentially the enrollment period.

The enrollment period is the amount of time between the date of registry/purchase of your cert program, to the deadline for final exam sitting. 

Enrollment periods typically range from 6 months to a year, but in some cases, they can be as high as two years and as low as 3 months.

Next, when it comes to expected study time is looking at how much time you need when going at your own pace.

Best nutrition cert textbooks (precision nutrition, NCSF, ISSA, and ACE) with a notebook and pen and sharpie,

In the realm of health and fitness certification, the average candidate typically needs just a couple of months of decent studying to clear all the necessary exam prep hurdles.

Let’s take a look at enrollment windows and then figure out what sort of timeframe within them you might need.

CertificationEnrollment Time
ACE Fitness Nutrition9 months
AFPA Nutrition6 months
ISSA Nutritionist6 months
ISSA Sports Nutrition6 months
NASM CNC6 months
NCSF Sports Nutrition6 months
NESTA Nutrition3 months
PN Level 1Unlimited

Enrollment windows vary with a few wild outliers, but by and large, you’re looking at a 6 month period in most cases.

ACE has a generous 9-month enrollment period, while PN gives you unlimited time to complete the course!

NESTA, on the other hand,  boxes you into a 2-month window which is a bit demanding, but like we said, with adequate preparation, most people won’t need more than two months.

The question, therefore, is how do you prepare adequately?

Life presents several commitments and distractions for most people.

You might have an ongoing career, other academic pursuits, social commitments, and just the random nature of life.

To stay ahead of the deadline, you will need to structure your studying by managing your time.

ISSA, for example, has a built-in 10-week study planner, which culminates in you taking the final exam.

At Trainer Academy, we took it upon ourselves to create a study blueprint for our certification study packages.

This blueprint allows you to hone in on a feasible time structure that works with your circumstances and preferences.

You can play the long game, or cram for the last-minute push, all options available.

No matter how much time you have to prepare, there is always this feeling of inadequacy that arises from time to time.

So, to know if you are retaining all the information you have been studying, our free practice tests are always available to help you simulate an exam environment and also test your level of preparedness.

Average Income

Your career in fitness means that you are aiming to achieve a comfortable income.

Taking the earning potential each cert can provide is a huge consideration, and should actually be one of the first things you look into.

How to make money in the fitness industry is going to vary from job to job and person to person.

A career in fitness offers a variety of options, freedom, and diversity in how you model your business.

Because of this, salary stats vary wildly, allowing for some really incredible earnings in some cases.

Usually, when it comes to compensation and income stats, we like to break down what each cert could potentially earn you.

However, we only have access to very limited data when it comes to nutrition.

Because of that, we want to discuss the income for a nutritionist across the board, regardless of which cert you nabbed.

The US Bureau of Labour Stats places the average income of certified nutritionists at $60,370 a year. That’s pretty high and makes for a comfortable living for most people.

As for hourly earnings, expect to coin in around $29/hour according to the same survey.

What this tells us is that nutritionists actually earn a higher average income than personal trainers.

We interpret this to mean that nutrition coaches typically have other credentials going for them, and not just a nutrition cert.

Nutrition, especially when considering sports and fitness-based nutrition, often only provides results when accompanied by an astute knowledge of exercise prescription.

The moral of the story is you can’t have one without the other if you truly want to succeed as a top-income coach.

Primary Focus Of Certification

All the best nutrition specialist certifications we have lined up in this article, do, in fact, have their own niche.

This is largely based on the founding principles and position statements of the respective certifying agencies.

However, when dealing with nutrition, most of the exercise principles tend to fall away in favor of a more practical focus.

You need to be aware of this so you can choose a cert that suits your personal ambitions the closest.

Click here to access these detailed study materials and save yourself from stress.

CertificationsPrimary Focus
ACE Fitness NutritionPerformance Enhancement Nutrition Programming, Business Integration
AFPA NutritionNutrition Programming
ISSA NutritionistAdvanced Nutrition Programming
ISSA Sport NutritionPerformance Enhancement Nutrition Programming
NASM CNCNutrition Programming
NCSF Sports NutritionPerformance Enhancement Nutrition Programming
NESTA NutritionNutrition Programming
PN Level 1Nutrition Programming, Business Integration

From this table, we can see that most of the nutrition certs focus on the practical application of nutrition coaching, and rightfully so.

Understanding science and theory are great for cultivating an authentic insight into your craft, but being a know-it-all doesn’t serve your clients or your business objectives.

ACE Fitness Nutrition, as well as Precision Nutrition, are great in this regard since they focus more on business.

ISSA is traditionally associated with having a very focused push on the nitty-gritty of programming, so those two are worth considering too. ybt

CEU Requirements

Last on our checklist for reviewing the best sport nutrition certifications is continuing education units (CEU) requirements.

Each cert has an expiration date, and to renew it once that date arrives, you will need to pay a fee as well as submit some continuing education credits.

These credits can be gained through an approved education provider.

Most of the certifying agencies approve of each other when it comes to CEUs. 

That means you could essentially use a new cert to count towards completion of credits for the renewal of a current one.

Let’s look at how each cert handles its recertification CEU requirements.

CertificationCertification PeriodCEU Requirements (hrs)
ACE Fitness Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
AFPA Nutrition2 yrs16 hrs
ISSA Nutritionist4 yrs20 hrs
ISSA Sports Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
NASM CNC2 yrsNone, just exam renewal
NCSF Sports Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
NESTA NutritionUnlimitedNone
PN Level 1UnlimitedNone

We feel that nutrition is a significant component of health and fitness practice, but at the same time, it is often overlooked.

The focus for many trainers is far too often the exercise component of fitness and lifestyle coaching, and this plays out when looking at the focus on personal trainer certifications.

The majority of certs earned by fitness professionals fall in the realm of exercise instruction.

The best online nutrition certification programs cover broad topics like fundamentals of healthy eating, meal plans, macronutrients, micronutrients, nutrition advice, eating habits, and obesity, to name a few.

Aiming for a credential in nutrition will not only boost your value on paper and fitness trainer salary, but it will also allow you to achieve faster and more lasting results with clients overall.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 8 of the best nutrition coaching certifications in the game for you to make your choice.

Hopefully, this information can help you to determine the best nutrition certification programs.

At Trainer Academy, we feel that it’s essential to give your clients the best possible results, which often means investing in both nutrition and training certs.

A proper diet is fundamental to overall health, but a key understanding of exercise will serve you well in the current fitness industry.

That way, when you speak to clients, you have all the knowledge you need, and being skilled in both areas will mean more income and better outcomes for the people you work with.

Gyms will only need to hire one coach, which makes you more attractive as a hire.

The only roadblock is that getting two certifications instead of one is often more expensive.

Luckily, there are two organizations with good packages right now that give you both training and nutrition.

ISSA is running a BOGO deal (buy one get one) that includes the two certs for $828, a great value if it’s still available.

NASM has a Nutrition and Fitness bundle for $999, which is another attractive option. Check the NASM website as soon as you can to get the promotion or the ISSA site because these deals are often only temporary.

So with that out of the way, let’s get into specifics about the nutrition certifications.

Certification Take Away

ISSA Nutritionist

ISSA has a strong push for more complex nutrition programming, making it great for trainers who want to work with a variety of population groups.

Check here for more info on ISSA Nutritionist.


Being that it is relatively new, the NASM nutrition certification still has a lot of questions unanswered.

But as part of NASM’s stable of specializations, you can be sure that it will equip you with some cutting-edge skills, backed by the most recognized name in the game.

Click here to find out amazing deals from NASM-CNC.

PN Level 1

What Precision Nutrition lacks in terms of accreditation and the recognition that comes with it, it more than makes up for in providing real practical nutrition and business skills.

This sets it aside not only in that it isn’t a traditional cert, but it’s probably the best way to equip you as a nutritionist in practice.

If you want to how to start an online personal training business, this or NESTA should be your top choice.

As a side note, this may actually be the best nutrition certification for recent graduates who aspire to be practicing nutritionists or registered dietitians.

Remember that only dietitians can create specific nutrition plans. Nutritionists give general recommendations and food guidance. Despite this, you can still have a big impact on your clients’ health journey. 

Click on the link here to benefit from this unbelievable certification combo promo.

NCSF Sports Nutrition

This online course is great for established fitness pros who want to enhance their performance-centric services with a nutrition angle.

Click to find fabulous NCSF SNS deals.

ISSA Sports Nutrition

Being a performance-focused cert, you can expect ISSA Sports Nutrition to expand on the deep programming principles of ISSA Nutritionist, but geared towards the athlete.

2021 Update: Note that the ISSA Sports Nutrition certification has been discontinued for reasons best known to the organization.

However, if you are really interested in a great sports nutrition certificate, I’ll strongly recommend these exclusive deals from NCSF SNS.

Now you can go chase your dream and achieve success!

NESTA Nutrition

NESTA Nutrition is a great starting point if you’re new to the health and fitness business, but want to go into nutrition from the jump.

The fact that it doesn’t require recertification is another huge bonus.

ACE Fitness Nutrition

Most nutrition certs focus on the science of nutrition, ACE takes things a step in the right direction by not only helping equip you with practical skills, but also the right business mindset.

If your choice is ACE Fitness Nutrition, enjoy great deals by clicking here.

Quote 7a

AFPA Nutrition

This one is best for established professionals looking to up their standards of service.

This is because it has relatively high recertification requirements.


Nutrition is a massive part of the journey to health and fitness, everyone knows that, but at the same time, this aspect of health and fitness coaching is often neglected in the industry.

All that means is you have the opportunity to stand out by simply choosing to get nutrition as a credential.

Making the final choice of a nutrition certification will depend on personal training or career goals.

But note that we have customized MVP study packages to help smoothen the journey for you, achieve success in your first attempt at the exams, and even enjoy a money-back guarantee offer.

Click the respective links to get started:

CertificationAccreditationCostQualityPassing GradePass RateRetake FeePopularity (searches per month)Study TimePrimary FocusCEU Requirements
ISSA NutritionistDEAC$7997/1075%54%Free5906 MonthsAdvanced Nutrition Programming20 hrs in 4 years
NASM CNCNCCA$8997/1070%90%Free3206 MonthsNutrition ProgrammingRenewal Exam every 2 years
PN Level 1None$7998/1075%79.15%Free140UnlimitedNutrition Programming, Business Integrationnot needed
NCSF Sport NutritionNCCA$2998/1070%n/an/a106 MonthsPerformance Enhancement Nutrition Programming20 hrs in 2 years
NESTA NutritionNCCA$2976/1070%66%$95203 MonthsNutrition Programmingnot needed
ACE Fitness Nutrition NCCA$5996/10500 points65%$199709 MonthsPerformance Enhancement Nutrition Programming, Business Integration20 hrs in 2 years
AFPA NutritionNCCA$4996/1085%70%$751106 MonthsNutrition Programming16 hrs in 2 years

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a nutritionist certificate worth it?

It is without a doubt worth it to seek out a nutrition certification with any of these top health organizations. These certification courses in nutritional science can be a good starting point for entering the nutrition realm or adding to an existing full-time career in the fitness and healthcare realm. Our recommendations are to pick a certification and jump in.

What kind of education do you need to be a nutritionist?

For most of these certifications, a high school diploma will be the only requirement to enter into dietetics. But, if someone wishes to become a nutritionist and more, they would need a bachelor’s degree and also one accredited certification. Also, requirements are different if you want to be a dietitian, because as a healthcare professional, your scope of practice will change. 

Can you become a certified nutritionist online?

Yes, these certifications are available to be completed online. Most nutrition certifications are done through some online format. Other popular online certifications are holistic nutritionist, weight loss specialist, behavior change specialist, registered dietitians, and any other related field.

Which organization has the best nutrition certification?

This article highlights the top certifications in the industry, but choosing the best one will depend on many different variables. It is important to weigh all aspects of the various certifications within the page, so you can make the best decision for your future.

Is there a demand for nutrition coaching?

The health and fitness markets have grown astronomically and are constantly growing year over year. There is a large demand for health and nutrition coaching due to the rise in preventable illnesses that nutrition coaching can help.

At Trainer Academy, we are committed to helping you pick the best certification for you!

We also want you to pass, so then you can start to make a difference in the lives of your clients.

The hardest test of all is the NSCA CSCS, so if you decide to take that make sure to grab our free CSCS study materials and CSCS practice exam.


  1. Maxwell C, Ruth K, Friesen C. Sports Nutrition Knowledge, Perceptions, Resources, and Advice Given by Certified CrossFit Trainers. Sports. 2017;5(2):21. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/sports5020021
  2. ‌Dt T, Ka E, Lm B. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published March 1, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26920240/
  3. ‌McKean MR, Slater G, Oprescu F, Burkett BJ. Do the Nutrition Qualifications and Professional Practices of Registered Exercise Professionals Align? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2015;25(2):154-162. doi: https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0051

Leave us a comment and we will reply ASAP

2 thoughts on “8 Best Nutrition Certifications in 2024 – cost vs value compared”

    • Hey Allyson,

      Sure thing, we offer study materials for a lot of different personal training certifications as well as nutrition certifications. Currently we have study materials for the ISSA motion certification as well as the NASM CNC nutrition certification. I hope that helps.

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