Which Sports Nutrition certification is best for you?

We created this essential quiz to help you choose the perfect certification for YOU based on your goals, learning style, and more.

This best sports nutrition certification breakdown covers the top certification programs you want to consider when becoming a sports nutritionist.

We’ve broken down the top sports nutrition certifications in 2024 along with the following criteria:

  • Content covered in each certification
  • Exam and study material cost
  • Completion time and difficulty of each certification
  • Best careers for each certification

By the time you finish reading, you will be prepared to choose which sports nutrition course is right for you and be ready to take your first step towards becoming a certified sports nutritionist.

Let’s dive in!

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Why are we qualified to recommend the top sports nutrition certifications?

The Trainer Academy team includes coaches certified through many of the nutrition certification programs we cover here on this list, as well as through other nutritionist courses.

Our staff also hold many of the top personal trainer certifications, and other fitness specializations, so we have a firm grasp of the fitness landscape and which programs gyms, clients, and employers like to see on a resume.

As such, we offer unique insights about the fitness industry and the major players.

Once you complete this article, you’ll be ready to find the best sports nutrition certification for you.

Our Top Sports Nutrition Certification Pick

Precision Nutrition Level 1

  • Purchase through ISSA Partner
  • Best online coaching software
  • Teaches nutrition and how to build a business
  • Well respected institution

A Quick Look at the Best Sports Nutrition Certifications

Best Sports Nutrition Certifications Reviews

Best Overall: Precision Nutrition

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best cert for coaching online thumb_up_line Well known organization thumb_up_line Best software coaching tools

CONS

thumb_down_line Expensive thumb_down_line Enrollment waitlist

Summary: 

Precision Nutrition is hands down the top online nutrition certification in the fitness industry. If your goal is to be a sports nutritionist or become a nutrition coach online, the Precision Nutrition certification should be your top consideration.

Precision Nutrition is broken into level 1 and level 2. Level 1 is the primary certification we focused on in this review.

The Precision Nutrition company has partnered with a number of elite sports teams and organizations to provide nutritional coaching services and has also partnered with educational institutions to provide nutrition coaching classes for college students.

Despite its recognition in the fitness and sports industries, the Precision Nutrition certificate is not one of the NCCA accredited certifications. It’s not accredited by DEAC, or any other accrediting institution, which is a bummer for certain continuing education purposes.

Both these accrediting agencies function to provide assurance of excellence; however, Precision Nutrition is still the top certification in the game and is one of the few non-accredited certifications we feel deserve recognition as the best in the business.

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Starting at $999

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Before diving in, it’s worth mentioning that Precision Nutrition has teamed up with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). You can either get the ISSA nutrition certification or sign up for Precision Nutrition through ISSA. As such, either the ISSA nutritionist or the Precision Nutrition certification will serve you well.

Also, note, that sometimes Precision Nutrition has a public waiting list, but our students reported that signing up for the ISSA certification allowed them to bypass this.

If you are thinking of taking the ISSA CPT certification, look at our ISSA review, which covers all you need to know. We also have free Trainer Academy resources that include ISSA CPT exam info and a look at ISSA vs NASM for those on the fence between the two organizations.

Is Precision Nutrition legit? In a word, YES! Precision Nutrition stands out as the best nutrition certification overall for several reasons.

The first is its experienced-based approach to the fundamentals of coaching clients and athletes towards reaching their nutrition-related goals.

While virtually every top nutrition certification uses science-backed information as the basis for their coaching, Precision Nutrition is the culmination of thousands of hours of PhD-level expert knowledge imbued into the training program.

Co-founder Dr. John Berardi has decades of experience coaching clients and athletes at multiple levels of the game, including elite performers, to achieve their full potential. Precision Nutrition is truly the culmination of this effort and experience.

The main thing that Precision Nutrition stands out for is the business skills and resources aspect of the certification.

While science is great, if you cannot meaningfully apply your knowledge to help your clients and athletes achieve meaningful change through nutrition and dietary intervention, then your knowledge is barely as good as the paper it’s printed on.

The Precision Nutrition curriculum places a heavy emphasis on how to actually grow your nutrition coaching business, especially if you are looking into the online nutrition coaching side of the industry.

This also includes coaching and diet philosophies that address the practical difficulties of following the ‘perfect diet,’ and instead focus on positive changes that fit as smoothly as possible into your athletes’ lifestyle.

A few additional practical skills covered in Precision Nutrition are the following:

  • Connecting with clients during virtual and in-person coaching sessions
  • Estimating portion sizes with hands
  • How to get clients to ‘buy in’ to your suggestions every time

Alongside the business coaching, Precision Nutrition gives students access to a number of virtual business tools for building your client base, programming, and management.

These include various forms crucial to the day-to-day operations of your business, in addition to the portal that contains all the lessons, and videos.

The overall curriculum is contained in three printed textbooks as well as a printed workbook that are delivered to your mailing address upon signup.

The main digital software product in this domain is the Precision Nutrition ProCoach app, which allows you to track, coach, and manage both online and in-person nutrition clients.

You can access this software for a fee without getting Precision Nutrition certified, but if you take the course you get free 90-day access included in the program.

Overall, the app and digital resources are far more useful than the printed textbooks.

The presentation of the scientific material is dry and limited in the textbooks, making reading through them a dull and unrewarding experience, especially when it exceeds the minimum practical information needed for the purposes of coaching.

Luckily, the online portal gives you videos, so you are not just stuck learning from a textbook.

The cost of the Precision Nutrition certification is by far its biggest downside. At $999 for the full program, you will be shelling out quite a bit more than other sports nutrition certifications cost.

Is Precision Nutrition worth a thousand bucks?

Well, if you are comfortable spending that kind of money and intend to use nutrition coaching as a major revenue stream, then the investment may very well pay off.

On the other hand, if you are just looking for some baseline nutrition knowledge but do not plan to be a full or part-time nutrition coach, Precision Nutrition is too expensive to justify the cost.

Difficulty-wise, Precision Nutrition is insanely easy.

Each chapter has a 10 question open-book quiz that is straightforward and designed to be easy. Plus, you can do it at home (in fact, you have to do it at home as there is no in-person exam).

Pass all twenty chapters and boom… you’re certified!

There is no final exam.

But… how long does it take to pass?

Each chapter takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on your study pace, so if you were to do 2 to 3 chapters per week, you should be certified within a few months.

The Precision Nutrition certification is best suited for individuals currently in the fitness or health industries who plan to make sports nutrition coaching a big part of their business.

Even if you have no prior experience in the industry, Precision Nutrition will be useful if your goal is sports nutrition coaching. However, you will have to branch out your knowledge as well.

If you do not think that nutrition coaching will be a significant revenue source, then Precision Nutrition is not a good choice simply because of how expensive it is and that it may not give you CEUs towards another certification, since it is not accredited.

The main upside to this certification is the business coaching and growth resources, which are absolutely wasted if you do not actually plan to make a good nutritional coach salary.

On account of these resources, we highly recommend Precision Nutrition. 

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Best for Continuing Education: NASM

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best curriculum thumb_up_line Lower cost thumb_up_line Best customer support

CONS

thumb_down_line Technically a specialization thumb_down_line No in-person exam options

Summary: 

The National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) is a premier sports nutrition certification designed for personal trainers, fitness professionals, and aspiring sports nutritionists. It is the main NASM nutrition certification offered through the organization.

NASM stands out as the biggest fitness certification provider with specializations and certifications in the fields of Group Fitness (through AFAA), Corrective Exercise, Weight Loss, and many more. 

Although NASM is known for its famed CPT personal trainer certification course, unlike many other NASM certifications the NASM-CNC does not require you to have a NASM CPT certificate before signing up.

However, if you are already a NASM certified personal trainer or are taking the steps to become a personal trainer, the NASM-CNC does give you continuing education credits and is an excellent booster to your CPT certification once you get it.

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Curriculum-wise, the NASM-CNC is broken into three categories:

  1. Nutritional Science
  2. Behavioral Change Strategies
  3. Nutrition Coaching

Section 1 covers a range of things any budding nutrition coach should be curious about including:

  • The role of food preference
  • Protein, carbohydrates, fats, alcohol, micronutrients, vitamins/minerals
  • Nutrients timing and supplementation
  • Energy balance

Under closer examination, we feel that the NASM Certified Nutrition Coach does an amazing job of covering the in-depth science of human nutrition. NASM covers macronutrients and micronutrients well. In our opinion, students who learn the bulk of this material will be more than prepared in terms of the scientific knowledge needed for nutritional coaching.

Section 2 gives you insight on the following key topics:

  • The psychology of weight control and behavioral change
  • Communication and coaching
  • Motivational interviewing

Although these topics are vital, we, unfortunately, do not feel NASM did a great job outlining these skills compared to some of the other certifications we looked at.

Section 3 focuses on the nitty-gritty practical skills of nutritional planning such as:

  • Reading food labels
  • Managing plateaus
  • Sorting through nutritional hot topics and controversies.

This coverage is sufficient overall but could include more practical integration of behavioral change strategies and general nutrition coaching into a combined skillset.

So what’s our takeaway?

In a nutshell, NASM-CNC is “heavy on theory” and “light on practice.” You do get some case studies to look at, but overall, this is the case. 

Beyond just behavioral change, there is not a ton of guidance on how to start or grow your own coaching business.

Furthermore, beyond the coursework, there are not a ton of tools provided to help streamline your coaching business, unlike some of the other certifications we looked at.

It’s still an excellent certification, but you will need to get real-world experience or otherwise bolster your knowledge of behavioral coaching and business development if you want to make nutritional coaching your main thing.

The NASM CNC is medium-priced, which the full package costing $899.

According to the NASM website, this price includes the following:

  • 24 in-depth chapters
  • Over 40 lecture videos
  • 200+ digital handouts and infographics
  • 1 year to take the exam
  • Fully online
  • 1.9 CEUs for most major fitness certifications

Given that the $899 includes virtually everything you need to pass the exam, this is not a bad deal.

Unlike some certification exams, there is no option to just take the exam for a reduced fee and you must purchase the full course materials. However, we find that NASM offers some of the best online videos and each module gives you unique insights, so consider using the online program instead of just reading the textbook. 

Difficulty-wise, the exam was straightforward. There are no ‘gotcha’ questions and in general, the course material goes a bit deeper than the level of question you will find on the exam though.

You still must prepare carefully, however, because you do not want to risk scrambling at your textbook, looking for answers once you begin your exam.

The final is open book with 100 multiple-choice questions but includes a 90-minute time limit.

With a few dedicated hours a day, the exam is very passable with about 4 weeks of study time.

In terms of the best careers for your NASM CNC, the certification is most appropriate for coaching recreational athletes and general fitness clients for improving their performance in the gym or sport.

The NASM CNC does not cover much in the way of business skills, especially when you compare the ISSA Nutritionist vs NASM CNC.

If you are completely new to the fitness industry, you will need a more solid business skillset than what is provided in NASM CNC.

On the other hand, if you already run your own fitness coaching business or work at a gym and need CEUs, the NASM CNC would be a great way to branch into sports nutrition coaching given that you already have the baseline fitness business framework in place.

We also recommend that you check out our free NASM study guide and free NASM practice test here for best results with the exam.

And, for those of you who want to take your studying to the next level, we suggest our premium NASM MVP study system which has a 99% pass rate and a money-back exam pass guarantee.

We also have a NASM vs ACE article that might be of interest to anyone deciding between NASM and ACE.

If you’re looking for an added bonus to your nutrition certification, you may want to look at additional specializations.

Knowing more about corrective movements, strength work, or how to teach a group class can really open doors for you in the fitness industry.

Once you are seen as an expert in a given field, people will want to work with you and even be willing to pay more for a trainer or nutritionist with higher level coaching skills. You also have more flexibility in terms of who you can coach. 

Given that, NASM has a great multidisciplinary Elite Trainer Bundle that includes, 6 (yes, that’s right, 6) different certifications.

If you end up selecting that option, go to the NASM website as soon as possible, because they only run this deal periodically.

Best for Professional Coaching: NCSF

COST
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CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Comprehensive course thumb_up_line Reasonable cost cert thumb_up_line Great customer support

CONS

thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line Not the best behavioral coaching

Summary:

The National Council on Strength and Fitness is a newer certifying agency that is building a reputation for itself as a competitor against NASM and ACE, especially with its NCSF CPT (certified personal trainer certification).

The NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist (NCSF SNS) is a certification that focuses primarily on sport and athletic performance.

While all the other certifications we looked at cover sports nutrition, the NCSF SNS curriculum has far less for general fitness nutrition and much more on performance nutrition.

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The NCSF builds its curriculum around the multiple different aspects of nutrition for sports performance.

The overall skills include:

  • Dietary analysis for making proper recommendations
  • Sorting nutritional facts from fiction
  • Teaching athletes to read food labels
  • Behavioral change for weight loss and muscle gain
  • Nutrition coaching for sport-specific performance
  • Templates for individual sports 

In general, we feel the standout component of the NCSF SNS is that the recommendations are geared towards athletes, who are often more motivated to make changes and also have more challenging nutritional requirements than general weight loss clients.

For example, this certification dives into the nitty-gritty of the various stages of competition preparation for fitness and bodybuilding, including the different ways you can manipulate nutrition to favor fat loss and retain muscle, or gain muscle without a ton of fat.

Of course, these skills and habits transfer well to all athletes who need body composition changes.

Additionally, the performance nutrition is very detailed and actionable, allowing you to carefully plan an athlete’s nutrition for all sports and seasons.

Finally, as a nutrition coach, you will constantly be bombarded with questions about the latest fad diets, and being equipped to debunk or at least have a nuanced discussion about these trends is a great aspect of the NCSF SNS curriculum. When you know the truth you can share your knowledge with clientele and help them move faster towards their goals. 

As with many of the nutrition certifications, particularly those offered by mainstream personal training certification companies, the NCSF SNS does not do a good coverage of the separate business skills needed to grow a nutrition coaching business.

The NCSF Sports Nutrition Specialist certification is mid-tier priced at $699 or $799 depending on how many resources you need.

The only difference between the two price points is that the $799 includes a hardcover version of the textbook. They also offer bundles with their CPT certification and CSC certification for $1,299.

However, even the $699 option has all the resources to pass the exam including:

  • Sport Nutrition textbook digital version
  • Instructional videos
  • Lesson notes
  • Q and A
  • Review quizzes
  • Instructor support
  • One year NCSF membership
  • 8 NCSF CEUs, including the ethics requirement
  • Exam fee

In terms of sports nutrition certification exams, the NCSF is reasonably difficult. Although there is no published pass rate, you can expect to spend at least 3 months on the coursework to ensure preparation which is more in line with how long to become a personal trainer takes.

Given that the NCSF SNS focuses exceptionally on sports nutrition but less on general fitness nutrition or business, the NCSF SNS is something to consider for certified trainers who already work with or have access to an athlete in need of nutrition coaching.

If your goal is recreational sports nutrition or you plan to grow a nutrition coaching business without any prior experience or leverage, the NCSF may not be the best choice.

Best Low Cost Option: ACE

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best cert for behavioral coaching thumb_up_line Lowest cost thumb_up_line Best customer support

CONS

thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line Not a full certification

Summary: 

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is another leading fitness certification organization. The ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist is the ACE nutrition certification offering.

The ACE-FNS gives continuing education credits to most major fitness certifications and is intended for fitness professionals seeking a deeper understanding of nutrition and behavior change.

In terms of prerequisites, know that the ACE-FNS requires you to hold either an ACE CPT or other accredited certification to actually call yourself an “ACE certified fitness nutrition specialist” after passing the certification exam.

However, you do not need to be certified ahead of time to take the course or the exam.

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The ACE-FNS certification covers the basics of healthy eating and food choice and lifestyle changes.

The information is a combination of scientific facts about nutrition, practical strategies for picking healthy foods in the ‘real world’ (i.e. when browsing the supermarket), and the psychological skills needed to help your athletes actually make dietary changes.

Too often, people shop the frozen foods center of the grocery store instead of picking healthy fruits and vegetables from the side aisles. Having a variety of healthy options with lots of good fiber can curb unwanted snacking hunger at home when busy at work and provide numerous health benefits. 

The tips ACE teaches you can help give clients the motivation they need to follow through on healthy eating, how to make healthy meals, and together you can collaborate with clients on a strategy to help them lose weight or make healthier choices. 

Learning how to understand a client’s preferences means you can make suggestions to help them lose unwanted weight. Even tiny habit changes can speed up a client’s metabolism and fuel their athletic performance. 

Although the quality of the information provided is great, there is little guidance on integrating the nutrition coaching skillset into a profitable business.

In many ways, scientific knowledge, behavioral coaching skills, and business skills are three distinct sub-skills needed to be a successful nutrition coach.

The ACE-FNS does a phenomenal job of giving you a wealth of knowledge on the first two skills, but you will need to address the business components separately.

A few notable aspects of the course are the cooking demonstrations provided to help your clients learn to meal prep, and the ‘supermarket breakdowns’ that teach you how to find the best foods from a health standpoint before you even buy them!

The main resource for delivering the information is the ACE FNS textbook and recorded video lessons.

Overall, the standout aspects of the ACE IFT are the following:

  • Practical skills for making food choices ‘in real time’ as well as meal prep skills
  • Behavioral coaching to help clients make desired change
  • Up-to-date scientific justifications for nutrition choices
  • Nutrition guidelines for athletes and general fitness clients alike

The ACE FNS is reasonably priced at $379 for the full course, which includes a digital textbook. If you want a hard copy, you can pay $479 for the course and have it shipped to your door. This presents great value compared to the more expensive options on this list. 

In terms of sports nutrition certifications, the ACE FNS is a very affordable way to boost your nutritional knowledge, add another skill to your business, and knock out some CEUs for your primary fitness certification.

The ACE FNS includes the following:

  • Book/ebook
  • Podcast/audio lectures
  • Recorded video
  • Online quiz
  • CEUs varying depending on organization (for example, completion provides 1.9 NASM CEUs)

Difficulty wise the ACE FNS is designed for you to pass, but the final test does require you to have a complete understanding of the curriculum and you cannot expect to just skim the text and pass.

Each section of the online course has a test and you must score well on each one to finish the course.

In our opinion, the ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification is best for already certified trainers who want to learn more about the nutrition side of fitness while knocking out some CECs.

The ACE FNS sports nutrition certification program is very affordable compared to other CEC options and does a good job of adding to the skillsets covered in most regular CPT certifications. It is an excellent way to add an additional specialization to your praction.

However, the ACE FNS lacks sufficient business skill coverage to be a standalone certification for sports nutrition.

If you are not already certified as an ACE personal trainer and working in the industry making that personal trainer pay, ACE FNS simply does not deliver enough to kickstart a career in sports nutrition. You can still have success, but it’s not guaranteed. 

So your personal trainer outlook is good when combined with nutrition, just don’t get the nutrition course alone.

To help you get certified as an ACE trainer we have some support resources for you: a free ACE quiz, ACE guide and ACE CPT exam info.

Best for Online Coaching: NESTA

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best cert for training online thumb_up_line Lowest cost cert thumb_up_line Best customer support

CONS

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

Summary:

The National Exercise and Sports Trainers (NESTA) association is a very new certifying agency in the fitness space but is NCCA accredited.

The NESTA Sports Nutrition Specialist certification focuses on nutritional coaching for sports performance.

Additionally, unlike most of the accredited sport nutrition certifications we cover, NESTA has solid coverage of the business area of nutrition coaching (recall that Precision Nutrition is not accredited!).

This, if anything, makes NESTA SNS stand apart from the other common sport nutrition certifications if your goal is to build a sports nutrition business from scratch.

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Starting at $487

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The NESTA SNS covers the same concepts as most other sport nutrition certifications such as the following:

  • Assigning macronutrient intake guidelines
  • General healthy eating choices
  • Hydration guidelines for performance
  • The role of supplementation in sports performance
  • Sport-specific guidelines for all information covered

Aside from the business content, some additional aspects covered in the NESTA SNS that stand out include nutritional considerations for altitude and other extreme environments as well as the role of antioxidants and other key micronutrient requirements for different sports.

Business-wise, NESTA provides skills and resources for adding sports nutrition to your list of services as a fitness professional.

In our opinion, the business side of NESTA is its best asset and rivals Precision Nutrition in terms of what you learn to grow your business.

NESTA has a range of skills such as setting up email lists, building business systems, and other important marketing knowledge available to their students who purchase their certifications.

While these skills are not unique to the fitness industry, nor are they exclusive to the SNS certification, the lessons are included with the NESTA SNS, making this an absolute standout fitness certification for online nutrition coaching.

The NESTA SNS is pretty affordable at $487 for the full package, which includes the following:

  • Online training portal self study materials (lifetime access)
  • Exam fee
  • CEUs (number varies based on organization, for example, passing this course provides 1.0 NASM CEUs)

In terms of difficulty, the NESTA SNS is average and compares to the NASM, ACE, and NCSF sport nutrition certifications.

Expect to spend a few months studying to get through all the material.

Note that the exam is online and unproctored.

The NESTA SNS is hands down the best sports nutrition certification for combining both CEUs and business skills at a very affordable price.

If you are a trainer looking to knock out CEUs and learn how to start an online personal training business that focuses primarily on nutrition for athletic performance, the NESTA SNS should be a top choice.

Best Holistic Certification: AFPA

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CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Curriculum meets educational requirements for other organizations thumb_up_line Great nutrition science coverage thumb_up_line Good online option

CONS

thumb_down_line Doesn’t teach business skills thumb_down_line Difficult exam

Summary: 

Are you looking to become a Board Certified Nutritionist?

The American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) is a top fitness certification company that provides an excellent Sports Nutrition Certification (SNC).

All AFPA nutrition program curriculum fully meets the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as well as the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board educational requirements.

This means that graduates of the AFPA SNC program can apply to be board-certified under either organization. In some cases this allows you to use the title “nutritionist” when the term is regulated – note that the title ‘nutritionist’ has no background requirement or legal meaning in many areas.

If you are looking for accredited holistic nutrition programs, the AFPA is a great place to start, especially if you’re leaning towards health coach training.

Many of the AFPA offerings focus on holistic nutrition, covering more topics pertaining to improving health across all metrics. The AFPA sports nutrition certification is not only a holistic nutrition certification, however. It relies on the latest nutrition science to give you expertise on maximizing performance and general health through sound nutrition.

Learning how to maximize nutrition can help curb inflammation, lower anxiety, and fight off diseases like diabetes and more.  

Between their different fitness nutrition certification offerings, if you want to get a holistic nutrition certification online, the AFPA should be at the top of your list.

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Starting at $599

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The AFPA sports nutrition certification has one of the better curriculums in terms of nutritional science and strategizing your nutrition plans for different goals. So you can learn from the existing scientific research and apply it to your coaching. 

However, we felt that the AFPA lacked as much attention to both the behavioral change aspect of coaching as well as the business side of being a sports nutrition specialist.

There is a brief section discussing jobs in sports nutrition as well as some advice for overcoming food and weight obsessions.

Nevertheless, these topics are covered in much deeper depth in the NASM CNC and Precision Nutrition certifications.

On the positive side, AFPA integrates nutritional concepts that are not discussed in other certifications, such as general nutrition strategies for boosting energy, reducing stress, and enhancing workouts.

Additional topics include:

  • Dietary patterns to maximize performance and prevent disease
  • Advancements in ergogenic aids
  • Deciphering current food, diet, and supplement options
  • Nutrition for special populations
  • The gastrointestinal tract

Overall, the AFPA SNC is heavy on the nuts and bolts of nutrition with less emphasis on business and behavioral change.

The pure nutrition component of the exam covers more useful information than the same topics covered in other certifications.

The AFPA program and exam are purchased as a single package, which comes with the course textbook, course activities, and practice quizzes.

Our students overall found the exam to be moderately difficult, particularly compared to exams such as Precision Nutrition.

Expect to spend at least 3 months preparing if you plan to take the AFPA SNC exam.

Given the price tag and difficulty of the AFPA, it is worth seriously considering your goals before purchasing.

With that said, if you are serious about being a nutritionist and want to be board certified by a top accredited organization in the health and wellness space, you should consider the AFPA SNC.

This certification can potentially expand where you can practice as a ‘nutritionist’ and boost your credibility.

Furthermore, if your focus is on the in-depth aspects of sports nutrition, this certification goes deeper than many others.

However, if you plan to run your own nutrition business, you will have to learn the business skills separately.

How To Pick The Best Sports Nutrition Certification

Your goals and budget dictate which sports nutrition certification is best for your career. Start by deciding the type of client you want to work with and the business structure you want to create. Then, compare the certifications we cover based on budget and criteria.

Examples of goals related to sports nutrition certifications are:

  • I want to add nutrition coaching to my personal training business
  • I want to work with athletes to optimize sport performance
  • I want to grow a nutrition coaching business from scratch
  • I want to pivot to online nutrition coaching

Once you have identified your goals, you need to pick your budget. This should primarily be based on what you expect to earn from your actual coaching.

After all, if you just want information, you can probably find free nutrition courses online somewhere.

On the other hand, if you need the skills to build a business from scratch, maybe dropping a grand on Precision Nutrition is worth it.

If you want to be able to give your clients the most comprehensive help in their health and fitness journeys, you’ll need to know about nutrition and exercise.

After you pass your personal training certification, you will want the best nutrition certification to boost your fitness coach skills.

Nutrition goes a long way, but the most sustainable way to get healthier involves the discipline to eat right and take care of your body through movement.

Also, as a young coach, being both a nutritionist and trainer will give you more freedom.

When you’re a double-threat you’ll be able to access more clients and increase your rates once they see how skilled you are.

Other benefits include getting CEUs towards recertification. 

With these opportunities in mind, we highly recommend you look at getting both a nutrition certification and a CPT.

While this may seem expensive there are a few organizations that have good deals at the moment.

ISSA has the lowest cost combo with their buy-one-get-one-free bundle which is only $828. Considering it’s almost the same price as the CPT, and less than some of the options below, it’s a no-brainer.

There is a NASM Nutrition and Fitness bundle which is reasonably priced as well, although check the website to see if it’s still available.

Perhaps you want to add nutrition coaching to your currently existing client offerings.

In that case, tacking on some CEUs with a more affordable sports nutrition certification is probably wiser than spending as much as possible.

To summarize, identify your goals and then review the career discussion for each certification in this article to guide your ultimate decision.

If you are interested in working with athletes, but as a trainer or coach we recommend you go with the NSCA CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) and we have Trainer Academy CSCS study materials along with practice CSCS questions.

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Below we list major factors to consider when choosing a nutrition certification. 

Accreditation

When choosing a sports nutrition certification, consider looking for a certification accredited through NCCA or DEAC. Both these accrediting agencies guarantee that your certification passes the requisite standards of quality.

Certification Cost

Your budget allows you to pick the best certification for your needs based on your current means. While many nutrition certifications allow you to finance the program through payment plans, make sure to also consider the total cost of the certification. Often study resources and certification requirements add to your payment totals, which can influence your decision. 

Program Study Materials

Each of these sports nutrition certifications comes with varying levels of study assistance and quality. For instance, NASM and ACE offer the best study portals of any certification provider; however, in the case of nutrition, NASM gives you the most study aids.

Exam Layout and Passing Grade

While personal training certifications often require more stringent tests than nutrition certifications, each of the above programs require that you pass different types of exams. In the case of ACE, you only have chapter quizzes.

Retake Fee

If you don’t pass the exam the first time, many nutrition certificate programs allow you re-take the test for free. Others charge you for multiple attempts, so, when picking the right certification, look through and see what happens if you fail the exam and need to retest.

Certification Popularity

Of all the nutrition certifications, Precision Nutrition and NASM tend to garner the most popularity. This factor influences your decision because a well known certification gives you more clout when you put it on your resume.

Average Income

Look for which nutritionists make the most money. This factor won’t directly correlate to your earnings, but it can inform you which certifications prepare you best to earn the highest income.

Primary Focus of Certification

Each of the sports nutrition certifications offers unique teachings and by understanding what you want to learn specifically, you can determine which certification suits you best.

CEUs

Most nutrition programs give you CEUs to help you renew your personal training or strength coach certification. Check which of the above certifications provides CEUs which your CPT provider recognizes for recertification. 

FAQs

How much do nutritionists earn?

According to ZipRecruiter, the median pay for a nutritional health coach is $43,836. However, this pay may vary depending on your education level and location. If you have your own nutrition coaching business, you can potentially earn much more but will have less job security.

What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?

A nutritionist is a colloquial term for virtually anyone who coaches or gives nutrition advice in any capacity. A dietitian is a licensed professional legally permitted to make specific food recommendations like a specific nutrition plan, monitor blood work, and perform similar higher-level healthcare tasks. In most states, anyone can legally call themselves a nutritionist, but you must be credentialed through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), earn a minimum of a graduate degree from an accredited dietetic program, complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice, pass a national credentialing exam, and meet practice requirements in your state to call yourself a registered dietitian (RD).

Do nutritionists help you lose weight?

Weight loss coaching is within the scope of practice of a nutrition coach provided you do not make specific food prescriptions beyond general healthy eating recommendations. Helping clients with weight management is a common aspect of nutritional coaching.

Is a nutritionist a good career choice?

If helping others become healthier through informed, science-based food choices and behavioral coaching, then becoming a nutritionist is a rewarding and potentially lucrative career choice. You can find a nutrition certification online course, and many great nutrition courses online will start your career as a nutritionist. The ability to change lives and improve people’s overall quality of life can give you great job satisfaction and meaning outside of your paycheck as well. 

Who can become a nutritionist?

Most nutrition certifications require a high school diploma before signing up. Anyone can technically call themselves a nutritionist, even without a certification. However, most states have additional guidelines governing what you can legally do without occupational licenses, so be sure to verify your local regulations.

What is the highest paying job in nutrition?

Becoming a sports nutritionist for a major professional athletic team can be incredibly lucrative, however, this would almost always require more advanced training and licensing than a nutrition certification alone.

What do sports nutritionists major in?

A professional-level sports nutritionist’s salary depends on who your clients are. Professional sports teams pay top dollar for great nutritionists, but most require you to be a registered dietitian (RD). They also prefer dietitians who are Board Certified Specialists in Sports Dietetics. Starting baseline salaries would be about $76,000 a year with the potential for much more if you can work for elite performing organizations and possess a board certification.

How long does it take to become a sports certified nutritionist?

Most of the best online courses among the best nutrition programs for sports nutritionist certification are self-study at your own pace, meaning you can take the online exam whenever you are ready. Expect to spend an average of three months studying before passing the certified nutrition specialist exam to become a sports nutrition specialist.

Is a nutritionist certificate worth it?

A nutritionist certification is a great investment for your career in the fitness industry if you want to incorporate nutrition coaching into your business or practice. Becoming a qualified nutritionist gives you the confidence and knowledge to coach clients about their eating habits. Furthermore, if you take your nutrition course online you can complete it while still working on your business or job.

Can you become a nutritionist online?

There are many nutritional online courses that can earn you a nutritionist certification online without needing classroom hours.

How much is a sports nutritionist’s salary?

A professional-level sports nutritionist’s salary depends on who your clients are. Professional sports teams pay top dollar for great nutritionists. Starting baseline salaries would be as low as $40,000 a year with the potential for much more if you can work for elite performing organizations.

How much do online nutritionists make?

Hourly pay for online nutritionists ranges from $20 to $50 per hour or more. If you have your own private nutrition clients or run a nutrition coaching business, then you can expect to be on the higher end of this range.

How many hours does a nutritionist work in a day?

The length of your workday as a sports nutritionist will vary greatly depending on whether you work for a gym, health center, or run your own business.
Running your own business allows you to set your schedule but will fluctuate more. Working for an employer will result in more consistent hours.

Can you be a sports nutritionist without a degree?

Becoming a sports nutritionist does not require a degree. Most sports nutrition certifications require a high school diploma. Additional nutritionist requirements may vary by location.

References

  1. Kalman DS, Campbell B. Sports Nutrition: What the Future may Bring. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2004;1(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-1-1-61
  2. ‌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
  3. ‌Couture S, Lamarche B, Morissette E, et al. Evaluation of Sports Nutrition Knowledge and Recommendations Among High School Coaches. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2015;25(4):326-334. doi:https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0195
  4. Precision Nutrition. Nutrition Certification. March 2024. Available from: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrition-certification
  5. NASM. Certified Nutrition Coach. March 2024. Available from: https://www.nasm.org/continuing-education/certified-nutrition-coach
  6. NCSF. Sport Nutrition Specialist Certification. March 2024. Available from: https://ncsf.org/sport-nutrition/
  7. ACE Fitness. Fitness Nutrition Specialist. March 2024. Available from: https://www.acefitness.org/continuing-education/specialist-programs/fitness-nutrition/
  8. NESTA. Sports Nutrition Specialist Course. March 2024. Available from: https://www.nestacertified.com/sports-nutrition-training-course/ 
  9. AFPA Fitness. Sports Nutrition Certification. March 2024. Available from:  https://www.afpafitness.com/product/sports-nutrition-certification/ 
  10. ZipRecruiter. Nutritional Health Coach Salary. March 2024. Available from: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Nutritional-Health-Coach-Salary
  11. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. March 2024. Available from: https://www.eatright.org/become-an-rdn 
  12. Commission on Dietetic Registration. Board Certification as a Specialist in Sports Dietetics. March 2024. Available from: https://www.cdrnet.org/board-certification-as-a-specialist-in-sports-dietetics 
  13. ZipRecruiter. Sports Dietitian Salary. March 2024. Available from: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Sports-Dietitian-Salary

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