Guide to the Best Nutrition Certifications For Fitness Professionals in 2019

Hey everyone and welcome to my guide on the top nutrition certifications for sports and fitness professionals in 2019. This is for anyone that wants to become a certified nutrition specialist.

If you have searched cool with the goal of finding the right nutrition program for you, you probably came out more confused than you did when you went in. That is why I created this guide. I want to give some clarification on the different nutrition certifications that are available. In the end, I suggest checking out the NASM FNS site, the ACE FNS site, and the ISSA fitness nutrition site.

I highly recommend that you take the quiz to get an estimate on which nutrition certification is the best fit for you overall. This is just an estimation, read the article to get the full understanding.

You should also take a look at my article on the top health coach certifications and best group exercise certifications.

There is also a widespread confusion between holding a nutrition certification and being a dietitian and the schooling/requirements for both of these. In addition to this, there is widespread panic for who can give nutrition advice.

As a fitness professional, are you allowed to give nutrition advice? Will you get sued? The overall answer is, no you will not get in trouble. I will talk more about this down below.

By the end, you will have a clear idea of what each certification is about, in which one would be right for you. Let’s stop dillydallying around and get right into the best nutrition certification reviews!

Nutrition Certifications

The Five Best Nutrition Certification programs

Remember that these certifications are mainly meant for individuals in the sports and fitness industry such as strength and conditioning coaches or personal trainers.

So if you are looking for a sports nutrition certification or a fitness nutrition certification, these are fantastic choices!

1) NASM FNS Fitness Nutrition Specialization Certification

NASM Fitness nutrition specialist certification (FNS)

The National Academy of sports medicine is a name that is extremely well recognized in the fitness industry. And it is no surprise that the NASM nutrition certification is held in high regard.

NASM has a strong focus on the basics of nutrition and how they apply to performance, body image and weight loss.

You will learn how to teach clients how to read food labels properly, select portion sizes and is conscious about the selections that they make on a day-to-day basis.

You will be able to explain the role of calories better, energy balance, metabolism and food selections can impact their fitness and performance goals.

You will have six months to take the test after signing up for the NASM nutrition certification. There are no prerequisites.

Cost

There is only one price for the NASM nutrition certification, and it is $499.

Check the current price for the NASM nutrition certification here.

One thing that I did not like is that they do not have a hard copy of the textbook available. They only have the e-book which is not the worst thing in the world, but sometimes I like to highlight and add sticky notes to everything in a physical textbook.

Overall, the NASM FNS is one of the best online nutrition certifications that is available. I really enjoyed studying the information provided by NASM and it has added huge value to my skill set as a fitness professional.

Curriculum and study materials

  • The NASM fitness nutrition specialist comes with an online course
  • e-book
  • Practice quizzes
  • A meal planner
  • Make sure to check out my free FNS study guide here on my site

Currently, in 2019 this is one of the best nutrition certification options, but it has some fierce competition with the other certifications on this list. Here is a link to the NASM FNS.

Here is a great video (although the audio is webinar quality) that has a ton of information on the NASM FNS certification. It’s kind of long but does a fantastic breakdown of what one will gain from the certification. I set the video to start at the 8:40 mark which skips most of the intro fluff.

 

2) ACE (American Council on exercise) Fitness Nutrition Specialist

The ACE (American Council on exercise) Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS)

The American Council on exercise is an incredibly well recognized certifying agency in the health and fitness industry. For that reason, it’s no wonder why their fitness nutrition specialist certification makes the number two spot on my list.

In this fitness nutrition certification, you will learn all of the essentials of nutritional science. You will learn the strong correlation between nutrition and body weight and how to change your clients perspective with evolving behavioral tactics.

The ACE nutrition certification focuses half of their efforts on changing your client’s behaviors as they do on the nutrition aspect.

This is an excellent approach to nutrition overall. You can teach your clients all day long about food, but if they don’t put it into practice when they are alone, it was useless.

After purchasing the ACE certification, you will have six months to study for and take the test. There are no requirements for the ACE nutrition certification.

Cost

There are two separate options for purchasing the ACE fitness nutrition specialist program.

The first is the e-book only option which costs $249

The next option is the hardcopy plus e-book textbook for $299.

Check out the current price for the ACE nutrition certification here.

When I personally purchased the ACE nutrition certification, I got the hard copy. But I just love the feel and smell of real paper.

Curriculum

  • The fitness nutrition manual
  • A four-part video series on fitness nutrition
  • A three-part video series on how to integrate fitness nutrition with your existing clients
  • Coaching behavior change book
  • Coaching behavior change podcast

The curriculum and study materials that ACE provides are excellent for different styles of learning. I got great use out of the coaching behavior audio as well as reading materials.

They also have a strong emphasis on business practices and how you can make more money with the addition of this nutrition service. This is very beneficial especially for those of you who are strong business minded.

Here is a link to the ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

 

3) ISSA Sports Nutrition Certification

ISSA

The sports nutrition certification from the international sports sciences Association is a relatively new fitness nutrition certification.

In this nutrition certification, you will learn all about nutrition as well as the various sports supplements that are common.

You’ll become an expert on how to gain muscle and lose fat using nutrition tactics. For athletes, you will learn about favorite concepts such as carbohydrate loading and how it affects sports performance.

They also touch upon female athletes and special populations in the differences in nutrition requirements.

Overall the program should last between two and eight months long depending on how much you study every day. This is another fantastic online nutrition certification.

It seems like there is a theme with six months of study time after signing up for the certification. ISSA is no different.

Cost

Currently, the value of the ISSA sports nutrition certification is $699. I frequently see this drop-down as low as $499.

Check out the current cost for the ISSA sports nutrition certification here.

This is one of the best sports nutrition certifications to choose from if you are a personal trainer. Especially if you are an ISSA certified personal trainer.

Curriculum and study materials

Let’s talk about all of the study materials that you receive with the ISSA sports performance certification.

  • A hard copy of the sports nutrition textbook. 300 pages long.
  • A study guide to follow along with for the textbook.
  • Online practice exams and quizzes
  • Unlimited support from ISSA professionals
  • Access to a student forum

I like how you can ask ISSA professionals if you ever get stuck on a topic while you are studying. The online discussions are also helpful for bouncing ideas off other students studying the same issue.

Check out the ISSA Fitness Nutrition Cert here.

Right now you can save up to 25% on the NASM FNS certification!
Here is the link to the NASM FNS sale
Here is the link to the ACE nutrition certification sale
Get a FREE apple watch with the purchase of the ISSA sports nutrition certification
Here is the link to the ISSA sports nutrition deal

4) NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association) Fitness/Sports Nutrition Coach

The NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association) Fitness/Sports Nutrition Coach

There are two different nutrition certifications offered by NESTA.

The first is their fitness nutrition coach certification which is meant for the general public or general clients of personal training.

The second is their sports nutrition specialist certification which is intended only for athletes or those looking to boost their athletic performance.

Overall these are some of the more basic fitness/sports nutrition certification options out there. They will teach you some of the essentials in regards to making your clients healthier and more fit.

NESTA has a decent section on doing nutritional assessments for clients and lending practical advice for performance enhancement for athletes.

Both of these NESTA certifications also have a strong emphasis on building your personal training business and increasing your earning potential by offering nutrition advice in addition to your regular training.

There are no prerequisites for this nutrition certification, and you will be given 12 months to take the test after you sign up.

This is yet another all online fitness nutrition certification.

Curriculum and study materials

  • Online textbook in e-book format
  • Multiple training videos
  • Access to the test

Overall, the study materials did not blow my mind. They do however have everything available to you online and are very easy to access and study. Videos and the textbook are sufficient but are not optimal.

Cost

The cost for the NESTA fitness nutrition coach certification is $297.

The cost for the NESTA sports nutrition specialist certification is $347

They also have the option to purchase and study for both nutrition certifications for only $449. This will save you $195 compared to buying both separately.

Check out NESTA here.

5) AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Certification

The AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Certification

The AFPA nutrition and wellness consultant certification teaches you mostly how to apply nutrition information for weight management, fitness performance and overall health enhancement of your clients

You will learn how to be motivational and be able to change the lifestyle habits of your clients. This involves how to communicate effectively with your client’s nutritional concepts and teach them the importance of habit building.

After purchasing the nutrition certification, you will have six months to take the test. There are no prerequisites to sign up for the AFPA. This is another 100% online fitness nutrition certification.

Curriculum and study materials

There are two separate ways you can receive study materials. The first is the 100% digital access. This gives you access to the interactive e-books, full textbook, student practice activities, assessments and nutrition assignments.

The textbook only version allows you to have a physical copy of the book, physical assignments but without the online learning platform.

Both the digital access and textbooks are available as well.

Cost

The current cost for the AFPA nutrition and wellness consultant certification is $599.

You can see the AFPA here. 

Who’s allowed to give nutrition advice?

The short answer is, it’s legal to give nutrition advice!

This is especially true if you have some knowledge on the topic (i.e., a certification).

What you are not allowed to do is prescribed a diet that is meant to treat an illness or disease for a client. Prescriptions are intended for registered dietitians (an RD) or medical doctors (MD).

So if a client comes up to you and asks for advice on the best diet for their celiac disease, you’re not legally allowed to advise on this.

On the other hand, if you are a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, for example, you can give nutritional advice for losing weight, eating balanced/healthy or advice on macronutrients for building muscle.

All of these are acceptable nutrition advice that can come from someone holding a nutrition certification.

You are allowed to talk about overall healthy nutrition practices, provide strategies to improve nutrition and offer tools so that they can incorporate this nutrition advice into their lives.

Not only are fitness professionals in personal trainers allowed to discuss nutrition advice with their clients, but they are also absolutely encouraged to do so.

This is due to the hugely increasing obesity epidemic that we are suffering in the United States (and in the world in general).

As personal trainers or fitness professionals, the only problem is, lots of them don’t feel qualified to give this nutrition advice. If this is how you currently think, the logical next step for you is to obtain an accredited nutrition certification program.

What you will learn from a nutrition certification

sports nutrition certification

If you are a certified fitness professional such as a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, you probably learned a little bit about nutrition from your general CPT certification.

This nutrition certifications go into a lot of the same topics of study but anyway more detail. You will learn all of the nutrition science fundamentals and how to apply them to your clients.

You will go into how nutrition plays a role in sports performance, body composition and body weight. You will learn all about digestion, absorption, food intake, micronutrients, and macronutrients.

By the end, you will be a full-blown expert in all of these areas.

These nutrition certifications will also teach you a lot about habit building and habit changing, how to integrate nutrition into personal training/coaching as well as the business benefits you can receive from offering these new services.

Speaking of studying for a nutrition certification, Here at PTPioneer, we are currently working on free study guides for the majority of personal training in nutrition certifications. Currently, we have finished the free NASM FNS study guide, and are working hard to complete the study guides for all of the other major certifications. Stay tuned!

And finally, dun dun dun, here are some excellent accredited nutrition certification programs!

Conclusion on fitness and sports nutrition certifications

Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, my article on the top nutrition certifications. I hope you guys walked away knowing the difference between a dietitian and a certified nutritionist. For now, I suggest that you check out my top three nutrition certifications below.

If you have not done so yet, take the quiz to get a better overall idea of which nutrition certification is the best match for you.

Overall my top three accredited nutrition certification programs are:

You will come away from either one of these three with a great new toolset of knowledge! 🤓

accredited nutrition certification programs

Remember, it’s not illegal to give clients nutrition advice! In fact, it is wholly encouraged! As long as you are not “prescribing” a nutrition or diet plan toward somebody attempting to fix a disease that they have.

As trainers and coaches, we are responsible for helping our clients maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. If we keep our mouths shut, we are accomplices to this epidemic.

This is why it is essential to have knowledge of a certified nutrition specialist.

Let me know what you guys thought of my top five fitness and sports nutrition certifications.

Have you guys tried out any of the certifications? What were your experiences with them? Make sure to leave me a comment down below! 🙂

10 thoughts on “Guide to the Best Nutrition Certifications For Fitness Professionals in 2019”

  1. Hi –
    I don’t have any formal training in the nutrition or sports field. My background is a BA in Psych and I’ve worked in the HR field most of my career. I have spent the last 2 years training in the gym and eating mostly ‘clean.’ I have learned what my body responds to solely on my own. I’m proud to say I have lost 40 pounds and I’m in the best shape of my life. Would a nutrition certification be of any benefit to someone like me? Could I use it to teach others or do I have to have the personal training background?
    Thanks

    1. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on losing 40 pounds! That is an incredible feat and I’m so glad that you are in the best shape of your life. Absolutely, a nutrition certification can benefit anybody. Even if you do not end up charging for your nutrition services, the knowledge that you will gain from these certifications will help tremendously in your own pursuit of health and fitness. You can absolutely use these principles to help others with their nutrition even if you do not have a background in fitness or are a personal trainer. I hope this helps!

  2. Great read, thank you!! I’m trying to decide between NASM and ISSA. My fiance is a personal trainer, mainly with male athletes as he’s a football player. I have had many requests from teammates as well as females I work with to help design meal plans and macro #’s as well as the best supplements to take. I read and a lot and know what works for me, but have decided to aid in the business and get certified. I like both courses for the nutrition but see ISSA assists in supplementing as well. Is there one program you like better or recommend?

    1. Hey Sara,
      I think that both certifications are packed with helpful information and that you would get great use out of both ISSA and NASM nutrition certifications. That being said, in the personal training industry NASM is a little bit more recognized. For example if you are a personal trainer as well as trying to offer nutrition advice, potential employers might recognize the NASM brand name slightly more. If this is not make any difference to you, I think both are very close to one another in terms of the information you’ll gain and the quality of their study materials they provide.

  3. Hi Tyler. I’m a follower of your posts. Iam very interested in doing a cert on nutrition. Iam not a CPT certified. So cannot take ACE as as a prequesite to be called specialist by then one needs NCCA accredited cert beforehand. So m torn between NASM or NESTA ( more economical). So can u give me n idea in terms of learning about nutrition and helping clients how different is one from the other. How much would I benefit form NESTA? Thanks !

    1. Hey Samrat,

      Honestly I believe that the NASM is the better of the two certifications. Not just in terms of the curriculum but also in the way that NASM structures all of their certifications as well as the reputation that they have within the industry. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the information though, most of the nutrition certifications are similar. I just like the layout of NASM.

  4. What are your thoughts on other “ Functional Medicine “ programs out there?

    Yes, Thank You Tyler!
    Great blog, by far, one of the best in this field and topics
    PS
    I sent you over an email as well

    Thanks again

    1. Hey Troy,

      Thanks for the shout out for the blog I am glad you are getting some good use out of it. To be honest I do not know too much about functional medicine certs sorry I cannot help more on that topic. Best of luck in your search!

  5. Hi
    Great Info

    Ok…my confusion
    So if one gets a PT Certification from NASM or ACE

    Then can one go and get Fitness and Sports Nutritionist certification from the other

    Example:
    PT Certification from ACE, then an certification NASM FNS ?

    Is their any benefit from keeping both certifications from the same program?
    Cost?
    Go w one in program bundle, cheaper ?
    one accreditation better than the other?

    Are The others like NESTA and ISSA
    “ interchangeable “ as well

    Sorry for the long post
    Hope this makes sense

    *So overall, what would be your path or program recommendation for one that would like to be PT trainer and a Fitness and sports nutritionist*

    A general cost vs value
    If possible 🙂

    I’m winded now
    Lol

    Thank You!

    1. Hey Troy,

      Great questions for sure. In general, if you want to get an advanced certification you only need a general cpt cert under your belt. That means any accredited cpt cert would do. Do you have a nutrition cert in mind? If someone wants to get a specific advanced cert from a provider I usually recommend getting the general cert from the same provider. For example, If you want to get the PES or CES from NASM I recommend getting the general cpt from NASM cause they all use the OPT training model for building programs. I know that the fitness nutrition cert is a lot different than the general cpts though. In terms of cost-benefit I Dont think it really matters. Simply whichever one is the cheapest at the time. Did I answer your question fully? haha if not, keep on asking 🙂

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