5 Best Sports Nutrition Certifications in 2023 (ISSA, NSPA, NSCA, ...)

Welcome to my full guide on the 6 best Sports Nutrition certifications. I will compare each certification on these six critical aspects.

  • Overall recognition
  • Curriculum and study materials
  • Cost and package combinations

Make sure to take the quiz to get a good idea of which certification is right for you.

5 Best Sports Nutrition Certification Programs for the year [year] 1
5 Best Sports Nutrition Certification Programs for the year [year] 2

By the end, you will have a clear idea about which Sports Nutrition certification is right for you.

Best Sports Nutrition Certification Programs

Let’s take a closer look at what we have narrowed it down to:

  1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Nutrition Certification
  2. National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) Sports Nutrition Specialist
  3. American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) Sports Nutrition Certification
  4. National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) Fitness Nutrition Coach
  5. National Sports Performance Association (NSPA) Sports Nutrition Coach
  6. International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Sports Nutrition Specialist

Make sure to check out my free nutrition certification study guides here.

I also suggest checking out my article on the top regular nutrition certifications. Also, for those who want to become trainers as well, my article about the top CPT organizations.

My top two are ISSA Nutrition and the NCSF SNS in 2023. Partly because they provide the best package deals and some of their other certifications (which I highly recommend); find out why below.

Here are the 6 best Sports Nutrition certifications in 2023.

1. ISSA Nutrition Certification

International Sports Sciences Association Nutrition Certification

Probably one of the most well-rounded approaches to nutrition coaching, the nutrition program offered by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is certainly one of the best available.

And the fact that ISSA often offers it as a free addition if you take their personal trainer certification course is a real bonus.

In a nutshell, this nutrition certification will teach you everything you need to know about nutrition and its impact on success or failure in a person’s life from a wellness or fitness point of view.

So although it does not have Sports Nutrition in the name, it is geared towards personal trainers and coaches working with that athletes.

By giving you the tools to understand how fitness and nutrition interact with the body, you can deal firsthand with clients who may require your services for several reasons.

Like someone who wants to gain muscle or perhaps a client that is looking to use nutrition to help them lose weight, several critical nutrition concepts will now be at your fingertips, for example, carbo-loading as a means to provide energy for performance.

Combining a well-devised fitness program with a nutritional component makes it even easier to ensure a client is achieving results.

But it’s not only the physiological aspect that the ISSA nutrition certification focuses on.

Effective nutrition coaching is both the result of and results in psychological and behavioral shifts.

But how long will it take to complete?

The fact that certifications like this one are all completed online means that you can study at your own pace.

But generally, if you put in a few hours a day, ISSA suggests you can complete their nutrition certification online in two to three months.

That’s not bad at all, and should you be able to put more time in, you can also speed up the process.

What study materials do you receive?

The coursework and study materials provided by ISSA for this certification are top-notch. So what can you expect?

Let’s break it down:

  • The course textbook “Nutrition: The Complete Guide – Second Edition.”
  • An accompanying study guide with step-by-step help with each module
  • A host of online practice quizzes so you can test your knowledge before the final certification exam
  • ISSA professionals are ready to help with any queries you might have
  • A student forum where you can exchange ideas with fellow students
  • The option of a traditional pen and paper test or taking the exam online

All of these certainly give you enough scope to prepare thoroughly for your certification exam.

And the fact that the ISSA makes professional help available means that any questions you might have can be cleared up fast.

I have created an excellent free study guide for the ISSA Nutrition certification here.

Check out the current study materials that come with the ISSA nutrition certification here.

How much does it cost?

The price of this certification is currently $799, but ISSA constantly has specials where it drops to as low as $399 at times.

And as mentioned earlier, if you want to get certified as a personal trainer, the ISSA throws in the nutrition certification for FREE!

They also have what’s called their Elite Trainer package. This comes with the nutrition certification, personal trainer certification, and one other certification you choose.

I recommend the strength and conditioning certification for people getting into Sports Nutrition. I have seen this deal as low as $999. If you catch it on this discount, it’s a hard package to pass up.

This is undoubtedly one of the best sports nutrition certifications out there. If you are already qualified as a personal trainer, and an ISSA-certified one in particular, then adding this nutrition certification to your skillset makes absolute sense.

2. NCSF Sports Nutrition Specialist

National Council on Strength and Fitness Sports Nutrition Specialist

Now let’s take a look at the Fitness Sports Nutrition Specialist certification offered by the National Council on Sports and Fitness (NCFS).

Exclusive PTP Nutrition Offers


Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Great Option
50% off
Best Cert for you?
Get Free Trial

A comprehensive online sports nutrition certificate, the Fitness and Sports Nutrition Specialist certification are aimed mostly at personal trainers looking to branch out into the nutrition field as well.

It takes around two to four months from start to finish, depending on the time you can put in.

After completing this sports nutrition program, you will know to help clients improve their athletic performance. That’s thanks to making nutritional changes to their diet and the timing of nutrient and fluid intake for optimal athletic output. Supplements and performance enhancers are also covered in-depth.

But it’s more than just helping athletes.

Structured into 16 modules, this certification will also help you use your nutritional knowledge to help clients lose weight by changing their diets.

Just like ISSA, the NCSF provides excellent combination packages with their Sports Nutrition certification and either their General personal training certification or their strength and conditioning certification.

The knowledge of having these combinations provide excellent results for Sports nutrition Clients. As we all know, exercise and diet go hand-in-hand.

What study materials do you receive?

To complete this sports nutrition program, the NCFS will provide you with several study materials. These include:

  • Full access to the sports nutrition specialist online learning portal with all course material, including notes, chapter review quizzes, and more.
  • Various in-depth instructional videos
  • Learning flashcards
  • Over 200 exam practice questions

Once complete, you can write the 150-question final accreditation exam at over 1,000 testing centers worldwide. These are found in 83 countries.

Just register online, pick your date and you are booked to write. A pass rate of 70% is required to receive your certification.

Check out the current NCSF study materials here.

How much does it cost?

How much does it cost?

Cost-wise, this sports nutrition course has two options.

First, the regular course, which gives you access to all the online study materials, notes, and more through the sports nutrition specialist online learning portal, can be purchased with a credit card for $688.

A plus package, including a hard copy of the textbook, costs $757.95. Check the NCFS website often, as they regularly have sales for both options.

And should you fail, you can rewrite the exam for $299.

This is another solid option for someone looking for nutrition certification, but it’s best to try and secure it on a special.

Check out the current cost for the NCSF SNS.

3. AFPA Sports Nutrition Certification

American Fitness Professionals and Associates Sports Nutrition Certification

Now let’s look at the sports nutrition course the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) offers.

According to the organization, their sports nutrition certification is aimed at personal trainers, strength coaches, group fitness instructors, and other positions in the fitness industry, including those starting out, veteran fitness professionals, or people trying to learn more about nutrition.

And AFPA says it is the perfect way for people in these positions to understand how fitness and nutrition can affect their clients.

So what is it that this certification will teach you?

Well, first and foremost, it provides you with all the nutritional knowledge you need to be able to deal with each unique client and their specific goals. From those who have mastered the art of training but now want to improve their nutrition to athletes needing information on supplementation or just those who want to lose weight through the nutritional route.

But there is more to it as well. For example, you will learn how to meal timings can affect performance, how nutrition affects the immune system, how to deal with eating disorders and their effect on performance and nutrition.

As a certified sports nutritionist, you can give your clients all they need to stay fit and healthy.

But there is so much more that you will take in during this certification which AFPA says will take around six months or less to complete.

What study materials do you receive?

What study materials do you receive?

Depending on which course option you choose – and there are two- you will receive the following:

  • Online access to all the necessary theories and information that you need to work through to pass the exam. This includes a workbook, presentations, and learning flashcards
  • A hard copy of the theory workbook (if you take the slightly more expensive option)
  • Comprehensive chapter outlines and a range of study material to guide you through the course.
  • Several online tools that offer interactive learning
  • The ability to try practice quizzes before you write the exam
  • Extra nutritional information regarding meal planning, sports beverages, carbo-loading, and more
  • Unlimited support from AFPA professionals

AFPA also provides a range of client resources you can use once you have passed your certification.

How much does it cost?

There are two pricing points for the AFPA Sports Nutrition Certification.

The first sees everything completed online with all the resources needed to master the course provided as well. This currently costs $499 and can either be purchased as a one-off payment or paid at $44 per month.

The second is slightly more expensive, coming in at $598, but now you will also receive a hard copy of the course workbook. That, too, can be paid off at $44 per month.

AFPA often hold specials, so if you are thinking of doing the course, it’s worthwhile checking out their site often to see if they are running any.

AFPA has over 110,000 certified nutrition consultants working all over the world, many of who have studied this exact course. And it’s not difficult to see why. This sports nutritionist certification is comprehensive and certainly provides excellent accreditation.

Exclusive PTP Nutrition Offers


Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Great Option
50% off
Best Cert for you?
Get Free Trial

4. NESTA Fitness Nutrition Coach

National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association Fitness Nutrition Coach

Next, we look at the Fitness Nutrition Coach certification from the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA).

Nesta aims this course mostly at personal trainers wanting to add a nutritional aspect to their knowledge. However, it can be taken up by health coaches, group fitness exercise leaders, dieticians, and wellness coaches.

Studied online, the sports and fitness nutritionist certification provides you with all the information you need to help your clients in various ways.

This includes using nutrition to improve their health and make them rely less on medications.

It also includes nutrition concepts for the elderly, pregnant moms, diabetics, those practicing a vegetarian lifestyle, athletes wanting to improve their performance, or just people wanting to eat correctly to lose weight.

And the course allows you to help these clients by teaching you a variety of nutrition concepts, how nutrition functions, how to access clients’ needs from a nutritional standpoint, how to use nutrition to improve athletic performance, and more!

What study materials do you receive?

With everything done online, studying this NESTA accreditation at your own pace is easy. And you will be provided with everything you need to help you pass the accreditation exam.

This includes:

  • A comprehensive online training manual
  • A variety of training videos to supplement the theory work found in the manual
  • An online exam
  • The option of a retest should you fail. This costs $95

The exam takes the form of a 100 question online test. To pass, you must get 70% or above. Note once you have purchased the course, it should be completed within a year.

How much does it cost?

The NESTA Fitness Nutrition course is much cheaper than many others available but comes with far fewer perks and extras. There is only online access to the relevant study material, a few training videos, and little else.

And it’s priced accordingly.

To sign up for this sports nutrition certification, you will need to pay a once-off $297. A payment option is also available over three months at $81.75 for a total of $327.

Note if you take this option, you won’t be able to write the final exam until you have fully paid NESTA.

Of course, the benefit of this sports nutrition consultant certification is its price. It is certainly an option for those who want some nutrition accreditation but are working within a tight budget.

5. NSPA Sports Nutrition Coach

National Sports Performance Association Sports Nutrition Coach

Aimed at personal trainers, athletic trainers, sports coaches, and other fitness professionals, the Sports Nutrition Coach certification from the National Sports Performance Association (NSPA) is a shorter course than the others we have described.

In fact, it will take just a week to complete, say NSPA. That’s a far shorter time than many other certifications.

Aimed primarily at coaches and trainers working with athletes, this certification looks at nutrition’s role in improving overall performance. And it’s about developing effective nutritional principles that will bring this about.

It also focuses on the key role that supplements can play in nutrition. Many athletes use them, but not as effectively as they can.

What study materials do you receive?

Now let’s look at what you can expect from the course and the study materials you will receive to help you pass the certification. Well, this sports nutrition certificate is broken up into 15 modules covering various sports nutrition aspects.

These look at individual subjects, for instance, carbohydrates, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks. You will also get the following:

  • A 186-page sports nutrition coach manual
  • Video lessons for each of the modules (these range between 3 and 25 minutes long for a total of 5 hours)
  • Powerpoint shows
  • Ebook with 101 smoothie recipes
  • 15 audio interviews with experts in the field of nutrition

On completion of the course, you have the chance to take the online exam. This needs a pass mark of 80% and if you fail on your first attempt, you get another chance, free of charge.

How much does it cost?

There is only one price option for the NPSA Sports Nutrition Coach certification.

And at $395, it’s a little cheaper than some of the options we have explored. That said it is shorter and focuses mainly on improving athletic performance through nutrition.

However, keep a check on the NPSA website, as it is available at a lower price from time to time, for example, during their Christmas in July special.

6: ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist

International Society of Sports Nutrition: Sports Nutrition Specialist

Our final sports nutrition program comes from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

The organization offers its Sports Nutrition Specialist accreditation as an introduction to the world of sports nutrition. And it’s slightly different from the others we have already looked at in that it’s aimed at anyone interested in nutrition in sport, not just those already in the fitness industry.

The course is also free. Why? Well ISSN, established in 2003, is a non-profit organization that aims to promote sports nutrition globally.

What study materials do you receive?

When signing up, you will be given a list of books, web pages, study guides, and other online resources that can help you study for and run through practice tests for the exam.

ISSN says you should pour through this information for several months to ensure you are exam ready.

How much does it cost?

While the course is free, the exam is not. And many different price points depending on whether you are an ISSN member or not.

There are various membership ranges but for all of them, the exam price is $649. For non-ISSN members, the exam costs $999.

To pass, you need to score 70%. If you do not manage that, you can retake the exam at a discount of 50%.

All-in-all, this is an interesting concept. While the course materials are already available online, ISSN has managed to bundle them all up to give you enough information to pass the exam.

On the other hand, the study part is totally in your hands and at your pace, while the exam is pretty pricey if you are not a member.

So what’s the verdict?

5 Best Sports Nutrition Certification Programs for the year [year] 3

All of these are great options. But we have to have one winner. The overall winner is the ISSA nutrition certification, followed by a close second, the NCSF SNS certification.

Also, I highly recommend the elite trainer package if it’s currently on sale.

While each and every one of these unique sports nutrition degrees has its own pros and cons, it’s up to you to take more of an in-depth look into them and find the one that suits exactly what you are looking for.

However, as a personal trainer or athletics coach looking to extend their knowledge into the field of nutrition, ISSA’s Nutrition Certification is perhaps the best sports nutrition certification available online at present.

Why?

Well, it covers a range of crucial nutritional topics thoroughly, it is priced well (and often on special), and if you can catch it packaged for free with the ISSA’s personal trainer certification, all the better.

It’s the real deal!

By joining any of these bodies, you can learn what sports nutrition is and how to become a certified nutritionist.

If you have challenges deciding which sports nutrition certification to opt for, you can ask in the comment box below the FAQs.

6 Best Sports Nutrition Certification FAQ

What is Sports Nutrition?

Sports nutrition involves researching diet and nutrition that will help enhance an athlete’s performance.

It focuses on their food, liquid, and nutrient consumption level, regardless of the type of sporting activities(Endurance or Strength) in which they are involved.

Who is a certified sports nutritionist?

A certified sports nutritionist works with different types of athletes to create a nutrition plan that will boost their stamina and help them be at their best during training, competition, workouts, and after a game.

They achieve this by understanding their eating habits and then creating a workable personalized plan that is safe and healthy for them.

What is the role of a sports nutritionist in the life of an athlete?

A sports nutritionist counsels athletes on nutritional habits and helps them with a menu plan to boost their stamina and endurance levels.

Where Can You obtain a sports nutritionist certification?

A sports nutritionist certification can be obtained from any of these accredited institutions:
– International Sports Sciences Association Nutrition Certification
– American Fitness Professionals and Associates Sports Nutrition Certification
– National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association Fitness Nutrition Coach
– National Council on Strength and Fitness Sports Nutrition Specialist
– National Sports Performance Association Sports Nutrition Coach
– International Society of Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition Specialist

How much does it cost to become a sports and fitness nutritionist?

Whereas The International Sports Sciences Association Nutrition Certification is currently $799, they offer discounts where it drops to as low as $499.

The free online American Fitness Professionals and Associates Sports Nutrition Certification costs $499. It can either be purchased as a one-off payment or paid at $44 per month, while its second option is slightly more expensive at $598 but can be paid off at $44 per month also.

The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association Fitness Nutrition Coach is a cheaper option at a once-off $297 and an installment payment option of three months at $81.75 for a total of $327.

The National Council on Strength and Fitness Sports Nutrition Specialist costs $688.

The National Sports Performance Association Sports Nutrition Coach costs $395.

At the International Society of Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition Specialist, the exam price for members is $649, while non-ISSN members are $999.

What differentiates the ISSA nutritionist’s program from others?

ISSA’s Nutritionist program is among the best sports nutrition certification available online due to its emphasis on topical nutritional topics.

You also have the added advantage of getting this certification for free by registering for ISSA’s personal trainer certification.

What is the difference between a certified nutrition consultant and a sports nutritionist?

There is no clear-cut difference between a certified nutrition consultant and a sports nutritionist since they both use their knowledge of nutrition and diet to improve the well-being of their clients.

What is the process needed to have a sports nutritionist certification?

You can have a sports nutritionist certification by following the steps below:
– Select a certification of your choice based on your qualifications and passion
– Select the package that suits you and study for the exams
– Select a date that is convenient for you to write the exams
– Pass the exams and you have become a certified sports nutritionist

How difficult are the sports nutrition certification exams?

With the qualitative use of the study materials, test books, instructional videos, flashcards, and quizzes from each body, your chances of passing are high. Also, using PT study materials from the Trainer Academy will give you a 99% exam pass rate.

Are study materials readily available for becoming a sports nutrition consultant?

Yes. You can access e-books and other study guides from their website before sitting for the exam, while some of the bodies have hard-copy books that come with the registration cost you opt for.

Are there online quizzes to help in preparing for the sports nutrition exam?

All the bodies have online quizzes that will help you prepare properly for the exams without needing a retake.

Practice quizzes are also available on the Trainer Academy portal to ensure you have a 99% pass rate.

How much is a certified sports nutritionist’s salary?

The certified sports nutritionist’s yearly salary is around $56,300 in the United States of America. However, it depends on the specialized training received, formal education, the industry of employment, years of experience, and the state in which you are resident.

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

2 thoughts on “5 Best Sports Nutrition Certification Programs for the year 2023”

  1. PTPioneer User

    Hey Tyler,

    great content!

    Short question: What’s the difference between these article and 6 Best Nutrition Certifications For Fitness Professionals in 2020? Is these article for S&C and the other for PT?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      They have a lot of similarities, but the Sports Nutrition are more geared towards personal trainers and people that are working with athletes. Compared to General Nutrition for the general public. I hope that makes sense.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Find the best Cert for you

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Exam

18749

Before you spend your money on the wrong personal trainer, nutrition, or other fitness certification. 

Which Certification Is Best For You?

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The CSCS Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACSM Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Nutritionist Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NCSF CPT Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CNC Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM PES Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CES Exam

18749

Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the ACE CPT

18749

Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the NASM CPT

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NSCA CPT Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACE Exam

18749

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM Exam

18749
Scroll to Top