The 5 Best Nutrition Certifications in 2021
If you feel overwhelmed by the abundance of nutrition certifications available online, you're not alone. Many programs provide students with accredited education and the knowledge, insights, and abilities to help clients achieve their goals.
However, choosing the best nutrition certification program to suit your passions and desires isn't always easy. Before you can enroll, you've got to sift through outdated or irrelevant programs then choose from those that include advanced nutritional science techniques and clinical methodologies to determine which program is right for you.
To make the search easier for you, our team at FitnessTrainer has rounded up the five best nutrition programs available so you can take the first step on your journey to certification today.
The 5 Best Nutrition Certifications
1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
ISSA, or The International Sports Sciences Association, proudly markets itself as "the trainer's trainer." Known for its range of self-paced, virtual courses, including specialized programs and continuing education, the ISSA's nutrition specialization certification offers an expansive, grounded educational approach to diet psychology and nutritional program creation.
Additionally, the ISSA has certification programs to suit both future and established nutritionists. Choose between the standard ISSA nutritionist course, the nutritionists and fitness bundle, and continuing education for nutrition professionals who desire to enhance their offerings.
What We Love About ISSA's Nutrition Certification:
- Comprehensive curriculum: Like the Association's personal trainer program, ISSA's nutrition specialization focuses on the scientific, psychological, and systematic aspects of healthy living. Rather than solely teaching what clients should eat to live a healthy life, ISSA dives into the lifestyle and environmental factors that influence eating habits. Additionally, the program teaches students the secrets to unlocking a transformative nutritional change that will help your clients find their why – their motivating factor – for healthy eating.
Additionally, ISSA's certification will equip you to develop personalized eating plans based on a thorough lifestyle and diet assessment. Learn to manage macro- and micro-nutrients, debunk dietary myths, address supplementation, and make lifestyle recommendations that empower your clients to use food as fuel to power their lives.
- Expansive eligibility requirements: You don't need a college degree or prior experience in the fitness, health, or medical field to achieve ISSA's respected nutrition certification. Students must have a high school diploma or equivalent and should be 18 years of age or older. You must also have a CPR/AED/First Aid Certification, which you can obtain through ISSA as well.
- Straightforward testing and certification: ISSA has divided its self-paced course with practice quizzes that will not impact your overall course score. You must complete all of the practice quizzes to be eligible for certification, though.
After mastering the material, you can take ISSA's untimed, open-book, 363-question exam online. ISSA allows a free retest if you don't pass on your first try.
2. National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
The National Council on Strength and Fitness, or the NCSF, provides accredited certification programs for current and future nutritional professionals worldwide. Unlike other nutrition certification programs, however, the NCSF focuses on sports nutrition, building a performance improvement framework, and achieving physical goals.
While the program works well for beginners, the curriculum suits experienced personal trainers, fitness instructors, strength trainers, and coaches who want to expand their knowledge and offer personalized, performance-based nutrition programs for their clients.
That said, the program lays a strong groundwork for guiding athletes toward optimum nutrition and hydration. NCSF's sports nutrition program also can provide you with the insight, advice, and the latest nutritional studies to assist each of your clients in their weight loss goals.
After completing the program, you will have the confidence and insight you need to perform a dietary analysis, guide behavioral change for sustainable weight loss, and provide the structure that will assist your clients as they integrate healthy foods into their daily routines.
What We Love About NCSF's Nutrition Certification:
- Focus on athletes and competitors: With a sports nutrition certification from NCSF, you can set yourself apart from other nutritionists by guiding your clients to achieve their performance goals. Whether you work with an athlete, bodybuilder, or competitive fitness professional, you'll have the tools to craft individualized, highly effective nutritional plans for enhanced performance.
- Advanced nutritional strategies: NCSF utilizes cutting-edge practices to provide students with a deep understanding of nutrition. You would also gain the ability to dispel myths surrounding divisive nutritional topics. Ultimately, the course provides knowledge to balance nutrition, weight, and activity levels with hydration, supplementation, and performance enhancers so you can meet and exceed client goals.
With four units divided into 16 modules, students will examine macronutrients, micronutrients, supplementation, and nutritional analysis for a comprehensive education culminating in accredited certification from NCSF.
- Fuel for performance: NCSF focuses on the connection between healthy nutrition and optimum performance through dietary planning and the timing of meals and fluid intake. You would also learn about the best supplementation to enhance your clients' athletic ability, as well as how to calculate macro- and micro-nutrient intake to achieve goals.
3. Precision Nutrition
Founded by trainer Dr. John Berardi and considered one of the most recommended nutrition certification courses globally, the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification has prepared more than 100,000 students for a thriving career as a nutritionist. The rigorous coursework offers college-level education, but don't let the quality of the program intimidate you. Precision Nutrition manages to simplify complex nutrition and diet information, allowing students to understand the fundamentals of life-changing diet strategies and nutritional program design.
Maybe you're an experienced coach who desires a deeper understanding of nutrition to pass along to clients, or perhaps you're ready for a new career. In either case, Precision Nutrition's Level 1 certification focuses on the tools you'll need to cultivate the positive, healthy behavioral changes your clients will need to transform their lives.
What We Love About Precision Nutrition's Level 1 Certification:
- Thorough coursework: As mentioned above, Precision Nutrition's Level 1 certification course offers the same academic rigor as a college-level nutrition class. Rather than overwhelming students with jargon and confusing or contradictory dietary theories, Precision Nutrition breaks down complex information, making it simple to share and apply in the real world.
The self-paced program guides students to understand the science of diet psychology and program design for clients of all walks of life while delving into the foundations of transformative nutritional coaching. At the point of certification, students will confidently know how to break client goals into proven steps that result in sustainable change – and satisfied customers.
- Open enrollment periods each year: Unlike other nutrition certification programs, Precision Nutrition offers two or three enrollment periods each year, based on student demand. The course has no specific age or CPR/AED certification requirements due to its third-party status, allowing passionate future nutritional professionals to begin their educational journey immediately.
- Hands-on mentoring: With Precision Nutrition, you'll experience what you will teach in the future. The program bills itself as the only course to coach its students, allowing enrollees to experience the impact of both the nutritional science coursework and Precision Nutrition's signature behavior change methodology.
The program divides its courseware into manageable chapters, each with a corresponding video or audio lesson and a chapter exam. Once you've completed the material, you can take the 180-question final exam. A score of 75% or higher results in certification and Precision Nutrition allows its students up to five additional tries to pass the exam.
4. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
NASM – or the National Academy of Sports Medicine – stands out from other certification providers for one primary reason: the renowned organization of fitness professionals has offered comprehensive training, resources, and science-based methodology for nearly 40 years. With over 1.3 million certified professionals in more than 80 countries, NASM's five-star trainings consistently rank as some of the most popular virtual programs available worldwide.
Students can complete the self-paced, virtual course in as few as four weeks. Upon graduation, you will have mastered the foundations of nutritional science. You can then provide your clients with expert recommendations on metabolic function, hydration, meal planning and timing, and properly balancing macro-and micro-nutrients. Additionally, NASM equips graduates with the tools to customize nutritional strategies based on their unique preferences, cultural backgrounds, and athletic training requirements.
What We Love About NASM's Nutrition Certification:
- In-depth, practical coursework: NASM collaborated with 24 of the most pioneering names in the nutrition field to develop its nutrition certification program. The modules contain up-to-date information backed by clinical studies and scientific research and address hot topics within nutrition such as GMOs, gluten-free diets, and detoxes.
NASM allows students a full year to master the material and complete their 100-question online exam. The chapters range from energy balance and metabolic function to debunking fad diets and helping clients sustain weight loss while navigating through their daily lives.
- Engaging learning format: NASM's user-friendly digital portal combines video lectures with templates, infographics, and in-depth material for a high-quality learning environment. You can study and test from anywhere as long as you have WiFi.
- Focus on real-world application: NASM knows that even the most hands-on nutrition coach can't join their clients for every grocery run or dinner date. Through thorough research, NASM provides coaches with the framework they need to create a workable, practical nutrition strategy for clients that will guarantee improved physique, performance, and health while working within constraints such as budget, age, and culture.
FitnessMentors' nationally-recognized, 100%-online nutritional coaching program offers a viable, affordable option for nutritionists who want to take their business online. With a focus on digital growth, the program recognizes the rapidly changing wellness environment. It equips beginner and veteran nutritionists to deepen their offerings and build online communities. It even provides insight on honing a niche, writing sales pages, and setting service prices.
FitnessMentors' certification program emphasizes nutritional science, dietary strategies, and customized nutrition plans to suit each client's needs. No matter if your client wants to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply improve their diet, the program provides you with everything you need to facilitate success stories. Additionally, you will have access to instructors and mentors to answer questions along the way, plus pre-made templates from veteran coaches to get your business started upon certification.
What We Love About FitnessMentors' Nutrition Certification:
- A forward-thinking approach to education: FitnessMentors prepares new nutritionists to take on clients in the digital landscape. From building an online business to writing sales pages and creating high-touch experiences virtually, coaches can easily share practical nutritional science and dietary strategy without struggling over social media marketing, branding, and software.
Complete the program entirely online, then take the at-home certification exam to achieve nationally-recognized and respected nutritionist certification. You can count on up-to-date information, research-backed methodology, and easy access to course instructors to ensure that you finish the course feeling confident, knowledgeable, and ready to share your passion for nutrition.
- Flexible, high-quality learning: FitnessMentors' virtual coaching certification program works with your schedule and learning style. Enjoy an online textbook, audio lectures, and video presentations, plus downloadable templates and a support group to collaborate, study, and connect with your fellow students. Most students can complete the course quickly while studying only a few hours each week, making it a perfect choice for full-time employees, busy parents, or students.
- Extensive coursework: FitnessMentors' focus on nutritional science culminates in 10 comprehensive chapters. Students will delve into topics like the digestive system, protein, micronutrients, hydration, and sports nutrition while developing the insight needed to craft personalized meal plans based on client assessments and ultimate health goals.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
The American Council on Exercise's (ACE) health coach certification furthers the nonprofit's mission statement: to get people moving. With a health coach certification from ACE, you can support your clients in their journey toward a healthy lifestyle using the foundations of nutritional science, behavior change, and intrinsic motivation.
ACE's health coach certification and training program will equip students to meet their future clients where they are. The program focuses on practical, impactful tactics useful in creating lasting lifestyle changes, as well as tools to help your clients set goals, achieve their desired outcomes, and take control of their health.
The ACE health coach certification program provides a respected education for passionate wellness professionals hoping to expand their practice or to begin their careers in the wellness industry. The program provides video lectures, examples of coaching sessions to prepare you for your first clients, webinars, and an at-home certification exam.
American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA)
The American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA) offers a wide range of nutrition certifications, from a holistic nutritionist certification to the master-level nutrition consultant program. Additionally, the AFPA course catalog includes niche nutrition certification programs, such as a:
- sports nutritionist certification similar to the NCFS
- senior nutrition specialist
- weight management specialist programs
While each program contains unique features for those hoping to expand their training, all of the AFPA nutrition certifications provide a thorough education for current and upcoming nutritional professionals. Learn the foundations of dietary strategy, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and the concept of "food as fuel." AFPA also provides students with the groundwork to guide clients in using food to prevent or treat chronic illnesses.
AFPA's master-level program combines four individual trainings for a comprehensive education. Graduates from the course will have the knowledge to guide clients in weight loss, holistic nutrition, and sports nutrition, along with health coaching services to facilitate lasting change.
With a range of nutrition certification programs available, choosing the best one to suit your needs may seem overwhelming. However, be certain to compare each program's focuses and features so you can select a certification that will provide you with the knowledge and tools you'll need to serve your clients.
Whether you're currently a fitness trainer, health coach, or just getting started, taking a nutrition certification program will allow you to build a satisfying full-time job or side-hustle.
- Expand your current offerings with meal plans and dietary strategies.
- Enter the clinical world as a nutritionist and assist patients in achieving their physical and performance goals.
- Launch your virtual nutritionist business and satisfy your customers from the comfort of your home.
A career as a certified nutritionist allows you to have the freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment you've always wanted. By enrolling in one of the five best nutrition certifications today, you can take the first step toward the life – and career – of your dreams.