The Complete Guide to Becoming a Sports Nutritionist

Becoming a Sports Nutritionist

Want to help athletes improve performance and recovery through nutrition and supplementation? If so, becoming a sports nutrition coach can help prepare you to help high school, collegiate, and even professional athletes with their nutritional needs. The Complete Guide to Becoming a Certified Sports Nutritionist will help you understand everything you need to know about the education process for this profession.

What is a Sports Nutrition Specialist Certification?

The term nutritionist can have a very wide meaning and it is a false assumption, that because you specialize in nutrition, you are the right fit for all people types. This is true for the general population, but the needs of an athlete may require a more specific understanding. A sports nutrition specialist is someone who works with athletes of all ages to improve their current and future athletic abilities. Holding a certificate in sports nutrition shows that you can optimize their nutrition so that:

  • They improve their ability to maintain peak levels of energy and focus during an event
  • Increase muscle mass to be more competitive with their chosen sport
  • Maintain or achieve a weight that is required for their competition
  • Improve recovery times from training, practice, and games

There is more on the line for an athlete needing to improve themselves in their sport. Therefore, it requires a specific understanding of how nutrition plays a role in their performance and recovery.

How Does Sports Nutritionist Differ from Fitness Nutrition?

There will be a significant amount of crossover between what a fitness nutrition and a sports nutrition specialist understand. The fundamentals of nutrition as they apply to physical exercise are similar for all people, no matter the goal.

The difference with a sports nutrition specialist is that they will need to learn how the increased athletic demands change the quantity of calories. They will need to understand differing ratios of macronutrients. Also, understanding the food choices that are best for a specific athlete to consume for their chosen sport.

For example, the carbohydrate recommendation of 45 to 55% for the fitness nutrition diet may shift up to approximately 65% for an athlete in a physically demanding sport. Understanding the aerobic and anaerobic demands of an individual will have greater consequences or rewards depending on the nutritional program provided.

Sports nutrition education takes what are common principles in fitness nutrition and then changes it based on the needs of the athlete to optimize sports performance

Qualifications of a Sports Nutrition Specialist

The requirements of a sports nutrition specialist are not all that much different from the traditional nutrition certification. However, the requirements for the field of professional sport organizations, may go beyond what a sports nutrition certification offers. They may prefer a Sports Dietitian for a potential hire, but it is not an absolute rule.

Coaches may look for a sports nutritionist whose achievements are less about academics and more about past client successes. The coaches may also go off of “feel” for the sports nutritionists level of knowledge and expertise.

Who Are Sports Nutrition Specialist Certifications For?

You may consider this course because an athlete approached you for help but you were uncomfortable with your current level of sport specific nutrition.

Maybe you have a passion for athletics and either witnessed yourself or others suffer because of inadequate nutrition. Or it could have been the other way around and watched an athlete improve because of a shift in their nutrition plan.

Perhaps you are a dedicated coach, and you want a specific athlete or the overall performance of your team to improve.

Or you may be a strength coach who is not seeing the improvements you would like in your clients and believe nutrition to be a limiting factor.

Any individual working with an athlete can benefit from taking this type of course.

What You Will Learn in a Certified Sports Nutritionist Course:

  • Discussion of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and how they relate to the athlete.
  • How vitamins and minerals play a role in the athlete’s performance and recovery.
  • Pre workout, post workout, and intra workout sport nutrition strategies for anaerobic and aerobic athletes
  • The effects of hydration on performing an athlete
  • Sports nutrition coaching strategies for the different needs based on the season of a sports team
  • Insights into weight gain and weight loss programs for sports where there are weight class requirements.
  • step-by-step process in how to create a nutrition program for an athlete that meets their physical activity needs and sport specific objectives.
  • Supplement recommendations for training and athletic events.

Steps to Earning Your Sports Nutrition Coach Certification

Each online sports nutrition course will be different but a qualified course should include:

  • A comprehensive textbook written by an authority on the subject and backed by research where applicable.
  • Quizzes that cover the primary and practical subjects of the text to help reinforce what is being read.
  • Essay questions to provide a deeper and more contextual understanding of the topics.
  • Case studies to show that you understand how to apply the information into real-world scenarios.

Comparing Sports Nutrition Certifications

There is not a standard for most nutrition certification courses. We can say the same for certifications that focus on sports or performance nutrition. So determining which is the correct course to take can vary based upon what you are looking to get out of the course.

We can find differences by asking the following questions:

How Much Does a Sports Nutritionist Certification Program Cost?

Most courses range from $100-$1000.00 in price. Understanding your budget to get this type of knowledge is an important factor. There are many sports nutrition courses that cost more money than they should.

There are also courses that are fairly priced but offer a poor learning experience. You can even find courses with no curriculum where you are essentially paying for the access to take a certification exam. Essentially a quick way to get the required CEU’s (continuing education units).

How Long Does it Take to Become a Certified Sports Nutritionist?

As mentioned, you can find a sports nutrition certification program that only requires you to take a fast exam with basic subject information and requiring zero learning materials. While this may get you certified, the real benefit of the course you take is in the knowledge you gain.

Don’t do yourself a disservice by quickly completing a course to earn your continuing education units or only to put a new certification on the wall. A true fitness professional is one who seeks more knowledge and wisdom that they can use to further help their clients.

It should take approximately 8-16 weeks of part time work to become a certified sports nutritionist. Of course, everyone’s schedule is different so you can adjust the timeline based upon your current lifestyle.

What Kind of Job Can You Get With a Sports Nutrition Certificate?

The opportunities for a sports nutritionist may include jobs in a gym, private practice, or directly with a sports team. While there are jobs available in this field, most who become certified as a specialist in sports performance nutrition are looking to start their own business.

There are some state regulations about what services you can offer as a nutrition coach. Be sure to check with your specific state to determine what you can and cannot do as a business owner.

How Much Money Can You Earn After Obtaining a SNS Certificate?

Since the best use is by having your own coaching business, the average earnings are based on your specific business model. However, being that the qualifications resemble that of a personal trainer, a SNS certificate holder could expect to make a similar amount of money. The median full-time personal trainer salary being 42,780.00, you can expect for a reputable organization to offer a similar salary for this type of work.

Current personal trainers may receive a pay increase by holding a certification that focuses on sports nutrition. You should check with your employer to see if there are potential pay raises when getting this type of certification.

Does a Sports Nutrition Certification Count as CEUs?

Most personal trainer certifying organizations will accept sports nutrition courses as qualifying CEUs (continuing education units). Check with your personal trainer certification organization about which courses qualify and for how many CEU’s you will earn.

Are You Ready to Get Certified?

We are excited to announce the BBS Essentials of Exercise & Sport Nutrition Certification Course. Created in partnership with Dr. Richard B Kreider, we offer a Sports Nutrition Certification Course that uses research based evidence to provide an education about excelling in athletics.