How To Become a Qualified & Certified Sports Nutritionist

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How To Become a Qualified & Certified Sports Nutritionist

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A sports nutritionist works with professional athletes to help create a diet plan that allows them to perform optimally. Athletes are generally very particular about their diet and need professionals to assist them in optimizing their performance, recovery, and “making weight”.

This article discusses ways to becoming a sports nutritionist,with essential information about the field like what a sports nutritionist does and the difference between a sports nutritionist and a general nutritionist.

What does a sports nutritionist do?

Sports nutritionists work with professional sports teams and athletes to develop a dietary plan that helps individuals perform optimally in their sports. Sports nutritionists recommend and develop diet plans based on the sports and goals of the athlete. For instance, an athlete who is prone to injuries and is looking to prevent them will receive a different plan than one who wants to improve flexibility. Also, it is expected that a soccer player will require a different diet plan than an Olympic swimmer.Sports nutritionists can also develop diet plans that help athletes build, repair, or heal muscles. Formulating a dietary plan for athletes usually involves listening to the needs and lifestyles of athletes and then recommending protocols tailored to each athlete.

Another function of a sports nutritionist, as noted by the Association of UK Dietitians, is to give unbiased and informed decisions to athletes concerning sports supplements.It is important to advise professional athletes how to ensure that their dietary supplements do not contain any banned substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list.

What’s the difference between a sports nutritionist and a general nutritionist?

The significant difference between a sports nutritionist and a general nutritionist is the specific population served Sports nutritionists focus on athletes and need to have training in additional fields beyond just diet and nutrition, such as exercise physiology. They have to understand the human body, especially as it concerns athletes, and learn the best diets and nutrients that apply. Although a general nutritionist may be able to give general advice to an athlete on losing weight or improving their health.A sports nutritionist is best able to help an athlete reach specific fitness goals through sports specific fueling.

What are the requirements to become a sports nutritionist?

STEP 1. Get Certified 

There are two levels of certifications through the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Through GPNi® they are offered with a Performance Nutrition Expert (PNE) double certification.

  • The Sports Nutrition Specialist(ISSN-SNS) and PNE Level 1 sports nutrition certifications are for personal trainers or other fitness professionals who do not hold a 4-year university or college degree. This training offers information on basic exercise physiology, general nutrition, sports supplements, and the ISSN position papers.

  • The Certified Sports Nutritionist(CISSN) and PNE Level 2 are the premier sports nutrition certifications globally. It is for those with a 4-year undergraduate college degree or equivalent wishing to work with the amateur and/or professional athlete population. The acronym, CISSN is recognized by many academics and is based on the work of research scientists (PhDs) and be recognized globally to be at the top of the profession. Course content is in more depth on the most up-to-date research-backed studies to ensure your athletes remain healthy and safe.


The ISSN is recognized as the leading researchers and pioneers in the sports nutrition field. The GPNi® offers the exclusive online portal for the ISSN-SNS and CISSN certifications. Participants are able to experience both on-demand learning and “live” classes offered by some of the top experts in the world. The ISSN-SNS and CISSN certifications by the GPNi® are available now in English, Chinese, with other languages launching soon

  1. GET Experience

Experience can come in the form of internships or actual job roles. Experience gives practical knowledge of sports nutrition, and it is a requirement for taking licensing exams in some jurisdictions.

  1. Attend Seminars, workshops, and academic conferences

Another key ingredient in becoming a sports nutritionist is attending events designed for learning and networking.National and state bodies, in addition to.National and state bodies, in addition to private organizations host seminars, workshops, and conferences.For instance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition holds an annual conference.GPNi has a list of seminars and workshops that offer learning opportunities.


     4.Read Journals

If you are serious about being a sports nutritionist, you can’t neglect journals concerning the field. Journals help keep you up-to-date on recent developments, provide fresh and quality perspectives, and sharpen your knowledge base of sports nutrition. Some of the best journals you can start reading on sports nutrition today include:

  • Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
  • Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Journal of the American Dietetic Association
  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Everything you need to know

Although no formal postsecondary course work is required, a strong foundation of exercise and nutrition knowledge is important to understand how to guide a client through their performance nutrition journey.Athletes have unique nutritional needs, what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat it are keys for staying healthy, maintaining high-volume exercise, and performing. Sports nutritionists are expected to have a working knowledge of:General nutrition

  1. Basic exercise science

  2. Macros and Micros

  3. Nutrient timing

  4. Sports supplements

The ISSNs current Position Papers and GPNi® branded “Traffic Light System” on supplements are excellent places to learn more on what is proven to work and backed by science according to the latest ISSN research and literature.

Professional growth in sports nutrition

As you learn the fundamentals and have a strong sports nutrition foundation in place, there are professional roles for each level of certification and experience. The ability to share a deeper understating of the science behind nutritional assessments and making effective recommendations will provide more job opportunities. Fitness professionals, coaches, dietitians, and healthcare providers can help their clients improve their health and performance. Creating personalized meal plans, explaining scientific studies, and understanding the specific nutritional needs of recreational, amateur, professional, and elite athletes is a rewarding career. There is a growing demand for performance nutrition services in the healthcare, academic, and corporate sectors.


Sports nutritionists do essential work with athletes and those involved in sports. If you have an interest in the field, the steps highlighted above will help you become licensed, certified, and knowledgeable sports nutritionist.

If you do not yet qualify you can begin at the SNS certification or enquire about the “GPNi® Masters Pack” which is a combination of SNS + CISSN certifications, combined.  You will begin with SNS, and once qualified, immediately begin CISSN instruction. The GPNi® Masters Pack is one of our most popular choices by students of the world as it allows students to fast-track their careers and qualifications. To check your eligibility, or to ask questions, please Contact Us for more information.

“At the Global Performance Nutrition Institute (GPNi®), we are very proud to be providing the world’s first science-backed performance nutrition online courses and ISSN® certifications.  Get the very best online tutorials, access to global experts, on-demand content, and education with the GPNi®. Update your credentials, career, knowledge, and earnings by being internationally certified by the ISSN® on the GPNi® all-access portal today.” Drew John Campbell, CISSN, CEO & Co-Founder of GPNi®.


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