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The 6 Best Sports Nutrition Certifications of 2023


If you want to make a career out of training athletes, having a sports nutrition certification can help you stand out from a crowded field of fitness professionals. The best sports nutrition certifications will not only provide you with the knowledge to help athletes attain their potential, but they can also give you the credibility to find and retain a solid client base. 

There are a lot of sports nutrition certifications out there, but not all are created equal. So we searched out the best of the best to provide you with some guidance and insight. We picked reputable certifications from industry leaders, so you can be confident that your investment will have returns, and you’ll be learning the right information to be successful in your field. Our list of the best sports nutrition certifications has options for coaching everyone from the general population to elite athletes and everywhere in between.

Best Sports Nutrition Certifications of 2023

Best Sports Nutrition Certification Overall: ISSA Nutrition Certification
Best Budget Nutrition Certification for Sport Fitness Clients: ACE Fitness Nutrition Certification
Best Online Sports Nutrition Certification: NASM Sports Nutrition Certification
Best Sport-Specific Sports Nutrition Certification: NCSF Fitness Nutrition Certification
Most Comprehensive Sports Nutrition Certification: ISSA Nutrition Certification
Best Sports Nutrition Certification for Flexibility: Fitness Mentors Nutrition Certification

Best Sports Nutrition Certification Overall

The best sports nutrition certification has to cover every facet of nutrition and present it in a way that will prepare you to bring it to the masses. ISSA teaches you the basics and delves deeper into supplements for athletes, nutrition programming, and running a business — making it our pick for the best overall.

ISSA Nutrition Certification

We like the ISSA Nutrition Certification for many reasons, like its in-depth information, the after-certification support, and the wide range of topics covered. If your goal is to work with athletes, the in-depth knowledge of energy systems covered in this cert teaches you which system is primarily used in each client’s sport. Powerlifters will have vastly different nutritional needs than cross-country runners, so the ability to customize a diet to optimize performance in specific sports can help you stand out and deliver results.

ISSA Nutrition Certification

ISSA Nutrition Certification

The ISSA has been certifying people for decades and their nutrition certification is well-respected in the industry. It can prepare you to work with a diverse range of people, but focuses mainly on general population and improving overall wellness through nutrition.

You’ll also learn the business side of nutrition coaching, which can help you hit the ground running once you pass the final exam. We’re confident that with this certification, you’ll have the knowledge to speak with authority and share your expertise with your clients. Though the majority of the information presented is geared toward the general public, they still include a focus on sports nutrition.


Study Materials: Online Textbook, Practice Exam, Section Quizzes, Education Bootcamp, Student Forum, 1-on-1 Support, Audio Lectures, Interactive Videos
Cost: $799
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 10 weeks
Final Exam Format: Online or In-Person


This cert includes sections to help you be knowledgeable in nutrition, motivation, and business. All three are required to be a successful sports nutrition coach over the long term.
The study materials are varied so that people who learn differently will all have a way of digesting the information that suits them.
You don’t need a background in nutrition to begin this certification; the information starts with the basics and builds up from there.


Other certs may have more specific sections dedicated to coaching athletes.
If you already have a nutrition degree, the information here will be mostly a refresher. 

Just about every sports nutrition certification teaches about macronutrients and how to write a nutrition plan. It’s the less common but still incredibly important sections — like energetics and behavior modification — that ISSA includes in your course of study that set it apart from the rest.

Best Budget Sports Nutrition Certification

Odds are, if you’re looking to start a new career or branch out from your existing one, you might not be looking to spend a ton of money to get started in that endeavor. Thankfully, the ACE Fitness Nutrition Certification is priced well and still covers the material you’ll need to succeed.

ACE Fitness Nutrition Certification 

One of the things we like most about this certification is the price. At about $379, it’s less than half the cost of some other certs and still prepares you to step into the world of sports nutrition with targeted fitness nutrition sections and podcasts. Sections like “ACE Presents Fitness Nutrition” and “Nutrition Scope of Practice” make this cert ideal if you’re a certified personal trainer or another fitness professional. They provide the tools to enhance the value of the coaching you provide your clients and not have to worry about stepping outside of your scope of practice.

ACE Fitness Nutrition Certification

ACE Fitness Nutrition Certification

ACE prices this certification well at less than half that of other similar certs while still preparing you to be a competent sports nutrition professional. The approach is more practical and applied so you learn actionable information.

While it might be helpful to educate someone on the intricacies of nutrition, ACE’s courses also teach you how to educate your clients with more practical advice, like how to shop for healthy food at the grocery store, cook healthy meals, and more. You’ll also learn how to optimize performance by helping your clients develop more mindful eating habits through the curriculum. There is no final exam, which could be good or bad, depending on your level of test anxiety. This may hurt the weight the ACE certification holds and be seen as less rigorous than other certs with tougher final exams.


Study Materials: eBook, Lecture Series, Podcasts, Video Series, Selected Readings, Optional Hard Copy Textbook
Cost: $379
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 4 weeks
Final Exam Format: N/A


You’ll learn about nutrition principles to provide actionable advice that your clients can put to use right away.
There are cooking demonstrations, smart grocery checklists, and interactive platforms to enhance your learning experience.
This cert is an easy and cost-effective way to provide more value to clients and enhance their performance through nutrition. 


There are more comprehensive curriculums that go deeper into the topics of program design, energetics, and psychology.
You’ll have to pay $100 extra for a hard copy of the textbook rather than just the e-book.
There is no final exam, which may cause this cert to carry less esteem compared to others with challenging tests. You only have to complete each course module and the associated quiz.

ACE’s nutrition certification proves that you don’t need to spend your life savings on a sports nutrition certification. While it may not have the most exhaustive curriculum, it provides you with a practical education that you can apply to your athletes and clients to potentially help them perform better and eat healthier.

Best Online Sports Nutrition Certification

Not all online learning platforms are made the same. Some might be tough to navigate, glitchy, or simply lacking in content. NASM’s online Sports Nutrition Certification makes great use of a robust platform to provide you with a wealth of educational content.

NASM Sports Nutrition Certification

The first thing we noticed when we reached the landing page for the NASM Sports Nutrition Certification is that it’s laid out well and easy to navigate. You can take a tour of their digital learning platform right from the page, and the prompts walk you through how to use it and show off the learning features like interactive videos. And for NASM, the term “online” doesn’t just apply to computers. For people on the go, the study materials are optimized to be accessed from any device — phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop — so you can take advantage of downtime for studying anywhere you find yourself.

NASM Sports Nutrition Certification

NASM Sports Nutrition Certification

NASM cranks up the sports nutrition and exercise performance focus with this certification. It has all you need to best help your athletes and clients succeed by optimizing their nutrition.

You’re granted access to the online content for five years, even after you become certified. We love this feature, as it lets you return to any module for a refresher when a client hits you with a tough question. This cert is heavily geared toward sports nutrition and dives deep into the science of performance enhancement through nutrition. If you’re not as comfortable with the nitty-gritty of theories or want a more generalized nutrition cert that still has sports nutrition aspects, then the NASM Nutrition Certification might be a better option. 


Study Materials: Online Textbook, Practice Exam, Section Quizzes, Audio Lectures, Interactive Videos
Cost: $899
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 6 weeks
Final Exam Format: Online


NASM’s online interactive learning platform is among the best we’ve used and intuitive to navigate.
You can complete this course more quickly than some of the others. However, if you prefer to take your time, you have up to a year. 
The content is created and curated to instill a deep understanding of how to best help your athletes and clients perform better through nutritional interventions.


You might find that the sports nutrition in this cert is too deep and exhaustive if your intention is to work with the general population. There are other certs, even from NASM, that don’t focus solely on sports nutrition.
This is the most expensive cert on the list, though NASM does offer flexible payment plans
The course is 100 percent online with no option for a physical textbook, which people who don’t like to read eBooks might not enjoy.

NASM’s learning platform is probably the best we’ve seen out of any certification. Navigating the menus is a breeze, and the interactive elements don’t feel clunky or forced. This cert is directed toward people who are looking to work with high-level athletes and make the most of their training with nutrition. 

Best Sport-Specific Sports Nutrition Certification

Some nutrition certifications throw in a section or two about sports nutrition as an afterthought. The NCSF Fitness Nutrition Certification, however, was designed for sports nutrition from the ground up, covering everything from supplements and performance-enhancing nutrition to nutrient timing and hydration.

NCSF Fitness Nutrition Certification

Your clients and athletes might already know how to eat healthy, but what this certification teaches you is how to help them achieve better performance through nutrition. The in-depth sections prepare you for teaching your clients how to properly fuel themselves before workouts and eat for recovery after — helping you potentially deliver results. 

NCSF Fitness Nutrition Certification

NCSF Fitness Nutrition Certification

This nutrition certification is directed at preparing you to coach people in the fitness realm more so than sedentary individuals but it still provides a robust course path to learn all aspects of nutrition. It’s also very cost-effective making it great for people who are looking to pad their coaching credentials or cautiously venture into nutrition coaching without diving in headlong.

We especially like that this cert covers specific areas of sports nutrition, like supplements and hydration, that many other certifications neglect. It also tackles topics that some shy away from, like fad diets and distinguishing nutritional fact from fiction, to provide the tools to be a lifelong learner in the nutrition field. This cert does assume that you have some background knowledge in health and fitness, so if this is your first foray into the field, you may want to take some time learning that before diving into your studies here.


Study Materials: Online Textbook, Practice Exam, Review Quizzes, Lesson Notes, Instructor Support, Instructional Videos
Cost: $349
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 8 weeks
Final Exam Format: Online


The information is all catered toward sports nutrition and enhancing athletic or in-gym performance.
This course is made for people with a background in nutrition/exercise, so you can cut through the basics and get right to the sports nutrition information. 
This cert costs less than half of some nutrition certifications on the market.


If you don’t already have at least some background in health and fitness, you’ll be working from behind the eight ball to catch up.
This certification’s focus on sports nutrition makes it less ideal for coaching the general population than other, more generalized certs.

Coaching athletes requires a different knowledge base than coaching the general fitness population. This cert provides you with the knowledge you need to provide guidance on how your clients should time their eating, which supplements might be best for them, and how to eat for muscle recovery

Most Comprehensive Sports Nutrition Certification

Sports nutrition certifications contain the knowledge you are looking for to kick your career off or send it to the next level. Some are more specialized and may stick to covering only certain populations. The ISSA Nutrition Certification has 18 chapters and dozens of lessons to ensure you’re as prepared as you can be, whether you’re coaching an average Joe or a top-tier athlete.

ISSA Nutrition Certification

The ISSA Nutrition Certification takes the term “comprehensive” seriously. Not only is the information presented applicable to a wide range of populations, but there are also various learning materials available that allow people with different learning styles to retain the information well. ISSA starts from the beginning with the basics of nutrition, so you don’t need a background in the field to thrive with this program. If you already have a base knowledge of nutrition, though, those sections may feel like a rehash.

ISSA Nutrition Certification

ISSA Nutrition Certification

The ISSA has been certifying people for decades and their nutrition certification is well-respected in the industry. It can prepare you to work with a diverse range of people, but focuses mainly on general population and improving overall wellness through nutrition.

Learning the information is only part of being a successful sports nutrition coach. The part is learning how to market yourself and operate as a businessperson, which may not come as easily to some. That said, we’re impressed with the amount of resources ISSA provides you with after certification. Perks like a free professional website for you to showcase your services, client forms, and business lessons during certification are designed to help you hit the ground running as a nutrition pro. 


Study Materials: Online Textbook, Practice Exam, Section Quizzes, Education Bootcamp, Student Forum, 1-on-1 Support, Audio Lectures, Interactive Videos
Cost: $799
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 10 weeks
Final Exam Format: Online or In-Person


This comprehensive cert covers everything from nutrition basics to advanced theories as well as business practices.
You’ll be able to absorb the information no matter your preferred learning style with ISSA’s various learning styles. 
If you’re not so business-savvy or nervous about that aspect of being a nutrition coach, then the included website, forms, and lessons may help put your mind at ease and inspire confidence.


The comprehensive nature of this course means it might take longer than others to complete.
Even though it covers sports nutrition, there are other certs that put even more of a focus on that area.

The curriculum for the ISSA Nutrition Certification is exhaustive, touching on all aspects of nutrition, from energy systems and supplements to how to set up a business. We were impressed with the depth of knowledge that you can gain from this course and like that it sets you up for success after you’ve completed your certification.

Best Sports Nutrition Certification for Flexibility

While training athletes and fitness enthusiasts can be fun and rewarding, coaching regular, everyday folks can be just as fulfilling. The Fitness Mentors Nutrition Certification opens up the possibilities for you and doesn’t lock you into coaching just one segment of the population.

Fitness Mentors Nutrition Certification

Specializing can be a great way to hone your skills and become a leading coach in a specific area, but it also has the drawback of limiting your potential client pool. This certification provides knowledge on exercise and sports nutrition while also teaching you about assessing and coaching clients from the general population. Fitness Mentors starts this course off with the basics, so you don’t need to have a background in nutrition to get started.

Fitness Mentos Nutrition Certification

Fitness Mentos Nutrition Certification

Fitness Mentors takes a holistic approach to health and incorporates nutrition along with lifestyle modifications to help your clients potentially make lasting and impactful changes. This cert puts a focus on knowledge that’s applicable to the widest range of the general population when you’re coaching.

The nutrition information is thorough, and the curriculum even teaches you about the digestive system. Still, it misses areas that other certs excel in, like behavior modification and the psychological aspect of dieting. These may be especially important when you’re working with non-athletes who might not have as high of internal motivation. We do like the price, though, and the flexibility that this cert affords you as a coach or trainer. 


Study Materials: Online Textbook, Instructor and Fitness Mentor Access, Study Group, Templates, Audio Lectures, Video Presentations
Cost: $499
Estimated Time to Complete: Around 8 weeks
Final Exam Format: Online


You aren’t stuck with one smaller potential client base. Being able to coach anyone except special populations opens up your options to gain experience and earn money.
This cert is a great choice for people who don’t have a background in nutrition or personal trainers looking to expand their service offerings.
It’s possible to finish this certification more quickly than others since the information isn’t as comprehensive.


The lack of psychological and behavioral information in the curriculum leaves a notable gap in your knowledge when clients have trouble staying motivated or making changes stick.
Some other certifications put more emphasis on exercise and sports nutrition.

This certification opens you up to a wider potential clientele upon certification, thanks to its broad coverage of nutrition, even if it provides a more abbreviated study on exercise and sports nutrition. Plus, this cert is cheaper than some others and can potentially be completed quickly, so you’ll be on your way to coaching sooner.

Benefits of Having a Sports Nutrition Certification

Breaking into sports nutrition coaching can be difficult, but being armed with the knowledge and resources that come with a well-respected certification may make your path easier. Not only will you be more credible to potential clients and employers, but you’ll have the knowledge to help athletes perform at their best, and you’ll be a more well-rounded fitness professional in general. 


While everyday gymgoers might not be overly picky about which credentials you hold, athletes and organizations certainly will be. Having a certification from one of the institutions on this list may give you preference over other candidates or coaches. Having a sports nutrition certification is a great way to send the message that you can help athletes know that you’ve got what they need to help them achieve their goals.

Performance Optimization

Having a sports nutrition certification can instill the knowledge base that you need to help your clients achieve their peak performance levels. Whether that entails manipulating nutrient timing, dialing in hydration, or figuring out what supplements (like protein powders or multivitamins) an athlete needs, you’ll be able to specifically address those needs. 

More Complete Coaching Skillset

From a client’s perspective, it’s much more convenient (and often more affordable) to have all of your fitness needs taken care of by one person. You already know their workouts intimately, so you can tailor their nutrition needs with more of a keen eye than someone who was simply given their workout routine. 

How We Chose the Best Sports Nutrition Certifications

Where you receive your certification from is an impactful decision on your future career prospects, as it lays the foundation for your knowledge and credibility. That’s why we took extra care when choosing the certs that made it onto this list. Read on to see the factors that swayed us the most. 


It’s no secret that certifications can be expensive, and sports nutrition certs are no exception. That’s why we took care to include options on this list that are from a variety of price points. Some of the more cost-effective ones may include fewer study materials or not have quite as robust a learning platform, but we ensured that the information you’ll learn is top-notch and covers everything you need to succeed. Also, all of the choices on this list also have the option to break up the payment over time if you can’t or don’t want to pay the full fee upfront. 

Sport Emphasis

Not all certifications cover exactly the same material or present it in the same way. We made sure to only select certifications that dedicated a sufficient amount of study time specifically to sports nutrition. Since this is a list of sports nutrition certifications, it was important to see that a variety of information pertinent to athletes was presented, like supplements, hydration, and recovery.

Not everyone wants to work solely with athletes, so we also wanted to present some options that would work for you if you want to have the option to take on sports nutrition clients while also coaching regular everyday people.

Study Materials

All of the certifications on this list include access to an online textbook or eBook, though the peripherals do vary. We gave more weight to certs that offer robust study platforms that we found easy to navigate with intuitive directions. It’s also important that the learning platforms have a variety of ways to consume the content. You may like to watch videos, while others prefer reading or listening to audio lectures while lifting or driving. However you prefer to learn, there’s an option for you on this list.

How Much Do Sports Nutrition Certifications Cost?

Sports nutrition certifications are usually cheaper than personal trainer certs, but they still aren’t cheap. Even the most cost-effective ones are still a few hundred dollars, so we only wanted to select the best ones to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. It may be a more viable option for you to break the payments down into monthly installments if you can’t drop all that cash without flinching a bit. 

The more budget-friendly sports nutrition certifications can be as low as about $350. That’s still not cheap, but it’s less than half the price of more expensive ones. At the other end of the spectrum, you can spend up to around $900 for certification. There are some organizations that offer packages where you can pick up multiple certs at a discounted price, so that may be worth it if you want to get all your certifications at once.

What to Consider Before Buying a Sports Nutrition Certification

A sports nutrition certification is an investment, so selecting the right one for you is important. Some of the most important factors that we like to consider when weighing certs are the study materials, the organization’s reputation, and the emphasis on the area of expertise we’re trying to develop.

Study Materials

Being a highly sought-after sports nutrition coach requires you to do more than pass a test. You need to learn the material intimately to be an effective and successful coach. That’s why the study materials and learning platform that a cert provides are so important. Many of the organizations will offer a tour of their platform to highlight certain features and give you a taste of how it operates.

Other than the platform itself, the materials used to guide you through the courses are important. Are you more of an auditory learner or a visual? Do you prefer to read, or do you work best in a group with peer-to-peer learning? Introspection will help you pick out what certification is best suited for your learning style and expectations.

Sport Emphasis

Some certifications are more oriented toward strictly improving athletic performance through nutrition, with entire sections dedicated to topics that may only receive a single lesson with other certifications. On the flip side, some offer a more generalized approach to the nutrition information that’s applicable to the general population as well as athletes, with some sports nutrition lessons sprinkled throughout. 

There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. If you’ve already got a strong background in nutrition or simply only want to coach athletes, then a cert that is more specialized is probably the one for you. Should you be more open to working with anybody and want to keep your options open, then a more generalized certification might be a better choice. 


It should go without saying that all of the certifications on this list are highly reputable and well-respected, but we’ll say it anyway. We only selected organizations with a track record for high-quality teaching and standards. Should you want to purchase a certification from outside of this list, we’d recommend doing diligent research and ensuring that they’re a trusted name in the nutrition and fitness industry.

Final Word

Sports nutrition certifications contain deeper dives into the nitty gritty of nutrition than you’ll find in generalized nutrition certs. But since everyone has different career goals and points of emphasis, one size does not fit all. All of these organizations use different approaches and learning platforms, but they all have the information to help you teach athletes to eat and train their way to optimal performance. 

They all have varied study materials and support options, so it may be best to think about your career aspirations and learning style, so you can choose the right sports nutrition certification to help you get started on your career. 


How much do sports nutrition certifications cost?

Sports nutrition certifications can be costly, even for the most budget-friendly option. They start around $350 and can be as expensive as about $900 on their own. Thankfully, all of the options on this list offer payment plans so you can make monthly installments to help break up the cost.

What is the best sports nutrition certification?

There is no one single best certification like there is one ring to rule them all. That said, we’re fans of the ISSA Nutrition Certification. It’s great for people who want an in-depth understanding of sports nutrition but still don’t want to skip out on the general population information. We also really like that ISSA has a ton of study materials like 1-on-1 instructor support, peer study groups, and more.

How much can I make with a sports nutrition certification?

Sports nutrition coaches command more money than regular nutrition coaches partly due to the increased expertise and more intricate knowledge of energy systems, nutrient timing, and recovery that are involved. The average sports nutrition coach salary in the U.S. is right around $57,000 per year though that may vary depending on various factors. (1) If you’re just doing it on the side or as an add-on service to your personal training, you’ll make a different amount than, say, someone who’s a coach for a professional sports team.


The post The 6 Best Sports Nutrition Certifications of 2023 appeared first on BarBend.

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