The Best Certification for Sports Nutrition


If you’re interested in how diet influences athletic performance, you may want to consider a career as a sports nutritionist. Although it’s not necessary to be licensed or certified to call yourself a sports nutritionist, having a certification can provide you with the knowledge, skills and credibility to have a successful sports nutrition practice.

Before You Certify

  • Sports nutritionists come from a variety of educational backgrounds, and the path you take can determine where you can go in your career. The education requirements to be a nutritionist are more lenient that those for a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition, so while all registered dietitians are nutritionists, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. Some certification programs require only an undergraduate degree and a college course in sports nutrition prior to taking a certification exam. The sports nutritionist certification for registered dietitians requires, at minimum, an undergraduate degree in dietetics, an internship that includes sports nutrition experience and a certification exam. While the requirements are more intense, this certification may open more career doors for you.

Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics -- CSSD

  • The CSSD is the only sports nutrition certification program to be accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which was created to help ensure the health, welfare and safety of the public. This certification is only offered to those who have worked as an RD for at least two years and documented at least 1,500 hours of specialty experience in sports nutrition within a five-year period. To maintain your CSSD certification, you’ll be required to show proof that you’ve worked as a sports nutritionist for at least 1,000 hours every five years and complete continuing education.

Other Certifications

  • If you don’t want to go the RD route, there are some other sports nutrition certifications to consider. The CISSN certification stands for Certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The minimum requirement is an undergraduate degree, and the ISSN recommends at least one college course in sports nutrition before taking the certification exam. To maintain certification, you must complete one continuing education course each year. In addition to this certification, some colleges and universities with nutrition departments may offer their own certificate programs to professionals who work in the nutrition or fitness fields.

Comparing Programs

  • When comparing certification programs, you should think about your career goals. If you’re leaning toward working with clients at a gym or on your own, you may not need the CSSD certification. On the other hand, having this certification allows you to work not only with private clients, but also for colleges and university wellness and athletic departments, performance food and product corporations, sports medicine practices, professional sports organizations and Olympic Committee training facilities. Most of these employers require their sports nutritionists to maintain the CSSD.


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