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Obtaining a nutritionist certification can help elevate your career as a personal trainer or get you on track to becoming a health coach. Nutrition coaching can also be a stand-alone service to provide for folks looking to implement lifestyle changes when it comes to food and nutrition. 

Although I’m not a certified nutrition specialist, I’m familiar with educational organizations like the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), which also offer credentials for certified personal training and other specialized training programs. I’m an NSCA-CPT and I’ll use my personal experience with fitness nutrition and personal training to review the ISSA Nutritionist Certification. I followed our in-depth testing methodology for certification courses to review and rate the following categories on a 1-to-5-star scale: 

  • Course and exam price
  • Course length
  • Accreditation 
  • Prerequisites 
  • Continuing education requirements
  • Study materials and learning options
  • Final exam 

In this ISSA nutrition certification review, I’ll walk you through the prerequisites, course materials, and the final examination process of this popular nutrition certification program. 

Fitness Professionals and Nutrition Experts Here to Help

You know you can rely on the experts here at Garage Gym Reviews for unbiased takes on the best home gym equipment from squat racks and barbells to treadmills and rowing machines. But did you know you can also count on us when it comes to the best personal training certifications and nutrition courses? 

Our team of experts includes certified personal trainers, certified nutritionists, and nutrition coaches. We also call on our expert panel of registered dietitians to help us dive deeper into the science of nutrition and review things like the best pre-workout and protein powders. 

For this ISSA Nutrition certification review, I worked with a former colleague, Catie Herman, who is an ISSA-CPT and nutritionist. She let me in on her study process and experience with the certification exams. 

ISSA Nutrition Certification

ISSA Nutrition Certification

GGR Score: 4.37 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Nutritionist certification
  • 8-month timeline to complete 
  • Fully online

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Offer online or in-person nutrition coaching
  • No prerequisites
  • Accredited course by NBFE
  • Open book final exam

Cons

  • Not the most intuitive nutrition certification
  • 2-year recertification cycle

Bottom Line

The ISSA Nutrition Certification offers fundamental education on nutrition and provides coaching tools so you know how to implement the knowledge with clients. The final exam is open book and if you don’t pass on your first attempt, you can go back to review and change your answers for free (on the first attempt only).

A Quick Look at ISSA Nutrition Certification

Before we dive into the details of the ISSA nutrition certification, I’m going to first let you know what a nutritionist is as a career path (or career booster). A nutritionist is a generalist and offers generalized nutrition coaching or nutrition counseling. To offer nutrition advice and guidance, you don’t need a four-year degree in a related field. You can take a nutrition course covering the basics of nutrition science to understand the fundamentals and help educated clients make better lifestyle choices. 

Woman holding two dinner plate with pasta

Many fitness trainers will take a sports nutrition course or become a certified nutrition coach in order to further help clients reach their goals (because nutrition plays a huge part in your body composition, sports performance, and overall health). That said, a nutritionist does not have the qualifications to recommend specific meal plans, diets, or supplements to clients. 

RELATED: Best Meal Delivery Service

A registered or licensed dietitian (RD or LD), on the other hand, can make specialized meal plans, diets, and recommendations on specific supplements or vitamins to fill a micronutrient gap. Dieticians have proper training and a deep understanding of nutrition science to make specific recommendations and work with people with specific needs (like diabetes, chronic disease, or eating disorders). 

Dietitians have either bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the field of nutrition, have completed a dietetic internship, passed the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam, and obtained a state license. 

RELATED: Nutritionist Certification vs Degree

Before You Buy:

  • The course doesn’t come with a hardcopy of the textbook. 
  • When certifying with ISSA (with any program) you’ll be required to have your CPR/AED certification. 
  • A nutritionist certification does not allow you to create meal plans, prescribe supplements, or make diagnoses. 

Is the ISSA Nutrition Certification Worth It?

Although the ISSA nutritionist certification is not cheap at $799, there is quite a bit to like about this program. ISSA offers interest-free payment plans for six-month and 12-month loan terms. You’ll have an eight-month window to complete your coursework and take the final exam, (which can be done at your own pace). 

It’s also an accredited program through the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), which means the coursework has been reviewed and recognized as legitimate coursework by a certifying agency. I mention this because not all nutrition certifications are accredited, and this is something to look out for if you’re comparison shopping. 

Because it’s an accredited program and offers financing options, the ISSA nutritionist certification earns a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating for overall value. 

Great for:

  • Current personal trainers looking to offer more services
  • Learning the fundamentals of nutrition 
  • Self-paced learning 

Not recommended for:

  • Folks who need longer than six months to study 
  • People who need accountability to study
  • Anyone with career prospects of becoming a registered dietitian 

ISSA Nutrition Certification Specs

PrerequisitesHigh school diploma (or equivalent); AED/CPR cert
Number of study options1 stand-alone package or 2 bundle packages that include CPT certs
Hard copy of materialsNo; purchase separately
PricingStarts at $799
Term length6 months
PlatformOnline
Exam formatOpen-book and untimed; 100 multiple choice questions, 6 easy questions 

Course Prerequisites 

All ISSA certifications and specialty programs require two things: A high school diploma and a CPR/AED certification. You don’t have to be certified at the time of enrollment, but you’ll need to be certified by the time you complete your exam. 

You can get CPR/AED certified through accredited organizations like the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. ISSA also offers an online CPR/AED course that costs about $50, which is a bit less expensive than in-person training from the Red Cross, but you won’t get the hands-on experience of performing chest compressions or using an AED. 

Course Options and Pricing

To register for the ISSA Nutritionist Certification on its own costs $799. You can pay up front or sign up for interest-free payment plans of six or 12 months. This cost is less than (but close) to two of the most popular options on the market: Precision Nutrition Certification ($999) and NASM nutrition coach certification course ($899).  

The ISSA nutritionist course includes: 

  • Online course textbook
  • Study guide
  • Practice exam
  • Section quizzes
  • Weekly nutritionist education bootcamps
  • Access to a library of client forms
  • Access to online student forum
  • Final exam

You can also bundle the ISSA Nutritionist Certification with a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) course. There are two bundle options to do this, which I outline in the in-depth ISSA CPT Certification review. The Elite Trainer package is $999 and includes a CPT course, Nutritionist course, HIIT training course, strength and conditioning course, and one specialization course of your choosing.

RELATED:
Best Strength and Conditioning Certifications 

The next bundle option is called the Master Trainer package and includes all the same items as the Elite Trainer package but lets you choose up to four specializations and offers a Certify for Life option which waives the membership $99 renewal fee, provides discounts for CEUs, and free CPR/AED training every two years. The Master Trainer package is $1,799. 

Course Material: What You’ll Learn

When you enroll, you’ll immediately have access to your course materials and an online version of the textbook, International Sports Sciences Association Fitness Nutrition (First Edition). You can also purchase a hardcopy of the text from the ISSA bookstore. 

In total, there are 18 chapters in the Fitness Nutrition textbook. Each section of the textbook will have a practice quiz consisting of eight to 10 multiple-choice questions. You are not required to pass the practice quiz to move on to the next chapter, but you will need to take practice quizzes to access the final exam. Essentially the practice quizzes unlock the next level: the final examination. 

Supplement Facts Label For Jocko Greens

When it comes to the quality of course materials, ISSA earns a 4-out-of-5-star rating. I dock one point because the coursework lacks (and I confirmed this on forums) tools to help clients with behavior change around food and nutrition. If you’re already in the health and nutrition industry, you know that our actions and choices around food are often rooted in psychology. 

RELATED: High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss

Here is a quick look at all 18 chapters: 

Chapter 1: Nutrition

  • How Humans Select Food
  • Functional Foods
  • Culture, Economics, and Religion

Chapter 2: Cells, Organ Systems, and Digestion

  • Cell Composition
  • The Digestive System

Chapter 3: Metabolism and Energy Balance

  • Nutrition and Energy Balance
  • Cellular Energy Currency
  • Converting ATP Into Energy
  • The Energy Systems

Chapter 4: Carbohydrates

  • The Role of Glycogen in the Body
  • Carbohydrate Digestion
  • Glycemic Index
  • Glycemic Load
  • Food Sources of Carbohydrates
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Carbohydrates and Athletes

Chapter 5: Protein

  • The Role of Protein in the Body
  • Amino Acids
  • Amino Acid Review
  • Proteins, Amino Acids, and Energy
  • The Quality of Proteins
  • Protein Digestion
  • Food Sources of Protein
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Protein and Athletes

Chapter 6: Fats

  • The Role of Lipids in the Body
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Nonessential Fatty Acids
  • Digestion of Fats
  • Nutritional Sources of Fats
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances

Chapter 7: Vitamins

  • Vitamin Classifications
  • Fat-Soluble Vitamins
  • Water-Soluble Vitamins
  • Vitamin-Like Compounds
  • Dietary Guidelines for Vitamins

Chapter 8: Minerals

  • Major Minerals
  • Minor Minerals
  • Electrolytes

Chapter 9: Water And Hydration

  • The Role of Water in the Body
  • Digestion and Absorption of Water
  • Dietary Sources of Water
  • Hydration and Athletes

Chapter 10: The Role of the Nutrition Coach

  • What Is Nutrition Coaching?
  • Scope of Practice
  • Referring Clients
  • Qualities of an Effective Nutrition Coach
  • Ethical Considerations of a Nutrition Coach

Additional chapters include: 

  • Chapter 11: Stages of Change and Motivational Interviewing
  • Chapter 12: Client Assessment and Goal Setting
  • Chapter 13: Business in Nutrition Coaching
  • Chapter 14: Dietary Guidelines
  • Chapter 15: Product and Supplement Labels and Claims
  • Chapter 16: Supplements
  • Chapter 17: Navigating Successful and Trending Diets
  • Chapter 18: Special Nutrition Scenarios

Studying Experience

To earn your nutritionist certification through ISSA, you’ll use the online study portal to access your digital textbook and other study materials. From the time you register for ISSA, you’ll have an eight-month window to complete your studies. 

The way the ISSA is formatted is a little different than other similar education organizations. For the most part it’s self-paced study, but you will need to complete a practice quiz at the end of each chapter, which is about eight to 10 multiple-choice questions. You won’t need to score them all correctly, but taking the quizzes at the end of each chapter essentially grants you access to take the final exam. 

protein powders surrounding a computer

Catie Herman, ISSA-CPT and nutritionist, says she bought a hard copy of the textbook in addition to the digital copy provided. She appreciates the fact she was able to go at her own pace and viewed the practice quizzes as a check-in opportunity after each chapter. If there were questions she missed, it was a chance to go back and review the material again at her own pace. 

Catie also mentions that when she enrolled in the Elite Trainer bundle course, each personal trainer coach certification course had a six-month timeline for completion and the nutritionist course had a separate eight-month time. She thought both timelines were appropriate even with her work schedule and being a mom of two kids. 

RELATED: Personal Trainer vs Athletic Trainer

It’s also worth mentioning that enrollment in any study package with ISSA includes your own coach assigned to you if you have questions or concerns. Plus, you’ll have access to weekly live nutrition bootcamp courses to help enhance your self-study efforts. With all of the study options you’ll have access to with the ISSA, this course earns a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating for study package options. 

Exam Options and Test-Taking Experience

The ISSA Nutrition final exam is 100% online and open-book. You’ll have two sections: The first consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and the second is six essay questions. 

The exam is untimed and you can even close the browser and revisit the exam as many times as needed. The exam also has one free retake if you fail either of the two sections. You’ll need a passing score of 75% to earn your nutritionist certification.  

Man studying the NASM online module at a computer

You may like to know that the exam is accredited through the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), which is a popular accreditation organization in the fitness industry, second to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Although this was not explicitly noted on the ISSA website, I spoke with an ISSA admission council named Dominick who answered all my questions. Overall, the exam experience earns a 4.5-out-of 5-star rating. 

RELATED: What is the ACE CPT Certification?

Post-Certification Perks

ISSA offers more post-certification general help than any other certification I’ve reviewed. You’ll have access to generic client forms that you’ll use as a professional nutritionist working with clients. These forms are also editable to customize to your clientele. 

You’ll also be able to make a free website and email address using ISSA resources. This perk also grants you access to tech support if you’re based in the USA. ISSA earns a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating for post-cert perks. 

ISSA Nutrition Recertification Requirements

Much like personal training certifications, the ISSA nutritionist certification requires professionals to recertify every two years by participating in continuing education units, aka CEUs. The ISSA has a two-year recertification cycle for both nutritionists and personal trainers. 

RELATED: What is a Personal Trainer?

To recertify, you’ll need a current CPR/AED certification and completed 20 CEUs. ISSA offers a variety of specialization courses that can be used toward CEUs or you can take coursework from one of the ISSA’s approved partners. 

ISSA Nutrition Certification vs NASM CNC

NASM CNC

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach Course

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

The NASM nutrition coach certification course covers all of the basics of nutrition science one would need to know in order to provide sound nutritional advice to a variety of populations. In addition to covering the hard-and-fast science of nutrition, the course also dives into soft skills that coaches need to be successful: communication, interviewing, listening, motivating, and more.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • All online format
  • Completely self-paced
  • Easy to navigate the course portal

Cons

  • This course doesn’t come with a paper textbook
  • There’s no real accountability; self-driven people will get the most out of this course

Bottom Line

Students who complete this course will feel adequately prepared to call themselves a fitness nutrition specialist after taking this course.

The NASM CNC (National Academy Of Sports Medicine, Nutrition Coach Certification) course is a popular option for folks in the fitness industry who want the ability to help clients with food choices and overall wellness. The price range is similar to the ISSA Nutritionist course and both organizations offer payment plans.

Both courses are completely online and are self-paced. However, ISSA offers a weekly remote “bootcamp” class to cover nutrition topics relevant to the text. NASM allows students up to 12 months to study and prepare for the final exam while ISSA only allows eight months. 

With either option, you’ll have to adhere to a scope of practice that generalizes nutrition advice. Neither a nutritionist or a nutrition coach can provide specific meal plans, diets, and supplementation to clients. You can read our in-depth and personal experience with the NASM course in our NASM nutrition certification review

NASM Nutrition CoachISSA Nutritionist 
PrerequisitesNoneHigh school diploma; CPR/AED cert
Hard copy of materialsNoPurchase separately 
Pricing$899$799
Term length12 months 8 months 
PlatformOnlineOnline 
Exam format100 multiple-choice questions 100 multiple-choice questions; 6 essay questions 
Passing score70%75%
Recertification 2-year cycle2-year cycle

ISSA Nutrition Certification: Final Verdict

ISSA offers a legitimate option to earn a nutritionist certification and help offer general nutrition advice to clients in-person or online. It’s priced similarly to other certifications on the market and often goes on sale during major holidays. I also appreciate the fact the course is set up in a way that forces you to review each section and prepare for the final exam, which ensures you’ve covered the entire text and you’re not just ready for the exam but for working with clients. 

Honestly, this is one of the best nutrition certification options I’ve reviewed because it’s NBFE-accredited and you’ll be required to recertify every two years and keep up with your AED/CPR certification. 

Staying current with continuing education and extra credentials might sound like a ton of busywork, but it ensures you’re staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the health and fitness industry. It also ensures that you’re able to respond to emergency situations if anything were to happen while working with a client. 

ISSA Nutrition Certification Full Rating

ISSA Nutrition Certification

The ISSA Nutrition Certification provides everything you need to know to offer nutrition counseling and advice to your clients.

Product Currency: $

Product Price: 799

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.37
Study package options – 4.5
Getting started/delivery of materials – 4
Navigating online course material – 4
Quality of course material – 4
Exam experience – 4.5
Post-exam perks – 4.5
Value – 4.5
Customer experience – 5
Check Price

ISSA Nutrition Certification: FAQs

Is ISSA nutrition accredited?

Yes, the ISSA nutritionist certification is accredited by the NBFE (National Board of Fitness Examiners). 

Is ISSA certification worth it?

The ISSA certification is worth it for aspiring personal trainers and nutritionists and is priced similarly (although slightly more expensive) to other organizations like NASM, NSCA, and ACE. The Elite Trainer study package that bundles the CPT and Nutritionist certification in one worth the bundled price. Plus, ISSA coursework often goes on sale during major holidays. ISSA is also an excellent organization for resources, tools, and education after you’re certified. 

How long does it take to get ISSA nutrition certification?

Students have up to eight months to study for and take the final exam. ISSA reports the average completion time is around two months. 

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