Sportspersons or athletes have different nutrition and food requirements from the general populace. This is because they are required to have high stamina or endurance levels, and their performance levels are on a much higher level as compared to the average human being. Thus, their special dietary or nutrition requirements need to be carefully planned and administered at the right times, and that is where a sports nutritionist comes in. This article tells you how to become a sports nutritionist.
Background and job description
Anyone who is a doctor, dietitian, coach, personal trainer, physiotherapist, or someone who wants to specifically train for this job can become a sports nutritionist. Sports nutritionists can work with school and college athletic programs, amateur or professional teams and clubs, individual athletes or players, public health services or sports medicine facilities.
According to the National Association of Sports Nutrition (NASN), the official body for licensing and accreditation of sports nutritionists, ‘sports nutrition’ is about assessing individual biochemical composition and physiology to create a nutritional program which ensures the best and optimal body composition, performance levels and rate of recovery in sportspersons. This is done by collecting information on current metabolism rates, lifestyle, energy levels for consistent optimal performance, health history, etc.
Education, certification and training
A basic foundation in physics, chemistry, biology and math in high school is the first step in becoming a sports nutritionist. Post high school, the NASN recommends the following educational requirements to become a licensed sports nutritionist.
Complete any ONE of the following:
- Two years work experience as a certified professional in healthcare, nutrition or diet counseling;
- Associate or bachelor’s degree in nutrition or related health or science subject with one year work experience as a certified health professional;
Upon completing the above requirements, you can apply for a Primary Sports Nutrition License by appearing for and completing the NASN examination, in addition to any state health board requirements. You must demonstrate expertise in: (a) evaluation of body composition and metabolism; (b) menu development; and (c) exercise metabolism.
In case you do not have any of the qualifications mentioned above, you can still become a sports nutrition by completing any NASN-accredited diploma program to become a Personal Trainer (PT). This program consists of three modules, all of which must be successfully completed to gain certification: (a) resistance training; (b) health advocacy; and (c) fitness evaluation.
Career growth can be facilitated by getting the Master Sports Nutrition License, which will allow you to manage teams of sports nutritionists or run a nutrition program in any health facility. To get this license you must have expert knowledge of: (a) metabolic testing; (b) body composition; (c) exercise metabolism; (d) menu development; (e) treatment programs for medical disorders; and (f) nutrition management.
Check out the NASN website for additional information on certification, re-certification and career path. The basics have already been covered in this article.