Well, it’s official, I’m now a Precision Nutrition Certified Level 1 Coach. This certification has been on my radar for years now, and I have always watched the time sensitive openings (2x/year) pass by for one reason or another. I was even apprehensive this time around and if PN hadn’t reached out to me with a special offer, I probably would have passed it up again. With so many options out there for fitness professionals, it’s really difficult to find the worthwhile education sources and honest reviews of programs and certifications. So this post will serve as my official Precision Nutrition certification review for anyone on the fence about PN.
Update July 2018: I published an article about how I would get into nutrition coaching if I were starting from scratch today. You may find it helpful after reading this. Check it out: How to Become a Nutrition Coach
“Like a 4-Year Degree, Without Going Back to School”
Precision Nutrition has since removed this byline from the Level 1 certification about page, but it caught my eye and stuck with me since the first time I saw it. See, I have a 4-year degree in nutrition science, so you can see where this could come across as offensive or belittling. Could someone really learn all the material and information that I learned in four years of college in a few month-long course? Now that I have completed this certification I can answer – no, no they can not.
BUT they can learn everything that matters as a fitness professional and nutrition coach that they need to know (and then some), and they can omit all the other fluff of a college curriculum. I think a ton of people enroll in a nutrition and dietetics college program with high hopes of learning everything there is to know about nutrition and curing the obesity crisis through dietary habit and behavior change. Wrong – but not entirely.
Should I go to college for nutrition?
My college education provided a ton of knowledge on topics like biochemistry, physiology, and metabolic processes. It truly set me up to throw scientific jargon around with the best of them, and I even picked up quite a few skills on client counseling for eating disorders, weight loss programs, and other special scenarios. Seriously, tons of great skills.
What it also provided was 30-45 credit hours (around $15,000 worth) of mind-numbing courses of food science (baking cakes), health care admin (billing insurance), and managing a hospital kitchen. College programs for nutrition and dietetics are monitored for lack of a better word, by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They are set up for one thing and one thing only, to pass graduates on to internships (if they’re qualified enough) to become Registered Dietitians (RD).
Don’t get me wrong, most RDs are extremely qualified in human physiology, nutrition and biochemistry, and behavior change strategies. All great things to be qualified in, but if you don’t want to learn everything there is to know about medical nutrition therapy (disease management, tube feedings, etc.) then I wouldn’t advise going this route in school.
So that’s my rant on college. Despite all I’ve said, I think you should definitely go to college, just don’t major in dietetics. OK, back to the certification. Does it live up to the original statement of being as good as a 4-year degree? Yup, it sure does, and I’ll tell you why.
If you are someone wanting to get into the fitness industry, whether that be a personal trainer or nutrition coach, this certification is hands down the holy grail of valuable and practical information. I would venture to say that out of the 500 or so clients I’ve worked with, less than 1% needed any kind of special nutrition attention. Also, I’d say the same percentage needed any super high-level scientific information. One last stat in this section, nearly every single client I’ve worked with needed good coaching techniques and basic eating and nutrition guidelines for success. All of which are provided in the Pn1 certification.
About the Precision Nutrition Curriculum
The course is split into two sections that I’ll call, 1) everything you need to know about the science of nutrition, and 2) how to effectively coach clients and get results. Do I agree with everything they cover in either section? No, but I’m getting certified, not joining a cult. What you’ll be hard-pressed to find in any other certification or course is what PN provides with #2. Their systems for assessment and client management is simple yet fantastically detailed. You can print off every single resource they mention and immediately implement into your practice, setting you apart from other coaches and making you look like a next level nutrition expert.
Does this certification qualify you for anything? No, but don’t miss the forest for the trees here. A certification doesn’t matter to your clients. What matters is that you get results. This certification qualifies you to get plenty of results. With that being said, if you have another fitness certification there’s a good chance PN counts for a ton of CEUs – because they’re highly respected by other certifying bodies.
One thing I really love about Precision Nutrition is their constant positive outlook on the fitness and nutrition industry. John Berardi, the guy running the show at PN, even has a separate website with positive reviews of other nutrition certifications. This, in combination with the top notch free information these guys put out on a regular basis, made going with the Pn1 certification an easy choice.
Cons of the Precision Nutrition Certification
This is really just nitpicking, but the only thing I would like to see is some type of prerequisite to registering for the certification. I really like how certifications like the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the NSCA has a required Bachelor’s degree to sit for the exam and if I’m not mistaken the CISSN sports nutrition cert has similar prerequisites. This is a catch 22 because I think this cert is an excellent starting point for a fitness professional. Coming from a managerial standpoint, I think I would rather hire a trainer with this certification plus exercise physiology knowledge than one with a traditional CPT in most cases. I just worry about oversaturation or unqualified people making their way through the online course in the future. Currently, this isn’t an issue seeing as I’m 1 of 12 PN certified coaches in Arkansas.
Update July 2018: In my article, How to Become a Nutrition Coach, I bring this up again. Since writing this review, the watering down of certified individuals has definitely happened.
If you are contemplating the Precision Nutrition Certification, I highly encourage it. The material and delivery of information are some of the best I’ve ever come across. You never feel like you’re reading through a textbook, and the video reviews, study questions, and FAQs for each chapter are phenomenally useful. The price may seem a little steep at $800 (if you’re on the sales tactic laden presale list), but it’s worth every penny. And it’s definitely cheaper than my college degree! Very rarely will I look back and wish I would’ve done something differently, but I seriously wish I would have gotten this certification when I first came across it.
I hope you found this review helpful. I know I’ve searched for plenty of reviews on the Pn1 before I took the plunge. Feel free to reach out with any questions about this certification or others. I always love connecting with fellow fitness professionals!