Fitness on a Budget

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Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification — My Thoughts

I paid for the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification back in 2011 but didn’t sit down and write the test until this year (2015). For years I would at times open the certification manual, read over a chapter, look over the workbook questions (answering them in my head) and then forget about it for months. I just wasn’t motivated to get it done and business was keeping life busy. Recently however I decided that enough was enough, it was time to get it done and I’m glad I did!

What is the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification?

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is a sport and exercise nutrition certification created and provided by nutrition/fitness coaching company Precision Nutrition (obvious huh?). Precision Nutrition if you don’t know was founded by Dr. John Berardi and Phil Caravaggio. John is pretty accomplished and well known in the industry and I assume anyone reading this has some interest in personal training and/or nutrition so I’ll leave it at that. The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is a certification that aims to educate people about nutrition and help them coach clients on the topic.

What Does it Cost?

I purchased it after signing up to the presale list as they only take 200 people per 6 month period. The price I paid was $799.99 USD plus $11 shipping for the study materials so $810.99 USD total though your shipping may differ. General registration if you are not on the presale list is $999.99 USD. As of the date of this article’s publication the price has not changed. There are also payment plan options though I didn’t explore those myself.

What Do You Get?

  • The textbook – The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition
  • The workbook
  • The forms
  • Online Access to forums and the study platform

Precision Nutrition Certification materials
When I originally signed up for Precision Nutrition level 1 certification what you received was the textbook, workbook, forms and forum access with video content corresponding to each chapter of the textbook. Recently they have changed the program a bit as now the video content is part of a study platform that guides you on how to study. This platform has various tasks for each chapter (read the chapter, watch the video, do the workbook questions, read the FAQ and do the exam). Instead of one 100-question end-of-course exam at the end of self study like before, you now take 18 chapter exams consisting of 10 questions each (180 total). The platform will also email you daily to remind you where you left off and what tasks you need to do for the day.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification Student Home page

The PN1 student “Today” page where activity blocks for the day would normally be shown

I wasn’t however able to find the certification specific forums I had access to in 2011 using my now separate but still in existence forum account. I don’t know if this is an oversight or intentional but is worth a mention. Also mentioned in an email informing me of the platform change was “We’re also offering a more personal level of support; direct access to a coach to get the answers you need to be successful.” which didn’t seem to be the case as there was nowhere to contact coach John or anyone besides customer care. As a side note I did exchange emails with Clara Hembree (customer experience aka customer care) about timelines involved with being listed in the PN directory of certified professionals and she was wonderful.

How Hard is The Material?

I didn’t find it extremely challenging. I finished the course over a period of 48 hours, watched only a couple of the videos and read the FAQs. I had however been reading and rereading the chapters in the textbook for years. Mr. Berardi has used the provided textbook to teach a course on Sport and Exercise Nutrition as part of the High-Performance Physiology masters degree program at Eastern Michigan University so the material isn’t typical weekend certification garbage.

The textbook is broken up into an introduction chapter and 2 separate units : Nutritional Science and Nutritional Practice. Each of the 18 chapters (1 intro, 9 Nutritional Science, 8 Nutritional Practice) contain case studies at the end to help you better understand the information provided within that chapter. The first section “Nutritional Science” covers exactly what you would expect; in it you will find the science you will need to understand nutrition and how the body uses the nutrients we provide it. The second section is where the real value of this certification comes in. In this section you are presented with the knowledge needed and plan for how to deal with clients and their unique obstacles to success. This section brings the science from the first section together with strategies to deal with real world issues like client information gathering, monitoring, assessment, client compliance and client education. Although it isn’t as mind numbing as memorizing mathematical theories, it could be challenge for those without a scientific background or a real interest in the material.

Was It worth It?

For me it was worth it. Although the cost IS high for a self study course the information was sound and the approach used to manage clients is great. What you are really buying into here is a system that teaches you how to manage a nutrition coaching business. You can learn the scientific theory aspect of nutrition from many sources (though PN streamlines it and cuts out the fluff) but how to deal with clients from start to finish is something that not many people get correct. If you just want to learn about nutrition I would recommend visiting the library often and spending a large amount of time on pubmed, that’s free (and a good coach will do that well beyond a degree or certification). If you want to understand or refresh your knowledge of nutrition and learn how to properly and efficiently manage clients the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is worth your consideration.

What to Keep in Mind

As with all certifications and education the goal of this should not just be to get the piece of paper. If your goal is just to add more letters after your name any certification would do and it would be smart to pick a less expensive one. A certification only shows that you paid the money and took the exams. The real value is in the information provided which you have the chance to study and learn from. You can choose to learn the material and become a better coach or you can do the bare minimum to get by but if you want happy, repeat customers do the work, don’t cheat yourself and your clients.

If you are interested you can check out the PN FAQ or if you want to know when the next round of certifacation opens up join the level 1 presale list (if you decide not to buy it no big deal, the presale list isn’t a commitment to buy anything). If you are PN1 certified and love it, or you think it sucks, leave a comment and keep the discussion rolling.

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1 Comment

  1. Rick, like you I miss the forums. I don’t see any of the great content they had on coaching. I am kinda bummed bc I just passed and now want to roll it out and I loved asking other coaches how they did

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