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Sports Nutritionist and Dietitian

What Is A Sports Nutritionist?

A sports nutritionist uses many of the same principles of traditional nutritionists and dietitians, yet targets the specific biochemical and physiological needs of the athlete. This specialized type of nutrition focuses on physical performance, muscle building and recovery and optimal choleric and nutritional intake. Sports nutritionists can address issues from weight loss and personal training to physical performance at the highest levels.

Sports nutrition professionals are expected to be able to evaluate, analyze and assess a person’s diet, performance ability and physiological makeup in order to prescribe a diet that will achieve optimal human athletic function. A complete assessment includes testing and analysis in the following areas:

  • The ability to recognize an individual body composition
  • History of illness, injury or any physical signs of stress
  • Anthropomorphic measurements (weight, height, girth) in order to calculate the percentage of body fat or body mass index (BMI)
  • Nutritional analysis including lifestyle choices and physical activity
sports nutritionist working out

With this information, the nutritionist is able to design a nutritional program to be prescribed to the athlete that improves their performance level and achieves the specific goals of that athlete. A sports nutritionist must also have a full understanding of other health care and sports professionals and must be able to work in a team environment to accomplish both individual and team goals.

What Do Sports Nutritionist Do For Their Clients?

A sports nutritionist first and foremost recommends a nutritional course of action, including the types of foods to eat, the types to avoid, when to eat and how much. Nutrition and diet information will often include nutritional supplements, as well as that of the traditional food groups. Diets are only given after a complete understanding of an athlete’s physiology, lifestyle, body type, metabolism, energy levels, digestive system and any allergies or ailments has been assessed.

Sports nutritionists may treat individuals, groups and even entire teams and organizations. Depending on both the level of the athlete and the specific goals for training, a sports nutritionist may complete some or all of the following tasks:

  • Review current nutrition program
  • Create strategy for improving performance through nutrition
  • Dietary analysis • Assessment of caloric and nutrient intake and needs
  • Update assessments and provide continued analysis
  • Analyze vitamin and supplement use if necessary
  • Provide information on maintenance of nutritional program
  • Interaction with other support people including coaches, trainers, doctors, physical therapists, etc.

Sports Nutritionist Career Outlook

The outlook for sports nutritionists over the coming decade should far exceed 10 percent over the coming decade. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall nutritionist industry growth should exceed nine percent. Yet for numerous reasons, sports nutrition will see a large portion of this growth.

First and foremost, job growth will increase with a greater emphasis on disease prevention, health and fitness through improved dietary habits of an aging North American population of baby boomers. Traditionally the most overall active generation in the history of human kind, these baby boomers will turn increasingly to sports nutritionists to extend their ability to perform athletically at their present capacities.

Moreover, as more people decide to become active, athletic and healthy, there is one group of youngsters that will become competitively active across North America more than ever before. Girls throughout Canada and the US are competing, winning and excelling athletically like never before. This will open up an even greater demand for sports nutritionists, as traditionally men have been the greatest patrons of this expertise. For those interested in women’s sports, a sports nutrition career can be the most rewarding, as women will be breaking down more athletic barriers over the coming decades than ever before.

Sports Nutritionist Salary

According to SimplyHired.com, sports nutritionists in the US averaged $44,000 per year, slightly higher than the national average for general nutritionists. However, those in specific areas of sports nutrition such as personal training, or those with higher net-worth or more competitive clients often times make more. Overall sports nutrition salaries can range from entry level positions around $35,000 per year to well over $125,000 for those with experience and a good client base. The highest salary prospects are usually reserved for those that open their own clinic or consultant company.

Sports Nutritionist Organizations

The National Association of Sports Nutrition (NASN)
The NASN was created in 1996 as a professional association and resource for those in the sports nutrition field. The Association works to maintain up to date knowledge of sports nutritionists, oversee applications of sports nutrition by the Association members and provide community awareness for the profession.

International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN)
The ISSN is a non-profit organization established to promote and support the science and application of the latest in sports nutrition and nutrition supplements.
600 Pembrook Drive
Woodland Park, CO 80863

National Strength and Conditioning Association
The NSCA is an international organization focused on the promotion of strength and conditioning expertise. Using research-based knowledge and practical methods, the organization aims to continue to improve athletic performance and fitness.
1885 Bob Johnson Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(719) 632-6722

American College of Sports Medicine
The ACSM was created in 1954, now the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world with over 20 thousand members worldwide.
P.O. Box 1440
Indianapolis, IN 46206-1440
(317) 637-9200

American Council on Exercise
The ACE was established in 1985 as a nonprofit organization advocating for the advancement of safe and effective exercise and physical activity. ACE takes it upon itself to protect consumers and exercise professionals against ineffective products, programs and trends through research, education and outreach.

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            Master of Science in Nutrition Education

            At American University, our smart, passionate and engaged students and faculty focus their knowledge to create meaningful change. Our strengths in international service and public affairs inspire our sense of social responsibility and a dedication to cultural and intellectual diversity. We’re defined by our global perspective, practical idealism and a dedication to public service.


            American University is a private, college-centered research university located in the nation’s capital. It was chartered by the United States Congress in 1893 to build public service, and is now home to a prestigious faculty, guest speakers and visiting world leaders who are influential practitioners and prominent thought leaders.

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