ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Fitness and Nutrition Coaching: What It Is & How It Works

Fitness and Nutrition Coaching: What It Is & How It Works

Reading Time: 5 minutes 20 seconds


Date: 2022-04-14

Take a moment and think about why you became a personal trainer. Did you achieve certain health goals and want to help others do the same? Maybe you’re interested in exercise science or sports medicine. You can work in both areas as a fitness trainer.

Now think about where you want to take your personal training career in the future. What do you see yourself doing 5, 10, or 20 years from now? If this vision involves providing clients with diet advice in addition to fitness training, you might want to consider fitness and nutrition coaching. 

What Is Fitness and Nutrition Coaching?

The goal of fitness and nutrition coaching is to help clients with both their workout and diet plan. This enables them to reach their health and fitness goals faster. 

If their goal is weight loss, for instance, both cardio and strength training can help burn more calories. But this is only half the equation. They might be undoing their exercise progress with their diet-based choices. 

Maybe they eat a pint of ice cream every night or consume family-sized bags of chips. This can derail their weight loss efforts. Or the problem may be that they don’t eat enough. In this case, they might not be getting enough nutrition to support their workout. This leaves them feeling fatigued and may even cause them to give up.

Focusing on diet only also offers its own challenges. If you want bigger muscles, for example, protein is key. But so is strength training, preferably with heavier weights. To have nutrition without movement won’t supply the results desired.

Working with a fitness and nutrition coach provides a balanced health plan. In addition to being given an exercise plan, clients are also given a meal plan. This gives them the ability to work with a personal trainer and certified nutritionist all in one. 

Offering both services eliminates the need to find different coaching professionals for each area. If the client has to hire a personal trainer and registered dietitian, for instance, this can be costly. It can also be frustrating if the two don’t work together—or if they provide conflicting advice.

Who Could Benefit from This Type of Coaching

Could all clients benefit from working with a nutrition and fitness coach? Probably. At the same time, some might benefit more than others.

An athlete looking to improve their performance, for instance, might want to focus on both diet and exercise. As a fitness instructor, you could supply a workout routine to increase their speed or agility. As a certified nutritionist, you could provide a meal plan focused on sports nutrition.

Research indicates that diet is important to supply the energy needed for the athlete’s physical activity. It also aids in recovery between training sessions. So, proper nutrition is needed for optimal performance. 

Clients with major health concerns can also benefit from this type of dual coaching. Health coaching typically involves working with this demographic. With a health coach certification, you can help improve the health of people with cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

As a fitness and nutrition coach, you might have clients who want to stop these issues before they start. They might have a family history of a certain health issue and want to reduce their risk. Or they’ve been warned by their doctor that if they don’t make huge changes in their lives, they’re going to face a health diagnosis.

In situations such as these, clients may want to completely overhaul their lifestyle. With your knowledge in fitness and nutrition, you’re just the person to help. (Note: Working with their doctor is critical to providing a safe and effective diet and exercise program.)

Top Reasons to Become a Fitness and Nutrition Coach

Based on what fitness and nutrition coaching involves, it’s easy to see that you can help a lot of people. If you want to work with athletes and offer exercise and sports nutrition guidance, you can. Or you can work with people who have a specific health concern. It’s really up to you.

You can also provide personal training and nutrition services in a variety of places. You can work in a gym. You can work at a sports training facility. You can even work with businesses. Many companies hire a wellness coach for their employees. You have the flexibility to work in any (or all) of these settings.

The median income for a personal trainer is $40,510 per year. Add nutrition coaching to your service offerings and you can make more. This addition also broadens your client pool. 

Just because you offer both services doesn’t mean that someone can’t hire you just for one. Maybe they are okay on the exercise side and need more help with nutrition. You can guide their diet, but your knowledge of fitness can still help. You might even be able to tweak their program to help them get better results.

Offering both types of coaching also enables you to talk about more areas related to health. You aren’t limited to only talking about their workout or diet. You can discuss both because they’re each within your scope of practice.

How Fitness and Nutrition Certification Works

The first step to offering both fitness and nutrition guidance involves earning your certification. This ensures that you have the knowledge needed in both areas. It also provides credibility to prospective clients. It tells them that you have the education and skills to create effective diet and exercise plans.

Getting a dual certification does take a bit more time. After getting certified in personal training, you must complete your nutrition certification. This is a fairly extensive course as it covers numerous topics. How long it takes to finish depends on the time you can commit to your studies.

After obtaining both your fitness and nutrition certification, you are also required to always keep learning. This is achieved with continuing education courses. These courses can provide information in more specific areas. Some also provide advice for building and growing your business. Continuing education ensures that you stay updated on the latest advancements in the health and fitness fields.

What You’ll Learn While Becoming a Certified Fitness and Nutrition Coach

The nice thing about fitness and nutrition training is that it covers so many topic areas. That makes it a good option for someone with broad health and fitness interests. It’s also good for providing a more comprehensive view of how each interacts with the other. (For example, how physical training and sports nutrition combined can enhance athletic performance.)

Topics covered in the personal training certification course include:

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Exercise science

  • Conducting fitness assessments

  • Workout program design

  • Techniques for motivating clients

  • How to build a successful fitness business

While becoming a certified nutrition coach, you will learn about:

  • Macro and micronutrients

  • Dietary guidelines

  • Dietary supplements

  • Conducting nutrition assessments

  • Goal setting 

  • Lifestyle changes that improve health

  • How to build a successful nutrition coaching business

How to Get Started as a Nutrition and Fitness Coach: Several Options

ISSA offers several options for earning dual personal training and nutrition certifications. The first is Fitness Coach Certification. With this program, you can become a certified personal trainer in four weeks. Then, choose nutrition as your advanced specialization. Upon completion of this program, you are also a certified nutrition coach.

The second option is Elite Trainer Certification. As an elite trainer, you are both a certified personal trainer and a certified nutritionist. It also includes certification in another program of your choice, along with free CPR certification. Your future as a nutrition and fitness coach awaits!

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Fritzen, A., Lundsgaard, A., & Kiens, B. (2019). Dietary Fuels in Athletic Performance. Annual Review Of Nutrition, 39(1), 45-73.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, at (visited March 25, 2022).

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