How to Become a Sports Nutritionist

By Published On: May 15, 2018

Sports nutrition is a path with many possible destinations.

Nutrition is of increasing interest and importance in professional sporting arenas — in baseball, for example, top players are now tracking their nutrition with a laser focus. Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates regularly analyzes his nutrition intake using a data-driven platform called InsideTrack, which measures more than 30 “biomarkers,” including his hormone and vitamin levels.

Sports teams that used to fill their clubhouses with fried food and soda now realize the importance of proper nutrition, and they’re beginning to hire more nutritionists and dietitians to help them power their bodies to athletic success.

With health and wellness being a bigger focus than ever before in the sports industry, that means there has never been a better time to embark on a career in sports nutrition.

What is Sports Nutrition?

Sports nutrition focuses on dietary knowledge specific to athletes and active populations who are trying to improve their health and performance. While a nutrition or dietetics program focuses on nutritional knowledge that is typically applied across wide populations, sports nutrition is focused specifically on fueling for performance.

Becoming a Sports Nutritionist

Sports Nutrition Degrees

Students wanting to study sports nutrition have several degree options to choose from depending on their interests.

Many students have already trained as registered dietitians or have undertaken undergraduate degrees in nutrition and are looking to make their skills more applicable and specialized. These people might find that a Master of Exercise Science is the perfect way to enhance their existing training. The exercise science degree focuses on communication and teamwork, allowing students to develop great professional relationships with sports dietitians, athletic trainers, coaches, and athletes themselves.

For students with experience in athletic training or strength and conditioning, the Sports Nutrition concentration might be the way to go. It focuses on technical knowledge that they can use to give clients customized advice no matter what challenges they’re facing. For example, if you’re an athletic trainer who knows more about staying hydrated during a hot game, it will give you a leg up in your industry.

Once you’ve chosen which degree path is right for you, there is again a vast array of subjects and topics you can study to determine your own career direction: behavioral and physical health, public policy, wellness education, nutrition, social science, exercise, and medicine, to name a few.

Once armed with this specific training, graduates go on to succeed in a variety of fascinating workplaces.

Career Paths in Sports Nutrition

The options for students graduating with a sports nutritionist degree range far and wide.

For some, a career in strength and conditioning might be a great fit. Others become exercise physiologists, helping patients improve their general health and well-being through movement. And then some coach or pursue their own training as an athlete.

A popular career path for many sports nutrition graduates is entrepreneurship, with many choosing to start their own businesses. Melissa Hartwig is a prime example of an entrepreneurial thinker who used her training in fitness and nutrition to create a global brand. Her accessible nutrition program, The Whole30, helps people transform the way they eat in 30 days, and the print edition of the book has now sold more than 1 million copies.

No matter which career path you choose to take, the outlook for sports nutritionists is very bright. Employment prospects for people working in health and wellness fields are excellent. Prospects for health educators and community health workers are particularly exciting, with a 16 percent increase predicted through 2026.

Sports Nutritionist Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for nutritionists and dietitians is $61,650, with careers in the field predicted to grow as fast as average between 2021 and 2031.

Earn Your Sports Nutrition Degree

There’s never been a better time to launch a career in sports nutrition, and whether you’re interested in athletic performance, general health and wellness, or coaching others to be the best they can be, there’s a career path for you. If this sounds like you, now’s the time to start your journey toward a fulfilling sports nutrition career.

For those interested in nutrition, we have a free webinar, “Nutrition Strategies to Reduce Injuries and Facilitate Healing,” where nutrition experts Joanne Villaflor, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, and Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN discuss nutrition strategies to facilitate healing, prevent injury, and improve health. Watch on-demand now.

Concordia University – Chicago has been educating students for over 150 years and when you enroll in our online programs you earn the same campus quality degree. Ready to advance your career in health and fitness with a degree in Exercise Science.

Contact us to learn more.

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