What You Need to Know About "Nutritionist" Titling in the Fitness Industry & Why

What You Need to Know About “Nutritionist” Titling in the Fitness Industry & Why

One of our E3 Energy Evolved TM company core values is education.

Part of that is our commitment to educate others, but also to be consistently evolving & investing in adding to our own education as teachers, which we continue to commit to over the last 23 years.

We have a beef with the fitness industry though in this grey area in education out of concern for those we all serve.

And this is something we talk about as well with our industry mentor Dr. Berardi, Founder of Precision Nutrition, who has created a great nutrition certification program for fitness professionals if you want to learn more about human body nutrition for your clients.

Being a fitness trainer with only fitness certifications doesn’t afford you as a professional to make false claims and professionally title yourself a “Nutritionist“. That is truly misleading & unfair to those we serve.

We all want to help people, but in the long run this isn’t the best way to help people.

If you’re a trainer with nutrition experience & you want to share from that experience with your clients by all means you should, but always within your own personal scope of mentorship experience & formal education, & never making false claims in your professional title.

That is like saying because I read up online on laws, watch law & order, and discuss legal topics with my lawyer & then pass those on, I can title myself an Attorney at Law.

We’ve received complaints from people who have gotten hurt and have persistent health issues from working with trainers who stated they could work out of scope with no education or experience in that area. Reading others work off the internet to expand your learning also doesn’t allow for “Nutritionist” to be in your title, although this is a terrific way to research. Additionally, working with a coach, and then handing the same program you were given off to every client also unsafe, and not worthy of a “Nutritionist” title.

We all want to become solid professionals, but you should never do this by taking advantage of the lack of knowledge of your client base. There is no where in any CPT (certified personal trainer) certification program that states your title is Nutritionist, and we see fitness professionals do this quite frequently unfortunately.

You’re actually holding those you serve back in doing this, you’re holding yourself back professionally from growing your education, & you’re holding the fitness industry back. Additionally, as a fitness professional you’re placing your own business at legal risk.

To title yourself “nutritionist” you must have a certification specifically in nutrition such as a CNC or a 4 year degree as an RD, you must be aware of your state laws as far as what you can title yourself, and follow them.

We sat in on a debate on this very topic between our industry mentor, Dr. Berardi whose a PhD in Nutrient Biochemistry & the AND/ADA a the Idea World Fitness Convention 2012 just recently in fact. Here is an excellent blog her wrote in 2010 covering some similar topics: The 10 Signs You Need A New Trainer.

Believe me, I’d love to call myself a PhD Nutrient Biochemist or a Naturopathic Doctor like our industry mentors! And one day soon I’ll have my Masters in Holistic Nutrition & can finally officially title myself a “nutritionist” in my formal title.

Titling yourself a Nutritionist professionally with only fitness training certifications is like saying because I read up online on laws, watch the tv show Law & Order, and discuss legal topics with my lawyer & then pass those on, I can title myself formally an Attorney at Law. – Heather Dube’

To date, I’ve studied RD college level nutrition, attended Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition & Healing Arts, graduated from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and am now studying functional nutrition to earn my next nutrition credential, and most of the time I rarely if ever refer to myself as a nutritionist yet, because I don’t have my CNC yet, RD or Masters or PhD, and that is still how the industry works. I’ve worked on a children’s nutrition in media research team, in nutrition marketing nationally in the agri-biz industry, conducted third-party industry product peer reviews nutritionally for major product launches, we write for industry publications educating on holistic nutrition and health, coached with some of the best athletic coaches in the industry, and both my husband and I have mentored with a PhD in Nutrient Biochem and we don’t really use the title Nutritionist professionally. Our professional title includes our degrees & certifications.

When in doubt, this is the safest route to go legally, by including your degrees & certifications. Here is an example – Heather Dube’, BA Psychology, ACSM CWC, NASM CPT, CHHC, FDN Candidate.

If you want a title including nutrition, go for it. Invest the money & time in an education program that affords you that title. We’re happy to share with you which nutrition certs, programs & degrees we’d recommend if you reach out. Use the contact form below, we have some great suggestions in how to make sense of the industry and are happy to help!

But always be someone who does right by your clients & your industry in your profession.

Until we start taking our own education seriously, and regularly investing in that growth process, the fitness industry will never be taken as seriously as it could be.

If you are seeking to hire a fitness professional, here are the only education paths at this time that can currently lead to a formal “Nutritionist” title professionally so you can review a fitness professionals background prior to working with them if they include the title nutritionist in their professional title:

  • CNC or CCN – Certified Nutrition Consultant (certification)
  • RD – Registered Dietician (four-year degree)
  • Masters in Holistic or Functional Nutrition; or Masters in Nutrition (advanced degree)
  • PhD in Nutrition, Nutrient Biochemistry, and so on (advanced degree)
  • *In some US States – NC, NE or INHC (certifications)

There are other forms of certification programs specific to holistic health and nutrition worth mention, but in most states these don’t often allow for one to title themselves a Nutritionist professionally. Confusing? Maybe, but it is what it is, and currently that is how the industry works.

More and more nutrition programs are popping up now in specific niches as well as generalized holistic nutrition, so there are other nutritionist colleagues we know and stand behind who have studied at holistic nutrition institutions such as Bauman College or Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. These are still worthy of mention, and far more advanced than all general fitness professional nutrition certifications in their scope of study, practice and application.

Do not be upset if you experience a health issue or receive poor results from working with a fitness professional who states they’re a Nutritionist in their title, but only has sports nutrition certifications in their background, if you failed to take the time to do research upfront before hiring them. Due diligence is always up to us.

And, frankly today the majority of people seeking services from a fitness professional are dealing with internal functional and metabolic health imbalances in the areas of endocrine, autoimmune and digestive function, they’re either aware of or not, that their trainer is only worsening for them unknowingly, advancing their health symptoms and slowing the weight loss they COULD and SHOULD be getting alternatively.

The thyroid, autoimmune and weight loss resistance issues the mass public is dealing with today is out of scope for fitness professionals to be handling, advising in, or claiming they can treat and lead clients to correct, no matter how much they would like to position themselves as ‘adrenal fatigue experts’ – it’s out of scope of their professional capabilities unless they’ve invested the years and money in earning a credential professionally in functional nutrition to work in that area clinically, which is only one doing two things – putting their client at further health risk, and putting their business at legal risk.

As a consumer, you should read up thoroughly on the body of work, capabilities, client results, background, experience, education, mentorships, publications, awards & recognition, industry professional endorsements, and so on.

Additionally, you should observe their teachings.

Are they creating unique education of their own, do they have something NEW of worth and value to share and offer, or are they only sharing or repeating the education of those around them & passing it off as their own? There is a big difference between these two types of educators in the fitness professional landscape.

Again, we are not saying fitness professionals should not share within reason and within the scope of your own personal experience & education.

We are saying things like stating formally you’re a Nutritionist in your title when you aren’t, or reading things online vs. obtaining some education in them to become a teacher on that topic, aren’t smart legal decisions for your business, fair actions on behalf of clients, or in the best interest of the growth of the fitness industry as a profession. Obtain more education.

Your business, your clients, and our industry will all be better off for it.

Author: Heather Dubé, HHC, AADP, ACSM CWC, NASM CPT, NC Cand. & BA Psychology, is a Functional Nutrition Practitioner, US National-Level Natural NPC Figure Bodybuilding Competitor & Contributing Expert Magazine Writer with 24 years experience, and Co-Founder of the e3 Energy Evolved™ System.

Copyright © 2012 – 2016 e3 Energy Evolved, LLC, All Rights Reserved.



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Comments 5

  1. Pingback: Don't think Metabolic Damage could cost bankruptcy? Think again. » e3 Energy Evolved ™ | A Metabolic Health and Functional Nutrition Education Resource

  2. Thank you Heather! I am also an IIN Grad and actually am looking to take the next step by getting that masters in holistic nutrition. I am wondering if you could possibly share what schools you looked at, which one you chose, and why? Thank you for anything you care to say.

    1. Post

      Hey there, Adventurer – great to hear from you! :) We are asked this question quite a bit. If you’d like to see our team’s history of in human body nutrition, exercise science, athletics, wellness & mind-body work you can go here: https://e3energyevolved.com/about/team-e3ee/. We’re super big on team e3 Energy Evolved on continuing education for your lifetime, especially in human body sciences that are young & evolving such as nutrition. I plan to obtain my Masters in Holistic Nutrition as well, and am working towards saving for that goal now, although funding our e3 Energy Evolved business to serve others is an extensive financial goal and that is coming before my continued education goals for the time being. ;-) Make sure you choose an accredited Masters Holistic Nutrition program if you’re in the US. There are a handful of programs of this nature – one you might look into that recognizes IIN grad credits is the University of MD Master’s in Holistic Nutrition program that is run by Dr. Liz Lipski. I spoke with her personally about her program at the NANP Conference 2014, and it might be a good fit for you. Wishing you the best in your professional goals. – Heather, e3ee

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