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Why I Got The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification (And Why It Might Be Right For You)

precision nutrition certification workbook

This past December, I completed my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. I’ve since had a few questions about it, so let’s talk about that today. I’ll share my experience taking the course, explain why I decided to do it in the first place, and answer questions like “who is it for?” and “should I enroll in the course?”

This takes us back to the beginning. It must have been 2007 or 2008, when I was in my athletic prime, figuring out any possible way for me, someone who was always average at best in terms of natural athletic ability, to compete with the Cat 1 and Pro racers at NORBA Nationals.

I was always researching training and racing tactics, and other [legal] ways to improve performance, when the importance of good nutrition finally hit home. Deciding that apple cinnamon pancakes weren’t the ideal pre-race breakfast was revolutionary at the time!

During my research, I became particularly fond of the articles by a Dr. John Berardi. He was writing stuff that was scientifically-sound, real-life tested and proven, and a little bit extreme. I loved it!

Most of this stuff was published on T-Nation, a popular site for bodybuilders, but it was the type of stuff applicable to any athlete pushing their body to its limits.

It was exciting enough that I eventually bought the PN system for $97 (a lot of money for a kid worrying about hefty student loan payments cutting into his bike racing budget.)

I spent so many nights reading and analyzing the information, then weeks and months changing my diet and testing different foods and supplements, never regretting my purchase for a second.

Precision Nutrition continued to impress me even after they got my money. I read every article on their website at least once, some of them multiple times. (And this one I like to re-read each and every month.)

I found that we shared similar philosophies, and agreed on what the best diet is:

==> Paleo, vegan, intermittent fasting… Here’s how to choose the best diet for you.

But not only did they know the nutrition, they knew how to get results. It’s one thing to know what to do to get fit; actually doing it is another story. And being a coach and getting others to do what they need to do in order to get in shape is even harder.

I had watched their free video resources and recorded seminars aimed at personal trainers, and realized the info would be just as useful for a USA Cycling certified cycling coach such as myself. So, I finally decided to take the plunge.

It was March of 2013. They were enrolling the spring class for the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification course.

I decided I needed to do it, but didn’t have the time, so I decided I would enroll in September 2013. And I did.

Being a self-paced course, I started immediately, but I only looked at what was interesting, but didn’t dedicate myself to it for a while. I just wanted to learn. And that I did!

Eventually I realized that I wanted to pass the class and earn my certificate. That was September 2014, when they started enrolling a new fall class, so I got my butt in gear and read the book, went through the workbook, watched the online videos, and took the test.

And it went like this…

precision nutrition certification books

PN Level 1: The Course Materials

Let’s look at these course materials. There are three main items in your kit:

  • Textbook
  • Workbook
  • Forms

The textbook is a thick hardcover book, which looks similar to every other textbook I’ve used.

Inside, it’s sort of like two books in one. The first half, Unit 1, is “Nutritional Science.” And it is science – you might know most of the biology and chemistry already if you did any undergraduate courses in these fields. The second half is focused on change psychology – it’s sort of an applied psychology course.

That second half is what’s really interesting and useful. It’s the type of education that applies to any type of coaching you may do, whether its nutrition coaching or personal training or as a cycling coach. (Let me point out, the USA Cycling coaching book did nothing of the sort to prepare me for that part of the job!)

And what sets the book apart from typical textbooks is that the included case studies are actually relevant to sports nutrition. There’s even a case study on weight cutting – losing a large amount of weight in a short amount of time when you’re competing in a sport that uses weight classes (wrestling, BJJ, MMA.)

The workbook, as with most workbooks, is no fun. It’s “work.” This is where you actually have to work your brain, think about what you learned, and write it down on paper.

It’s all essay questions!

On the bright side, writing out your answers really helps the learning process. At least for me.

(The exam will be multiple choice, so if you can do the workbook, you’ll ace the exam!)

Now for the total opposite, the forms save you lots of work! This bundle of paper can simply be copied any time you need clients to fill out paperwork.

If you work with clients, you’ll really appreciate the forms!

The online video lessons are nothing more than an audio version of the textbook. They show some charts on the screen and read some selected material/topics from the book.

It’s not a class, and nothing is interactive. It would be much nicer to at least see animated charts!

If you enjoy reading, there’s no reason to watch the videos. The videos are only useful if you’re an auditory learner. (And if you only watch the videos, you’ll miss a few things from the text.)

precision nutrition certification video lessons

I kind of wish they did an actual class.

It would be sweet if this was more like an actual class. As in, the videos are actual lectures based on the chapter – engaging discussions rather than a plain monologue. There could be some sort of virtual classroom for discussion with fellow students, too.

They could even keep it self-paced, since there’s always going to be someone else at approximately the same point you are.

If you’ve ever taken an online class from Stanford, you know what I mean. Those are real online classes, and they’re totally awesome, but also totally free!

Last year I completed Stanford’s EP101 class to earn 15 CEUs for USA Cycling, and I’ll never forget how much fun that was. If you ever get a chance to take that class or watch any of the recordings, do it!

The point is, I think Precision Nutrition must have earned enough money that they could give students better video lessons. And it can’t be that difficult logistically, either. After all, JB says this course is part of a masters level Sport and Exercise Nutrition course he teaches at Eastern Michigan University. Set up a video camera, press record, it’s basically done!

PN Level 1: The Exam

Fast forward to the beginning of December 2014. Just about the time that college students will be taking their finals, I decided to take my exam.

Now, it’s an online exam, open book, and all multiple choice. But it turned out to be a little trickier than I expected.

I mainly reviewed for the first section – the graduate level science stuff – and did well there. It was very straightforward. Even without a formal background in this stuff, it was no trouble.

The second section, based on unit 2 of the book, which I was more familiar with from daily work (and expected to breeze through it) had tricky questions! It wasn’t overly difficult, but I had to really stop and think about the questions before answering.

You get two attempts at the exam, but I passed on my first try.

I Earned My Certificate

They mailed me a certificate from Canada signed by JB and Ryan Andrews. Actually, they sent two certificates, which is pretty cool. I’m going to get these framed.

And I’m now listed in their fitness pros directory, too.

That doesn’t make me famous, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to get your name out there!

precision nutrition certification

Continuing Education Requirements

With most certifications, you need to do some type of continuing education to keep your certification/license in good standing. Sometimes it’s a lot of work, and sometimes it costs a lot of money.

PN cuts you a break. You do have to re-certify every two years, but it only requires passing the exam again, and you get to take it for free!

Most places would charge a hefty fee to take the exam again. PN just wants me to stay educated and informed.

And that is one more reason I’m happy with the class!

Consider This Before Signing Up

I’m happy with the course because I did my research beforehand and realized that the course would provide me what I wanted. Here are some of the points I researched that you should consider.

The Price Tag

The course wasn’t cheap. Even with the $200 pre-sale discount, it was still $800. You could buy a power meter for that price. So, be absolutely certain that this is something useful to you.

Earn Some CEUs

Can you earn CEUs for taking/passing the PN Level 1 exam? Yes. (That might make the cost worthwhile.)

Many top organizations will award you credits. Some of them include:

  • ACE
  • ACSM
  • NASM
  • NSCA

With those organizations, the PN curriculum is pre-qualified for CEUs, which means that CEUs are guaranteed upon successful completion of the course.

But you’ll notice that organizations such as USA Cycling and USA Triathlon do not include this course in their list of approved CEU providers. You can submit it for possible approval, but the choice to award your CEUs is at their discretion.

Access to PN coaching tools

You get hard copies and digital copies of all sorts of forms that you can use in the day-to-day operations of your coaching. It’s like getting a jump-start on your personal training business.

The forms provide you with a proven system, and they’re sure to ease your administrative hassle. Your clients benefit, too.

Preparing these yourself would take a lot of time, and that factored heavily into my decision.

precision nutrition certified avatar

You can put neat initials after your name.

I didn’t find this out until after I passed, but yes, you can put a neat abbreviation after your name to signify your accomplishment. The initials are “Pn1” (which most people will think is a typo for PhD.)

So I can write: Levi Bloom, Pn1

Mostly I wanted the “PN certified” avatar displayed by my name in the PN members forums, but this is cool, too.

A Few Questions I’ve Been Asked

Here are some questions asked by others; maybe you want to know the same thing.

Is it worth the money?

It depends. It was worth it for me. I don’t know if it will be worth it for you. But hopefully if you read this review, you can figure out if the program is going to be worth it for you!

Is the nutrition info good? Like, research-backed science?

The book is full of research-backed science. Because it is science. It’s not a textbook full of nutrition advice. It’s a science textbook explaining how the human body works.

This is the underlying physiology on which their nutrition advice is based!

If you want help with your own nutrition, or want to learn the nutrition concepts PN teaches to clients, you can get that in the PN system I mentioned earlier. And it will only cost you $49 (not $999.)

Are there other certification courses you would recommend?

No. The only other courses I’ve seen in a similar price range had no appeal to me, and since I didn’t take them, I certainly can’t recommend them to you.

Here are a few in the $500 range if you want to check them out:

A.C.E. Health Coach Certification
http://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/health-coach-certification/default.aspx

I.S.S.A. Fitness Nutrition Certification
http://www.issaonline.edu/certification/nutrition-certification/

I.S.S.N. Nutrition Certification
http://www.sportsnutritionsociety.org/CISSN.html

If you’re just looking for a piece of paper that says you did a nutrition course, those will work. I don’t know how much science you’ll learn, but I do know that none of them are going to show you how to get real-world results with your clients. The PN course is truly one of a kind.

Is this anything like being a Registered Dietitian?

Not even close. This program is much faster, much cheaper, and more accessible than what goes into becoming an RD. At the same time, you get no medical license here. You won’t be qualified to practice what’s referred to as “medical nutrition therapy.”

But since I work with athletes who are generally healthy and just trying to improve their performance or body composition, rather than sick people trying to get healthy, this was the more appropriate course for me. (Most dietetics programs don’t even offer a sport and exercise nutrition course.)

Will I get a raise or make big money?

Don’t expect to get a raise or find a job based on your Pn1 cert. It just doesn’t work that way.

You do the certification to improve your knowledge and skills. Then you use those improved skills to help people, get results, and make them fit and happy. And you can use those newfound skills and proven track record to get a promotion.

Did the directory listing get you more clients?

No. At least not yet. (It’s only been up since December 2014.)

I would assume that most people going to their website are looking at the Lean Eating program, anyway.

Have more questions?

If you have more questions about the actual course, I’ll refer you to this page:

www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrition-certification-faq

If you have any questions on my experience, please ask them in the comments section below!

 

Why Precision Nutrition’s Certification was right for me:

I guess my decision really boiled down to these two big factors:

1. PN is a proven system for coaching people, not just a certification course.

I took the course to learn how to be a better coach, and that’s exactly what I learned. You could take away my certificate and it wouldn’t change a thing.

2. I genuinely like Precision Nutrition.

I really like everything about Precision Nutrition and their whole team. I like the book and I like their recipes. I go on their member forums all the time, and I follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

There’s a connection with the people there that I’ve never felt with another organization. (Which might be a sign of how good they are at coaching!)

 

I recommend Precision Nutrition’s Certification for:

It’s going to be best suited for you, if you’re a personal trainer or fitness coach with existing clients and you want to get better results for them, or you want to offer bigger packages (fitness + nutrition) at a higher price point.

Or perhaps you’re a cycling coach who wants a proven nutrition program suitable for athletes that you can add into your services.

Anyone who just got any type of coaching license and wants to get better at not only working with clients, but getting clients to actually do what you want them to. This is the course for you.

 

Now is the time to get started!

The enrollment for the next opening officially begins on Wednesday, March 11th. That’s just a few short weeks away.

If you want to get certified, go here:

www.precisionnutrition.com/fitness-pros

If you are even half serious about it, get on the pre-sale list like I did. There’s no obligation to order, but it will give you the chance to order on Tuesday, and you get $200 off. Do that here:

www.precisionnutrition.com/certification-presale-list

If money is tight, there’s even a payment plan that makes it $79 monthly for 12 months.

 

precision nutrition smart coaching starter kit

Not ready to commit yet? They still offer a totally free guide that you’ll find extremely useful.

It’s called The Smart Coaching Starter Kit and includes all this:

==> What nutrition advice you can actually give.

==> How to get clients to follow that nutrition advice.

==> How to assess your client’s nutrition needs.

==> How to devise a nutrition plan based on that assessment.

==> What stats to measure and exactly how to measure them.

==> How to optimize a nutrition plan based on those stats.

==> 7 nutrition assessment forms we use every single day here at Precision Nutrition.

Download it now at this link:

==> The Smart Coaching Starter Kit

 

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17 Comments
  1. Thank you for going into such great detail on this! I just saw that PRECISION NUTRITION was ranked in Fast Company’s “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Fitness” list and wondered how it worked.

    • @Chase

      Taking this course won’t get you into Fast Company right away, but it’s a step in the right direction! Know that you’re learning from that type of innovative company, though, and let that inspire you!

  2. Nice review thanks. I joined the September 2014 intake and finished all the workbook materials a month ago but have been procrastinating over the exam. Now I’m re-doing the workbook after reading people’s comments about failing first go (in the PN exam prep forum). However, studying the book and using the methodology is already helping me. Can’t wait to put that Pn1 after my name!

    • @Burgess

      Awesome! Yeah, it’s great info and applicable to so many situations! Good luck on the exam – sounds like you’ve put in the work and will pass first try!

  3. Thanks, Levi. This was just the review info I was looking for. And thanks for including the link to the free report.

  4. Thanks so much for posting all this detail. I have been considering doing the certification for a few months now. I see that PN offers programs for customers. If you get the Coaching certification, are you able to coach the clients that they sign up?

    • @Barbara

      Unfortunately, no, there is no arrangement like that. You’re on your own as far as finding customers/clients. As far as I know, you’d have to get a job with PN to do that. But if that’s something that interests you, you might want to go “all in” and do both the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications. The Level 2 certification class sounds like you’d be very involved and could lead to interesting opportunities.

  5. Just in case anyone needs to fill out a Nutrition Assessment Form, I found a blank form in this site PDFfiller. This site also has several related forms that you might find useful. http://pdf.ac/1q4sG4

  6. Hi,
    Thank you so much for the in-depth review!
    What I am still confused about is:
    If I don’t have a previous coaching certification but want to help people with their nutrition and eating habits, can I do it legally with this certification?

    Thanks!

  7. @Helene

    You’re welcome! 🙂

    The answer is yes, but with certain restrictions. You can legally help people with their nutrition and eating habits as long as you avoid doing two things:

    1. Labeling yourself as a “Registered Dietitian” or any other protected title. In some states you might be able to refer to yourself as a “nutritionist” but check into specific laws to be sure.

    2. Offering “Medical nutrition therapy” (MNT).

    But to be clear, you can help people with their nutrition and eating habits without this certification, too. The certification will just help you to do a better job at it and have happier clients.

  8. Right now I am not a personal trainer. I don’t plan to be one in the future either. But I want to learn more about proper nutrition since I often work with people who are in rehab or on some prescriptions when they could be better served with more natural methods. What do you suggest.

  9. Great review! I received my certification Level 1 study materials already and I’m loving it!

    Love the “Levi’s Mom” endorsement 😉

  10. Awesome review! Thanks very much for providing your experience of the program!

  11. Questions so you do not need to RD to take this test?

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

usa cycling certified coach


pn1 certified coach
Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
Coach Levi's Mom
Hometown, PA