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Online degree programs in sports nutrition are scarce, with certificate programs being more common. These are aimed at individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree in related fields, such as sports medicine or physical therapy, or at professionals working in athletic training.
Students take courses at their own pace, watching lessons and completing tests and assignments online. There are usually no in-person requirements, so the program is fully online. The program takes between one and three years to complete, depending on whether the student is full- or part-time.
Students pursuing an online sports nutrition certificate learn how to develop meal plans that help clients improve their athletic performance and overall well being. Some programs might not offer credit, while others allow dietitians to earn continuing education credits or prepare aspiring fitness instructors for voluntary certification exams from the American College of Sports Medicine.
Sports nutrition courses vary by school and can include such subjects as vitamin use, antioxidants, protein supplementation, meal planning and sports psychology. Common core courses follow below:
Focuses on the health benefits of foods people eat on a daily basis. Students learn which foods promote cardiovascular health and which herbs and spices can improve metabolism.
Sports Nutrition and Performance
Students learn how to develop meal plans suitable for athletes. Coursework emphasizes the best foods to eat before an athletic event, along with how nutrition affects human performance and muscle recovery. The role of sports supplements, such as sports drinks, protein bars and creatine is also discussed.
Lifecycle Weight Management and Nutrition
This course discusses how nutritional needs change from childhood through young adulthood and middle age to the elder years. The importance of setting and meeting age appropriate weight goals for each stage of life is also covered as are good eating habits.
The job outlook for professionals who might pursue continuing education through a sports nutrition certificate program is fairly positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for nutritionists and dietitians are projected to increase 16% from 2014 to 2024. The median salary for these professionals was $57,910 as of May 2015.
A growth of 8% is projected for fitness trainers and instructors, and athletic trainers could see a 21% increase in job opportunities over the same decade. As of May 2015, these professionals earned median annual salaries of $36,160 and $44,670, respectively, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).
Sports nutrition certificate programs are available for students to complete entirely online. Students learn about functional foods, nutrition and performance, along with weight management.