A few weeks back, I discussed my experience with obtaining my ISSA, Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) designation. I mentioned that I had purchased the credentialing course in a “bundle” along with the Precision Nutrition, PN1-NC certification (this brings the total Precision Nutrition costs to $1199). Today, I’d like to talk about my experience with the PN1-NC course and to provide my Precision Nutrition Certification review.
On a side note, unlike the personal trainer certification, which I have little to no experience with (I have known some trainers…sorta…but have never had a trainer), I have a lot more prior experience with nutrition/the Precision Nutrition certification. My wife had gone through the course years ago (it was a pre-requisite for a prior nutrition coaching job she had) and I have had two different professional nutrition coaches over the years (one of which has his PN1-NC). As such, I wasn’t going in “cold”.
Precision Nutrition and the PN1-NC seem to have a much better overall reputation than most personal trainer certifications (to include the ISSA-CPT). I have yet to come across a program graduate who wasn’t “with it” (unlike many personal trainers I have had the pleasure of dealing with over the years). My previous, personal Precision Nutrition-certified coach could break macro tracking down to a 5-year old. If you want a well-structured, designed, and respected course that will set you apart from the pack more than a personal training certificate ever would, this may be the course for you.
Table of Contents
Enrolling and getting started with the Precision Nutrition course is a little more involved than in other courses. This is mainly due to it generally taking up to two days before the enrollment is “confirmed” and also because the course text needs time to ship. For those people (like me) who don’t mind an e-book, you can still get started pretty quickly, although the physical book, as imposing as it is, is definitely easier to manage and flip through come quiz time.
The main course screen is organized and intuitive. The header bar includes links to “PNAcademy” and “PNCoach” (both “upsell” programs that I did not have/want access to), to social media accounts, and to the user profile. I never clicked on any of these areas.
The left menu bar includes a calendar (it is populated with “daily tasks” based on your perceived learning pace, but it is completely arbitrary and unnecessary), the course archive (where you will spend almost all of your time) learner’s manual (largely irrelevant, will be discussed in more detail later), resource center and professional calculator (not so useful or relevant during the course; will be valuable when coaching) link to the Facebook group (never went), and link to a course referral code (I’ve included this in my review; if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate you use it when you sign up!)
Regarding the course content structure….
The pre-Chapter 1 content includes an FAQ, course overview, “tell us about yourself” and template for planning out course study. None of this stuff is really necessary and if you want to jump right into the course content, I can assure you that you won’t be missing anything here.
From here, you will start the first of 20 course chapters. Most of the chapters are organized in a similar manner with some having additional more “real-world” content sprinkled in (we’ll discuss this in the next section). It is easy to navigate within each chapter and to pass chapters via the “Course Archive” link (which is where you will spend ~95 percent of your time in the course).
Each chapter comes down to reviewing the content and taking a quiz…that’s it. Each quiz has 10 questions worth 1 point each. You need to accumulate at least 150 points in the course to “pass” and to receive your certification.
Although the course is organized into 20 chapters, multiple chapters essentially take the form of a few main course “clusters”. These include topics like “being a good coach/listener”, “the science behind food”, “the ‘levels’ of nutrition clients”, “how to be successful running a nutrition business”. There isn’t an equal distribution of content related to these areas (the business portion only gets a chapter or two), but this content constitutes a bulk of the course.
As previously alluded to, each chapter is arranged in a similar manner. Every chapter includes a “Start Here Video” that introduces the major theme (these are between 4 and 10 minutes each…I always opted to read the included transcript), the “Chapter Reading” (where the lion’s share of the content is) and the “Exam”.
Most chapters include a “Learner’s Manual/Case Study” section(s) where you are presented with some real-world scenarios related to the chapter content and then are asked questions about them. There aren’t really “right” answers here and the questions and scenarios serve more as prompts to get the “creative juices flowing”. In theory, you are supposed to think about these items, write them down, and to save the “manual” and response for future review.
Key words here are “in theory” (I didn’t do this).
Finally, every 5th or 6th chapter, there is a “Quick Survey” section. This is more of a “quality control” item where you can give feedback on the course. I included one-word answers and rushed through these in a few seconds.
The chapter exams are open book and aren’t very difficult, even if you’re taking them while flipping through your textbook for the first time. Many of the answers are intuitive and obvious…even for those without any experience in the subject manner. Others are “major” concepts that can be found in bold-face type or near the beginning of their respective sections after a quick search.
A word of caution (and my only real “complaint” about the course): instead of making the exams “hard”, each exam has one or two “trick questions”. These involve situations where the intuitive answer is not the correct answer or situations where a single word is changed in the answer choices (so on a quick, first glance, you select the response that looks correct…while the actual correct answer is a few lines down). After getting stung by a couple of these in the first two exams, I had to slow down on later exams and actually double-checked all answers before submitting.
Unlike the ISSA-CPT course, I never really felt comfortable enough to let things slide, even when I had “cracked” the course (about halfway through). The fact that every quiz matters in determining whether or not you pass the Precision Nutrition certification course adds an additional sense of urgency that never really goes away.
With that being said, at the end of the day, you ultimately only need to achieve an average quiz score of 75% to pass the course. When you consider that probably 40 percent of the quiz questions are “gimmes”, (and that the first few chapters on, like, “being a good coach” allow you rack up a lot of “buffer” points) I don’t think there is ever a time where one would feel as though they won’t pass.
I personally had accumulated enough points to “pass” the course by the end of the 16th unit so I could pretty much coast to the end of the course (I still put in effort and did pretty well on the last four quizzes…I’m a nerd).
It is important to note that I am separating the concepts of difficulty as they relate to “passing the course” and “acquiring the body of knowledge necessary to be an effective nutrition coach”. In my opinion, the former is not overly difficult to do while the latter will take quite some time, even for the most dedicated individuals.
You can complete this certification in less than a week if you care enough to. Also, if you’re more interested in just getting the certification and then learning the content later, you don’t even need to read/review the materials before taking the open-book/open-book quizzes.
When I start a new course or do start on any other type of new venture for the first time, I generally put in a bit more time than I normally would in order to ensure I’m setting myself up for success. This was my approach with the PN1-NC. I set a goal to complete one chapter each day (which, according to some of the “Success Stories” presented in the course, would still have put me on a waaaay faster track than the “average” graduate).
After sustaining this pace for the first 4 chapters, I decided to up my game. Although the chapter content was going to get more “science based” at this point, I found the quizzes to be easy enough, even just skimming the course content. After Chapter 8, I upped my pace to 3 chapters a day…and…you can see where this is going.
For those who are actually soaking everything in, doing all of the “real world” exercises, and putting items into practice as they’re going, the course could stretch over a few months. In all honesty, this approach would probably help to ensure that the information “sinks in” better, but if you opt for it, prepare for a much longer certification slog.
Who Would Benefit
My wife has repeated a number of times that she thinks that her ability to “track macros (macronutrients)” is one of the most valuable skills that she has. This skill helped her both professionally (in the form of qualifying her for a professional nutrition coaching job) as well as personally (tracking macros and food intake can really help one to control body composition and to best fuel themselves for their lifestyle needs).
That being said, anybody would benefit from this course.
Now, a person who is not interested in working professionally as a nutrition coach, but who is interested in learning about macro tracking/counting can find a plethora of information without paying $1,000+ for a certification. Additionally, with roughly 40 percent of the course content being directly related to building relationships with clients and in being a “coach”, people uninterested in this content would be wasting their time with a lot of the PN1-NC content.
For those looking to work as nutrition professionals, these days, there are a number of companies hiring PN1-NC-certified coaches to work remotely with nutrition clients. Additionally, there are a number of people who have set up their own nutrition coaching services with their PN1-NC and do quite well for themselves. It should go without saying that if you opt to “go pro”, you really need to gain a thorough knowledge of at least the basic concepts related to macro tracking and client relationships.
For the “pros” who are able to kickstart their careers after getting certified, the time + cost/return ratio can be pretty high. I’ve never come across a PN1-NC-certified coach in the United States who was charging less than $99 per month, per client.
At this point in my life, I’m not trying to be a professional nutrition coach. To be honest, I saw the “bundled ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC”, checked out the “normal” (ha…) price for both and went for it.
(be thankful that I did! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this Precision Nutrition certification review for you to read, today!)
I’ll update this post in the future if I decide to pursue professional nutrition coaching or if I put my certification for use in more than a “yay, I know more about macros and helping people with macros” type of manner. For now, I got nothin’ for ya.
Going through the PN1-NC certification course almost immediately after completing the ISSA-CPT, it is very apparent that the course creators and content writers are targeting very different client groups.
The ISSA content is written in a very dry, straight-forward, 80’s textbook manner. The PN1-NC content has a lot more…”personality” to include anecdotes, (lame) jokes, and even paragraph breaks in the readings (from time to time!)
While reviewing the Precision Nutrition content, I felt like a, for lack of a better term, “smarter” person than I did while reviewing personal trainer content. Maybe this was because I knew that I had to perform to a standard (albeit not huge, but whatever) during the quizzes. However, the course content itself is simply presented in a more “intelligent” manner than much of the common literature on health and fitness.
If you’re a casual learner who wants to know more about macros with no aspirations of making money off of your interest…well…Google is your friend.
If you have an interest in nutrition and are interested in “going pro”, the PN1-NC would be an excellent way to kickstart your career. When you “bundle”, the Precision Nutrition costs aren’t too high. You’ll also find that most other Precision Nutrition reviews are similarly positive. Finally, the manner in which the content is presented will likely also feel like a breath of fresh air to you.
…and, what does Fred have to say about it?