The Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist

You are driving on the 405 during rush hour in Los Angeles when suddenly, traffic comes to a screeching halt. After coming to a stop, BOOM! You have been rear-ended. Great. As you begin to inspect the damage, the driver that hits you steps out of their car and apologizes.

“Sorry, this is only my second time driving. I just got a driving certificate from Drivers ‘R Us off the internet last night and didn’t realize it was so difficult.”

What? Did this guy just say he bought a certificate off of the internet? Would you want to ride with this guy? Probably not. How could you not be skeptical? Why does this guy get to go about driving with just a purchased certificate when I had to take a multi-part class, pass a written exam, AND pass a driving test to get behind the wheel?

How Qualified is a “Nutritionist”?

The funny thing is, most people wouldn’t trust a driver that received a non-credentialed certification off of the internet. But they do listen to someone who received a nutrition certification on the internet. If you think about it, there isn’t much of a difference between a person with an online certificate in driving and someone who has an online certificate in nutrition.

So why are people turning to “nutritionists” that only have online certificates? Or no credentials at all? Everyone eats and many people want to help others by sharing their story.

Often these individuals don’t mean harm. They have gone on a nutrition journey themselves and want to help others. But most of the information that is taught (or if any is at all) on the internet is not for elite athletes. Following guidelines from non-credentialed individuals won’t give you the results you want as an athlete (and might even cause harm!). 

Your best resource to reach your goals would be a Registered Dietitian who is Certified in Sports Dietetics! 

A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements. RDs are experts in the field of nutrition and the most reliable source to help individuals meet their nutritional goals.

RD/RDN’s have met the following criteria:

What about a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics?

A Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) can help you take your nutrition even further. CSSD individuals complete 2000 practice hours working in sports and have been a dietitian for at least 2 years. And thats just to be able to sit for the exam! After completing the exam, Sports Dietitians repeat an updated exam every 5 years since sports nutrition is an ever changing field. 

Working with a CSSD ensures you are working with a credentialed professional that can provide the most up to date nutrition guidance to meet your performance goals.

Health coaches and nutritionists provide general wellness information – not for athletes!

Currently, the term “nutritionist” has no required certification or standard. Many individuals market themselves as “nutritionists” or “health coaches”. These terms are not regulated and many individuals provide nutrition guidance with little to no formal training in nutrition. 

“Nutritionists” have not passed a national board exam or are required to keep up with the ever changing body of nutrition. Some nutritionists and health coaches have taken courses that may assist with modifying an individual’s lifestyle, but do not have training to assist athletes in meeting their goals. So be careful when you’re scrolling through your Instagram or Tik Tok feed. Anyone is allowed to take pretty pictures of their food!

A proper fueling plan must be tailored and individualized to YOU. No two athletes are the same and therefore, no two nutrition plans should be the same. Do your research when looking for a nutrition professional to meet your performance goals and make sure the individual is right for you. If you have any medical problems or are looking for the gold standard in nutrition care, look for a dietitian (RD) certified in Sports Dietetics! 

If you are looking for a certified professional to help you meet your performance goals as an athlete, apply for my coaching program. I specialize in nutrition for elite female athletes and I would be honored to help you meet your goals on and off the field. I help you with the basics as well as hydration, supplements, game day fueling, cycle syncing and more!



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