What the Precision Nutrition Certification Taught Me

I am a proud PN Level 1 Certified Professional…

I was first introduced to Precision Nutrition (PN) back in 2011-2012. I was in undergrad and at the beginning of my fitness journey as well as in the early stages of my interest in sports nutrition (back when I thought that I wanted to specialize in working with athletes). I had read several articles by Dr. John Berardi, co-founder of PN.


Since that time, I have watched the PN “brand” expand and have continually been impressed by the FREE articles and infographics that they make available online.

And, even as a Registered Dietitian with extensive and advanced nutrition knowledge, I knew that I wanted their certification.


Because it’s about so much more than just food.

Most of my schooling and internship focused on the science and theory of nutrition, metabolism, and behavior change. Not on the actual practice and implementation part.

Upon self-review, I knew that my counseling skills were lacking and I was doing a disservice to my patients with my lack of experience.

So, I invested a good amount of my own finances and finally enrolled in the PN Level 1 Certification Course in Fall 2016.

For those who are curious, and I know that you are, the certification course costs $800-1,000 depending on payment plan and if you were on the presale list or not.


What were the most useful things that you learned?

I work with a relatively low-income, low-education, rural population. Some are not great with reading. Some are not great with math. Most are older and many are not tech-savvy nor do they have access to a lot of the materials that most of you who are reading this can hardly imagine or remember a world without.

I frequently found myself thinking: How do I help these people?

Above all else, I have found the hand portion control guides to be the most helpful when working with individuals in practice. If they can count to 2, and if they have 2 hands, then that’s all I need to be able to help them start making some great changes to their diet and their health.

Not every diabetic can count carbs. Not every severely obese person can count calories. But most of them can count to 2 and can be taught general food categories like protein, vegetables, fats, and carbohydrates. I have found much better patient compliance and understanding once switching to using hand portion models rather than more extensive strategies such as keeping detailed food records and macronutrient distributions.

Yes, it would be “fun” to have those higher-level clients, like physique athletes and competitors. But those are not the individuals who need my help the most. Those are not the individuals whose very health and well-being depend on my nutritional guidance in conjunction with the other members of their medical care team. I don’t want to be preaching to the choir. I want to be talking to the person who was told to never eat anything green because they were prescribed warfarin or the diabetic who was told that avoiding eating sugar would help them lower their blood glucose.


What is the course like?

You are sent a textbook and workbook. It is a self-paced online course. You read the text, watch videos, answer questions, take a quiz (open resource), and move on. You can complete it as quickly or as slowly as you would like or have the time for. I set a goal to complete one chapter per week, so the course took me about 3-4 months to finish. At the end, you’re certified! No continuing education credits, no addition fees. You’re mailed a neat certificate of completion and get to add the credentials “Pn1” behind your name.

I felt that the course was very well laid out and the supporting material will be something I can and will refer back to if and when I choose to pursue more of an online-only, health and wellness-focused clientele rather than the patients that I currently see for medical nutrition therapy.

Was it worth it?

Yes. No doubt. While very little of the nutritional information presented was new to me, about HALF of the course is about counseling, coaching, and behavior change. Beyond just the theory. I know what the Transtheoretical Model says. I know Stages of Change. What I didn’t know, though, was how to connect with my patients and distinguish between what I think they need to know vs. what they really need to know given where they are at.

It’s all well and good to know the “perfect” diet for someone with diabetes or pressure ulcers, or cancer. It’s quite another when this person is out in the free-living world, not stuck in a hospital bed with all their surroundings being controlled for. It’s quite another when your patient worries about being able to afford their utility bills and relies on a food pantry to get through the month. It’s quite another when your client is carrying for an ailing mother and found herself the sudden sole caregiver for their 2-year-old grandchild.

That’s what this certification taught me. That it’s more important to focus on the big rocks than it is on the grains of sand that fill in the cracks.


Interested in becoming a PN Coach yourself? Join the presale list and be notified when the next class opens up! (Note: this is not a sponsored link, I was not asked to write this article, I am receiving no incentives, monetary or otherwise, for publishing this. I just like to share what I love and have found beneficial for me, both personally and professionally.)


One thought on “What the Precision Nutrition Certification Taught Me

  1. Heather Johnson says:

    Thanks for writing this! I am about to graduate from a dietetic program through a university and don’t think I’ll be getting my RD. But I was checking this out as something to compliment a DTR and am glad to get an opinion from someone who is in the dietetic arena.

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