My review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program

Yes! I’m so excited to finally share my review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program today. As a note: I was given complimentary access to the course in exchange for my review, but all of these thoughts are completely my own.

I’m a certified Precision Nutrition level 1 coach!

I’ve wanted to get a nutritional credential for a very long time. And when I saw the founder of Precision Nutrition, John Berardi, speak at IDEA World & Fitness Convention last year, I was finally sold on the program and decided to go for it.

Berardi was not only incredibly intelligent and well-spoken, but he also explained to us how different nutrition looks on everyone. I loved that he wasn’t trying to preach about one specific philosophy or diet, which you so often hear with nutrition experts. He was all about making nutrition work for the individual in a real setting.

Oh, and by the way, Precision Nutrition is the largest online nutrition coaching and nutrition company in the world, so they are legit. And they only open enrollment for this program twice a year, in order to keep numbers manageable and provide great service to students. We are in one of the open enrollment periods right now, so this post is coming at the perfect time.

My review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program

My review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program by A Lady Goes West

I recently completed the Fourth edition of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification.

This is a brand new edition with many more features than previous editions. It includes a redesigned curriculum with more resources, a new approach to presenting the information and even more helpful tips on how to actually study and integrate this program into your life.

According to the folks at Precision Nutrition, here’s what you should get out of your level 1 certification:

  • The ability to feel confident and qualified to coach nutrition
  • The resources to help people get life-changing results
  • The tools to build a successful and sustainable coaching business 

What is the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program?

The Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program is a do-at-your-own pace online course designed to help coaches understand and deliver helpful nutrition information in a real-life way to clients with real-life situations.

And from the folks at Precision Nutrition:

Equally rooted in the latest nutrition science and behavior-change psychology, it’s a proven and practical coaching system that shows you exactly what to do at every stage of the nutrition coaching process — from the very first time you speak with a client, until they reach all their goals.”

What are some of the big principles that you learn through the Precision Nutrition level 1 program?

The first thing you will learn when you begin the Precision Nutrition level 1 course is that there is no RIGHT way to eat. There is no ONE diet philosophy.

And as coaches, we have to help people find their deep health, which means a whole-person, whole-life approach — not just eating salads, but focusing on mental, emotional, physical and environmental health. LOVE that!

If you are hoping to find black-and-white answers, (except for the science portion, which of course, is very thorough and in depth), you won’t find those here with Precision Nutrition. That’s because the experts who designed this course have found in their many years of experience, that not only is every single client different, but every single body reacts differently to food and exercise as well. It’s all a try-it-and-change-course way of making small adjustments to help people improve their lives.

You will always go back to the basics too, and you will start even the most advanced clients with the basics: Proper fueling, proper recovery, hydration, etc. And you will always ask clients to check in with how they feel and have them make note of what works best for them in their personal “Owner’s Manual.”

The Precision Nutrition approach is not just about counting macros (and for some clients, you won’t even ask them to count). It’s about working together as a team with your clients and serving as a supporter to empower your clients to achieve behavior change to reach their goals — all the way from losing weight to competing in a physique competition.

In this program, we learned a lot about estimating portion sizes with your hands and how to teach this, how to connect with clients and manage an actual coaching session, as well as how to work with clients to get their buy-in on every single thing you suggest, so that they are more likely to be successful. 

I won’t give away too much here, but I think these ideas are important to note, if you’re considering the program.

My review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 program - by A Lady Goes West - April 2020

Who is a good candidate for the Precision Nutrition course?

This course is designed for people with an established interest and knowledge in the fitness or wellness world. It’s perfect for personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and even group fitness instructors who want to be able to serve their clients better.

It’s also great for people who want to transition into a health-related field or offer additional services to their clients, like massage therapists or health coaches, or anyone who wants to understand nutrition in a way that they can coach and teach to people in real-life situations.

Honestly, I think that all personal trainers should go through this course, because there’s only so much you can do to help someone with exercise. The tools you get from the Precision Nutrition level 1 course are amazing.

And also heads up to trainers: You can charge more and offer your nutrition help as an over-and-above service, you don’t just give it away for free while your client is working out in front of you. This is a real value-add for your business, and you can do it online or in person.

I asked the Precision Nutrition folks what percentage of people coming through the program were already in fitness. And apparently, almost 75 percent of students in the PN level 1 program are currently working in any of the three fields: health, fitness or nutrition.

What do you get when you sign up?

Your complete certification package.

You get access to the private Facebook group for Precision Nutrition students and graduates. You get three textbooks and a workbook sent to your home for you to keep.

And you have access to an online portal where you can watch videos, take exams and download tons of forms for your nutrition coaching business. (You also get 90 days of a free upgraded program called ProCoach, which is a system Precision Nutrition sells, but I did not try that out.)

Finally, you get access to all 20 exams you need to take and pass to complete the course, so there is no additional fee for taking the tests.

Precision Nutrition level 1 book - by A Lady Goes West - April 2020

How long does the Precision Nutrition course take to complete?

The course is completely go-at-your-own pace. You can do it as quickly or as slowly as you want. There are 20 chapters, and I decided to do one chapter a week — so it took me just over 20 weeks to complete. The average time is about four months.

Each chapter and all its components (textbook, workbook, video, case studies, exam) should take you between two to four hours to finish.

It would be reasonable to finish the course in a couple of months, if you wanted to do it quickly. However it’s not designed to be crammed, so I’d suggest doing a little bit at a time. 

How hard are the exams and what do you need to pass them?

Each exam is based solely on the previous chapter, and it features 10 questions. The exams are straightforward, and there are no trick questions. I found most of the questions easy to answer after reading the textbook, watching the video and completing the workbook. Although there were a few times where something seemed totally foreign, and I couldn’t answer it. This was rare.

You need to get a 75 percent at least on each exam (20 total exams) to pass the course. If you don’t meet that, you can try taking the exams again. I believe you can retry up to five times. I never needed to redo an exam and didn’t think they were all that hard.

And by the way, the exams are on the honor system. Because you do them yourself online, technically you could look at your textbook if you wanted. But I’d recommend actually learning the material for yourself and giving the tests a go based on your knowledge.

Are you a certified nutritionist after completing the Precision Nutrition program?

No, you are a certified Precision Nutrition level 1 coach.

There are several titles in the nutrition world. One of the hardest to achieve is dietitian, and this requires a lot of schooling, and that’s not what you get when completing this course.

As a certified Precision Nutrition coach, you cannot prescribe meal plans or medications or offer medical advice.

You can, however, refer your clients out to as many professionals as needed to support their growth.

What you can do is coach them on the best ways to approach their nutrition and deep health, with supportive discussions and tools — not official prescriptions.

How is the Precision Nutrition course structured?

There are three units, and they go like this: Introductory information, tips on learning, lots of science and exact ways to put principles into practice for clients with different goals. 

  1. Unit 1: The Precision Nutrition approach, including your learning plan, what makes a great coach, how to help people change and what makes good nutrition.
  2. Unit 2: The science of nutrition, including systems and cells, the GI tract, energy transformation and metabolism, energy balance, macronutrients, micronutrients, water and fluid balance, stress, recovery and sleep. (The longest unit, and the one that took me the longest to get through.)
  3. Unit 3: Working through the Precision Nutrition coaching process, including coaching in practice, working with level 1, level 2 and level 3 clients, special scenarios and business 101.

Nutrition books - by A Lady Goes West - April 2020

You move from the first chapter through the 20th chapter.

The suggested study pattern looks like this:

  • Read the chapter in the textbook.
  • Answer the questions about the chapter in the workbook.
  • Head to the Precision Nutrition online module and watch the chapter video.
  • Review the chapter case studies and answer online questions.
  • Take the 10-question chapter exam.

It took me about 90 minutes to three hours per chapter or so, but a bit longer for some of the more in-depth science chapters. And I followed the study pattern exactly for each chapter.

How much does the Precision Nutrition course cost?

The program costs about $1,000.

There are two payment options:  You can pay $99 per month or a one-time fee of $999, for a bit of a savings. This is a 30 percent discount from the normal price, as the program is currently on sale.

As I said in the beginning, open enrollment only happens twice a year for this program. We are in one of those periods right now, and the sale pricing listed above lasts for about two more weeks.

Find out more about signing up for the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification program here.

Overall, my thoughts on the Precision Nutrition course …

I loved this course. I looked forward to every chapter. The writing style in the textbook was better than any other textbook I’ve ever read. In fact, the folks at Precision Nutrition made it fun. They also made it real. 

At times I got a bit lost in the science portion, but I liked that the writers stressed the fact that memorizing names of processes in the body is not as important as understanding the why behind how food affects your system. Basically — Precision Nutrition tells you only what you need to know in the science part, and even that, is quite a lot. But this isn’t a science course. This is a coaching course.

I plan to write a few more posts about big topics that I think are worthy of sharing with you, so look out for those in the future.

PN level 1 course - by A Lady Goes West - April 2020

Here are some pros and cons … (and there are definitely more pros than cons!)

Pros of the Precision Nutrition course

  • Readability and relatability. This is not a boring course. I loved the easy-to-follow and conversational writing style of the textbook, and the realistic workbook prompts and case studies.
  • Designed for coaching. This course does not just give you the science and expect you to roll with it. The creators of Precision Nutrition have adapted everything for you in a way that you can explain, coach and implement with your real-world diverse clients in a step-by-step way.
  • Everything is online and at your own pace. You can do this entire course from anywhere at any time. It’s all online, except for the textbooks and workbooks that are mailed to you. I love the fact that you don’t have to go to a classroom or schedule an in-person exam. It’s all you, on your schedule.
  • Case studies and in-text examples. I absolutely LOVED the case studies at the end of each chapter, where we got to read about a real-life client’s problem, and how they were able to fix it with help from a Precision Nutrition coach. I would have enjoyed seeing even more of these.
  • The videos. I looked forward to watching the chapter videos and can totally see myself going back to watch them when I need a refresher on certain topics. The videos are funny, have great narration, animation and all the important points about a nutrition science or real-life coaching subject you need to know.
  • What’s on tap emails. Every time you finish a chapter, you’ll get an email the next day with links to the things you need to do for the next chapter. This serves as a great reminder in your email inbox that you should schedule some time to focus on your Precision Nutrition course soon.
  • Digital and printable forms to support your business. The Precision Nutrition level 1 coaching program comes with tons of tools you can use to begin and support your nutrition coaching business, like macro calculators, readiness assessments, questionnaires for your clients, fats shopping lists, hand-size portion guides, eating journals and so much more. They give you everything you need to get going, and you can continue to access the online forum after you’ve completed the course.
  • Continuing education credits. I’m a NASM certified personal trainer, and I received a TON of credits to help me stay up-to-date with the NASM organization by completing this course. 1.9 CEUs to be exact. Yes!
  • 45-day return policy. If you start the course, and it’s not for you, you can send the materials back in and get all of your money back within 45 days. That’s pretty generous.

Cons of the Precision Nutrition course

  • Cumulative reminders and knowledge. Although each chapter builds off one another, because there isn’t a cumulative exam the end or even a cumulative study guide, at times I felt like I would forget things I had learned and then I had to go back to review them. I wish there were more materials to “pull it all together” if you will. And I would’ve liked the challenge to prepare for and take a final exam from the entire course.
  • Access to all textbook chapters digitally. I totally understand why you can’t download the entire textbook online, because that certainly presents some copyright challenges. However, I actually wouldn’t have minded the ability to read the textbook online if I needed. You get the first three chapters of the book digitally, because they want you to be able to get started as soon as you sign up — even while your hardcopy books are in the mail. But the rest of the chapters have to be read in the textbook. (Updated to add: Precision Nutrition now offers all the chapters digitally! YAY!)
  • The textbooks didn’t stay open. And here’s my beef with the textbooks: The nature of the way they were created and bound made it so that they didn’t stay open on a page. I found this frustrating, when I wanted to take notes or save my page. If I took a hand off a page, the entire thing would spring closed. Maybe this is insignificant, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who was annoyed by the books in this way.
  • There’s no “answer guide” to the workbook questions. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t go somewhere to find suggested answers to the workbook questions you answer after reading the textbook. Maybe some people would use the guide to cheat, and yes, you can find the answers in the textbook — but I would’ve liked to be able to check somewhere. I did, however, find that all of my personal answers were saved online, so I could go back and see what I wrote if I wanted.
  • You have to switch gears and go online to look at the forms. Oftentimes in the textbook, a form would be referenced, and the only way to find the form would be to go on the computer to the Precision Nutrition forum and find it. I thought that seemed like a difficult extra step and would sometimes not reference the form. I wanted it all in the text in front of me, and I wanted the book to stay open too. 🙂

What did I learn from the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification course?

I learned so much, especially about behavior change and how the body works.

However, the biggest thing I learned is that there is no one way to eat. There is no diet that is best for everyone. And the job of a nutrition coach isn’t to deliver data to a coachee, it’s to help the coachee come to decisions on what works best for them with trial, error and very small changes step by step. 

I wasn’t sure if I would do my review of the Precision Nutrition course and come away with an exact macronutrient ratio and eating style to prescribe to all people. Not at all. I came away with the tools to help suggest and create loose guidelines for clients, based on each individual client’s age, gender, lifestyle and current situation. 

I’m so appreciative of the Precision Nutrition folks for giving me complimentary entry to this course so that I could review it and share with you. I learned so much and can’t wait to use my knowledge moving forward.

What’s next for me with Precision Nutrition?

I haven’t exactly decided how I will use my coaching services in an official capacity, but there’s no doubt you’ll be hearing more tips and tricks on the blog that you can apply to your life. Stay tuned for more on this.

Thank you so much for coming by to read my review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program today!

If you want to follow along more with me, head on over and say hi on Instagram. Stay well! 🙂 

Questions of the day

How was your weekend?

What are your biggest struggles with nutrition right now?

What are some questions you have about nutrition?

Have you done any continuing education lately in your field?

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  1. Hi Ashley!

    I noticed no one commented on this post, so I took it upon myself to show you some love and appreciation for blogging for us long-time readers.

    A year or so ago, I won a pair of leggings from you and have worn them frequently. Thanks for that, too!

    On another note, my husband was watching Qball on Netflix and noticed the team playing against the prisoners were coaches from the Warriors! I’m sure Dave is aware of this, but figured I’d let you know!

    Hoping you’re hanging in there with this unusual life we are all currently living! : )

    1. Hi Alaina! Well aren’t you sweet! Thanks for saying hi! And I’ll pass that detail on to Dave — love to hear about all things Warriors of course. And yes, this is an unusual way of life. I’m certainly hanging in there, but some days are better than others. I’m wishing you well too, my friend! 🙂 xoxo

    2. That’s a great review Alaina. I was looking for the best program. PN really sounds great, I’m put off by the issue with them now charging fees every 2 years for the re certification that was to be at no cost though.

    1. Yes, Sandra! You should totally go for it — not only can you apply the principles in your own life, but with those that you coach and help! 🙂

  2. Hey Ashley,

    Thanks so much for the kind words!

    So happy you had a chance to attend my talk at IDEA last year.

    And I hope this first time emcee kept you somewhat entertained… or maybe just not incredibly annoyed 😉

    Anyway, am excited to see you took the plunge, went through the PN program, and got lots out of it.

    High fives!


    1. Hi John! Wow, what an honor to have you read my review. Yes — I was part of the SHINE session at IDEA last year that you spoke at with Emma Barry (one of my Les Mills fitness heroes). We all truly appreciated your time, especially knowing that you don’t do speaking engagements all that often. And yes, I loved the PN program and have been fielding TONs of questions about it after posting this review and on IG, and I keep steering everyone toward it. Thanks again! 🙂

  3. I’m doing the course now and the textbooks not staying open drives me nuts! I also agree re: an answer key (maybe released digitally after you finish each chapter test?) And a summary exam would be good too… I got bogged down in the science chapters and now feel like I need to review the first five….

    1. Hi Charlene! The science chapters were definitely the hardest for me. And I think going back to watch the videos for the first few chapters is probably good idea to make sure you can pull it all together. Thanks so much for saying hi and sharing your thoughts. Good luck to you with the rest of the course. 🙂

  4. Thank you for the thorough review. I am working my way through health and wellness coaching but was looking for an in-depth program on nutrition science and applicable coaching methods. Finding Precision Nutrition seemed too good to be true, but your review helped me out greatly. I will definitely be joining their program!

    1. Hi Caroline! I’m so glad you found this review helpful — and YESSS, I think Precision Nutrition will be a great addition to support health and wellness coaching for your clients. Good luck to you! 🙂

  5. Hi Ashley,

    Thank you for writing a really comprehensive and informative review. I liked the structure of your review, your suggestions, insights and openness demonstrated openness, integrity and authenticity.

    Stylish photographs, well written…

    I now want to read more of your work…

    Thank you very much

    Denzil Bentley

    1. Hi Denzil! Thanks so much for reading, and I appreciate your kind words! Are you considering the Precision Nutrition program?

      1. I am actually, just got an opening email for limited places tomorrow.

        I’ve been a PT/ gym designer for 30+ years, 26 years in Goldman Sachs (London) and was considering doing my Phd this year. Read Change Maker and it echoed my personal frustrations with the industry, so decided to take another look at Precision Nutrition.

        Your review was extremely helpful.

        Thank you

          1. Hi Ashley,

            I did the Precision Nutrition course on your recommendation. It was one of the best fitness / health related courses I’ve done. Very solid in all areas and the coaching direction was exceptional.

            Hope all is well,


          2. Congrats on doing the PN course! I’m so glad you liked it. They have a great program for coaches. Good luck to you, Denzil!

  6. This review was extremely well written, organized, and balanced. Good work! It helped me a lot. Thank you

  7. Hi Ashley, i chanced on your post and I’m glad i did. It gives me more confidence and assurance of the investment i have made towards my career. I started PN certification level 1 last week and my textbooks have been shipped. I am just waiting for them to arrive and mean time i am reading the digital ones to help keep me going. I already completed chapter one and had a 90% score for the exam. I have bookmarked this very post so i can refer to it whenever i am suggesting the program to others. And i will certainly follow you on Instagram to continue keeping in touch. Much love to you and your family.

    1. Hi there! That’s so great you’re doing the Precision Nutrition course — I thoroughly enjoyed it. Good luck and have fun with what you learn! 🙂

  8. Hi Ashley,

    Do you know if, when you buy the PN level 1, you get lifetime access to your course?

    Thanks for the great review!

    1. Hi Ana! Thanks for reading! YES, you do get lifetime access to your PN material, even if you don’t go through the recertification process every two years. It’s a lot of good stuff!

  9. Very interested but im covered with fear not being able to use it as a job somewhere. Like am i gonna be working with dietitians or nutritionist? Public health team etc.. Are they gonna need me? Like whats my job after? Other than doing your own business, writing about nutrition or start making clients??

    1. Hi Chris! What you do with your PN1 is totally up to you! A lot of health coaches, group fitness instructors and trainers like to add these services to what they’re already doing. You could potentially join a health coaching team as nutrition support, or you could expand your knowledge and get another certification other than this. It’s all about working with people — so however you want to work with people is how you use it. There’s no specific job path or role with PN1! If you’re interested, go for it, and see where you can use it! 🙂

  10. Im not saying that i will be a dietitian or nutritionist haha thats very feel education there… Will i be working with them or Do they even need me or not. I just WANT to know where i could possibly work and What role

  11. Thank you so much for your post. This gives me a better idea of what to expect from this certification. I just graduated as a clinical psychologist and I’m very interested nutritional psychology. There’s a big connection between the foods we eat & our mental health. I think this would be a great training to help me understand the fundamentals of nutrition. Going back to school to get additional degrees is not an option for me at this point, so I’m glad this course is fully online and go at your own pace. From the way you described it, it sounds totally doable. Thanks!

    1. I think you’d get a lot out of this course to add to what you already know through school! Good lyck, Angela, and thanks for sharing and saying hi.

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