Nutritionists and dietitians evaluate and assess the health of an individual. Based on their knowledge and research, they advise their clients on the best food to consume. Dietitians and nutritionists are both professionals in diet and food, and both of them are considered to be healthcare professions.  Nevertheless, there is a slight difference between the traditional nutritionist and a sports nutritionist as well as between a sports dietitian and a traditional dietitian. The role of a registered dietitian is slightly different from that of a sports dietitian. In this article, we will be analysing some of the differences between a sports dietitian and a sports nutritionist.

What Is a Dietician

There are certain certifications and licensures a dietitian needs to earn in order to work. After getting a university degree, a dietitian needs to complete a practice program or internship at a food service firm, health care facility, hospital, and more. After completing the program or internship, a student needs to write the national examination. On passing the exam, the student can start practising as a registered dietitian. 
Dietitian with bun and fresh apple.
A dietitian organizes a nutrition and food plan. They also promote healthy eating habits to treat or prevent health conditions. Some of the places dietitians work include clinics, hospitals, health care facilities, colleges, and some of them go into private practice. 

Who Is a Sports Dietitian

A sports dietitian is different from a traditional dietician. Sports dietitians are dietitians who go the extra mile to complete further study and meet additional requirements to become sports dietitians. This extra mile is what separates sports dietitians from traditional dieticians.  A sports dietitian requires one year of experience (minimum) in the field post-graduation because they can take on the sports nutrition course. If the dietitian has been a top-level athlete themselves, they are exempted from this rule.  The sports nutrition course is an intensive course that lasts for four days. However, pre-education is the prerequisite for attending this course. After the completion of the course, the student will be an accredited sports dietitian. If you are looking for the best online dietitian, you should make sure the person is registered and accredited. Sports dietitians are professionals in optimizing the performance of an athlete through food. Interestingly, a good dietitian does not only render his or her services to professional athletes but also everyday exercisers. 

What Is a Nutritionist?

The term “Nutritionist” is one of the most confusing to understand. In some parts of the world, the term “Nutritionist” isn’t as regulated as a dietitian. The term “nutritionist” is broader and it tends to have a more general meaning. There is very little to no protection on the title, which means anyone can use it, unlike titles such as “doctor” that require proof of qualifications.  There is no professional training for nutritionists; hence, they should not be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of any health condition. Any dietitian can be a nutritionist but not all nutritionists can be a dietitian. The reason why this term is very confusing is that one can be a nutritionist in several ways.  You do not have to meet any technical requirement to call yourself a nutritionist. Nevertheless, there are nutritionist certification boards, and applicants can only take their certification exams when they have an advanced degree with practical experience. It is only after they pass the certification exam that they can earn a protected title – Certified Nutritionist Specialist (CNS). 

What Is a Sports Nutritionist?

Nutritionists who have a passion for fitness and sports can become professional sports nutritionists. They teach sports athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness buffs how to optimize their performance on the court or field while enhancing their health with nutrition. 
Sports Nutritionist
Sports nutritionists offer preservative care techniques to athletes and fitness enthusiasts to help optimize the quality of life. The role of a registered dietitian is different from that of a sports nutritionist.  Sports nutritionists work with their clients to assess their lifestyle, find out what their goals are, and create a working plan to help them achieve their goals. They work with a variety of people including school athletes, professional athletes, sports models, competition athletes, and fitness enthusiasts. They provide them with nutrition plans to help boost their stamina and endurance level. 

How Sports Nutritionists Work

A sports nutritionist also helps their clients recover quickly after a competition, game, or workout. They examine several things to create an effective nutrition plan for their clients such as their lifestyle, eating habits, training schedule, as well as medications or supplements that they take (if any). Assessing all these will enable the sports nutritionist to create a customized nutrition plan for the athlete or sportsperson. As an athlete or fitness enthusiast, if you have long-term and short-term goals, you can look for “sports nutritionists near me” to help you achieve your goals.  Sports nutritionists are focused on helping athletes and sportspeople to enhance their stamina, repair muscles, and get them ready for their next events. Whereas, a general nutritionist works with almost anyone to help them eat healthily, lose weight, or maintain optimal weight in a safe manner.  Nutritionist vs Dietician – What Are the Differences Between Them? Sports nutritionists and dietitians have some things in common, as they both help people to find the foods and diets to meet their nutritional and health needs. However, the major difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is their qualifications. Both professionals have and require different qualifications. Here are some of the differences between a sports dietitian and a sports nutritionist:

Dietitians Can Treat Clinical Conditions While Nutritionists Cannot

Dietitians are certified to treat certain health, clinical conditions while nutritionists are not certified to do so. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics issues certification to dietitians to practice. They are allowed to work on certain health and clinical conditions like eating disorders by recommending the right diet for the patient. Hence, if you are an athlete with any health condition, what you need is a dietitian. If you are looking for the best online dietitian, you should search for the “best sports dietitian near me.” Some organizations offer certifications to sports nutritionists, such as the BCNS. Nevertheless, the training of a nutritionist can vary. Hence, a sports dietitian can help to diagnose eating disorders of athletes and help to plan their meals to manage the symptoms of the health condition. While sports nutritionists can offer similar support in those areas, the majority of their work revolves around food behaviour. They are not certified to render any clinical condition. What they do is teach their clients about the general health and nutrition properties of food. They also offer athletes nutrition supervision to help them remain and recover quickly from their sports activities. 


A general dietitian requires a bachelor's degree with coursework. The coursework has to be approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Applicants also need supervised experience at an accredited foodservice corporation, community agency, and healthcare facility. They also need to write and pass a national exam conducted by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.  Sports dietitians also go the extra mile to study further in order to provide athletes and fitness enthusiasts with custom and personalized care. They have studied the specific needs of athletes and sportspersons, as they burn a lot of energy and require special care.  All dietitians can work as nutritionists, but not all nutritionists can work as a dietitian. However, a nutritionist can only become a dietitian when they register with the Commission of Dietetic Registration. The nutritionist profession has less protection under the law than that of the dietitian.  When it comes to the scope of practice, the order of these professions is sports dietitian, dietitian, and nutritionist. A sports dietitian is also a dietitian, and they can render their services to the public. Nevertheless, while a dietitian can also do the work of a nutritionist, it does not mean that the dietitian is always a better practitioner than the nutritionist is. As such, if you want to work with someone, you should not only consider their scope of practice but also the quality and qualification of the practitioner.


Sports nutritionists and sports dietitians render similar services to their clients. However, there is a huge difference between both professions, as they have different scopes of practice, training, qualification, and more. Sports dietitians seem to be at the top of the hierarchy, as the requirements for becoming a sports dietitian are more than that of a nutritionist. The accreditation and certification of dietitians are not the same as that of nutritionists. Sports dietitians can help with health and clinical conditions. On the other hand, sports nutritionists can only contribute to the overall health of a sportsperson by recommending the right food for them.