What is the Role of a Nutrition Coach?

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If you’re interested in working in the world of nutrition, you may be wondering what the role of a nutrition coach is.

In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what being a nutrition coach entails, and cover any questions that you may have regarding this role.


Before we start, why not check out OriGym's OriGym’s online sports nutrition courses? We’ll cover this in more detail later in our article but this will provide everything you need to know to practice as a nutrition coach!

You can find out more details if you download our course prospectus here for free!

What Exactly is a Nutrition Coach?

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Firstly, let’s run through a nutrition coach definition so you know exactly what one is! 

Nutrition coaches are exercise and nutrition professionals, who are qualified to provide general advice and support to clients to make healthier choices in their food and drink consumption.

This guidance is aimed at educating clients on how and why their diet and the foods they eat can affect:

  • General health
  • How they feel
  • The way they train
  • Their performance 

The nutrition coach definition is often determined by the qualifications they’ve obtained as to be other nutrition professionals you often need to be educated to degree level.

Rather than completing a degree, those wanting to become a nutrition coach often pursue a more vocational route, which we will explore in more detail in our next section.

Qualifications Required to Become a Nutrition Coach

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The biggest difference between a nutrition coach and other nutritional professionals is the qualifications required to do so.

We’ll have a look at these now, telling you what exactly you’ll learn and how it will help you fulfil the role of a nutrition coach!

A Level 4 Nutrition Course

To fulfil the role of a nutrition coach you won’t need a degree but can complete a vocational Level 4 nutrition course

This is the ideal option to provide you with all the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to work as a nutrition coach.

You learn how to cater nutritional advice to special populations, such as the elderly or pregnant and breastfeeding women. This way you’ll be able to cater to as broad a client range as possible.

You’ll also learn the relationship between nutrition and physical activity. This will help you to be mindful of how people’s lifestyles will affect their diet and vice versa.

One of the other essential parts is of course detailed information about macro and micronutrient content and what the optimum levels of these are for different age groups and activity levels.

This will help you to give accurate and effective advice to clients and help them achieve their goals as well as making long-term changes.

The more you can explain to your clients and inform them of the benefits of eating in a certain way, the more likely they are to stick to your advice and make lifestyle changes rather than temporary adjustments.

Upon completion, you’ll be able to advertise yourself as a qualified nutrition advisor, offering dieting assistance and nutrition advice to your clients!

A Diploma in Personal Training

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Plenty of people combine a Level 4 nutrition qualification with personal trainer courses so that they can offer a broader range of advice and provide bespoke programmes for clients.

You may wonder, can a personal trainer offer nutritional advice? You will learn some basics of nutrition with a PT course but you will need to complete a nutrition specific course if you want to call yourself a nutrition coach.

A diploma in personal training combines a Level 2 fitness instructor course and a Level 3 personal trainer qualification, allowing you to work with individuals tailoring a plan to their specific needs. 

This will also allow you to increase your income because you’ll be able to provide exercise and nutrition advice together, working one-on-one with a client to suggest how to support their training with their diet and vice versa.

For example, Mandy at Eat Well & Exercise offers all of this and advertises herself as both a personal trainer and a nutrition coach:

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Clients are much more likely to see results with a combination of nutritional advice and exercise and, by offering both, you’ll be boosting your reputation for success and your income at the same time!

What is the Role of a Nutrition Coach?

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In this section we’re going to answer the question ‘what does a nutrition coach do?’, by breaking down their exact roles and responsibilities.

Nutrition coaching often involves helping with changing behaviours so that clients have the tools to make long-lasting, positive lifestyle changes to achieve their health and fitness goals.

A nutrition coach (compared to a nutritionist or a dietician) can provide general advice but isn't qualified to be part of the medical treatment of complex dietary needs or medical conditions.

Nutrition coaches tend to work in a variety of non-clinical, less formal settings, including:

  • Online
  • In gyms and health centres
  • For charities
  • In schools

Within these settings, they work with individuals on a one-to-one basis, who are looking for general nutritional guidance to help them implement change. This includes:

  • Those wanting to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way
  • Clients wanting to improve their relationship with food
  • Clients looking to optimise their nutrition to help meet their fitness-related goals

This is why it’s common for a nutrition coach to do so in tandem with becoming a personal trainer, and vice versa, so that they can offer a holistic approach to goals combining exercise and nutrition.

Nutrition coach roles also sometimes involve working with small groups and running educational seminars on how nutrition relates to weight and general health management.

The Role of a Nutrition Coach is to Find Out About the Client's Current Lifestyle 

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So, now you know the nutrition coach definition, and the basis of what they do, what else does a nutrition coach do to help people achieve these long term behaviour changes and goals?

The first step is for the coach to determine people’s lifestyle choices and habits such as:

  • The client’s job and working hours
  • Home and family life
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Sleeping habits
  • What the client eats on a day-to-day basis
  • Exercise habits

Gathering this information together enables the coach to build a clear image of a client’s motivations, so that they can help them to clarify their health and nutrition goals.

For instance, a client may approach a nutrition coach with the intention of wanting to achieve a fitness-related goal, such as building muscle.

The coach will help them to come up with a nutrition goal that will support the client’s overall fitness aims. 

In this case, they’d advise the client that to build muscle, they’ll need to be in a caloric surplus, meaning that they need to consume more calories than they burn.

They would then discuss the factors mentioned above so they can determine a realistic way of integrating dietary changes into their timetable and lifestyle.

Identifying Barriers to Change is One of the Most Important Nutrition Coach Roles 

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After considering all of the factors of somebody’s behaviour and habits, what does a nutrition coach do next to help implement these changes?

One of the most important steps in a nutrition coach’s work with a client is identifying obstacles that could potentially prevent or complicate reaching their goals.

For example, a client could approach a coach with a goal of losing weight. In the initial consultation, they may have learned that the client works a 9 to 5 office job, 5 days a week, and has two children to care for.

In this case, a barrier to change that the coach may identify is time. The client may feel that they have little time to fit activities into their weekly routine such as:

  • Exercise
  • Purchasing healthy foods
  • Meal prep

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Being sedentary in an office job could also be another barrier to change that a coach may identify as there’s not a lot of physical movement or activity throughout the day.

In an office job, the client is likely to spend less time standing up, walking around, and generally being active throughout the day.

The role of a nutrition coach is to then take these barriers into account when advising clients and helping them to overcome them in order to achieve their goals.

For instance, in the case of a client with an office job, they may suggest making some small lifestyle changes that the client can easily fit in between their working hours and duties as a parent.

This could include strategies such as:

  • Having half a weekend day as meal prep day and cooking something that can be portioned for throughout the week
  • Going for a walk at lunchtime instead of remaining at their desk
  • Meal ideas and recipes that take less than 30 minutes to cook

Nutrition Coach Roles and Responsibilities Include Taking Physical Measurements of Clients

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Alongside providing advice, it’s also the role of a nutrition coach to track the progress of their clients.

Though the roles can be very similar, this is something that marks a nutrition coach vs a nutritionist as rather than working with medical professionals or in a medical capacity the role of a nutrition coach is to provide advice and guidance rather than prescribe a meal plan.

The nutritional advice provided will usually be part of a fitness programme and provide a holistic approach to reaching goals over time. This includes things like taking measurements and tracking figures over time.

One way that they may do this is by taking physical measurements, such as:

  • Body fat percentage
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body circumferences

Based on these factors, the coach can then advise individual clients on how much they should be eating in order to achieve their goals.


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For example, a nutrition coach can use the factors discussed above to calculate the number of calories that the client should be consuming a day in order to put themselves into a caloric deficit to lose weight.

This will also include advising about which food groups to privilege and what kind of foods the client can be prioritising such as proteins, good fats, and keeping processed carbohydrates to a minimum.

Coaches will perform this task multiple times, both before and during a client’s journey, to ensure that they are making continual progress towards their goals.

A nutrition coach can then tweak the advice they give based on any changes to the client’s body or if a plateau has been hit and the approach needs to be changed.

This is also great for the client as seeing the progress they’ve made will help them to maintain their behaviour changes. 

Monitoring Client Progress is Another of the Key Nutrition Coach Roles

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As well as numerical indicators, nutrition coaches may also take a more holistic approach to monitoring the progress of their clients.

For instance, they will take into account factors such as:

  • If and how the client has implemented the advice given
  • Any challenges that the client faced
  • How the client feels as a result, including mood changes, stress levels, sleep quality, and hunger levels.

When it comes to the role of a nutrition coach, these factors are just as important as measurements in terms of indicating how well a client is able to adhere to the coach’s recommendations.

Approaching health and wellness holistically allows the coach to address any emotional struggles that may be preventing clients from implementing long-lasting lifestyle change.

Based on the outcome of the first few weeks with a new client, the coach can then provide advice for the client on the best course of action for them to take.

Nutrition coaches will continue to review these holistic factors along with the client’s physical measurements, to ensure that their advice is relevant for the client’s current goals.

Providing Educational Resources on Healthy Food Choices is One of the Key Nutrition Coach Roles

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As well as providing one-to-one coaching, nutrition coaches may choose to expand their services by creating educational resources for clients, the general public, and other health professionals to use.

They may create information packs, leaflets, and handouts on topics relating to:

  • Nutrition
  • Health and wellness
  • Weight management
  • Advice for other nutrition coaches

Whether online or in-person, making these resources available not only helps coaches to educate their current clients, but also attracts those looking for information on making healthier choices.

Providing educational resources is therefore also a great marketing strategy for nutrition coaches to capture the interest of potential clients.

As well as creating resources, nutrition coaches may also reach out to their local community, visiting places such as schools and community centres to provide educational opportunities.

For example, they may run healthy cooking workshops, or seminars teaching the importance of making healthy food choices.

They may also be hired by HR managers as part of a corporate health and wellness strategy, to give talks to employees on the benefits of consuming a healthy meal whilst working.

Taking the time to give back to the local community enables nutrition coaches to make themselves known to the people in their area.

Sharing their knowledge allows them to build up their reputation as an expert in their field, as well as recruit potential clients from their target market who may be interested in one-to-one coaching.

Finding this article helpful? We’ve got plenty of others for you to check about advancing as a fitness professional and helping a range of clients:

The Role of a Nutrition Coach Involves Using Analytics Tools and Software to Support Clients

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Using various tools and software makes it easier for nutrition coaches to check in with their clients, particularly if they have a large client base.

This is because it allows the coach to be more organised and access all of their clients’ details in one place.

These details include data such as:

  • Client goals
  • Medical information, including allergies and medical conditions
  • Food preferences
  • Physical measurements and other health indicators, such as sleep quality

Having this information available at the touch of a button makes it easier to track client progress.

This also reduces their administrative load, allowing the role of a nutrition coach to be more focused on working with clients directly, providing updated advice and recommendations for them.

Having systems in place which allow clients to check in and track their progress also streamlines the process for clients. 

For instance, using the software means they’ll know exactly how, when, and where to go to check in with their coach.

The easier this process is for clients, the more likely they are to put the coach’s recommendations into action and make those important long-term lifestyle changes. 

An example of the type of software that would be used by nutrition coaches is Healthie.

This is an ideal piece of software for coaches, as it allows them to send useful links, documents, and images, to share valuable information outside of sessions.

Some more important pieces of software for the role of a nutrition coach are food-tracking apps. 

These allow both the client and nutrition coach to track meals, and exercise, and use this information to identify any problems to make adjustments.

Some examples of these apps include:

These apps have a food database feature, where clients can see the calorie and macronutrient content of different foods, and track it into their daily food diary.

They are easy to navigate and use, with features such as a barcode scanner allowing clients to track their food quickly and conveniently.

If a client is struggling, for example, to lose weight, the coach can see exactly where they are going wrong. They can then make further recommendations to help them progress closer to their goals.

For instance, they may be able to see that the client is skipping breakfast, then consuming higher calorie meals and snacks that are pushing them over their daily caloric goal. 

They can then recommend healthy breakfast options that will keep clients satisfied, and reduce the risk of overeating later on in the day.

The Role of a Nutrition Coach is to Make Appropriate Referrals to Other Health Professionals

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When considering nutrition coach roles and responsibilities, there are some duties that will be out of their scope of practice.

This includes providing any medical treatments which can only be prescribed by medical professionals and registered dieticians.

Other services which are outside the nutrition coach’s scope of practice are:

  • Prescribing specific meal plans
  • Offering nutritional therapy to treat disease
  • Diagnosing eating disorders

Therefore, sometimes the role of a nutrition coach is to refer clients to health professionals, such as doctors, mental health professionals, and dieticians, if something falls outside of this scope of practice.

This is why sometimes the role of a nutritionist coach is to refer clients to other health professionals such as:

  • Doctors
  • Mental health professionals
  • Dieticians

If a client needs medical help then this falls outside of the advice that a nutritionist coach can provide.

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They should also make a referral if they have any concerns about a client’s wellbeing or safety. 

For instance, if a client is severely undereating and the coach suspects that they may have an eating disorder.

Failing to seek medical advice could result in the client’s condition worsening, particularly if they consume the wrong type or quantity of food, which could be harmful to them.

A nutrition coach could potentially work in tandem with medical professionals as part of a training programme, if they complete an exercise referral course.

You can find out more about becoming an exercise referral specialist here!

Although being prescriptive is out of their scope of practice, coaches can give recommendations about the foods that should be consumed by the client.

For instance, if a client with high cholesterol isn’t already, the nutrition coach could advise them to integrate two portions of oily fish, such as salmon, into their diet each week.

They can share tips and advice which will help a client but must be careful with their language, ensuring it is always framed as advice and suggestion rather than prescribed instruction.

Before You Go!

From the responsibilities to the qualifications required, you should now be aware of everything that you need to know about the role of a nutrition coach!

Don’t forget, if you’re interested in pursuing a fitness career you can check out our nutrition qualification or you can download our course prospectus for free!

Written by Rebecca Felton

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a first-class degree in English, Rebecca’s combined passions for fitness and writing are what brought her to OriGym. Rebecca is a keen gym-goer and specifically enjoys lifting weights. Outside of fitness and writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, and watching the football.

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