IOPN Diploma in Performance Nutrition: Course Overview

The IOPN Diploma in Performance Nutrition provides students with the chance to understand the latest science and application of sport and exercise nutrition. Our comprehensive program aims to develop highly-skilled sport and exercise nutritionists.

Graduates of the program will be equally proficient in their theoretical understanding of sports nutrition as they are in their ability to apply their knowledge with a variety of clients. To this end, the course provides students with over 70 in-depth lecture videos from the IOPN team, leading researchers and elite practitioners working in the field of sport and exercise nutrition. Each student receives one to one support from PhD, and SENr accredited tutors to contextualise the theory of each module and enhance there learning.

The course addresses the fundamental physiological, metabolic and nutrition principles that form the basis of sport and exercise nutrition. Students are presented with historical concepts as well as the latest research; often delivered by the leading researchers within these areas. Moreover, the course covers and contextualises complex concepts and relevant new fields of interest to ensure students are at the cutting-edge of applied practice in sports nutrition.


Our course is delivered by the IOPN team and 40+ World-class experts (Profs, PhDs, and elite practitioners) in the field of Sports and Exercise Nutrition.



100% online / distance Learning via Canvas
Supported one-to-one by our team of tutors


8 – 18 months
Flexible study format – 15 weeks per module


Four cohorts per year (Feb, May, Aug, Nov)
Apply now for the next available cohort



Core Modules - your learning journey


Module 1: Human Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism

The module aims to introduce and/or refresh students to the underlying principles of exercise metabolism and human nutrition. Topics covered include bioenergetics, skeletal muscle metabolism, the structure and function of skeletal muscle, nutrients and non-nutrients and human energy expenditure/availability.

Introductory lecture: A primer on evidence-based practice by Dr. Laurent Bannock

Key learning topics:

  • Nutrients and recommended intakes: Categories of nutrients, function, chemical properties and influence on physiological processes; the basis for nutrient recommendations and methods of assessment for dietary intake and food composition in athletes.
  • Healthy eating: Established guidelines for a balanced, healthy diet; the health and performance effects of excessive intake or deficiency of some nutrients; food labelling, nutrient content/health claims on food packaging and food processing.
  • Skeletal muscle: Structure, function, key characteristics and role as it relates to exercise metabolism.
  • Energy: Key terms, types of energy, forms of measurement and preferred methods of assessment in research and practice.
  • Human energy metabolism: An overview of its components and contribution in active and inactive people; energy balance and energy availability.
  • Biochemical concepts: Organization of matter; chemical bonding; chemical reactions; ATP and energy; water, solutions and concentrations; acid-base balance and cell structure.

Supplemented with:

Position stands and seminal papers related to the learning material within Module 1

Podcast interviews with journal paper authors:

Key podcast interviews related to the learning material within Module 1

Student discussion threads available to discuss journal articles with PhD qualified tutors

Lectures by world-leading researchers and expert practitioners

  • Energy Systems: What, When & How? – Dr James Morton
  • Protecting cellular ATP – Dr Craig Sale
  • Exercise Metabolism 101: What We Need to Know and What Others Should Know – Dr Scott Robinson
  • Exercise Metabolism and Fatigue Mechanisms – Dr James Betts
  • Exercise Metabolism – Endurance Exercise – Dr Graeme Close
  • Exercise Intensity: Why does fat metabolism decline? – Dr James Morton
  • Skeletal Muscle: Structure, Construction & Plasticity – Dr James Morton
  • Limiting factors to maximal oxygen uptake: a heart or muscle problem – Dr James Morton
  • Nutrition & Fatigue – Dr James Morton
  • Metabolic Regulation: Nutritional Effects – Dr James Morton
  • Nutrition for Fat and Energy Balance – Dr James Betts
  • Assessing Energy Intake and Expenditure in Athletes – Dr Graeme Close
  • How to get your fat fit – the impact of exercise on adipose tissue – Dr Dylan Thompson
  • Exercise and non-physical activity thermogenesis – Dr Dylan Thompson
  • Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (Male Athletes) – Dr James Morton
  • Nutritional considerations for Eumeorrheic athletes – Dr Kirsty Elliot-Sale

Assignment: Identify symptoms of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) in an endurance athlete and implement nutrition strategies to remedy inadvertent low energy availability.

Learning outcomes:

  • Assess and analyse client information and synthesis client care into a written record.
  • Identify signs of malnutrition while staying in one’s scope of practice.
  • Determine nutrition requirements by quantifying the athlete’s dietary needs using evidence-based methods.
  • Critically evaluate nutrition and body composition assessment information and plan a nutrition strategy that accounts for the athlete’s goals, preferences and metabolic requirements of training.
  • Collaborate with other health professionals on dietary guidance for the athlete.
  • Apply appropriate theories of behaviour change and communication to initiate and sustain changes in attitudes and dietary behaviour of the athlete.

Module 2: Sport and Exercise Nutrition (Digestion and Intestinal Absorption & Macronutrients)

The module aims to provide students with an overview of the underlying principles of sports nutrition. Topics covered include digestion and absorption of nutrients and the roles, functions, biochemical pathways and metabolism of macronutrients.

Key learning topics:

  • Protein: Function, building blocks, structure, turnover (biochemical and physiological), metabolism during exercise, techniques of assessment, requirements, health risks and ergogenic aids.
  • Lipids: Structure, regulation (at rest and during exercise), metabolism (biochemical and physiological), fat supplementation, the regulation of lipid metabolism with diet composition and the health and performance effects.
  • Carbohydrates: Types and structure, regulation (at rest and during exercise), metabolism (biochemical and phys-iological), metabolic and performance effects of ingestion, requirements and ergogenic aids.
  • Gastric emptying, digestion and absorption: Functions and anatomical components, digestion and absorption processes of nutrients, dietary strategies for modulating the composition or metabolic and immunological activity of human gut microbiota, regulation of gastric emptying and common gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise and known factors shown to reduce symptoms.

Supplemented with:

Position stands and seminal papers related to the learning material within Module 2

Podcast interviews with journal paper authors:

Key podcast interviews related to the learning material within Module 2

Student discussion threads available to discuss journal articles with PhD qualified tutors

Lectures by world leading researchers and expert practitioners

  • Fuelling Exercise Part 1 – Dr Craig Sale
  • Fuelling Exercise Part 2 – Dr Craig Sale
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism and Supplementation – Post-exercise Nutrition – Dr James Betts
  • The Wondrous Properties of Carbohydrates – Dr James Morton
  • Glycogen Resynthesis: From Biochemistry to Practical Application – Dr James Morton
  • Glycogen Metabolism – Cause of Fatigue and/or training regulator? – Dr James Morton
  • Optimising Protein Nutrition for Muscle Mass Gain – Dr. Oliver Witard
  • Protein Nutrition and Beyond for Ageing Muscles – Dr. Oliver Witard
  • Beyond Muscle Hypertrophy: Protein Nutrition in Endurance Athletes – Dr Leigh Breen
  • The Muscle Anabolic Potential of Leucine – Dr Leigh Breen
  • Dietary Protein and Bone: Zero or Hero? – Dr Craig Sale
  • Fat Oxidation during Exercise – What’s New & What Do We Want to Know Next – Dr. Scott Robinson
  • IMTG in Exercise and Health – Scott Robinson PhD
  • Exercise and the GI System – Gethin Evans PhD
  • The Athlete’s Gut – Stephen Smith PHD (c)

Assignment: Identify the nutrition demands and barriers to performance during a multi-sport endurance event (during training and competition) that requires international travel in a recreational triathlete.

Learning outcomes:

  • Determine the energetic and metabolic demands of a triathletes training.
  • Periodise the athlete’s nutrition intake to match the metabolic demands of individual training sessions.
  • Identify potential culprits that are causal of nutrition and exercise-induced gastrointestinal disturbance.
  • Develop a gut-training strategy to improve carbohydrate tolerance during exercise.
  • Develop a bespoke hydration strategy for the athlete during training and competition.
  • Provide practical food hygiene strategies during international travel.
  • Implement a carbohydrate loading plan that accommodates the athlete’s unique environment.
  • Design a bespoke step-by-step nutrition and hydration plan for the athlete during an ironman event.

Module 3: Sport and Exercise Nutrition (Micronutrients & Supplementation)

The module extends the students understanding of core concepts in sports nutrition. Topics covered include fluid requirements and water balance, the function, role and requirements of micronutrients, the evidence-base of various supplements and current doping regulations in sport.

Key learning topics:

  • Water requirements and balance: Thermoregulation (at rest and during exercise); health and performance consequences of de-hydration; mechanisms of heat illness; the impact of fluid intake before and during exercise; fluid intake strategies for effective hydration; hydration requirements and fluid composition for effective fluid replenishment during and after exercise
  • Micronutrients: The function, role and requirements of micronutrients as they relate to metabolism, health and performance; micronutrient amounts found in food; athlete groups susceptible to micronutrient insufficiency; assessment of micronutrient status and ergogenic impact of certain micronutrient supplementation.
  • Nutrition supplements: Supplements with efficacious ergogenic potential (type, mechanism, practical relevance and dose) and hazards and risks to sport nutrition supplementation.
  • Exercise Metabolism (Regulation): The role of hormones on fuel-use at rest and during exercise; the influence of adrenaline and insulin on glycogenolysis, lipolysis and glycogenesis; the function of allosteric effectives for reg-ulating enzyme activity and the role of AMPK as a signalling molecule. Predominant fuels for the fire; regulation as it relates to exercise intensity, duration, nutrition and training status; ergogenic aids as they relate to substrate support and fatigue mechanisms.

Supplemented with:

Position stands and seminal papers related to the learning material within Module 3

Podcast interviews with journal paper authors:

Key podcast interviews related to the learning material within Module 3

Student discussion threads available to discuss journal articles with PhD qualified tutors

Lectures by world-leading researchers and expert practitioners

  • Fluid Balance and Exercise – Dr Gethin Evans
  • Optimising Post-Exercise Hydration – Dr Lewis James
  • Dehydration and Exercise Performance – Dr Lewis James
  • Shedding Some Light on Vitamin D – Dr Daniel Owens
  • Molecular Action of Fatty Acids in Skeletal Muscle – Dr Leigh Breen
  • To Supplement or Not to Supplement? – Dr Craig Sale
  • An Update on Buffering Agents for Sports Performance – Dr Craig Sale
  • Creatine – Dr Craig Sale
  • Caffeine – Dr Craig Sale
  • Dietary Nitrate & Exercise Performance – Dr Andy Jones
  • An Introduction To Cell Signalling – Dr David Lee Hamilton
  • Metabolic Regulation in Sport & Exercise – Dr Scott Robinson
  • Metabolic Regulation in High Intensity Exercise – Dr Scott Robinson
  • Metabolic Regulation in High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise – Dr James Morton
  • Carbohydrates for endurance exercise: how do they work and what is the best source? – Dr Javier Gonzalez
  • Concurrent Training: Nutritional Strategies – Dr James Morton

Assignment: Work within a multi-disciplinary team prescribing, ordering and monitoring the use of dietary supplements within a high-intensity, intermittent sport event

Learning outcomes:

  • Become a UK anti-doping accredited advisor
  • Determine the metabolic and performance demands of a high-intensity intermittent sport event
  • Determine the efficacy of certain supplements to assist with nutrient sufficiency, performance, immune health, recovery and injury management.
  • Develop strategies to monitor the use of informed for sport supplements within a professional soccer team.
  • Develop ways to educate players on risks and potential consequences of nutrition supplementation and best-practice measures to ensure clean-participation.
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Module 4: Advanced Sports Nutrition

The module advances the students understanding of key concepts and prevalent research themes in sports nutrition. Topics covered include, exercise and immune function, nutrition’s role in modulating training adaptation, weight management strategies and personalised nutrition.

Key learning topics:

  • Nutrition and training adaptation: Main adaptations to endurance and resistance training; the molecular instigators underlying change; molecular, cellular, and organ level changes and their respective timelines throughout the training process; the influence of substrate availability and antioxidants to signalling, protein synthesis and training adaptation; and the effects of nutrition on recovery from injury.
  • Nutrition and immune function in athletes: Main components and functional mechanisms of the immune system; common illnesses and allergies experienced by athletes; the difference between infection, allergy, and intolerance; the effects of exercise on immune function and infection-risk; nutrition’s influence on immune function (purported mechanisms, macronutrients and micronutrients) and strategies to reduce exercise-induced immunosuppression.
  • Body composition and weight management: An overview and critical evaluation of body composition techniques; appetite regulation; energy balance; the application of different dietary methods for weight-loss; safe acute weight-loss strategies; metabolic adaptation and weight-gain; characteristics, prevalence and risk-factors of eating disorders and the health and performance effects.
  • Personalized nutrition: Nutrition periodization; nutrigenomics in sport; dietary guidelines for different age groups, gen-der and specific sports.

Supplemented with:

Position stands and seminal papers related to the learning material within Module 4

Podcast interviews with journal paper authors:

Key podcast interviews related to the learning material within Module 4

Student discussion threads available to discuss journal articles with PhD qualified tutors

Lectures by world leading researchers and expert practitioners

  • Nutrient Sensing & Exercise Adaptations – David Lee Hamilton PhD
  • Training Adaptations: Effects on Substrate Utilisation – Dr James Morton
  • Nutritional Strategies To Optimise Recovery – The Balance Between Recovery & Adaptation – Dr Graeme Close
  • PGC-1 Alpha: A master Regulator of Endurance Training Adaptation? – Dr James Morton
  • Nutrition Periodization – Dr James Morton
  • Free Radicals & Exercise: Has the Poacher Turned Game Keeper – Dr Graeme Close
  • Exercise, Immunity and Infection Risk in Athletes – Glen Davison PhD
  • Immunology and Nutrition – Glen Davison PhD
  • Nutrition & Immune Function: Can We Do Anything To Offset The Winter Sniffles? – Dr Graeme Close
  • Gut Hormones & Regulation of Appetite – Gethin Evans PhD
  • Nutritional Strategies to Influence Appetite – Javier Gonzalez PhD
  • Breakfast for athletes: advisable, inappropriate or irrelevant? – Javier Gonzalez PhD
  • Over-feeding, Under-Feeding and Fat Balance – Dr James Betts
  • Exercise Nutrition For Older Adults – Leigh Breen PhD
  • Exercise, Nutrition and Ageing – Time to Run for Your Life? – Dr Graeme Close
  • Nutritional Considerations for Hormonal Contraceptive Use (Athletes) – Kirsty Elliott-Sale PhD

Assignment: Provide a periodized nutrition strategy to an athlete competing in a weight-specific event that ensures they reach their desired goal-weight safely.

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify potentially harmful nutrition and training practices that impact the health and performance of the athlete.
  • Determine nutrition requirements by quantifying the athlete’s dietary needs using methods that are evidence-based.
  • Implement practical monitoring strategies to assess the athlete’s compliance and progress during a weight-management intervention.
  • Develop a weight management strategy that ensures the athlete attains their competition-specific weight goal.
  • Implement safe, acute weight-loss strategies prior to competition.

Module 5: Advanced Sports Nutrition: Science to Practice

The module aims to review the core concepts in sports nutrition and provide an ‘in the trenches’ perspective, working as a sports nutritionist. Topics covered include working as a nutritionist overseas, working with travelling athletes, youth academies, within professional sporting organisations and one to one with athletes.

Key learning topics:

  • Gastric emptying, digestion and absorption: The impact of exercise intensity, mode, duration and nature of food/fluid ingested on gastric emptying rates; main mechanisms that contribute to the trainability of the gut; common gastrointestinal problems that occur during exercise and factors that exacerbate and reduce such is-sues.
  • Fuels use for muscle and exercise metabolism: The physiological responses to exercise; the characteristics of various muscle fibre types; the metabolic pathways that supply energy for muscle contraction; the regulatory actions of fuel availability on exercise-induced adaptation; the nature and size of body fuel stores; the factors involved in the control of fuel mobilization and use and the impact of fuel availability during exercise and on energy balance.
  • Carbohydrates: The impact of training intensity on carbohydrate metabolism; the regulation of blood glucose at rest and during exercise; the metabolic and performance effects of carbohydrate ingestion during exercise; mechanisms involved in glycogen metabolism; guidelines for carbohydrate intake before, during and after exercise; guidelines for athletes involved in repeated days of strenuous; prolonged physical activity and training and the impact of carbohydrate availability on training adaptation.
  • Protein and amino acids: Digestion and absorption kinetics of dietary protein; the fate of available amino acids for the purpose of muscle anabolism; the impact of energy availability on protein synthesis; recommendations for total protein intake for the promotion of muscle hypertrophy; recommendations for total protein intake for endurance sports and the efficacy of protein ergogenic aids.
  • Lipids: Biochemical pathways in fat metabolism; the impact of exercise intensity and duration on fat metabolism; the interactions between carbohydrate and fat metabolism in response to exercise and the metabolic and performance effects of high-fat diets.
  • Water and fluid requirements: The physiological and performance effects of dehydration; methods for quantifying dehydration status; the effects of fluid and electrolyte intake before and during exercise on exercise per-formance; the hydration needs of an athlete during exercise; strategies that water balance and the composition of drinks that effectively rehydrate athletes during and after exercise.
  • Nutrition and training adaptation: The main adaptations to resistance and endurance training; the mechanisms and signaling pathways that cause distinct skeletal muscle phenotypes; the influence of hormones, training status, nutrient status and extreme environments on augmenting exercise-induced adaptations.
  • Nutritional supplements: An overview of evidence informed dietary supplements for treating nutrient deficiencies; improving sports performance; immune function, recovery and injury management and the potential hazards and risks of sport nutrition supplements.
  • Energy availability: The difference between energy availability and energy balance; prevalence of low energy availability in certain sport events; field-based limitations to the estimate of energy availability; metabolic, reproductive, anatomical and hormonal surrogate markers associated with low energy availability and sex and sport-specific effects of low energy availability.

Supplemented with:

Position stands and seminal papers related to the learning material within Module 5

Podcast interviews with journal paper authors:

Key podcast interviews related to the learning material within Module 5

Student discussion threads available to discuss journal articles with PhD qualified tutors

Lectures by world leading researchers and expert practitioners

  • Nutrition for High Performance Athletes – Dr Sophie Killer
  • Football Nutrition – Dr James Morton
  • Match-Day Team Sport Nutrition Considerations – Dr Mark Russell
  • Advanced Physiological Testing in Professional Boxing – Dr Scott Robinson
  • From Science to Practice: Applying Sound Performance Nutrition Support in Elite Sport – Dr Mayor Ranchordas
  • Do Rugby Players Need Their Own Nutrition Guidelines? – Dr Graeme Close
  • Half Time in Team Sports: An Opportunity to Influence Subsequent Performance? – Dr Mark Russell
  • From the lab to the road: testing to inform practice and endurance performance – Matthew Furber PhD
  • Nutrition & Injury Rehabilitation – Dr James Morton
  • Educating the Future Elite: Reflections from International Youth Rugby – Dr Daniel Owens
  • Understanding the response to training and competition: implications for athlete performance and health – Dr Craig Twist
  • Reflective Practice for Sports Nutritionists – Dr James Morton

Assignment Part 1 (option 1): Provide evidence-led nutrition strategies for managing an athlete’s body composition over the course of a calendar year – with a focus on body composition periodization and energy availability

Learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate a clear and easily translatable understanding of the concept of energy availability and the key physiological determinants of endurance performance.
  • Develop a translatable understanding of metabolic adaptation as a consequence of low energy availability.
  • Showcase a practical understanding of periodising an athlete’s body composition and nutrition throughout a calendar year.
  • Implement practical monitoring strategies to assess the athlete’s health status during a weight-management interven-tion.
  • Develop a nutrition strategy that aims to preserve the athlete’s sports performance and achieves their body composition goal.

Assignment Part 1 (option 2): Provide an evidence-led nutrition strategy that strategically positions nutrients in a way that amplifies endurance adaptations from exercise.

Learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the key physiological and/or structural performance determinants of an ultra-endurance athlete.
  • Showcase an understanding of the phenotypic changes of a highly trained endurance athlete and how these adaptations translate into improved performance
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the key signalling pathways regulating endurance training adaptation.
  • Showcase an applied understanding of periodising a nutrition strategy to mediate both training adaptation and fuelling high-quality/high-intensity workouts.
  • Translate a periodised nutrition plan into practical meal and snack recommendations.

Assignment Part 1 (option 3): Provide an evidence-led, nutrition strategy that aims to hasten an athlete’s recovery from injury.

Learning outcomes:

  • Showcase theoretical understanding of the metabolic mechanisms contributing to muscle loss during a state of limb immobilisation.
  • Understand the key immunological processes involved in the initial stages of wound healing and provide a practical strategy that prevents an athlete from negatively interfering with this process.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the energy expenditure demands of an injured athlete and the importance of maintaining sufficient energy availability.
  • Implement nutritional strategies to offset reductions in skeletal muscle mass as a consequence of limb immobilisation.
  • Understand of the key nutrients that collectively enhance soft/hard-tissue repair and translate understanding into a practical nutrition strategy.

Assignment Part 2: Reflective practice assignment

Learning outcomes:

  • Engage in personal introspection and critically appraise their own actions and assumptions.
  • Understand the importance of active reflection and its effectiveness in academic study and professional development.
  • Understand common cognitive biases held by academics and Nutritionists.
  • Write in a reflective ‘first person’ style and engage with feelings and emotions.
  • Identify one’s own strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies for future development.
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Our unique ‘Science to Practice’ 3-step process

Central to our program objective, these areas are presented to students in a unique three-phase learning framework:

Anatomy of a study module


Students develop an in-depth theoretical understanding and critical awareness of the core module topics via textbook chapters, oral presentations, journal articles, podcast interviews with journal paper authors, interactive practical sessions and discussion threads.

Students receive lecture presentations from the IOPN team and World-leading experts contextualising the theory as it relates to practice.

The central topics of the module are presented via a case study assignment that requires the student to apply their theory into practical scenarios, demonstrating critical-thinking, problem-solving and the ability to translate theoretical concepts into practical solutions.

Eloy Rodriguez

The best investment I have made in my professional career.

The Diploma has allowed for me to enhance the results I can achieve with my clients, which has led to professional doors opening in ways I never imagined!

Eloy Rodriguez, Strength & Conditioning Coach
Paul Garrod

The IOPN Diploma really is second to none!

I can honestly say I have learnt so much, not only about nutrition for sport and exercise physiology, but also how to practically apply the knowledge to real world scenarios.

Paul Garrod, Performance Coach
Mary Curristin

The course has significantly exceeded my expectations.

The step by step process in each module has helped me build, improve and enhance my skillset and the continuous tutor support really sets this diploma at a top-class level.

If you want to learn, develop and put science into practice at an advanced level, this is the course for you.

Mary Curristin, Sports Scientist, Research Assistant