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Should I do the BTN foundation academy before the BTN practical academy?

Posted on | Last updated 03-07-2020

The title of this blog is the most common question we get here at The BTN Academy, and because the answer starts with “well, maybe, it depends” (like many answers in the world of nutrition!) we thought it would be best to create one central place for people to go if they’re on the fence about enrolling on The BTN Foundation Academy first, or skipping it to dive straight in to The BTN Practical Academy.

The best place to start is to clearly outline what both of the courses are for:

The BTN Practical Academy is a 12-month level 4 qualification in nutrition coaching, certified by Active IQ. That means that it is not only geared towards helping you understand and master nutrition and all of its complexities, but also its application with other people, either 1:1 or in groups, both online and offline. Over the 12 month course we cover how to coach 99% of people from all walks of life, ensuring that you’re able to work confidently with the public and change lives using the power of nutrition, lifestyle and behaviour change. Because the course is so comprehensive, it’s worth scanning through the entire course syllabus, otherwise this blog will get very long very quickly – because we cover that much!

The BTN Foundation Academy, on the other hand, our AfN certified, self-guided online nutrition course, covers the fundamental science around nutrition that you really need to master in order to consider yourself someone who understands the topic. This animated course is accompanied by a comprehensive textbook which gives you the critical information you need in order to be able to work out your own ideal nutritional approach, as well as setting the stage for advanced learning if you take on the Practical Academy.

The Foundation Academy is shorter in length too, 10 modules in total taking approximately 30-40 hours to complete, and includes but is not limited to:

  • Calories, what they are and how calorie balance really works, as well as how to manipulate it to achieve your goals
  • What the macronutrients are, where you find them, how they interact with your body, and how to know what you need
  • What the micronutrients are, why you need them, how much of them you need, and where you get them from
  • How hydration works and how to maintain it
  • Reading food labels properly, including what ‘high protein’ and ‘sugar free’ means
  • How to set effective, workable, flexible but productive goals
  • Supplements, how to know what works and what doesn’t

We then cover a lot of information around the different factors that influence food choices way beyond hunger and gluttony, so that an understanding can be developed around why people eat the way that they do and how to help. This can help you troubleshoot your own dietary adherence issues, or indeed help you help someone else troubleshoot theirs.

Our Foundation Course does all of the above to a level of complexity that enables you to fully master the fundamental areas of human nutrition, health and performance. You don’t just learn that ‘protein helps build and repair muscle’, you learn how it does that. You don’t just learn that hydration is important, you learn exactly how your body regulates water storage using liquids and salts that you consume.

In short, it doesn’t just tell you what things do; it tells you how and why. You don’t just learn facts - you get to understand the context around them. It is because of this that we recommend that anyone who has not studied nutrition before to at least A-level standards strongly considers doing our Foundation course (including those with a Level 3 personal training course behind them – the Foundation course is a big step up from your nutrition module) first.


Many students who have spent years reading about nutrition in blogs and articles as well as listening to podcasts finish the Foundation Academy and tell us that they are amazed at how much they learned despite going in already confident in their knowledge – after all nutrition is complex, and the rabbit hole just gets deeper the more you look. That’s what makes it so fascinating! To get a full insight into what our student think of our course, do check out all our testimonials.

It’s very important to note that the Foundation Academy covers the above fundamental topic areas extensively, the Practical Academy does not. So yes it’s absolutely possible to complete the Practical Academy without the Foundation Academy behind you, but if you do that and you have not studied these topics in depth elsewhere, you will not really understand the role of each of the micronutrients, the effect that fats have on cardiovascular risk, or the role of sleep in appetite regulation amongst an enormous host of other topics. It’s not that without the Foundation you will struggle with the Practical, it’s that without the Foundation you’ll find that you finish the Practical with some major gaps in your knowledge which could inhibit your ability to effectively coach others.

In summary, while the BTN Practical Academy is a stand-alone course that will give you enough knowledge to coach nutrition, the Foundation Academy contains all the fundamental knowledge that you really do need in order to properly understand your area of interest. It’s a long way from being ‘the basics’, and so far, no student has ever come back to us and said that they didn’t learn anything from doing it.

We understand that this decision is of course influenced by finances – courses don’t come for free! But even in these cases we would advise looking to the Foundation Academy first and then waiting until you can afford the Practical Academy to enrol, rather than only doing the latter. Our courses aren’t going anywhere, and we’d rather you took your time and got the most out of it, at a pace you are comfortable with and can afford.

So, do you need to do The BTN Foundation Academy first?

Strictly speaking no, but unless you’ve studied nutrition in an academic setting before, we strongly recommend you start with the Foundation Academy first, otherwise you could inhibit your ability to master nutrition across the board.

Still unsure?

Book a call with our Academy Manager, Tom, to chat it over.

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Want to find out more?

Download our full course brochure detailing all our course info or arrange a call with our Academy Manager Tom Bainbridge.

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