Meet the Programme Leader - Sports and Exercise Nutrition


As online learning experts, we have the benefit of selecting the very best specialists to work with, no matter where they are located. We’re proud of our dedicated faculty and believe it’s important that we introduce you to those leading our courses.

Meet Nicki de Villiers, a highly qualified, registered dietitian with a special interest in the field of sport nutrition. Nicki is currently lecturing at the University of Pretoria and is the Programme Leader for our university-validated, online Sport and Exercise Nutrition programme.

In this blog, you can learn more about Nicki, her background and experience and get an insight into our Sport and Exercise Nutrition programme

Tell us about yourself - What was your background prior to becoming a tutor?

I am a registered dietitian with a special interest in the field of sport nutrition and am practising from South Africa. I graduated as a dietitian at the University of Pretoria and completed a postgraduate diploma in sport nutrition through the International Olympic Committee and a master’s degree in dietetics at the University of Pretoria.

My career started in the clinical field, working at hospitals, especially in the field of diabetes and hyperlipidaemia. I developed an interest in sports nutrition whilst playing basketball at national level and from there completed further studies in sports nutrition. I have consulted for various professional football teams, professional rugby teams and the Comrades Marathon Association. I also currently guide some Olympic and recreational level athletes regarding nutrition for optimal performance.

I have consulted from the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, where I guided young athletes through the process of long-term athlete development. I am further involved in lecturing at the University of Pretoria in the field of sports nutrition and dietetic counselling. My motto is ‘support of optimal sport performance through science based nutrition protocols’.

What made you decide to start teaching?

I have always been interested in the science behind nutrition and stayed up to date in the academic field. Teaching is a passion through which I aim to make the scientific principles practical in order to change performance. Being on academic level or with a client, I do believe that knowledge can make a difference. The more people we can empower, the more can benefit.

What makes studying with Learna | Diploma MSc different? Who is it best for?

The fact that it is an online course that can be structured according to individual lifestyle patterns renders a great advantage. The excellent online support leaves students feeling part of something instead of feeling isolated and overwhelmed with information. I also see the partaking of various cultures as an advantage. Students can see different points of view and application fields. I think the course is excellent for those that have some current involvement in sports nutrition and would love to know more; science as well as practical application.

What does it take to succeed on this course?

Discipline and curiosity. One would have to have the discipline to spend the time with the referenced work, or even outside the scope of what is given. A curious mind would learn, think things through, apply and ask questions. The platform grants an excellent opportunity to ask questions and enable critical thinking.

Do you have any advice for someone considering the course?

Before attending any course, think of your own goals, strengths and weaknesses and align your learning experience towards the course outcomes. Write down what you want to learn from each module, based on your current involvement and curiosity and see if the course aligns with your mission.

How can students apply the knowledge gained to their daily practice?

There are ample study cases that are based on real life experiences through which the student can critically think about the practical application of the theoretical principles. Students are also from different parts of the world which can enrich their application skills. It involves applying, succeeding or failing, learning and reapplication. It is only when we are challenged to move outside our comfort zone (of what is known), that we acquire better skills.

Do you have a particular expert in your field that you admire? If so, why?

I do admire Asker Jeukendrup for his translation of theoretical principles into practical application.

What’s your favourite topic within your field of work?

I love working with all types of athletes, but do find the work with endurance athletes extremely satisfying.

About our Sport and Exercise Nutrition MSc

Looking to upskill and broaden your knowledge in sports nutrition alongside your career? Our flexible, online Sports and Exercise Nutrition programme provides a scientific basis for sports nutrition that covers the principles, background and rationale of current evidence-based nutrition guidelines and advice. Designed for students with a relevant undergraduate degree, the programme is suitable for:

  • Sports & exercise scientists
  • Sports medicine physicians
  • Physiotherapists
  • Nutritionists
  • Dietitians
  • Personal trainers

Our Sports and Exercise Nutrition MSc has been mapped to ensure it is aligned with the competencies of the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), the leading professional body for performance nutritionists in the UK and globally.

Applications for our next intake are open, and you can apply now for our Sport and Exercise Nutrition MSc.