Nutrition Fueled Athletics

What started with a talk to our baseball team about the importance of nutrition and a cooking class at the beginning of the year has evolved into a full vision of supplying nutrition at a higher level, not only for the baseball program but for the entire athletics program.

Larry Lee, Cal Poly Baseball Head Coach

A symbiotic partnership between Cal Poly’s nutrition and athletics programs is fueling players’ performance while providing hands-on experiences for students who are considering careers in sports nutrition.

Professor Scott Reaves (Nutrition, ’91) started working with individual sports teams about a decade ago, providing sports nutrition talks and occasional cooking demonstrations. At the time, he had two undergraduate students working with him. Each year additional sports teams asked for his guidance, quickly expanding the breadth of the program. Today, Reaves and a team of 15 undergraduate and graduate students provide nutritional planning to the entire Cal Poly Athletics roster – more than 550 student-athletes.

“What started with a talk to our baseball team about the importance of nutrition and a cooking class at the beginning of the year has evolved into a full vision of supplying nutrition at a higher level, not only for the baseball program but for the entire athletics program,” said Cal Poly Baseball Head Coach Larry Lee, who was named the manager for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2023. “Athletes train a lot and to maintain their strength and continue to grow and put on muscle, nutritional planning needs to be a priority. This is a step in the right direction.”

Each week nutrition students make as many as 1,ooo smoothies that are provided to athletes after their toughest workouts, with the first batch made and delivered often before the sun even rises. Personalized nutrition plans, eating itineraries for away games, campus food guides, body composition analysis that looks at bone density, muscle and fat, heart rate monitoring and overall nutritional guidance is offered by the sports nutrition team. In recent years Reaves developed a formulated exercise recovery powder, which is now being made using new high-volume production equipment by students trained by college tech experts in equipment and production.

Scott Reaves works with students to make
an exercise recovery powder.

Students fill containers in the 
college's pilot plant.

Nutrition students make more than 1,000 smoothies
a week for Cal Poly student-athletes.

“We continue to grow and with the support of university leadership including President Armstrong and are able to take the program to a level that we think will be the most effective, Reaves said, adding that the team’s experiences with all of the Cal Poly Athletics Department have been nothing short of remarkably positive. In addition to the hands-on experiences offered to students there are a multitude of ongoing research efforts underway. “Students are of course the most important part of this and we have/had outstanding students involved,” he said.

“A key part of our program is the opportunity for nutrition students to conduct research and publish scientific papers,” said Alexandra McGrath, who is pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition. “Professor Reaves has done a phenomenal job prioritizing athlete support and creating various opportunities for nutrition students at Cal Poly. The sports nutrition team is incredibly valuable for both the students in the program and the athletes. When we work together with the athletes, we really are able to move the needle. This is the first time many athletes are away from home and need to meet their nutritional needs as not only athletes, but as individuals.”

Morgan Nishishaka, who participated on the sports nutrition team as a student, subsequently earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nutrition at Cal Poly prior to becoming a licensed dietitian. Reaves recruited Nishishaka to return to Cal Poly in July 2023. “She has been a cornerstone of the program and is a tremendous example of a talented student becoming a highly productive professional making major contributions in a dynamic environment,” Reaves said.

Nishishaka is the program’s dietitian and manages various components of the program. She is now working toward acquiring the required training hours to become a sports dietitian with the end goal of directing a sports nutrition program. “It is amazing to spend a lot of time with athletes and to see them progress,” she said. “The collaboration here with athletics and nutrition set the path of my career.”

The camaraderie of the student groups working together and the peer-to-peer multidisciplinary experience has proven to be a pivotal opportunity for many students. Jordan Kerns, a fourth-year nutrition major, has been a part of the program for the past year. “I think the most noteworthy skill I have learned through this experience is how to say yes to new opportunities,” she said. “I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome during my first few years at Cal Poly, which made me feel like I was not worthy of working with a team like this. However, this program has given me a lot of confidence in my nutrition career.”

Jackson Stava, senior associate athletics director, said the future is bright for the program. “Reaves and his student team have made an immediate and substantial impact across all of Cal Poly Athletics this year,” he said. “The sports nutrition program has not only addressed critical nutritional needs for our Mustang student-athletes, but has also allowed coaches, staff and students to use the data to plan for success in the months and years ahead.”

Stava said that the integration of the program has better prepared athletes for the rigor of college athletics and that the nutrition team is considered an invaluable member of the Athletics Department. “In the future I think the sky truly is the limit for this program. With a new location being built to serve as the ‘hub’ for this operation, increased opportunities to share research in the college’s nutrition academic space and the excitement of our community, I think that the frequency and intensity of interactions with our Mustang student-athletes will only continue to increase,” Stava said. “Our hope is to see the excitement of our students working with Reaves also increase as this is a truly unique Learn by Doing opportunity that does, and will continue to, set our athletic and academic programs apart from our peers."

Sports Nutrition Team Members:


Professor Scott K. Reaves (Nutrition, '91), Ph.D. Nutritional Science

Morgan Nishisaka, M.S. Nutrition, RD, CP Athletics

Graduate Students in the master of science in Nutrition program

Alexandra McGrath (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)

Liel Grosskopf (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)

Rachel Victor (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)
Sean Remmert (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)
Blayke Harrison (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)
Mia Gladdding (Grad student M.S. Nutrition)
Nutrition Majors

Josie Showalter

Colleen Burns

Hilla Ben-Moshe
Jordan Kerns
Adriana Guzman
Matthew Hopkins
Johnny Delalyan
Satchel Hart
Kelanie Garcia


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