Sep 25, 2017
Recipe for Success
Simona Hradil

Mix one part California State University, Northridge Athletics with one part on-campus nutrition and dietetics center, and the finished product is a collaboration that’s benefiting athletes, students, and the broader community.

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.

Like many colleges, California State University, Northridge has long had a nutrition and dietetics program on the academic side of campus and a varsity sports program on the athletics side. But despite their close proximity, the two groups rarely crossed paths.

Recently, however, we began to wonder: What if there was an opportunity to merge the two? Surely it would benefit student-athletes, not to mention a broader student population.

That was the vision behind the newly founded collaboration linking CSUN Athletics-particularly the department’s Sports Nutrition Program-with the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics in the College of Health and Human Development. Launched this fall, the partnership is focused on nutrition education for athletes, staff, and coaches; community outreach to the greater Los Angeles area; and internship and research opportunities for CSUN athletes and students.

“Over the past several years, CSUN Athletics has been working hard to prioritize student-athlete well-being. This new partnership with the Magaram Center will help us raise the bar even more and augment individualized programming and education that will directly benefit our student-athletes,” says Brandon Martin, EdD, CSUN Director of Athletics. “I’m so proud to help create groundbreaking programming alongside my partners at the Magaram Center, and [I believe] that together we’ll be able to help educate the broader community about the importance of nutrition and fitness.”

As the Sports Dietitian for CSUN Athletics, I am excited to be part of this effort. We are on the road to unifying our campus, increasing nutrition and wellness across a number of populations, and providing many opportunities for our athletes and students alike.


The collaboration between CSUN Athletics and the Magaram Center started with a meeting of the minds between Dr. Martin and Annette Besnilian, EdD, MPH, RDN, CLE, FAND, Executive Director of the Magaram Center. On the one side, Dr. Martin wanted to broaden the scope of the relatively new CSUN Athletics Sports Nutrition Program. Developed in 2014, it started as a way to distribute nutritional knowledge to CSUN’s more than 350 varsity student-athletes. While it expanded in early 2017 with the launch of the Matador Fueling Station, Dr. Martin believed a partnership with the Magaram Center could help us do more.

On the other side of the discussion were Dr. Besnilian and the Magaram Center, a facility aimed at enhancing and promoting good health and well-being through research and education in food science, nutrition, and dietetics. The center works with various community partners to address chronic disease prevention and intervention, wellness, and childhood obesity in the greater Los Angeles area. It’s also a learning lab for CSUN nutrition and dietetics students and offers students and staff the following services:

• Recipe analysis

• Dietary analysis

• Nutrient and sensory analysis

• BOD POD body fat composition testing

• Nutrition assessment and counseling

• Cooking demonstrations

• Wellness workshops

• Public policy events.

As part of the collaboration, Dr. Besnilian wanted to broaden the impact of the Magaram Center not only for CSUN staff, faculty, and students, but for the surrounding Los Angeles community, as well. She hoped to utilize the bountiful resources on both sides to reach a larger population.

When laying out the framework for the partnership, Dr. Martin and Dr. Besnilian brainstormed where there were opportunities within CSUN Athletics and the Magaram Center, and they looked to capitalize on these features and deliver them to the individuals who needed them the most. From there, I got involved, along with Karmen Ovespyan, MS, RDN, Assistant Director for the Magaram Center. My role entailed facilitating conversations between the two parties and bringing them to the table.

Once the partnership was established, we held a kickoff event at the beginning of this school year to promote it and spread the word about its goals. Over the course of the next year, a program outline will be put in place detailing all of its offerings. Monthly meetings between both entities will ensure that everyone stays on the same page, and team leaders will be designated to run the different components.


Perhaps the biggest aim of the collaboration is to increase nutrition education among CSUN athletes, coaches, athletic staff, and community members. For CSUN athletes specifically, we’re doing quite a bit. To start, interns from the Magaram Center host cooking classes for CSUN teams. The plan is to have each team participate at least once or twice per semester or year. The classes are geared to each squad’s specific needs and focus on pre- and post-workout fueling, teaching fundamentals of cooking (such as grilling, baking, sautéing, and roasting), nutrition fact label reading, and recipe preparation. The recipes selected are quick, easy, and tailored to the time and budgetary constraints student-athletes face.

Further, we are developing a CSUN Student-Athlete Cookbook. I will be teaming with the Magaram Center to choose the recipes for it, and we will be utilizing the center’s recipe analysis tools to provide accurate dietary information for each entry.

Part of the CSUN Athletics-Magaram Center collaboration that has already seen results is the Summer Success Cooking Workshop. This gives incoming CSUN freshman student-athletes a jump start on transitioning from living at home to life on campus. During the six-week program, they learn about nutrition and fueling, hydration principles, eating right on a budget, cooking, and recipe preparation.

The nutrition education piece of the partnership doesn’t stop with student-athletes, though. The Magaram Center also serves CSUN coaches and athletics staff, providing wellness workshops on cooking, gardening, stress management, sleep, yoga, meditation, weight management, and diabetes prevention. We soon hope to incorporate fitness into the equation through the Magaram Center’s new “Fit to Win” program.

We make our coaches and athletic staff aware of the workshops through marketing materials that highlight their potential benefits. Going forward, we hope to offer short intro presentations or videos describing each one.

The collaboration has also encouraged CSUN Athletics’ coaches and staff members to obtain their own body composition testing via the Magaram Center’s BOD POD. They can then schedule one-on-one appointments with the center’s registered dietitians to interpret their results, set goals, and create individualized plans to meet those goals. The overall aim is to empower CSUN coaches and staff to take a comprehensive approach to health and wellness.

Beyond CSUN athletes, coaches, and staff, another aspiration of the partnership is to bring sports nutrition information to the more than 1,000 athletes who compete on CSUN club teams, as well as local high school athletes. We aspire to implement educational interventions that will impact the athletes and result in positive changes that will carry them through their collegiate years and beyond. The details regarding these initiatives are currently being developed, but they will most likely involve sending CSUN nutrition students and varsity athletes to give presentations on sports nutrition.

So what does the Magaram Center get out of working with CSUN Athletics? For one thing, CSUN athletes have helped shape the Magaram Center’s “Nutrition Experts” web portal. This is a website created by the Magaram Center’s students that serves as a resource for all things nutrition. CSUN athletes helped with the initial website design process by providing feedback. Further, CSUN athletes supported the Magaram Center’s product development program by testing items like “Matador Marmalade” and “Spicy Matador” spice blends.


Before the collaboration, community outreach was already a big focus for both the Magaram Center and CSUN Athletics. With the newly formed partnership, they hope to expand their efforts in this area even further.

One of the main objectives behind community service for the Magaram Center is to reach the local youth demographic to prevent and treat incidence of childhood obesity. Teaming up with CSUN Athletics allows student-athletes to join the Magaram Center’s school-based wellness initiatives, which are called “Taste of Good Health” and “Let’s Grow Health in Schools.” Presented in English and Spanish, these afterschool programs provide nutrition and physical education lessons to children and families in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

On the flip side, the Magaram Center students and instructors will join CSUN Athletics and the local Tree of Life Missionary Baptist Church for programming in nearby Watts. A six-week curriculum is being developed for this based on the needs of the area.

“This new partnership is great for CSUN students and the community,” says Farrell Webb, PhD, the Dean of CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development. “The Magaram Center has a long tradition of outreach that directly improves the health of our communities. Working with CSUN Athletics on this project underscores our shared commitment to student success and the well-being of the greater community.”

In the future, the collaboration hopes to establish a wellness committee made up of CSUN Athletics, the Magaram Center, the CSUN Student-Athlete Advisory Counsel, and local leaders to assess and identify specific areas of concern and eventually drive the implementation of new and improved community programs. The Magaram Center will host monthly and quarterly meetings to bring these groups together.


Looking ahead, internship and research opportunities will play a large role in the partnership between CSUN Athletics and the Magaram Center. These will help CSUN student-athletes and nutrition and dietetic students get valuable experience in the workforce, as well as offer a glimpse into the effectiveness of our programming.

To start, the Magaram Center has plans to create internships for CSUN student-athletes who would like to learn more about nutrition, dietetics, and wellness. On the other side of the collaboration, nutrition and dietetic students will have the chance to intern with CSUN Sports Nutrition’s Matador Fueling Station. This will provide them with extensive educational opportunities as they strive to become registered dietitians.

Beyond internships, CSUN Athletics and the Magaram Center have started data collection on the nutritional education levels of CSUN athletes. The ultimate goal is to use this information to drive the development of new programs for athletes and the growth of the College of Health and Human Development. This research has been going on for about a year-I lead the data collection, and Magaram Center interns input the data and run the statistics.

Further investigations will include researching how the CSUN Sports Nutrition Program is impacting body composition changes in student-athletes over the course of the academic year, as well as assessing how various body fat composition testing devices measure components of health and performance. Both CSUN Athletics and the Magaram Center will benefit from these latter findings because they’ll be able to see which methods are most reliable, especially when evaluating individuals in the community with less advanced body composition testing devices.

The Magaram Center and CSUN Athletics both believe in the future and vision of the collaboration. It helps meet CSUN’s top priorities, which include utilizing CSUN Athletics as a tool for institution engagement and student success, focusing on employees, the visibility and reputation of the university, increasing research activity, a future less dependent on state funding, and sustainability. Both groups promise to keep striving for new and innovative ways to positively impact our Matador community.

The author would like to thank the following individuals who have contributed to the development and success of the CSUN Athletics-Magaram Center collaboration: Dr. Martin; Dr. Besnilian; Dr. Webb; Karmen Ovespyan; Assistant Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Steve Grech, MA, ATC, CES; Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences Terri Lisagor, EdD, MS, RD; and former Director of Sports Performance Jeff Crelling, MA, CSCS. And a very special thank you to CSUN President Diane Harrison, PhD, for her continued support and encouragement.


One on-campus addition that has been highlighted by the partnership between California State University, Northridge Athletics and the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics in the College of Health and Human Development has been the new CSUN Athletics Matador Fueling Station. Launched in early 2017 with the help of Union Bank, it’s a first for the Big West Conference, in which CSUN competes.

The CSUN Sports Nutrition Program is very excited about what the Matador Fueling Station can offer our athletes. Based on the mantra of “Refuel, Recover, Rehydrate, Repeat,” it provides an array of services and capabilities for athletes, including individualized recovery smoothies, hydration options, and snack bags. Athletes can stop by the fueling station any time and receive a quality snack or meal to help them maintain proper nutrition throughout their busy days. As the Sports Dietitian for CSUN Athletics, I keep the fueling station stocked, along with interns from the Magaram Center.

There’s also an educational component to the Matador Fueling Station. Student-athletes can visit it to learn which foods and snacks are best for them, how to develop healthy eating behaviors, and what to consume before, during, and after training.

At present, the Matador Fueling Station only serves CSUN’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. However, with assistance from the partnership with the Magaram Center, we hope to progress to eventually serve the more than 350 Matador student-athletes in all sports.

Simona Hradil, MS, RD, is the Sports Dietitian for California State University, Northridge. Prior to her time at CSUN, Hradil spent more than 20 years as an elite taekwondo athlete, qualifying for the U.S. National Team 11 times and the Czech Republic Team five times. Hradil was also an alternate for the 2012 London Olympic Games. She can be reached at: [email protected].

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