The LSU football team had a culture shock last year.
It was neither the out-of-conference gauntlet the Tigers faced nor the road trips to Dallas, Morgantown or Tuscaloosa.
Instead, it was the lack of McGriddles.
The sweet and savory breakfast treat that most players indulged in, which comes in at a hefty 560 calories, would no longer be a breakfast staple under Jamie Mascari.
The former LSU cheerleader who took the reins as the LSU Coordinator of Sports Nutrition full time last December coordinates every meal for the Tiger football team while working closely with every other sport on campus.
“I just saw the need of how nutrition plays a big part in success,” Mascari said. “Ever since I was an undergrad here, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Originally working on a volunteer basis, Mascari initially met resistance from some athletes and coaches — something she blames on simple misinterpretation.
“I think when they heard the word dietitian, they thought of a dietitian for purely weight loss,” Mascari said. “They didn’t realize I’m a sports dietitian and I know what elite athletes need to fuel their bodies.”
Mascari works closely with food service dietitian Briggitte Mosley and The 5 dining hall to create “training table” meals at night for the football team, aptly named as it has become a part of the team’s training regimen.
She then assigns all available foods a color, with red representing higher calorie, higher fat selections, yellow being medium, restricted portion foods and green being the best foods to eat.
Even with the color codes, Mascari said she never restricts student-athletes from eating what they want, only giving them one fair warning.
“If you want Cane’s, go for it,” Mascari said. “But let’s not make it a five-night-a-week kind of deal.”
When any Tiger teams hit the road, Mascari still plans every meal, right down to the post-game meal before getting on the bus to return to Baton Rouge.
Mascari said she checks each restaurant menu where teams plan to stop, crossing out menu items that wouldn’t benefit the athletes and highlighting those she deems worthy.
“Pretty much all the restaurants that our teams are eating from or ordering from have good variety,” Mascari said. “And of course something that’s good to eat before a game.”
With Southeastern Conference rival Florida looming in the Swamp, senior offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk said fluids will be the key for he and his teammates to perform at a high level, citing numerous cramps as painful reminders.
Dworaczyk also mentioned the importance of a protein-packed pre-game meal that always helps him in tough environments.
“If you eat too much right before the game it won’t help you,” Dworaczyk said. “You won’t get into your system fast enough to help you.”
Working without a staff, Mascari said her job is sometimes overwhelming to do alone, but still considers it her dream.
“Food, especially living in the South, is enjoyable,” Mascari said. “We want to show them their food can be enjoyable.”