A New Addition to LSU

The LSU Athletic Department is proud to welcome a new member to its team, Jamie Mascari, RD. Jamie is a native of New Orleans who completed her undergraduate studies in Dietetics here at LSU. She has taken on the position as the Graduate Assistant Registered Dietitian for LSU Athletics. Jamie will be working towards a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology. The LSU Athletic Training Department is looking forward to working closely with Jamie to improve our athletes' health. Jamie graciously sat down with us for a quick interview.

Upon graduating from LSU, you received an internship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), what did you gain from that experience?
As tough as it was to leave LSU, completing my dietetic internship in Arkansas was probably one of the best decisions I have made. This particular internship was a jointly sponsored program by the College of Health Related Professions at UAMS and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. During my year there, I had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of dietetic-related practices including: hospital in-patient care, out-patient clinics, pediatric nutrition, community and public health programs, nutrition research, corporate wellness, school food service, fitness centers, and the food industry. I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of topics offered to me and the chance to learn from numerous, respectable registered dietitians (RD) in the Little Rock area. Each rotation lasted 1-3 weeks, which challenged me to be able to quickly learn and adapt to each RD and their different ways of practice. Another great opportunity of mine was working with our country’s Veterans at the Little Rock Veteran Affairs hospital. Caring for their nutritional needs and getting to know them and their stories truly was an amazing experience.
In addition to my practical experience, I also completed 12 hours of graduate level coursework. Classes consisted of various topics such as Medical Nutrition Therapy, Nutrition Counseling, and Nutrition Research.

Why did you choose to return to LSU after you internship?
Even though my experience in Little Rock was a great one, I wanted to narrow my dietetic focus and practice to Sport Nutrition for athletes. After much research about the role of Sport RDs and reputable advice from New Orleans Saints registered dietitian (and LSU alum) Tavis Piatolly, I decided that a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology would be the perfect combination with my nutrition background. LSU graduate school was my one and only choice; there was no other place I wanted to be. One year away from my Tigers was hard enough! I was accepted to the Exercise Physiology Master’s program in LSU’s Kinesiology department and began my graduate studies fall of 2010. Over the past year, I have been able to successfully apply my nutrition knowledge to many new concepts of sports and exercise. It has been a gratifying learning experience with inspiring professors and enthusiastic classmates. I am certainly looking forward to my final semester in the program.

What do you hope to bring to the LSU Athletic Department?
Many college and university athletic departments are taking advantage of registered dietitians’ valuable guidance and practical nutrition recommendations for their athletes and using them to build prominent sport nutrition programs. According to the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association, dozens of major college and professional teams have rebuilt the infrastructure of their support service systems by placing sports dietitians among their staff. The registered dietitian works closely with the athletes and promotes nutrition as an essential component in performance as well as overall health. In addition to attending to the athletes’ nutritional needs, the registered dietitian works in conjunction with the team coaches, medical staff, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning staff, and administrators in order to ensure all athletes a comprehensive team of professionals who can assist in maximizing their athletic abilities.
Here at LSU, Senior Associate Athletic Trainer, Shelly Mullenix, has developed a successful wellness program that has helped meet the needs of the student athletes academically, physically, and psychologically. Furthermore, the nutrition component of the wellness program has benefitted many of the LSU sport teams and individual athletes, but it still has the potential of growing into a top university sport nutrition program. Accordingly, as a registered dietitian, I feel as though I am a valuable addition to the nutrition section of the wellness program and an integral member of LSU’s sport medicine team of professionals.
Sport nutrition has grown tremendously over the past decade and undoubtedly has shown to have a positive effect on athletes’ performance potential. Most collegiate athletes understand their food choices and dietary habits ultimately influence their body composition, overall health, and in particular, their athletic performance. However, many of these student athletes arrive to college with limited nutrition knowledge and several misconceptions concerning diet and performance. In addition, the lifestyle of a college athlete creates many challenges in meeting the nutritional demands their body requires. With a RD on staff, LSU student athletes have the opportunity to receive nutrition counseling and education that are tailored to the needs and lifestyle of the individual.

What do you hope to gain from working with the LSU Athletic Department?
I have come to realize that once I graduate from my Master’s program, my learning will continue on forever. Athletics is a fast-paced, ever-changing job that requires keeping up with the most current nutritional research and recommendations on a daily basis. I am looking forward to working closely with the sports medicine team and strength staff. These professionals possess a breadth of invaluable experience working with athletes, and I hope to learn as much as possible from them.
Furthermore, the leadership of the team coaches and administrators, expertise of the medical staff, knowledge and experience of the certified athletic trainers, and skill of the strength and conditioning staff already play a key role in the continual success of the LSU athletic program. I hope that as the new registered dietitian for LSU athletics, I can establish not only the value of sport nutrition at LSU but also a top sport nutrition program in collegiate athletics.

How has your past experiences with LSU Athletics helped you in your new position?
As a former LSU cheerleader, I had the chance to meet and cheer for some of LSU's greatest sport teams (including the 2007 football National Champions and 2006 Men’s Final Four basketball team), as well as get to know several members of the coaching and athletic staff. It was through my four years of cheering at LSU that helped me realize that proper nutrition is essential for optimal performance- on and off the field. Cheerleading itself is a highly demanding athletic activity, consisting of team practices, workouts, cheering at LSU sporting events, promotional appearances, and national competitions. The positive effect of appropriate dietary habits on my personal skills, strength, and health made me a true advocate to sport nutrition for all athletes. In addition, I was able to see and experience first-hand the lifestyle of student athletes, who are always on-the-go and rarely have time to sit and enjoy wholesome, homemade meals. I recognized the need for consistent nutrition education that includes practical advice that fits the athletes’ sports, schedules, and individual needs.
Lastly, but certainly not any less important than the topics above, is that my past experiences with LSU Athletics have had a huge impact on the pride and love I have for the Fighting Tigers. It is truly a blessing to be working with our athletes and contributing to the success of one of the best and most traditional universities in the country. GEAUX TIGERS!