Jamie Meeks

Jamie Meeks, LSU Sports Nutritionist

Jamie Meeks, R.D, is the sports nutrition coordinator for the LSU Athletics Department. She is LSU’s first staff Sports Nutritionist, and has been a pioneer in providing nutrition counseling and healthy meal plans for LSU athletes. The importance of nutrition in sport is often understated and poorly understood.In addition, the role of supplements and vitamins to achieve optimal fitness is also frequently misunderstood.

In this interview, Jamie provides excellent insight on how we can improve our nutrition, in order to improve our workouts and sports performance.

Me (Jacques Courseault, M.D): 

All right Jamie, tell us who you are, what do you do and how nutrition can help benefit the Exercise Menu community.

Jamie: 

My name is Jamie Meeks, I am the coordinator of Sport Nutrition for LSU Athletics. We work with all of our athletes here at LSU on individual basis. If they have any individual dietary nutrition needs I can work with them one-on-one.

Also, we provide a lot of team talks, seminars, food demonstrations, grocery tours… and we also do a lot of menu planning for the teams when they are doing pre-game meals, travel, post-game meals, mid practice snacks and fueling and refueling, things of that nature, that’s the majority of my role here at LSU.

Me:

How did you get into sports nutrition?

Jamie:

Actually, I had always been interested in sports nutrition since my freshman year in college. I was a collegiate cheerleader and I just saw the need that nutrition does play a huge role in pretty much the success of all athletes. If you’re not feeling your body is right, there is no way that you’re going to be able to withstand tough workouts and even the stresses on the field.

Nutrition does play a big part so that’s why throughout my studies I always had that mindset that sports nutrition is important and decided to work my way up while learning more about it.

Me:

What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? And which one are you?

Jamie:

A registered dietitian is a person who’s gone through all of the undergraduate studies and also has completed an accredited internship through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This internship covers a variety of different topics including clinical dietetics, community nutrition, and  food service management. Once that is complete then that person is able to sit for the registered dietitian exam. Once that is passed then you get your RD, you become a registered dietitian. RD’s are the food and nutrition experts, translating the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.

A nutritionist… this person is most-likely well-educated in nutrition in some way or form. Many nutritionists have a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or a Doctorate in nutrition. Some may not have any formal education in this field.

I am a registered dietician.

Me:

Let’s say I want to lose fat and gain lean body mass, what are the easiest dietary changes that you would recommend?

Jamie:

That’s a a goal for a lot of people… trying to lose fat, increase lean mass… and really it does start with diet. Exercise, absolutely a very major important role, but diet is very important as well.

What’s really important is making sure that you’re not skipping meals… consistent meals every three or so hours. Lots of lean protein, so whether it be a lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, a lean type of red meat.

Also make sure that you do incorporate some good carbohydrates… and that’s going to keep your energy up to get through those hard workouts. Good carbohydrates, oatmeal, whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rices, potatoes, things like that. Keeping it nice, whole grain, that’s going to give your energy a consistent flow throughout the day.

Then obviously lots of good wholesome vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, lots of water. Making sure that you just have a good variety in your diet. Not going on any fad diets but making sure it’s a good variety of foods throughout the day, every single day and staying consistent with it.

Me:

I’m glad that you mentioned avoiding fad diets… Let’s say I’m trying to get weight. I’m a high school athlete, maybe a football player, a wrestler. What’s the best way to gain weight in a healthy way?

Jamie:

Here at LSU we do have a lot of athletes that are looking to gain weight. Coming right out of high school, into college, we need their mass to be a little bit higher and weight gain is often an issue. Not only increasing portion sizes at each meal, sometimes people can’t withstand a large amount of food at once, it’s finding ways to increase calories without the bulk.

I’d say every chance you get to add maybe some peanut butter or almond butter to something you’re eating. If you’re eating a banana add some peanut butter to it. If you are eating a granola bar spread a little of peanut butter on it. Making smoothies? Put some peanut butter in there. The reason I say peanut butter it just has a lot of calories for a small amount. It’s very calorie dense.

Other ways to add calories… for sandwiches add pieces of cheese to it. When you’re doing cereals or things that call for milk go for a little bit higher fat percentage milk. If you drink one percent go for two, if you drink two maybe go for the whole. Again, that’s just adding more calories.

Another way, maybe at dinner time or lunch time, if you have a nice plate of pasta or vegetables, take some olive oil and drizzle it all over your food. Another way to add good amount of calories but without the bulk.

Lastly, right before bed… definitely a bedtime snack. Nice thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, nice tall glass of milk or chocolate milk to get some more calories in right before bedtime.

Also that nighttime snack does help with recovery as well. If you’re working out very intensely during the day, it helps your muscles recover throughout the nighttime. Not only will it help add calories but it will help that recovery process as well.

Me:

What’s your favorite food or dish?

Jamie:

My favorite dish. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana, hands down, red beans and rice. I’m not just saying that because I’m from New Orleans. It’s my favorite.

Me:

That’s also a fairly healthy dish.

Jamie:

It is. Beans, high in fiber, protein, good carbohydrates.

Me:

What’s your take on supplements? Should people take protein or creatine? What do you think about all that?

Jamie:

My philosophy is food first, supplement second. Whatever your goals are, just make sure that you’re meeting your goal. If you cannot meet your goals just with food, then that’s where the supplements come in. It’s meant to supplement your diet not substitute for it.

Supplements such as a good quality protein powder, a good quality creatine, those are totally fine. Lots of research has shown that those have actually worked but again, making sure that you’re taking them at the right time in the right amounts. Those are totally fine. Omega 3s, multivitamins, a good electrolyte sport drink to replenish losses.

These are supplements that have shown to work and if it’s a good quality brand you won’t run into any issues of being banned substance, positive drug test if that’s part of the sport. Supplements sometimes they are needed. It’s just making sure that you do the research on the actual product and then you’re taking them in the correct way.

Me:

I think it’s very important you mentioned taking a good quality supplement considering that none of them are FDA approved. What brand do you recommend as far as a protein or creatine that you found to be the best and safest to take?

Jamie:

There’s several brands that have acquired the NSF for Sport certification. NSF for Sport is a third party certification that actually tests the facilities for cross contamination. They make sure that what goes in the bottle or in the jar, whatever it is, that it’s a clean product. What’s on the label is actually in the product and vice versa. It goes through extensive testing to make sure it’s a very clean product.

NSF for Sport, they have a website and also a phone app. If you type in “I want a protein,” it will bring up all the certified proteins. If you want an omega 3, it’ll bring up all the omega 3s. That’s a great app to help and you can do check on your phone.

Me:

You’ve done a lot here at LSU over the past few years. Can you tell us a little bit about all the changes you’ve made as far sports nutrition is concerned?

Jamie:

I’ve been here for about three years and my job started off pretty slowly. Sport nutrition was pretty much at it’s start. They had a few schools that had full-time dietitians on staff. When I got here a few teams used my services but it wasn’t really until the end of last year and this year when it just skyrocketed.

The NCAA has really made note that nutrition is a major part of athletics. A lot of universities are hiring  full-time dietitians to help these athletes understand that nutrition is a big part of their training regimen not only here in college but as they move on and graduate for their future.

There are lots of changes especially with the NCAA deregulation. We have a little bit more leniency in what we can feed our athletes during the day. We have set up several fueling stations which consists of nice healthy snack foods where the athletes can grab it before study hall, before practice, after practice. These foods consists of yogurt, hummus, granola bars, bagels, smoothies. All sorts of good, healthy, wholesome foods to nourish their bodies and help recovery.

Many of the athletes now know that there is a nutritionist on staff. They know exactly where to go, who to ask and nutrition is always on the forefront of their mind. I think that’s the biggest change. The awareness of how important nutrition is.

Me:

I’m very interested in everything that you’re telling me and I want to learn more, how can I set myself up to see a sports nutritionist?

Jamie:

You can visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website www.eatright.org and click FIND A REGISTERED DIETITAN at the top right corner. You can also visit the Dietary Practice Group (SCAN) www.scandpg.org to find a sports dietitian in your area.

Me:

What is Healthy Tiger LSU? How can we follow you and stay up to date and all the things that you’re learning and teaching?

Jamie:

The nutrition staff here we’ve gotten the title of Healthy Tiger. We do have a Twitter @HealthyTigerLSU. We have an Instagram, Healthy Tiger LSU. There’s also a blog, healthytiger.blogspot.com. 

That’s not only just nutrition but also out athletic trainers post a good bit of information when it comes to injuries, preventing injuries. Just a wealth of information about health and wellness that anybody can utilize.

Me:

Any last words for our readers?

Jamie:

Yes. Really when it comes to sport nutrition always remember to eat with a purpose. There’s always a purpose of why you’re eating or why you’re about to eat that one thing that’s sitting on the table. In the back of your mind always eat with a purpose, think of what this type of food is going to do for you when your training and just your well-being.

Me:

Perfect. Thanks so much for the insight on sports nutrition!