What's the one thing Missouri quarterback Drew Lock can't go without before he takes the field for a day of practice? A purple Jell-O shot.
"I started doing it, put a good practice together. Did it again, and put another good practice together," Lock said. "It became one of those things where I'm like, 'Alright, I gotta have a Jell-O shot before I go out to practice. Because if not, it's going to be a bad day."
It's not what you think — promise.
The Jell-O shots, dubbed "Hydration Jell-O's" by Missouri director of sports nutrition Claire McDaniel, have become a staple of Tigers athletics since she arrived in Columbia and took over the position in July. Rows upon rows of the colorful — and sometimes clear — miniature plastic cups await football players both on a counter outside the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex dining hall before practice and on foldout tables near the ice baths afterward. The men's basketball team has its own sports nutrition intern make a batch of Hydration Jell-O's before every practice, too.
It doesn't quite slide down with the ease of the gelatin from your grade school lunch or long nights at Snapper's, though.
"When you try it, you're like, 'This isn't the Jell-O I had as a kid,'" McDaniel said. "It's really thick, because the whole point is getting gelatin, which is collagen, into the system."
Collagen can help strengthen joints and tendons by reinforcing what's known as the extracellular matrix, described by McDaniel as "the steel bars in reinforced concrete that increase the strength and ductility of the material." Recent studies by Keith Baar, a professor in residence at University of California, Davis' Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology, suggest gelatin be consumed before practice so the increased blood flow that accompanies physical activity can work the collagen into key soft-tissue areas.
The goal, Baar writes, is to prevent the musculoskeletal injuries — injuries involving soft-tissue muscles, tendons and ligaments — that account for more than 70 percent of injury time away from sports.
And, because the irony isn't lost on McDaniel that she's fueling student-athletes with a concoction commonly used to fuel boozy nights out on the town, she let's the team know where she stands on alcohol use from the get-go.
"I make it very clear that alcohol will completely, 100 percent sabotage everything you're trying to do," McDaniel said.
If Jell-O just isn't your thing, it's OK — you're not alone. Missouri coach Barry Odom said during fall camp he didn't know the Hydration Jell-O's existed and that he'll "stick to good old H2O."
What Odom did endorse, however, was the job McDaniel has done since taking over as the director of sports nutrition.
"She's very knowledgable, and I admire her work ethic and the way that she works to build relationships," Odom said. "She cares about the attention to detail and the habits of making sure (nutrition) is an advantage for our program."
McDaniel, however, announced her resignation from the position in late August, and Friday will be her last day in office. Rest assured, though — the 23 student interns who help with the department's day-to-day operations have been given the recipe and will be cranking out Hydration Jell-O's like nobody's business until Missouri Athletics names McDaniel's replacement.
Supervising editor is Pete Bland.