This story appears in the March 28, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
Vadal Alexander likes to eat salmon. In fact, he loves it so much he'll have it a few times a week. But that wasn't always the case. While starting four years at LSU, the offensive lineman leaned more toward milkshakes, Frosted Flakes, and fast food from drive-thru windows. But the 6'5" Alexander revamped his diet and workout routine before the NFL combine and arrived in Indianapolis 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight of 336.
"I'm a big fish guy now," he says. "After the season I changed my body type and added more muscle and trimmed down the fat. The goal for the NFL is 315."
Alexander played guard for the Tigers as a sophomore and junior, but NFL teams are also looking at him at tackle, where he started nine games as a freshman and returned for his senior year. His new eating regimen, created and overseen by dietitian Michelle Riccardi at Exos in Phoenix, includes lots of chicken, fish, green vegetables and protein shakes spread across four or five meals.
In January, Riccardi started him at 3,200 calories per day and after adjusting his intake on a biweekly basis based on his body mass, he is now sticking to a 2,500-calorie diet. Training sessions focused on explosiveness, speed and muscle endurance—high tempo squats, curls and bench press with moderate weight for a high number of repetitions, for example—to prepare Alexander for Combine, Pro Day and private workouts.
"I measured my body fat at 27% going in my senior season," Alexander says. "After leaving training before the combine it was around 22%. That’s a pretty big margin to lose, especially for a big guy."
Now back in Baton Rouge, Alexander is working with former 16-year NFL center/guard and LSU alum Kevin Mawae to master offensive line footwork, hand placement and power blocking drills to prepare him for Day 1 at his new team. And he's sticking with his new menu.
"I want to lose at least five more pounds so I can be quicker and react and handle those d-ends and stuff," says Alexander, who now weighs 320 pounds. "You got to have good footwork and awareness to block guys with a lot of speed at the next level."