The Secrets of the Jockey Diet

This year’s Cheltenham Festival takes place between Tuesday 13-Friday 16 March with race prize money second only to the Grand National on the horse calendar.

Many of the best British and Irish-trained horses race, which in itself is relatively rare during the rest of the season.

The event attracts many punters new and old to make a punt on the races, with the Gold Cup being the biggest attraction.  Whilst there are plenty of betting stands at the event itself there can often be queues which is my many punters like to bet on the races online.

Might Bite is this year’s favourite for the Gold Cup with Betfair currently offering odds of 4/1.  The Irish horse is closely followed by Native River and Sizing John, both joint-second favourites at 6/1.

Many punters wait to the day itself before placing their bets, whilst the smarter punters will often look at Cheltenham festival tips to get the best value long before the race starts and odds of the fancied horses drop.

As for the jockeys themselves – they have a strict regimen to follow in order to make the weight limit and be in tip top shape for one of the biggest horse racing events in any calendar year.

Whilst most men in Great Britain eat around 2,500 calories a day, jockeys perform their job after consuming only around 40% of that.

Yes, jockeys manage to perform on 1,000 calories per day, with the weight limit for UK jockeys being 57kg.  And jockeys are on the scales first thing in the morning and last thing at night to make sure they’re on track to make the weight limit for their races.

As a result, a jockey’s strict diet means their meals can often be just 300-500 calories per serving.  Breaking the strict diet can easily result in weight gain, particularly for those who have been over the weight limit before or went to extreme lengths to cut down their weight in order to become a jockey in the first place.

Jockeys compete all year round and ride half-tonne horses at speeds of up to 35pmh.  It’s important they get their diet right and be strict in order to both be able to compete and give themselves the best opportunity of winning. Weight is often the difference between winning and not.

Although there are several ways to drop weight, such as sweating in a sauna, a strict diet is often the key to success.  Diuretics are banned from the sport, but exercise and laxatives can be used to get the same result.

Eggs are a popular breakfast among jockeys because they get the metabolism rolling in the morning.  Those who aren’t a big fan of eggs or like a change up every now and then could go with honey.  It’s not uncommon to consume breakfast after exercising the horses or a morning job as the metabolism is already high and burns off the calories quicker.  It’s not uncommon for a jockey to have a coffee or tea to start the day either.

Like most people, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for jockeys to set them up for the day and to make sure they’re not low on energy.  Drinking plenty of water to keep hydrated is a key tip for any wannabe jockeys.

Lunch may be protein based with salad or replaced by something high in protein, such as sweets or sweet tea.  Skipping lunch is not advised as it is recommended to plan on eating a minimum of three complete meals each day.  Liquid meal replacements are fine on occasion.

Steak and other meats along with a salad are popular at dinner time.  Fish is another common meal at dinner time as it has the ability to keep one feeling full without eating too much.

On race days, jockeys may eat foods to give them a boost in energy, such as a small piece of chocolate or even ice cream.  Food is usually consumed two or three hours before the start of the race.

Portion control is of big importance to jockeys in order to keep their calorie count under control in order not to go over the 57kg limit.

Some jockeys eat plenty of starchy food, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta to keep them feeling full, whilst others avoid these as they are associated with gaining weight.  What’s true of all jockey diets is five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day to help provide the required vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.  Likewise, 2-3 portions of dairy foods each day help keep the bones strong.

To state the obvious, jockeys don’t and shouldn’t eat too much fat.  Whereas meat, fish and eggs all provide to protein for muscle growth.