While all top athletes adhere to rigorous training regimes and strict diets, jockeys are among the most disciplined sportspeople in the world. Due to horses being allocated a specific weight to carry in a race, jockeys must remain in full control of their diet at all times to weigh the right amount.
A combination of a disciplined diet and an intense training regime, in many cases beginning daily at 5am and involving long running sessions, ensures that jockeys are some of the fittest athletes on the planet. They must strive to stay fit and lightweight enough to perform at the very top of their sport.
Both men and women can be jockeys, though horseracing has traditionally been a male-dominated sport. In more recent years, however, there has been a significant increase in female jockeys competing in horseracing.
How does a jockey’s diet compare to that of other athletes?
While other athletes, such as footballers and sprinters, build their strength and muscle capacity through high-carbohydrate diets and high-intensity training, the routine of a jockey is a little different.
The weight of a jockey is crucial when it comes to raceday performance, so their diet must be concentrated on keeping them light. It is for this reason that many jockeys will often restrict their diet around key races.
Jockeys also burn a lot of energy in short amounts of time and often need boosts, so their breakfast can sometimes be as simple as a cup of tea with two sugars. Top jockeys have been known to carry sugary supplies like jelly sweets for quick boosts when it comes to the crunch at the races.
How fit does a jockey need to be?
When it comes to modern-day horseracing, jockeys are required to pass a fitness test before being allowed to compete or even gain a professional racing licence. This examination includes a bleep test for cardiovascular health, pull-band routines, press-ups, leg raises and even exercises on a mechanical horse. A prospective jockey’s performance in the test is carefully analysed and many hopefuls fail to achieve the minimum score for a pass.
A jockey must not only be physically fit, but they must also have the willpower to avoid the excessive consumption of fatty foods or alcohol and stick to a healthy, balanced diet. However, it is important to remember that Flat jockeys and Jump jockeys have different weight requirements; the former are typically lighter and shorter to facilitate greater speed in Flat racing, whilst the latter are usually taller and slightly heavier to allow for the extra strength and stamina required over the obstacles in Jump racing.
You can find out more about jockeys in our guide here.