Jockeys are required to stay in good physical shape at all times and they need to have the strength and cardiovascular fitness because of the strenuous nature of their work. Riding a horse is a difficult task, especially in races when they are going really fast.
Horse jockeys usually spend numerous hours perfecting their skills and preparing for a race. The daily routine for a professional jockey starts at 4 am when they train and sometimes they keep up with this schedule seven days a week.
Additionally, professional jockeys are required to keep low body weight in order to be able to participate in the sport. After all, being overweight can seriously affect the horse’s speed. A failure to meet the weight required for horse racing will result in missing races.
The minimum riding weight in Australia is 56 kg and 54 for other countries. Although most jockeys weigh on average around 61 kg, which means that they need to maintain a well-balanced diet.
Professional jockeys need to be very careful with what they eat in order to manage their weight. However, starving and hunger is not an option for jockeys just because they can lower their metabolic rate. So, jockeys are required to eat at least three meals per day with foods from each group, bread, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy.
High fiber and index carbohydrate-rich foods like cereals or fruit for breakfast are a perfect way for a jockey to start its day. Such foods will also help them with weight control more than other low fiber options.
Additionally, high protein foods are also welcomed in the jockey’s diet. Such foods can also affect their appetite and are more satisfying.
When it comes to fat-rich foods like chips, chocolate, butter, or margarine, they should be eaten only occasionally as they are high in energy and are more likely to contribute to weight gain.
The drinks are also limited in a professional jockey’s diet. Drinking coffee or tea at meat times may impair the absorption of iron and calcium, which is why they should be consumed 30 minutes before or 2 hours after the meal.
What Do Professional Jockeys Eat Before Racing?
Just like any athletes in the sport, the pre-race meal for jockeys should be eaten two to three hours before the race. The meal should be high in carbohydrates and low in fat if you are a jockey competing among the 2022 Kentucky Derby Contenders. Food that is low in fiber and fat is less likely to cause any gastric discomfort.
Examples of a pre-race meal for jockeys:
- Breakfast cereal with low-fat milk
- Fresh/dried or canned fruit and yogurt or a low-fat milkshake or smoothie
- Pancakes with syrup
- Pasta with tomato or a rice dish
- A liquid meal like a soup
However, such meals might not be possible for all races. That’s why jockey usually goes on a lower fiber diet three days before the race, just to compensate for the cheat days on the race tracks.
On a race day, jockeys need to eat foods that provide maximum energy for minimum weight. That’s why sports products like gels, meal replacements, supplements, and sports bars are perfect for race day.
Choosing the race day meal plan depends on an individual jockey’s lifestyle, appetite, weight, and habits. However, all professional jockeys want to have a meal that is low in fat and fiber and high in energy to help them maintain the same pace throughout the race.
After finishing the race, jockeys must rehydrate as soon as possible. A sports drink or water is great for immediately after the race. The first proper meal after the race must come at least 2-3 hours after finishing the event. The meal should be rich in carbohydrates and protein, for example, a bowl of pasta Bolognese is perfect for after the race.