Sports Science in Agreement: Jockeys thrive on a wholefoods diet of regular meals
Jockeys are the last group of athletes to get professional sports science support. Jockeys now realise that they are high performing athletes – just like the high performance athletes they are riding. As such they require proper support from everything sports science has to offer. In this series of articles I will be focusing on their nutritional and dietary needs as athletes.
Dr Giles Warrington, Programme Chair of Sports Science and Health at Dublin City University (DCU), Head Sports Physiologist and Sports Science Advisor to the Olympic Council of Ireland, and scientific research coordinator with the Turf Club, was the first to realise that there is a need to start looking at the jockey as an athlete.
Based on the findings of the extensive research undertaken and funded by the Turf Club over the past 10 years, there is now a significant amount of useful information for jockeys to help them prepare effectively for racing similar to athletes from other sports.
What Not to Eat: Scrap the “Petrol Station Diet”. Jockeys lead a hectic life with unpredictable days. Grabbing food on the run without thought, buying food in petrol stations, eating while driving or even holding off on food until the evening and then bingeing on fast food are typical patterns.
Dr Graeme Close, Sports Nutritionists with Liverpool John Moores University, calls it “the Petrol Station Diet”. This is no way to eat for a professional athlete who wants to make it to the top. It will leave you struggling with weight, will make you weak, most likely dehydrate you, and will also lead you on a path to poor health later in life.
So, out go: pretty much anything you can buy at fuel stations (bar water and apples or bananas), fast food, any ready-made supermarket food, any other processed foods, anything salty/sugary/fatty, pretty much anything with a label on it …
What To Eat: A Balanced Wholefood Diet. Gillian O’Loughlin, Dietician with the Turf Club and Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE), sees all apprentice and many professional jockeys in Ireland and has been promoting healthy eating amongst jockeys for years.
She recommends jockeys to eat a balanced diet including wholegrains and warns off the typical periods of starvation jockeys put themselves through. Gillian says, “eat little and often especially when on the run. Have healthy snacks with you, for example keep a stash in the car. Healthy snacks for jockeys must be high in protein, slowly digesting and generally high in nutrients.”
You can eat: proteins and vegetables at all meals, snacks of nuts/seeds, raisins, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks and dips (hummus), plain oat cakes with nut butters (almond, sunflower), Spirulina energy balls “Bounce”, occasionally a slice of rye bread with nut butter, …
Your diet should be based on three main meals made up of proteins and vegetables. Eat only wholefoods and unprocessed natural foods. Buy organic where you can. Dr Graeme Close recommends a guide value of 2g protein per kg weight per day. For the average 60 kg jockey this translates to a 120g piece of meat/fish/tofu/eggs at each meal.
Carbohydrates are your muscles’ fuel, so include wholegrains and high fibre carbohydrates, but also ensure you are including healthy fats in your diet to make weight the healthy way. This translates to a breakfast of 2 scrambled eggs with 1 avocado or a pack of asparagus; a lunch of a chicken breast on mixed leaves with plenty of other crunchy vegetables; and a dinner of stir fry with beef strips.