Nutritional, lifestyle, and weight control practices of professional jockies

Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): J Sports Sci
Year: 2011
Volume: 29
Number: 8
Page numbers:791-799
doi (if applicable):

Summary of background and research design

Hypothesis: The authors did not state a specific hypothesis, but were concerned that jockeys may resort to unhealthy diet and/or exercise practices to make weight.  The authors stated that the problem of weight restriction in jockeys is compounded by the fact that, in Ireland, where the study was conducted, the average jockey trainee mass has increased by 37% while the minimum weight allocation for flat track jockey has increased by only 6% over the past 30 years. 

Subjects: 27 professional jockeys (17 flat track, 10 National Hunt (obstacles on track)) participated in a survey. Average age was 27.3 years, average height was 1.67 m, average body mass was 58 kg, and average percentage body fat (via dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) was 9.5%. All jockies were male and licensed.

Experimental design: Observational, cross-sectional

Treatments:No treatments assigned

Protocol:Participants completed a 7-day food diary during a “typical racing week”. Resting metabolic rate was estimated via the use of an equation. Participants also completed a modified version of a diet, health, and lifestyle questionnaire. The questionnaire contained 59 open- and closed-ended items and was pilot tested on 100 Australian professional jockeys before the study. The instrument collected general information on general health, smoking, methods and time frames of weight control for racing, perceived negative effects associated with making weight, and self-perception of challenging and positive aspects of the jockey lifestyle.
Summary of research findings
  • Average energy intake of the jockeys was 1803 kcal/day, with no significant differences between the groups of jockies.  This value was sufficient to support a physical activity level of 22% above the resting energy expenditure and well below the estimated energy requirement of 3952 kcal per day on race day.
  • Carbohydrate intake was 3.7 g/kg body weight/day, which was below the recommended carbohydrate intake of 6-10 g/kg/day.
  • Protein intake averaged about 1.3 g/kg/day, at the low end of the recommended range of 1.2 to 1.7 g/day for athletes.
  • Fat intake was around 33% of energy.
  • Greater than 50% of the sample consumed less than the Estimated Average Requirement for vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, and calcium. [NOTE:  The Estimated Average Requirement represents an intake at which 50% of the healthy population would be considered deficient.]
  • 86% of subjects reported using a sauna to control weight.  Other behaviors reported by over 50% of the sample included exercising to sweat, restricting food intake, not eating between meals, keeping busy to avoid eating, and fasting.  Smoking was reported by 5 jockies (24%) as a method of weight control.
  • Thirst was the most common negative effect reported for rapid weight loss (reported by 52% of sample).  In addition, 52% of the sample identified the weight control as a challenging aspect of being a jockey.
  • [NOTE:  It appears in Table II of the article that the intakes of carbohydrate and protein in grams were reversed.  The carbohydrate intakes were reported in the protein section and vice versa.]
Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications

It appears from this study that jockies in Ireland typically resort to several dietary and lifestyle practices that could be considered unhealthy in their attempts to lose weight. It is not clear if these behaviors can be generalized to other jockies. However, nutritional and lifestyle education is needed in this population.

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