The jockey diet focuses on reducing body mass, especially with respect to adipose (fat) mass. The more weight the Jockey has, the more weight the horse has to move and thus the slower the pair move together. With this in mind, there are weight restrictions on how heavy, or not, a jockey can be. The most common weight restrictions mean that the minimal weight a jockey must be, with a seven pound saddle, is 116 lbs, but this varies by the state and race track. There are no restrictions on height, but most jockeys tend to be shorter because it makes having a lower body mass easier to deal with. To keep such low weights jockeys have very restrictive diets and many risk factors both physical and emotional that accompany it. (1,3)

Training Diet
Jockeys should consume at least three meals-a-day because any severe caloric restriction can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate and increase difficulty in maintaining their desired weights. Their food should also be high fiber with a low glycemic index, this helps to ensure satiety with meals. Typically the jockey diet is also very rich in protein and low in fat. (4)

Jockeys should eat approximately two to three hours before their event including foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat and fiber. This helps to reduce the weight in the digestive tract, and although difficult to maintain it is far better than the purging alternative. (4)

Good examples of a pre-race meal include:
  • breakfast cereal and low fat milk
  • fresh fruit and yogurt
  • muffins, toast, or english muffins with honey or jam
  • pancakes and syrup
  • pasta and a tomato based sauce (4)

During Competition
Since the sport of horse racing revolves around the jockeys' weight it is important that they find something that is high energy while still adding little to no weight to the rider, such as sport gels. (4)

After a race one of the most important aspects that the jockey should focus on is rehydration. Since many jockeys restrict fluid intake to make weight, replacing those fluids is extremely important. They should also consume a well-balanced meal two to three hours after their race. (4)

Bad Dieting Practices
May use methods to lose weight such as: As result, some jockey's may reduce their body weight by up to 10 pounds.
  • restricting or avoiding food
  • abusing laxatives and diuretics
  • vomiting
  • smoking to reduce appetite
  • taking diet pills
  • restricting fluid intake
  • drug use (such as cocaine and amphetamines to decrease appetite and increase energy)
  • restriction of vitamins and minerals to avoid minimal weight gain

Saunas and hot baths, and exercising excessively may also be used.

"In a 1995 study by the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute, 69 percent of riders said they skipped meals; 34 percent used diuretics; 67 percent sweated off pounds in the sauna; 30 percent 'flipped,' the term for self-induced vomiting, and 14 percent took laxatives." (3)

Such illness that may accompany jockeys include, but are not limited to:
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • depression
  • eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa)
    • dental erosion
    • abnormal heart rhythms
    • inadequate body fat
    • nutritional deficiencies
    • menstrual irregularity
    • low bone density
    • cramps
    • muscle weakness
    • cardiac arrhythmias
    • stomach lacerations
    • esophagus ruptures
    • tooth decay
    • hair loss
    • electrolyte imbalances
    • organ failure
    • fatal and/or non-fatal heart attacks
  • dehydration
  • musculoskeletal disorders of the lower extremities and spine
  • blood disorders
  • nerve damage
  • kidney damage
  • fainting spells
  • dehydration
  • heat stress
  • kidney stones
  • renal failure
  • lead exposure
  • respiratory issues

Lead exposure results from dust created from lead weights used to weight saddle appropriately.
Respiratory issues caused from debris in air off synthetic tracks. (2)

  • Educate on the dangers of disordered eating, illegal drug use, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, smoking, and restriction of water, vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplementation.
  • Psychological help to overcome eating disorders, and for emotions and feelings that accompany and/pr are created by them.
  • Educate on proper dieting techniques, such as consuming many small meals each day instead of a few large ones

The largest problem facing jockeys is the atmosphere created by the sport and the attitude to do anything to become great, regardless of the various health risks including death.

1 Hareyam, Armen. (2008, November). Jockeys' Diet Leads to Eating Disorders. Retrieved from:
2 Hendricks, Kitty. (2009, April). An Overview of Safety and Health for Workers in the Horse-Racing
Industry. Retrieved from:
3 Schmidt, Neil. (2004, April). Horse racing's dirty little secret. Retrieved from:
4 Greenaway, Bronwen. (2009, April). Jockeys. Retrieved from: