Dietary intake, energy availability and weight control practices of male apprentice jockeys residing at the SA Jockey Academy
Krog, Kathleen Theresa
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INTRODUCTION: Professional jockeys are considered elite sportsmen competing in a sport with certain weight restrictions. Horse racing is categorized as a “weight-making” sport where jockeys can benefit from attaining and/or maintaining a specific weight for competition. The minimum riding weight for professional jockeys and apprentice jockeys who are race riding is currently 52 kg. The lighter the jockey (i.e. the closer he can remain to the minimum weight of 52 kg) the more rides may be allocated to him (and the more money he will earn). This places a great deal of pressure on the jockey to maintain a low body weight, in order to attain rides. Unlike other weight category sports, horse riding does not have an “off season”, therefore jockeys are constantly pressured to maintain a minimal weight. Consequently this may result in unhealthy eating habits, dangerous weight control practices and compromised health. Research on the weight making practices of apprentice jockeys is scarce. In fact, there is currently no published data available on the South African apprentice jockey. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the dietary intake, energy availability and weight control practices of male apprentice jockeys residing at the South African Jockey Academy. METHODS: Twenty one male flat jockey apprentices of different race groups, between the ages of 16 and 20 years were recruited to take part in this cross sectional observational study. Height, weight and body composition (body fat percentage and fat free mass) were measured. The apprentices completed a 59-item nutrition, health and lifestyle questionnaire including questions on weight control and weight making practices. Dietary intake was recorded with a 24-hour dietary recall on four non-consecutive days including a rest day, two training days, and a race day. On these days, exercise energy expenditure was also recorded with Actiheart© monitors with the aim to calculate energy availability. MAIN FINDINGS: Total mean reported energy intake of the participants was 7088±2337kJ (35.5±12.5kcal/kg fat free mass [FFM]) and below the recommendations for athletes exercising several hours per day for most days of the week. The micronutrient intakes of the majority of these jockeys were also low (i.e. <67% of recommended intake). Mean calculated energy availability (EA) over two training days and one rest day was 27.1±16.7 kcal/kg FFM and regarded as low (i.e.<30kcal/kg/FFM). Furthermore, the majority of apprentices (88%) had a low EA on the training days. Ninety one percent of the jockeys reported the use of one or more weight control method including food avoidance (81%), restricting food intake and skipping meals (67%), exercising to sweat (48%) and using the sauna (43%). The top three reported side effects from making weight included thirst (80%), hunger (75%) and tiredness (75%). CONCLUSION: In conclusion, the results of the present study showed that the majority of South African apprentice jockeys are practicing weight control methods, specifically restricting energy and food intake, to control their weight. This was supported by the mean low dietary energy intake and sub-optimal mean energy availability. These apprentice jockeys are therefore at risk for long-term health consequences including low bone mineral density.
- Health Sciences