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01st Jan 2023

The diet of a modern day rugby player compared with a top jockey

Even crazier than we expected

Patrick McCarry


We knew there would be a big difference but we didn’t expect it to be quite so massive.

Ruby Walsh doesn’t do breakfast and he hasn’t done for years. It’s one of the many diet sacrifices he makes to be one of the finest jump jockeys of his generation.

When he was playing for Connacht, John Muldoon was usually about 1,000 calories deep before 9am.

Both men were guests on SportsJOE Live in Galway, back in 2017, and compared their daily diets and routines. It made for a fascinating listen.

“At the end of the day,” Muldoon said, “we eat pretty much the same as everyone else – a normal dinner, eggs and everything in the breakfast – but lots of it and try to keep the weight on.

“At the moment, I’m probably eating 4,500 calories a day. Sorry Ruby. Ruby doesn’t eat that a week!”

‘It’s quite intense at the moment’

“I’m in every morning at 9am,” the Connacht captain continued, “and we train until 12:30. We’ve a break from 10:45am to 11:15am ans [after lunch] we’re back on at 2pm and we finish between 3:30 and 4pm.

“It’s quite intense at the moment – we’re doing lots of running and lots of weights. 4,500 calories will be gone pretty quickly. You’ll burn them off.”

Muldoon is a flanker so his calorie intake would be similar to that of Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander. 4,500 calories is something that would make Walsh’s eyes water. The champion jockey said:

“I eat twice a day, simple as. I have done for years – I’d have lunch and dinner.

“Today, I ate once. I had dinner before I came in here [around 6pm]. I was in work this morning and didn’t get to eat on my way to racing [at the Galway Festival]. I had McDonalds last night, on my way home from the races… Earlier tonight, I ate tapas down the road.

“I know they say it’s good to have breakfast first thing in the morning as it gets your metabolism down but [missing it] is good for me to make weight at 10-stone.”

On average, top jockeys will eat 1,000 calories a day. The average consumption for men is recommended at 2,500.

*Walsh & Muldoon talk diets from 39:00 below:

Muldoon offered some additional insight on the daily routine at Connacht and the tailored training loads for each squad member.

“With GPS [tracking] these days, no stone is left unturned,” he said.

“It tracks how many metres you’ve run in a game, load capacity, contacts are monitored and the shifts in movement of the contacts. They’re able to track everything and, during the week, they can tell you exactly what you need to do.

“You have a scale of four different [training load] sections so on a Thursday they are able to tell you, ‘Right, we’ve changed the afternoon session to this because we haven’t got the load contact in. We haven’t got bump on’. So more bump for this week, or running and high speed metres.”

Two tough sporting professions but we reckon we’d go for the 4,500-calorie diet, if offered the choice.

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*Updated from article first published in 2017