In The Media > Riding a horse and eating just like one

16 Apr 2010

Size is in the eye of the beholder.

That much is clear when giant Roosters forward Jason Ryles and lightweight jockey Peter Wells consider a barbecue chicken.
“Oh yeah, I’d smash that easy in one sitting.” Ryles says. “That’s a small one. Once you take it apart, start picking at it, there’s not much there.”
Asked how long it would take for him to get through the same bird, Wells’ well-honed diet calculator whirs into action.  “Making sandwiches and so on ... that would last me for a week,” Wells computes.
Considering Ryles is more than twice the weight of Wells, it comes as no surprise the only similarity between these athletes is one rides a horse and the other eats like one.
But the full extent of the dietary differences between the biggest and smallest men in Sydney sport was only laid bare when The Daily Telegraph asked them to compare their daily intake of food.
For Wells, who rides Palacio de Cristal in the Doncaster Handicap on Saturday, life is a constant diet of small portions and sacrifice to ensure he can beat the scales and ride the winners.
“To begin with it is hard, but once you get into a routine it’s lifestyle,” Wells said. “Once you have a good eating pattern, it is not that hard.”
The 25-year-old eats small amounts of food often, which combined with riding and gym work keeps his weight down. Though naturally small – Wells normally weighs about 55kg – he has to be strict approaching a lightweight ride.
This week he will start the day with coffee, yoghurt, toast and fruit. Lunch will be more coffee and fruit. Dinner is a bigger meal of meat and vegies.  “I don’t really have a calorie count,” Wells said. “It is more an energy requirement to keep my body fit enough to perform and keep my weight down.”  “That’s the hardest thing to get balanced. If you are not eating and drinking, your mind, your muscles and body your body suffer. You have to get that balance right”. 
Wells’ diet suggests he eats between 800 and 1000 calories, which sports nutritionist Sarah Dacres-Mannings says borders on the low side.  “There can be long-term health damage by under-eating,” she said.  “I advise apprentice jockeys they can eat 1500 calories a day and keep their weight down.”
Wells says he loses weight gradually and stays healthy with diet and exercise but sacrifice is a constant companion. A solitary beer is a non-no.  “It can be hard but the reward of being in the Doncaster with 51kg on a good shot is worth it,” he said.
For Ryles, eating 800 calories is just warming up the jawbone. The giant Roosters prop ploughs through a mountain of food every day but all of it is required to refuel his 115kg frame.
His daily diet sees him get through approximately 4500 calories and he comfortably sails past the recommended calorie intake for adult me of 2500. But just one hour on the training paddock sees him burn up to 2000-2500 calories.
“I probably don’t eat the healthiest at times but I just make sure I don’t eat too much,” Ryles said.  Like jockeys, some footy players find it easier to keep their weight down than others.  “Someone like Mini (Anthony Minichello) can eat a lot of food because his metabolism works so well,” Ryles said. “But guys like myself and Braith (Anasta) probably can’t eat as much as we’d like and you probably think we eat.”
Ryles said players love match day because they can eat junk food after the match relatively guilt-free.

Iain Payten