The poor and minimal diet of many jockeys came under the spotlight last week in the Channel 4 television programme Supersize v Superskinny.

In the programme screened on 3 March, 32-year-old former jockey Martin Cotton, who used to ride for trainers such as Sir Mark Prescott and Henry Cecil, weighed just 9st 2lb at the start of the show.

He swapped diets with 24-year-old Wayne Rutter, a 29-stone former bar manager.

But Mr Cotton’s diet was as much of a shock to viewers as Mr Rutter’s. One day’s “food intake” consisted of three glasses of Red Bull for breakfast, two bars of chocolate for lunch and two slices of white toast for supper — along with many cigarettes and cups of coffee.

Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) medical adviser Dr Anne Louise MacKinnon told H&H: “Martin’s diet is fairly typical for a jockey. They want to feel light during the day, so they don’t want to eat something like a bowl of muesli for breakfast that will make them feel full.”

AP McCoy is well known for eating just a KitKat or Mars Bar in the morning, and one in the evening, when he is trying to drop to 10st.

But Dr MacKinnon said the PJA’s team of nutritionists regularly gives seminars at racecourses, produces newsletters with diet advice and works with the British Racing School (BRS).

“It’s improving, but will take time,” she said. “We’re targeting jockeys at the start of their career. It’s difficult to change habits when they’re older.”

Call the PJA nutritional helpline. Tel: 01394 420200.