Fitness is the only religion I know.
I am pretty much an agnostic so my only religion is my body. I think there is nothing more important than health and workout and my aim is to live and die with a six-pack.
Most of you will have heard my fitness mantra - “healthy life is like a tripod - good food, good sleep and a good workout routine”.
Let’s look at these one by one…
To get the body you desire, 60% depends on the diet and 40% on the workout. However, most people, who are working all day outside, don’t get time to work out regularly. It’s difficult to visit the gym every day if you have to devote time to a family. And not everyone can afford the high membership fees of a gym.
So - if you don't have time to exercise every day then at least eat right. That's important. Pay attention to your diet. Eat on time and eat the right food. When you eat right, everything about you is better, especially your skin and hair!
Have a good breakfast: Despite my hectic schedule, I always find time to have a healthy breakfast, so I just don’t buy the argument when people say they don't get time in the morning. Get up half an hour earlier, or prepare something the night before. Try to include eggs for protein and fruits for fructose.
Having a decent breakfast ensures that you have enough energy to sustain you through the day. Your brain will also thank you as you will be more alert and your concentration will be better.
Fuel your body through the day: When you are active, you need to munch on something in order to give you enough energy and keep your metabolism up. You need to adequately fuel your body if you expect it to work for you. And a nutritious snack at the end of a workout is a must
Getting the balance right:It amuses me that, whenever I eat in public, people try to peep at my plate with an intention to see what magical stuff am I eating. Believe me, there is no great secret. You don’t have to consume only expensive diet food in order to stay healthy.
Rather than looking for how many calories you get from your meals, look at the nutritive value of what you are eating. The natural sugars you get from a piece of fruit are obviously better for you than the empty calories in refined sweets.
Consume everything from salts to carbs, but in measured, sensible proportions.
No need to cut the carbs completely: We all love carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes, bread) but try to have them early in the day. They are excellent fuel and will fill you up and give you energy. More importantly, your body then has the whole day in which to burn them off.
Fight temptation with moderation: I LOVE my food but at the same time I’m careful to eat right and resist temptation. Recently on the sets, I was offered a plate of gulab jamun and samosa. I was tempted, but I told myself that this is not allowed and just walked away. But even fitness enthusiasts have their weaknesses. I love chocolate yet I keep any indulgences to a minimum.
There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but ‘occasional’ doesn’t mean every day!
Water is important: You may have read that before I do a bare body photo shoot I reduce my intake of water, salt and sugar marginally for a couple of days to eliminate any form of water retention to get the chiselled look. The key words there are ‘marginally’ and ‘a couple of days’. I once read a report in which it was claimed that I didn’t drink ANY liquids at all for two days to get the desired look. That is nonsense. Such severe fluid reduction is potentially very harmful and should never be done to excess.
In fact, on a daily basis, muscles need water to help them grow. Water also flushes out impurities, improving your skin, energy levels and brain function. You should drink at least six glasses a day and always rehydrate after a strenuous workout.
Supplements: It takes a lot of calories to build muscle . When training for Force I consumed about 25 to 30 egg whites a day. Now my diet has dropped to a tenth of what I ate during Force but I still have to supplement what I eat.
I am a pescetarian – that means I avoid meat but I do eat fish and egg whites to give me protein. However, given the extreme levels of training that I often have to undergo for a particular look or specialised action sequence (like the cage fight in Race 2), I use supplements in the form of whey shakes and protein bars to boost my nutrition, but make sure you read up on them so that you use them correctly.
Know your body type: I have an ectomorph body type, which means I am naturally lean and have a tendency to lose weight easily. I really need to workout heavily and eat well if I want to gain weight.
Having grown up as a lean kid, I like the element of size. Now I usually weigh in at about 86 kilos – depending on what my current role demands of me!
If you are serious about building your body, it involves science, not just plain effort. I first learned about the different body types and their individual requirements while working on Dostana. Before you start working out, I’d advise getting a dietician to identify your body type, your metabolic age and the pace of metabolism in your body. That way, you and your trainer will be able to tailor your diet and routine to your particular needs.
This is very important. Sleep for at least eight hours a night. During sleep the body goes into repair mode, which is crucial if you are working out regularly.
In today’s busy lifestyles, the need to sleep is often put off until the last minute, but it is essential, especially when you are trying to build muscle. Muscles don’t grow when you’re working them in the gym. They grow afterwards, when you are resting. If you stint on sleep, you are stinting on your health and your desired physique.
03 WORKOUT ROUTINE
I’m often asked what my particular workout is. Well, very honestly, my regime changes all the time, depending on the look I am trying to achieve for my current film. My workout for Force, for example, was very intensive, lifting heavy weights to build maximum muscle mass. For Race 2 I had to be a convincing cage fighter, so the emphasis shifted to a more chiselled look encompassing flexibility and agility. For Madras Café I have to be lean and mean, so lots of cardio and interval training have come into play.
However, here are a few basic rules that will never change:
Exercise should be a way of life and not a phase of life: Try to do some form of exercise every day. It strengthens your body without causing burn out and improves your immunity to illness.
Time and technique: Just going to the gym and lifting weights won't help build muscle if you aren’t doing it right. Make sure you get proper instruction otherwise you could end up damaging your joints. With perfect technique – using the weights to work the muscle in the correct way – you won’t need to spend hours in the gym because your workouts will be efficient and precise.
Slow and steady: The thing to remember when sculpting the body is ‘slow and steady wins the race’. If you try to build up or slim down too fast your metabolism can get messed up. And more importantly, your skin can lose its elasticity as it’s forced to expand or contract too quickly. Once your skin has been stretched the marks will remain forever and no one wants that.
Keep things varied: It’s a fallacy that I am always struck in the gym. I do keep a strict workout regime, even during busy shooting schedules, but I vary my workout. I make time for an outdoor game as often as I can and keep changing my routine to avoid it getting monotonous. Variation not only keeps things interesting but it also keeps the body guessing as it adapts to each new activity.
It doesn’t have to be expensive: You don't need to spend excessively to get fit. It’s very easy to get a fit body. You don’t need to go to gym – just play a sport like football, tennis or squash. Get activity into your daily life – walk an extra stop instead of taking the bus, take the stairs not the lift, walk around while you’re on the phone instead of sitting. All these extra little activities soon add up.
Don’t forget your legs: It’s tempting to just work on the arms and chest but your legs must also be in good shape. There’s an old saying in bodybuilding, that ‘testosterone shoots bottom up’. So you have to have great legs for a great body. Work on your calf muscles especially – it’s something we all need to do to beat the dreaded chicken-leg syndrome!
It’s all about body fat: Getting six-pack abs or even eight-pack abs are the ultimate goal these days, but the truth is we all have abs – they just don’t show if you have too much body fat covering them! You can do as many as a hundred crunches a day but, while that will certainly tone the muscles, they still won’t show if your body fat percentage is too high. Always include some cardio in your workout to blast out the fat.
That said, fat isn’t entirely bad. We all need a little so our bodies can store emergency energy and help fight off infections. Body fat of less than 7% (for men) will depress your immune system if sustained for long periods.
Be disciplined: In the workout space keep your mind clean and focused. A great physique doesn’t happen by accident. You need to have discipline and dedication. For me, going to the gym is a necessity and part of my everyday routine. A committed gym regimen, plus good discipline and proper diet, will help you attain a great body.
THINGS NOT TO DO
Crash diets are a strict no-no: Don’t starve yourself to lose weight. You will only damage your body. Fad diets or crash diets don’t work in the long term.
Be sensible: You may have read articles in which it’s been said that I kept working towards a particular goal in the gym even when I was injured or running a fever. That’s because I am often up against a strict deadline to achieve a particular look. But it’s not good practice in everyday life. I take my fitness seriously. I know when my body is damaged and when it needs a break to repair itself.
You too must listen to your body. If a muscle gets strained or torn, rest it until it heals. If it’s in your leg but you feel you really must work out, exercise your upper body instead while the injury repairs. And you should never workout when you have a fever or virus. You will hinder both your ability to workout effectively and delay your recovery – a double negative!
Too many late nights: It’s great to go out and socialise, but I try to do that with a few friends at home. When you go out too often and spend too many late nights, you start ageing faster. And let’s be honest, nobody wants that!
Never use steroids: The use of these unnatural substances is simply unacceptable. They lead to hair loss, high blood pressure, mood swings, aggression, loss of libido and enlarged glands. I’m serious - stay away from them.
No to drugs: I perhaps can't tell anyone not to drink. But drugs, guthka and pan masala are a complete NO-NO. I think drugs are the worst thing to happen to any society. They destroy health and ruin lives. Please, be responsible.
Don’t take shortcuts: Very honestly, there are no shortcuts to getting a good body – not if you want it to last. It takes hard work and dedication. But it’s very important to love your body whatever it looks like. Treat it with respect, be good to it and, like everything in life, you will reap the rewards.
AND IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BODY…
It’s nice to look good, but you should strive for a healthy mind too. Try to live a clean and responsible life. Be honest with yourself and the people around you. Be considerate and respectful and conduct yourself with dignity.
At the end of the day, having six (or even eight) pack abs means nothing if your outlook and attitude aren’t in equally good shape.