My incessant need of consuming fat-burning pills, protein powders and energy drinks — in the pursuit of physical strength and looks — is something that always bothered my wife. In 2012, I clearly remember, I was training for a bicycle ride from my house in Gurugram to Shimla. I went about pushing my strength, endurance and willpower for it. All my research and fitness certifications had led me to opt for a performance plan of 4000 calories, where I was consuming all possible health supplements.
Today, as a Sustainability and Performance Coach, I am quite put off when I see folks sipping different performance cocktails (amino’s, pre-workouts and protein shakes). I rarely see them lifting more than their own body weight on compound lifts, and their mobility and stability is another question mark altogether.
This personal transition from a gym junkie to a person aiming for sustainable fitness and happiness, came through some serious falls and mistakes. In a span of training that ran almost a decade, I have consumed amino acids, nitric oxide based pre-workouts, caffeine and ephedra based thermogenic (fat-burner) pills. Not to forget the numerous antioxidants and multivitamins.
The irony is that on a health scale, if I was to compete with my wife (purely to draw a logic), I would say that in a decade, the positive results she achieved with home-made food, sports-based training and healthy life habits, have outdone all my hours in the gym, supplements and protein shakes.
My intent is not to debate which health brand or new blend holds the key to performance, but to make readers aware that under the grab of science, we are literally on a path to self-annihilate ourselves.
The Flip Side
There are very few long-term studies that have documented positive and negative effects of these performance supplements.
Simultaneously, the prevailing laws have enough gaps for manufacturers to conceal ingredients and gain licenses for ever-increasing advances in these products. Are you also being compelled by marketing and in-your-face propaganda to consume these supplements?
My objective is to help make regular people understand the importance and potency of the great human body.
I believe that gut health is extremely important for us to excel in training and in life. Unfortunately, we are stuffing ourselves with excessive wheat, protein and micro supplementation, but are still ending up with vitamin D deficiencies, immunity challenges, poor bio-mechanics, posture and some or the other training injuries.
Unless you are a full time professional athlete managing 6-8 hours of training daily, along with professional and academic engagements, I seriously doubt if you need these man-made ‘marvels’ of food.
Here’s the Diet Plan I Replaced the Supplements with — and How It Did Wonders!
Start with basic changes, and hold onto your patience and persistence. This is what my diet plan includes:
Morning (Pre-workout): I start my day with wheat grass juice followed by lukewarm water with turmeric, ginger and lemon. Prior to training, I have dry fruits — dates along with a mixture of walnut, almond and raisins. On days when I have a hard training session planned, I have a banana along with my favorite poison, black coffee.
Post Training: Post-training recovery comprises of two egg omelettes with oat-meal, mixed with cinnamon, ashvagandha and some flax seeds.
During the day: My top protein sources include quinoa, sprouts and 100 grams of chicken breast. Snacking comprises one apple, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and lotus seeds. Primary goal is to stay well hydrated. All my home made food is cooked in ghee or coconut oil. The wife is particularly happy when dinner includes two gluten-free rotis with homemade dal, and a must-have green vegetable.
With this, I remove all supplements and switch to gluten-free foods that are low on the glycemic index, in place of wheat.
After just six months, I have improved my blood sugar numbers, have more energy, improved focus and better bowel regularity. On top of that, I also lost a good amount of weight!
I manage all my potassium, zinc and magnesium needs from natural sources. Whole foods have helped me get rid of liver toxicity, gut irritability naturally, but I am still fighting my good-bad habit of sticking to only two cups of coffee a day. I do cheat and sneak one in sometimes!
But the lesson learnt is simple: Most of the things we think are problems and thus, require supplementation, are actually just inconveniences. We take the potential of our human body for granted. Just a little bit of patience, willpower and effort can take us a long way in achieving our health goals.
(Jeevan Aujla loves his coffee and stoic philosophy. He has challenged his decades old beliefs on fitness while studying sport & exercise science for his master's. He is currently enjoying the nuances of running an early stage start up called Decode Strength+Conditioning . Follow him on insta @decode_vasantvihar)