If you have watched wrestler Sushil Kumar winning medals at the Olympics, the bulked and toned looks of Aamir Khan in Dangal, meet the man behind their transformations - Ryan Fernando.
By Team ParentCircle
A much sought-after sports nutrition advisor in the country, and Co-Founder of Qua Nutrition, Ryan boasts an impressive list of clients that include wrestler Sushil Kumar, and cricketers Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan, Praghyan Ojah, and Harbhajan Singh.
At 44, Ryan looks at least two decades younger to his age, often getting him into trouble. “I was recently stopped at New Delhi airport for looking much younger than the age mentioned on identity proof and questioned by the CRPF personnel. It was a hilarious experience; however, I shared few tips on healthy eating to them as well.”
In a free-wheeling chat, Ryan shares several tips with our readers.
1. Tell us a little bit about your education and what got you into nutrition
I am from Goa and I studied clinical biochemistry at the Goa Medical College. I later moved on to University of Strathclyde in Scotland for post-graduation in food biotechnology. It dealt with various aspects of food, its minerals, vitamins, absorption rate etc. Studying about the intricacies involved in food and its impact on the body interested me in learning more about nutrition and I wanted to specialize in sports nutrition as well.
2. How did you begin your career?
Initially, I joined the sales team of Hindustan Lever, trying to sell several products to chefs, doctors, and nutritionists. Those interactions were interesting but challenging. I was fondly called as ‘professor’ for my expertise in food biotechnology. Later I joined Amway Nutrilite as a regional trainer.
The job involved educating people on the need for multi-vitamins, supplements through thousands of workshops for nutritionists and others. After moving to South Tablets India, I launched Bodyfuelz, which is a protein powder specially designed to meet the nutrition needs of athletes. It is a top sports nutrition brand that made me popular in the sports community.
3. What were the challenges you faced while trying to sell multi-vitamin products?
All my clients had the same question – how to eat my regular rice, roti and dal? Though supplements, multi-vitamins were quite popular, and I realized that it is important to educate everybody about our staple diet besides talking about supplements. Many interactions were eye-openers, interesting and challenging. Meanwhile, I took a sabbatical from my work and finished a one-year executive MBA program from IIM Ahmedabad. I met my life partner and co-founder of my company Devika Mohapatra and we found Qua Nutrition.
4. What are the services offered at Qua Nutrition?
‘Qua’ means ‘in capacity of’ and we offer tailor-made nutrition plans that would match individual body needs. We let our clients discover the need for right nutrition for a healthy living. At Qua, we believe changing nutrition plan brings in a great change in health, comfort, genes, goals.
Qua Nutrition is a completely self-funded, debt-free company with 9 clinics across the country. Our nutritionists are well trained, and our work reflects passion. We also offer special services like nutrigenomics.
5. What is Nutrigenomics?
Nutrigenomics is a scientific study analyzing how food interacts with our genes. The human body is like a hardware and the software running it is genes. It is important to analyze food behaviour with genes and align both. Currently, the test is expensive, but I am confident the prices would come down as it becomes more popular.
6. Tell us about your experience working with various celeb sports personalities in the country.
I work with several of them and I was with Sushil Kumar both in his Beijing and London Olympics. He is a strict vegetarian and we worked on a unique diet plan during Beijing Olympics as he was competing in the 66 kilograms category, while his body weight was 72. We worked on a limited portion of protein, carbohydrate plan for a weight loss. Our diet consisting dates, protein shakes very little amount of dal, rice with desi ghee. Also, two litres of almond milk during training helped him to preserve muscle and lose weight.
Cricketers like Shikar Dhawan, Robin Uthappa follow instructions to the T. It is important for the cricketers to be hydrated all the time, so I suggest them to carry raisins, dry fruits, sports drink all the time, even while playing.
7. You have transformed Aamir Khan’s bulky look to a slim, healthy, younger version of Mahavir Singh Poghat? How did you chalk out a nutrition plan for Aamir Khan?
To begin, Aamir Khan is a perfectionist and strict disciplinarian. For the older looking character, there was no plan. He ate everything and bulked up to 90 kilograms. The challenge came in when he had to lose weight. He used to work out three times a day. He was on a very high protein diet laced with ginger, cinnamon, pepper for an enhanced metabolism. He took few imported supplements, measured portions of food for a toned look. He worked according to a strict timetable with supreme dedication for six months and he is a delight to work with.
8. What is your advice to the budding sports enthusiasts and others interested in food based nutrition?
Food is our lifeline and impacts our body in a big way. It is important to have a personal diet plan and healthy population contributes much to the growth of country’s development. Sports nutrition is gaining popularity and it will gain more momentum in next few years.
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