If you have watched wrestler Sushil Kumar winning medals at the Olympics or admired the bulked-up and toned versions of Aamir Khan in 'Dangal', meet the man who transformed them — Ryan Fernando.
By Team ParentCircle
A much sought-after sports nutrition advisor in the country, and co-founder of Qua Nutrition, Ryan Fernando boasts an impressive list of clients that includes actor Aamir Khan, wrestler Sushil Kumar, as well as cricketers Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan, Pragyan Ojha, and Harbhajan Singh.
At 44, Ryan looks at least two decades younger, which often gets him into trouble. “I was recently stopped at New Delhi airport for looking much younger than the age mentioned on my identity proof and was questioned by the CRPF personnel. It was a hilarious experience! However, I shared a few tips on healthy eating to them as well.”
In a free-wheeling chat with ParentCircle, Ryan shares several tips on nutrition, eating right and staying healthy.
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 Goa Medical College. I later moved to the University of Strathclyde in Scotland for post-graduation in food biotechnology. My degree dealt with various aspects of food, minerals, vitamins, absorption rate, etc. Studying the intricacies involved in food and its impact on the body led me to learn more about nutrition and I wanted to specialise 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 and challenging. I was fondly called ‘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 — 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 realised that it is important to educate everybody about our staple diet besides talking about supplements. Many interactions were eye-openers. Meanwhile, I took a sabbatical and finished a one-year executive MBA program from IIM Ahmedabad. I met my life partner and the co-founder of my company, Devika Mohapatra. Together, we set up Qua Nutrition.
4. What are the services offered at Qua Nutrition?
‘Qua’ means ‘in capacity of’ and we offer tailor-made nutrition plans to match individual needs. We let our clients discover the need for the right nutrition for healthy living. At Qua, we believe changing nutrition plan brings in a great change in health, comfort, genes and goals.
Qua Nutrition is a completely self-funded, debt-free company with nine clinics across the country. Our nutritionists are well-trained, and our work reflects passion. We also offer special services like nutrigenomics.
To connect with well-known nutritionist Ryan Fernando at the webinar, click here.
5. What is nutrigenomics?
Nutrigenomics scientifically analyses how food interacts with our genes. The human body is like hardware and the software running it, is genes. It is important to study food behaviour with genes and align both. Currently, the test is expensive, but I am confident that prices will come down as it becomes more popular.
6. Tell us about your experience working with various sports personalities in the country.
I work with several of them and I was with Sushil Kumar at the Beijing and London Olympic Games. He is a strict vegetarian. We worked on a unique diet plan during the 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 weight loss. His diet consisted of dates, protein shakes, very little dal and rice with desi ghee. Also, two litres of almond milk during training helped him to preserve muscle and also, lose weight.
Cricketers like Shikar Dhawan and Robin Uthappa follow instructions to the T. It is important for cricketers to be hydrated all the time, so I suggest they carry raisins, dry fruits and sports drinks always, even while playing.
7. You transformed Aamir Khan’s look in Dangal from bulked-up to a slimmer, younger version of Mahavir Singh Phogat. How did you chalk out a nutrition plan for him?
To begin with, 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 was 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 some imported supplements with measured portions of food for a toned look. He worked according to a strict timetable with supreme dedication for six months. He is a delight to work with.
8. What is your advice to 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 as a healthy population contributes to the growth of the country’s development. Sports nutrition is gaining popularity and it will gain momentum in the coming years.
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