Protein supplements, all kinds of powders and even certain diets have come under the scanner.
In the quest for the perfect body and to look our best, the one person whose advice we blindly follow is our fitness trainer’s. But at what cost are we getting those six-packs, toned arms and perfect butts?
If you want a beefed up body like the one sported by your beloved star on screen, you head to the gym. And once you’re there, to transform yourself into a Greek God, you put your trust in one person — your fitness instructor. The future of your fitness journey is dictated by this one person. So, naturally, his/her nutrition and exercise commands are followed like the gospel. And if you are diligent, you’ll soon end up with good ‘results’. While the six-pack, toned arms and the perfect derriere look great, at what cost are you getting them?
Body takes a beating
More often than not, we tend to forget our trainers aren’t qualified medical professionals. And so we follow what they say and pump ourselves with steroids, supplements and all manner of pills, till our bodies retaliate. Though our physical appearance may be great, our poor kidneys, heart and liver take the brunt of it. The reality is trainers aren’t doctors. While some are certified and follow clean methods, there are others who are self-taught and don’t mind trying anything for quick results.
Says Dr Abhishek Srivastava, Director of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Centre at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, “Basically people take three types of drugs to bulk up. One is the anabolic steroid, which means medicines that can cause protein retention in the body to make the muscles bigger. Steroids are hormones, which are naturally produced in the body. These can increase appetite and cause more muscle bulk. Second are the protein supplements. Our kidneys can tolerate only a certain amount of protein in a day. Whatever we consume, all the drugs are metabolised in the liver and excreted in the urine. So the brunt of all the chemicals we ingest is borne by the liver and kidneys. The third category is vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These things shouldn’t be given unless you understand the pathology of the patient. Steroids are never prescribed as such. They are allowed only in extremely-monitored conditions in non-Olympic sports. But they are prescription drugs. Anabolic steroids can only be given by a doctor and not by a fitness trainer. A fitness instructor, only in moderate limits, can prescribe proteins for a fixed amount of time.”
There are rumors that actor Rana’s illness has been caused by his stressful fitness regimen, which required him to take supplements to gain over 100 kgs for his look in the Baahubali series. In between these films, he had to slim down drastically for his role in Ghazi. All this seems to have taken a toll on his body. Kunal Gir has been a trainer to many A-list Bollywood stars and Rana. Despite many attempts to contact him, he wasn’t reachable.
But Rana isn’t the only one resorting to extreme measures. Aamir Khan too had bulked up for Dangal and shed all the extra pounds for his next Thugs of Hindustan. Though he doesn’t seem to have any health problems, experts say such drastic measures should always be supervised by medical experts and not just a fitness trainer.
Says Dr Kiran Challagondla, Physiotherapist, Indian badminton team, “There are times when an actor might need to put on/shed weight in a limited time and they might have to take steroids for that. This practice is completely incorrect. A body (depending on age, height and weight) takes certain time to put on or shed weight. We should let the body take that much of time because steroids do have a very bad effect on one’s health.”
Emphasis on medical supervision
Protein supplements, all kinds of powders and even certain diets have come under the scanner. Take for instance the low-carb Keto diet. It gives instant results but doctors say it’s high protein and fat content can mess up the kidneys. So whether it’s drugs or supplements or diets, it’s always best to do it under medical supervision.
“Taking wrong supplements can be hazardous. And to avoid any medical issues, one must take a doctor’s opinion before starting the supplements. Sadly, most medicines are sold without any proper prescription from the doctor. So I feel the first step to cut down on supplements is to have a warning on its cover, just like the one on cigarette packets,” says Dr Challagondla.
Celebrity fitness trainer Yasmin Karachiwala, whose clientele includes Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt, also believes doctors should be the ones suggesting the supplements. She says, “There can be many reasons for suggesting a supplement, besides just gaining weight. The old and young both are suggested different supplements and the reasons can be many. I personally believe in natural ways of being healthy. Doctors are the ones who should suggest supplements rather than the fitness trainers, because these can have an adverse effect if taken without proper knowledge.”
But the blame shouldn’t solely be put on fitness trainers feels Prashant Sawant, who trains Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan.
“There are many reasons behind a health condition, not only the supplements. You can’t put the blame on the fitness trainer or fitness regimen. Supplements are suggested once a proper blood test is done and then the doses are well-monitored by the trainers. Of course, if taken in excess, it will harm you. All in all, one has to look at the overall picture of someone’s health.”
Celebrity fitness trainer Aditya Pratap Singh feels it’s all about the right balance. “Supplements ordinarily do not damage a person’s body or hurt him, if taken in the right manner and in the right dosage. But then there are some steroids available easily over the counter which when taken even in small quantities can be harmful to the body. And when someone uses these steroids regularly, they end up changing the person's behaviour because these affect the hormones and make the person very aggressive, among other things.”
He also feels the onus is on the clients, “Normally, fitness trainers never prescribe steroids to their clients. These clients who want to use steroids totally disregard advice and take the steroids knowing what the risks are. There are some people who suddenly want to bulk up for some reason or the other and end up abusing their bodies,” he says.
Health check-ups are important
Whenever someone comes to me for weight training, before advising anything, I recommend them to go through a thorough health check-up. Without that, we cannot proceed. It’s true that most of our clients come for weight gain or fat burn. We ask them to have protein shakes but only after seeing their medical report. If their health is fine, then only we ask them, otherwise, any supplement can have an ill-effect. Protein shakes are for instant muscle repair with no side-effects, only if they are bought from a good company. People can also choose natural protein sources like chicken, eggs and pulses to help muscle repair, but the process is longer. We can only suggest, but the amount of intake should be prescribed by the doctor. Celebrities sometimes come to us looking for results within a short span like 3 months. Even then, we need to take proper medical consultation before we suggest any supplements. Celebrity fitness trainer Kiran Dembla
A wholesome diet is key
A person’s age, weight, height, Basal Metabolic Rate and other things should be taken into consideration while prescribing supplements. Do a thorough check on the instructor before starting to train under him or her. I have noticed many people think that a protein supplement is all that is required for someone to get the muscular look. However, our body needs vitamins, carbohydrates, good fats and micronutrients to function properly. Hence, a diet should be complete.
—Dr Kiran Challagondla