The most heartbreaking aspect of moving towards getting fit is probably the part where your coach would ask you to give up on your favorite food. In an exclusive interview with Brown magazine, Prasanth R, a fitness and transformation coach said, “you don’t have to really limit yourself from eating something.” You can heave a sigh of relief on that.
After quitting his job as a Mechanical engineer, he embarked upon a journey that landed him on the stage of Mr. South India in 2017. Currently, he is transforming lifestyles to help people achieve their fitness goals and has officially transformed over 800 clients. In this conversation, Prasanth talks about the balance of mental and physical health, busts a few myths around fitness, and much more.
How much has this quarantine affected your lifestyle? What has been your ways to deal with it?
I am not a person who can stay at the house all the time. I have been into this online coaching for three years, so it’s basically works from home. In the morning I used to go to the gym, in the evening I go play basketball. Whenever I get time, I go out meet my friends. After this lockdown everything has completely changed, and it has taken a toll. But sooner you realize this is how it is going to be, sooner you’ll work on ways to manage it. It’s not a vacation, things are not going to change shortly. I have been just sticking to the same thing. My routine has been the same except that I cannot go out now. However, I am trying to make a lot of videos and content which I wasn’t doing before.
How did the pandemic affect your work? Do you think the change is unceasing?
People have started considering online coaching and online fitness nowadays. In fact, it is good to believe that online is a thing which wasn’t so previously and there are a lot of opportunities. I don’t think it has affected my profession.
What are your alternatives to work out?
There is no such thing as alternatives. You do certain things for strength training, or resistance training. Strength training is important for everybody. You need to do it 3-4 days every week or else you will lose muscles. As you age your muscle mass reduces to avoid that you need to have enough protein and you need to strength train. What I normally do is stay active all the time. I play basketball every day and take gymnastic classes. I do not have time right now but if ever I would prefer dancing.
The pandemic has imposed certain limitations and it surely has an impact on our mental and physical health. How do you keep yourself motivated and what is your advice to others?
There is not a single way to boost our immunity. Since we are all working from home our energy expenditure has come down, we have started eating more staying at home, which means there is high possibility we might gain weight. And once all these things settle, the pandemic will not be a problem for you anymore. So, it’s very important that you take care of your health currently. Also, when you are physically active it helps you with your sleep and mental health as well, there are some researches which says that. Suddenly taking you multivitamins or eating your veggies is not going to boost your immunity. Working out one or two days is not going to help either. But when you keep doing all these things over a period your immunity will improve eventually.
Coming to motivation, nobody is going to stay motivated 365 days of their life. Anybody who is fit develops habits and stay disciplined. Fitness is not additional or a luxury, it should be a part of your lifestyle. Motivation is overrated. So, if you go behind extensive motivation.
From an engineer to a fitness coach. How did this switch happen? What made you embark on this journey?
I never planned to be a fitness coach. Fit body or shredded body never excited me. I was working with Ford and after some time I met with an accident. So, I had to be in an ICU for 7-10 days. I had to stay in bed for a month and started gaining weight. It was a very bad phase for me. I was depressed and started eating a lot of stuff. When I wore a t-shirt and my tummy popped out, I didn’t like it. We have this yearly bash at my office where we used to walk the ramp. And I looked bad there and that is when I realized I need to do something about is because this not who I am. So, I started my journey with Fitter which was Squats in 2015. My goal was to reduce the weight I had gained and get a flat tummy. I lost somewhere around 4-5 kgs in a month. I kept learning about fitness because it was interesting. There are a lot of myths that we come across, I used to believe them before. Science said completely different things. The squats team conducts a transformation challenge. I thought of participating even if I don’t make it, I’ll still get my body. So, I started with that and placed in top 50. That three months journey kept me going and I got a lot of appreciation. I became the cover model for the Fit magazine by Squats which boosted my confidence. In 2017, I participated in Mr. South India competition and achieved the 4th place which I never expected. During this one year I learnt a lot, so I enrolled myself in a course, got my certificates, and started training my friends for free. I was already in the verge of quitting my regular job and start a business, then this happened. Till now I have officially transformed 800+ people across the globe. I like to mingle with people and every time it’s a new client and I get bring a change in their lifestyle. Now I specialize in contest preps and that gives me a lot of happiness.
A physical injury evidently affects us mentally too. You have sustained a few injuries. Was it difficult to overcome that hindrance? How do you suggest people to get through it?
Injuries are very common when you are physically active. You’ll not get injured if you get your forms right. I didn’t get injured while working out. I got injured because I used to play basketball which is a contact sport. Therefore, in contact people will be at their peak for maximum. So, it is very common. We need to give enough time to heal and then get back. Before any kind of transformation, you must make up your mind. It is more of a mental transformation than a physical transformation. You should be strong mentally only then you can transform physically. You don’t have shortcuts here.
Is it difficult to construct a fitness regime when a client has any previous injury?
Not at all. In strength training the movement is just like the activities we do day to day basis. You sit on a chair, that is squats. You eat, that is bicep curl. When you are injured you need to check with a physiotherapist and ask him about your limitations. When you have a problem with your spine, you’ll have to avoid forward bending movements. There are a few movements that you need to avoid and understand what your limitations to work on you training plan accordingly.
We went through your social media page and found a thread of food ranging from fries to desserts. It seems you don’t limit yourself to just “healthy food.” How do you balance your diet? How much does one need to curb when it comes to food?
The thermodynamic law of conservation of energy is the basic. When you need to lose weight, you need to consume lesser calorie than you expend. Anything that you consume gets converted into energy. Let’s assume I am 70 kgs and I am expending 3000 calories in a day. Now, if I consume 3000 calories, I’ll maintain my weight. If consume 3200 calories, I’ll have 200 extra calories that would be stored in my body as fat. When you eat less than what you expend, you’ll lose weight this is the basic thing. So, you don’t have to really limit yourself from eating something. All you need to understand is how much calories that stuff has. You cannot keep an accurate count of calories when you eat out. When you eat at home you have an idea of the calories the food contains. So, you need to limit the times you go out and eat. You can have it 2-3 times a week and take care of your other calories and balance your diet. Ever since the pandemic started our energy expenditure has come down. If you keep eating the same calories as you were eating before you are going to gain weight. You know that your expenditure has come down, so you need to reduce your calorie intake to stay fit.
What are the myths around fitness and healthy eating that needs to be debunked?
There are a lot of myths. People still think if they eat healthy, they will stay fit. There are new myths every single day. I’ll tell a few things that I came across. People are too much into Keto, Paleo and IF (Intermittent Fasting) nowadays. Keto and Atkins started around 2014 or 15. People started following Keto, they started seeing results in the very first week itself. They are like when you cut down carbs you result and carbs really are the enemies, well it is not. It has been around 5 years now and we have a lot of researches. When your calorie intake and protein intake is equated, you’ll have the same results after a period. In the first week you lose weight because your body, muscles, and glycogen tend to hold more water in the beginning. When you take away that glycogen there is nothing to bond with water molecules so it will go out. Its just the water loss that you see in the very first week and not actually fat loss. When body needs 3000 calories and you eat 2800 calories, be any diet, when your calorie intake and protein intake is equated, you’ll be at a deficit of 200 calories. The real question is can you be without carbs throughout your life. You’ll be on Keto maximum 3-4 months after that you’ll have to eat carbs, that is the major portion of your life. When you start having it again, you’ll gain weight. But that is not fat gain but water gain. Is it sustainable? No. So why follow something you’ll quit after a time? Follow a normal diet, maintain your protein intake, strength train and maintain your lifestyle. Everyone’s goal is to be fit and stay fit. Recently, I saw a post by a doctor on her IGTV saying you’ll lose more weight if you take cold and hot showers consecutively. I was amazed. Now, this will become a huge thing and people will start making money out of it because a doctor said that. When I talk about this is how science works no one is going to come to me. But when I post something like lose 10 kgs in 10 days people would fall for that. It’s a scam again.
What are the funniest inquires that you get from your clients or friends?
I don’t consider this funny anymore because I have been getting this for a few years now. People will be like I have only my tummy and want to just that. Unless you go under the knife you are not going to lose fat that way. Women would be like I have fat only around my lower body maybe its just genetics. Let it be genetics, but you are not going to lose fat only from that portion of your body. Take an example of a toothpaste. You want to take out the paste from a particular area, when you squeeze it, it wouldn’t just come out from that area. So, you must keep taking out paste till you get to that part.
Our skeleton is surrounded by muscles. You don’t have fat distributed in a uniform way. We already have abs it’s just that it is covered with fat. If you want to have the visible abs you need to keep reducing your fat percentage.
How do you keep your clients motivated during the training sessions and thereafter?
Coach and client are a two-way thing. The client must communicate. It’s the key factor here. You cannot handle everybody in the same way. It’s not just about giving diet plans and fitness advices. Some need pep talk while with others you need to be strict, it varies from person to person. Most of the time it would be pep talks and they would be all hyped up. There are some who will pay money and still not do anything. Only thing I can do is educate them and change their lifestyle. Their progress will be slow, but I’ll still help them to keep going.
People set goals to reach initially, what after you reach the tipping point?
Let’s assume a certain person is around 70 kgs, he wants to look shredded and is 160 cm. So, he needs to lose at least 10 kgs to have that body. During this phase he must develop habits, like working out 3-4 days a week, being physically active throughout the day and avoiding food that he doesn’t crave for. You really don’t want to add some calories which you don’t want to have. A few other habits like getting enough sleep and consuming required proteins. I would advise this person to continue the proper routine and once he reaches his goal, I’ll give him certain guidelines. When you do certain things for a longer time and you make that a habit, you’ll keep following that throughout your life. Keep tracking your progress so even if you gain a little weight you can always get back on track. It’s just like tracking your expenses. We need to maintain that cash in and cash flow and still maintain the savings. Maintaining is a really difficult thing. They are accountable to a person all this while. One day they reach their goal and might go completely off track and back to their old habits. If they start being less active and start consuming more calories obviously, they’ll be unfit in quite some time.
You achieved the 4th place in Mr. South India 2017, any goals you have set further?
No. I did that for fun. I participated because I wanted to have that stage experience. My goal is to have a normal social life, where I can go out and enjoy with my friends and still have a decent physique. The competition thing doesn’t excite me.
What are your thoughts on vegan diet?
Until you have some ethical issues you don’t have to follow a vegan diet. It is not superior to any normal diet. In fact, it is difficult to get quality proteins and vitamins from a vegan diet. You’ll restrict yourself from a lot of things. As much as you give importance to your physical fitness, you need to have your mental peace as well. This is not going to keep you sane. Restricting yourself from a lot of things is itself a lot of pressure. Eventually, you will develop a lot of eating disorders which you wouldn’t know now.
Lastly, can share a few tips on a healthy diet plan and work out tips for the readers?
Take care of your calorie intake. Strength train at least 3-4 days a week. Have enough protein. Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Always have a balance between your fitness and social life. Don’t go to extremes which would affect your mental health.