The inside story of Aamir Khan’s Dangal physique: Excerpt from his dietitian’s book
In Fat-Loss Diet, Dr Nikhil V Dhurandhar writes about losing weight to get fit and without starving or excessive working out. In this excerpt, he shares how he helped actor Aamir Khan lose fat and gain muscle for the role of a young and muscular Mahavir Phogat in 2016 film Dangal.Updated: Feb 06, 2018 09:19 IST
Aamir Khan’s Perfect Dangal
In June 2015, I met someone who would prove to be one of my most challenging patients ever. A patient with a nearly impossible goal. Mr Aamir Khan told me about a movie he was shooting – Dangal, the true story of wrestling legend Mahavir Singh Phogat. For the first part of his shoot, he had gained a lot of fat to portray the ‘old Mahavir’. Now, for the second part he had to lose this gained fat, and more, to play a chiselled ‘young Mahavir.’ Providing guidance to lose fat is what I do, and indeed have done for thousands of patients. His next request, however, was an extraordinary challenge.
To be at his most muscular, Aamir Khan needed to not only lose multiple kilos of fat, he had to simultaneously gain several kilos of muscle. This is physiologically very difficult. The body loses weight (either fat and/or muscle) if it has less food than it requires in a day (also known as dieting). The body gains weight (fat and/or muscle) only if it has more food than it requires. In other words, muscle loss occurs during food deficit and muscle gain requires conditions of food surplus. How can the two happen at once? More so, I had only worked with patients – especially with challenging requests – in person. How was I supposed to treat a jetsetter like Aamir Khan, who was halfway around the world?
I looked back on my thirty years of experience as an obesity researcher, and the 15,000 patients I had treated for obesity as a physician, and decided to use a very specific, highly calibrated protein-powered diet. For a dedicated dieter, this works stunningly well, and Aamir is an extraordinarily disciplined and capable individual. Through his efforts, those of his exercise trainers and my guidance, the diet worked. He lost approximately 17 kg weight, including 13 kg of fat and gained a net 2 kg of muscle (and even more gross muscle gain). He reached the desired goal of having less than 10 per cent body fat for shooting. Successfully treating Aamir from nearly 15,000 km away encouraged me to share a version of this diet to help others. That was the genesis of this book.
I should mention that my father, Dr Vinod Dhurandhar and I have treated people for obesity who come from all walks of life and occupations. This includes celebrities from different fields, politicians, prominent leaders or professionals, or individuals from the film industry. One thing we are extremely careful about is honouring the doctor–patient relationship and protecting the patient’s privacy. Hence, we have always been tight-lipped about our patients, and have never used the names of our high-profile patients to get publicity or attention for us. Aamir Khan would have been no exception and he would have gone without any mention by me. However, it was Aamir who publicly announced my name as his nutritionist for Dangal, and the floodgates of inquiry opened. Before starting to respond to all media and personal inquiries, I contacted Aamir. I mentioned that now that he was repeatedly mentioning my name, I will have to respond to the inquiries. What aspects of his treatment could I divulge? His response was: ‘Tell them everything.’ He did not want to hold back any aspects of the treatment. So, here is the story:
My first meeting with Aamir was going to be at his place in Bandra. I was visiting India at the time and did not have a clinic where we could meet. He sent a car for me, so finding the place was not my concern. I made my way through numerous security personnel and I was finally ushered into a drawing room. Four men greeted me. I scanned the group, but absolutely could not recognize Aamir. Was I in the right place? Finally, a heavy-set man with comforting smile and piercing eyes extended the arm to shake hands. We connected!
So, here was the plan: In preparation for the movie, he had been gaining muscle to get the appearance and strength of a wrestler and had also intentionally gained weight to portray the older Mahavir Phogat. When that shooting was completed, he wanted to lose the excess fat to make the muscle underneath visible and to also gain additional muscle to look like the younger wrestling champion. This phase was going to end on 10 June 2016. And, my job was to help him reach below 10 per cent body fat by that deadline. In subsequent interactions, I had such a renewed respect for the efforts that went in getting Aamir ready for the role. His workouts varied during the time, but often started at 4 a.m. and included cardio training for 45 minutes, serious weight training for 75 minutes, wrestling lessons, walking and running. At times, he was spending 6–7 hours a day exercising. I promptly decided to depend on the physical trainer for his activity and focused on addressing his nutritional needs. I also requested his family doctor to be aware of the programme we were initiating and received his input and approval. I was in the US and Aamir was in Mumbai. Both of us travelled a lot. But, we FaceTimed every week, or at times several times a week and used emails and WhatsApp for regular communication.
With Aamir’s input, I proposed a combination of diets that would match his phase of workouts. For some periods, his workouts were mainly focused on burning calories, and other times they would promote body building. During the calorie burning times, he would have a diet of about 1,800 calories and during the body building times, the diet calories were increased to 2,100–2,300 per day. These diets were designed to provide about 100–110 g protein per day. These were not ‘very high protein’ diets. I advised him to break down the diet in small and frequent meals, about six meals a day.
Excerpted with permission from Dr Dhurandhar’s Fat-Loss Diet, HarperCollins India.
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