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Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’ transformation: The fitness debate

Experts in the UAE weigh in on the Bollywood star’s inspiring fat-to-fit change

Image Credit: UTV Motion Pictures and Aamir Khan Productions
Aamir Khan before and after his five-month work out regime.
Tabloid

Aamir Khan’s fat-to-fit transformation for his latest Bollywood film Dangal has raised eyebrows and questions.

Questions such as: how did Khan, known for his meticulous nature, shed a whopping 27kg in five months? Some sceptics even wondered out loud if he used steroids to bulk up. This debate is fast becoming the stuff of Bollywood fitness folklore.

But the actor, 51, who’s surprisingly unaware of the interest his pecks have generated, claims he did not use steroids or any medication to speed up his transformation.

“I am not judgmental about it [steroid use] as long as you are clear about it, know its side-effects and how it harms your body. Ultimately, it’s your body,” said Khan at a press junket in Dubai this month.

He even posted the transformation video chronicling his efforts to get that ripped body.

While that inspirational video became the talk of the town, it also triggered a dialogue about rapid physical transformations and if doping was at play. A response video by a self-titled fitness trainer surfaced questioning his all-natural claims.

“I have not seen the video but I have been told about it. You can lose one pound [450g] a week at a comfortable pace. You can lose two pounds even if you go at a slightly faster pace. I lost four pounds a week in the first three weeks. I went to a health resort in Arizona for three weeks and I was training for eight hours and more. It was insane,” said Khan, who added that he trekked mountains, tried aqua aerobics, cycled and played tennis too.

Even at his heaviest, 97kg, he was training rigorously.

“I was eating junk and high-fat food. But even then I was working out as much. You couldn’t see my muscle under the layers of fat. But I knew I had to train heavy even when big because I knew I had to bulk up,” said Khan.

While there may be sceptics everywhere, the actor said that he is in no mood to appease them.

“If a particular person is convinced that I took steroids, I don’t need to convince him. It’s his opinion.”

Fair enough. To put the matter to rest, Gulf News tabloid! asked a cross section of UAE-based nutritionists, trainers and body builders to weigh in on the issue. A majority of them believed that a combination of iron-will, intense exercise and a strict diet could get you Khan’s results. Here’s a look at what they had to say:

Karen Flawith, fitness instructor at Ignite Fitness & Wellness

“It is possible for Khan to gain the muscle mass transformation in five months without the use of steroids. It would require strict guidance from a trainer and dietician to ensure his calorie deficit wasn’t too great. His team should also ensure that the right balance of macronutrient intake is maintained, together with extreme discipline on Khan’s part. There would also be genetics and body type at play. Let’s not forget he was not starting from a complete position of deconditioning and is no stranger to building muscle. His weight gain was deliberate for the movie. “

Michael Joseph, fitness consultant at Giants Fitness Centre

“I find it difficult to believe that he acquired this transformation without the use of steroids. If he did, then it’s a miracle by God. There’s no doubt that he has worked hard on his diet and training, but I am not too sure if he did that without using any medicine to reduce the water in his body or steroids to speed up that process. And remember, he is over 50 years old and in my experience bringing along such transformations at that age is not easy. I have participated in several body building contests, it’s not easy to develop those hard-core muscles like he has in such a short amount of time. But full marks to him for achieving the near-impossible.”

Ahlaam Ali, lifestyle and nutrition coach at Powwer Lounge

“We have achieved 20kg weight loss in 10 weeks with some of our clients. It’s always a matter of mind over matter. Once that is accomplished, you would not need any steroids to achieve your objective. Khan had an extreme calorie-controlled diet whereby he would have a certain calorie deficit along with just enough calorie intake to help burn fat. As for the workouts, he would have embarked on extreme workout sessions — an intense combination of cardio and weights — spread out over the day. The above programme accompanied by supplements such as Omegas, Creatine, L Carnitine, Vitamin D and B to balance out all systems and maintain a healthy endocrine system and metabolism. So, well done.”

Amir H Behforooz, Les Mills International Trainer and presenter

“I believe that 12 to 16 weeks is enough time for such a transformation. It’s all about discipline in training and sticking to a strict diet. Of course, you need a coach, a personal trainer and other experts who are on call to advise him constantly. I’m not saying this transformation is easy and I’m sure he suffered a lot to get so fit. But this is a job well done. Thumbs up.”

Mitun De Sarkar, clinical dietician at Simply Healthy

“A transformation like this always raises questions such as did he take steroids? It’s difficult to answer that unless tests are conducted at the appropriate time. Remember, Khan has always displayed good health and was always in good shape. He already had a good workout and diet regimen. When you lose weight rapidly by a fad diet, the body tends to go on a rebound. Similarly, when you gain weight rapidly, as in Khan’s case, the body is still not used to the excess weight and tries to get back to its original weight. If you’re walking around heavy for five years or more; metabolically you have a much higher insulin resistance than you do if you’re a fit person who’s artificially added a lot of weight quickly. So it’s a lot easier for Khan to make this transformation. He spends eight hours and more in the gym, along with an army of trainers and dieticians. This is simply not practical for a regular person and that too without a superb incentive like being a movie star.”

Sharon James, trainer and well-being coach

“I like to think anything is possible and believe it is, if you are 100 per cent committed. I don’t know his background, whether he was fit before putting the weight on etc. If he had muscle memory, recovery and growth could play a part in his quick transformation. To transform like he has at the age of 51, he has to committed fully and follow a strict training regime that takes over his life. He would be doing nothing but eat, sleep and train for five months.”

 

Don’t miss it!

Dangal is out in the UAE on December 22.

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