“I can’t work out because I have this knee problem/ weak shoulders/ wrist pain/ random health condition”
“The gym is crowded in evenings when I’m free”
“It’s all fine for you – you don’t have kids or a full-time job”
I keep reiterating – most ‘reasons’ that keep you from working out regularly and take care of your health are actually glorified excuses. Fitness enthusiasts have heard them all, and guess what, some of them have even beaten their odds and taken their situations and health complications as a challenge to transform themselves.
Meet Vishwa Bharath who did not let his spinal disc herniation determine the course of his life for him, and paved his path towards a fitter, healthier self largely on his own. The transformation he has achieved is awe-inspiring, and the minute I got to know him I was convinced that more people needed to hear his story out and be inspired to follow suit!
I’m 26 years old, hail from Vizag and currently work as a Senior Software Analyst at Cap Gemini at Bangalore. Aside from working out, I enjoy nature photography, traveling and treks.
How did your Fitness Journey begin?
My fitness journey can be seen as a 14-month transformation without the use of any so-called miracle supplement, growth hormone or steroids. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc or herniated disc at the age of 19 when I weighed 80 kgs, wherein I was advised to never hold weights or indulge in any activity that could possibly stress my back muscles further. I was also advised to undertake some physical exercise routines to strengthen my back. I was young, and somewhat in denial of this condition. My inability to confront this facet of my health, combined with junk food, eating at irregular timings, occasional fitness sessions and long sitting hours led to a whopping weight gain of 18 kgs! By the time I finished my Masters in Chennai in 2015, I weighed 98 kgs, thus posing a severe threat to my health, and I could barely recognize myself.
Many a time the prospect for change walks into our lives quietly when we least suspect it, and the same happened to me. The initiative for change came in 2016 in the form of a lower back injury in the gym due to incorrect form, and as I lay writhing from the aggravated pain for 2 days straight without any help or aid and zero mobility, I realized this was a dead end to the way I lead my life. “This is NOT the way I will spend the rest of my life.”, is what I resolved strongly.
I lived in Bangalore then, all alone. After 3 weeks of physiotherapy assistance and muscle relaxants prescribed by doctors, I set out on a journey that would transform me forever, not only physically but also on a mental scale.
I began to research my condition, and realized thought it could never be reversed, it could be kept at bay with proper diet and a well-structured fitness routine. The preliminary objective was to reduce my body weight to alleviate the pain, although I had to remain very, very careful while lifting weights.
By July 2016 I was 12 kgs down at a body weight of 88 kgs, all through regular meal timings, healthy diet, avoiding junk food and strength-training on a daily basis. By October 2016, I was further down to 80 kgs, which was also my former weight – I could fit right back into my old clothes – and I cannot emphasize on how much of a motivation that simple development is! Currently I weigh 73 kgs, and have never been in a form as good as this, ever before.
Strength-training with a herniated disk condition! How did you make this happen?
“I undergo rigorous weight training, but I believe in getting the basics right always – regardless of my condition. I researched the various exercises which help in back strengthening, and found a well-knowledgeable personal trainer to rely on. Together we set out to strengthen my leg muscles and back muscles. I was overcome with joy when I could perform deadlifts – contrast that for a moment with the time when my doctor advised me to never lift any weights in my entire life! I do attribute a major part of my transformation to strength-training.”
How do you plan your meals?
“As I stated earlier, I research a lot. I gathered facts correlating carbohydrate and protein intake to muscle growth from scholarly articles, studies, videos etc to make my own diet sheet, with singular emphasis on balancing macronutrients as well as micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Weekends are usually meant for planning my weekly diet sheet and buying groceries accordingly. I do all my meal prep as well as cooking on my own, and seldom eat out.”
Do you take any supplements to boost muscle pump/ growth?
“I use BCAAs for intra-workout boost, and whey protein post-workout. I used creatine for a short period in the past, but having studied its possible side effects I realized that I could perform my best even without it. In fact, I have studied and formulated my own pre-workout blend that helps in the production of nitrous oxide, for the right muscle pump during workouts.”
Helps in directing blood flow to muscles, offers a great pump.
Blend together in a mug. Add water (hot, if preferred) and drink before workout.
Bharath’s Advice & Tips
While eating out…
“If I cannot avoid eating out, I prefer to consume food items with greater protein content, and eating mindfully to actually be aware of how much I consume. I keep myself hydrated at all times, especially while going out to ensure that I do not end up eating more owing to dehydration.”
For Dieters and weight watchers
I’d like to urge those who undergo a restrictive or whichever ‘in’ cleanse right now to understand why they need to ‘go on a diet’ first. It is important to understand all food groups and their role in muscle-building and thereby fat-loss correctly in order to be able to achieve your fat-loss goals in the right manner.
It’s also important to understand what and why you eat in order to assess how your body reacts to the same. Without this, going on a new fad diet is as futile as writing an exam by just mugging up information – there is no knowledge or understanding of how things work.”
Your PT/ peers/ fellow gym-goers might try to render free advice regarding which supplements you ought to take, like pre-workout pump blend, creatine, glutamine, caffeinated BCAAs, casein etc. It is crucial for you to determine whether you need these supplements and why. Researching the ingredients thoroughly and being aware of their potential health hazards and side effects is what will help you assess their need.
Also, do consider the diuretic effect of these supplements – most of them will end up dehydrating your body and need you to hydrate more frequently. Furthermore, bringing your health conditions in consideration is essential too. For example, most of the diuretic supplements can put undue pressure on the kidneys and liver and hence those with renal condition are advised to stay away from these.”
On Meal Prep
“Meal preps can be challenging, but understanding your food choices can make the task easier. Choose 1-2 base staples and play with the same through the day. For example, I keep boiled chicken handy in the freezer, to which I can add dressings while preparing a salad, or add spices to stir-fry or grill, for different meals.
There is no need to compromise taste whilst eating healthy – just stick to your diet goals and overall estimate for macros. Calorie count is an estimation, not an ideal to strive for. BMR is an approximation, and not the final deal. Repeat after me, “Nutrition over Calories, any day!”
On Cheat Meals
“Cheat meals get a bad rap unnecessarily, I feel! Cheat meals can be good too – rewarding yourself in a timely manner upon fulfilment of targets is a great way to stay on track. However, it’s important to stay realistic and honest to yourself – that stray donut or piece of cake might not do great harm to you, but binging on the entire box of desserts will hamper your progress, and you know it! Set your cheat meal choices in advance so that you do not overeat or make wrong food choices.
Cheat meals also help you fight your plateau and throw constant challenges in your way – you need to understand them properly.”
On Peer Pressure
“I’d be lying if I said my fitness journey wasn’t met with resistance, from friends and family alike. My mother assumed I was starving myself while in reality I was focused on eating healthy. My friends called be obsessed. It was difficult at first – to say NO to every unhealthy food choice and every plan to go out that clashed with my gym timings. I persevered by ensuring I spent 2 hours at gym exercising and sometimes even socialized at gym.
Eventually, as results started showing, the same people who had shunned me earlier for being too obsessed started respecting my choices and even began asking for advice. Life does come a full circle if you stay determined and motivated.”
I believe in intrinsic motivation, the kind that stems from within and leads you to work towards the way you paved for yourself. External motivation is good, but it’s short-lived, and you are basing your actions on things or people that surround you. Inner motivation, on the other hand, is the real deal – it helps you persevere and progress towards your goal.
How does inner motivation stem? Determining your goals, remembering why you embarked upon your journey, maintaining your standards no matter what is what will channel your inner motivation. Resolve to be your best and never let yourself down, and keep pushing yourself towards your goal. If you do this, there is no reason why you will ever stop chasing your goals.”
Discipline is the most essential aspect, albeit most rigorous to develop at the same time. Confronting and analysing your choices, taking a stance for yourself, following-up and inspiring yourself every day can cultivate the discipline to say NO to unhealthy lifestyle choices. Push yourself to reach your goals, and remember that while others can merely show you the way, it is you that has to embark upon this journey, all on your own.
What is your advice for the people calling in for suggestions for body transformation?
“It’s very simple really, but the difficulty is to make it a part of your routine unswervingly:
- Workout daily.
- Focus on nutrition and balance your meals.
- Sleep for 7-8 hours, regularly.
- Drink 6-7 liters of water.
And lastly, enjoy the process!”
What is next in store, for you?
“I participated in the Karnataka Bodybuilding Association’s State Level Body Building Competition held in March 2017, just for fun, but ended up in the 4th place amidst 25 participants. The experience raked up a new drive within me, and I decided to participate in the Natural Bodybuilding Competition by Muscle Mania due in October 2017. While I realize that the scale of this competition is way more magnified and the training I will need to undergo will be immensely challenging, I look forward to the experience.
After all, fitness is an ongoing journey, and the transformation process is the goal!”