The effect that nutrition has on literally everything in our bodies, from our waistlines to our mood, has fascinated me for a little over 10 years.
My first in-depth exposure to nutrition, albeit theoretical, was in a biochemistry class in college, which helped explain the basis for nutrition’s role in our health. However, my interest really took shape around 2005 when I started a structured strength training program for the first time. It was incredible how theoretical concepts directly translated into palpable changes in performance and results, and it motivated me to delve deeper into the subject.
Exercise has varied in regularity and intensity for me over the past decade. Relatively flexible schedules in college and business school allowed for the necessary time, and a full-time job provided a semblance of structure that helped maintain a routine. As Nutrova began to take shape and grow, flexibility and structure slowly gave way to the start-up stereotype, with erratic schedules, irregular meals and long hours. However, I was able to maintain a basic level of fitness, with 3 days of exercise a week, largely comprising strength training. In April 2014, driven by a friend and my impending 30th birthday, I joined a Krav Maga class, something that I had wanted to do for years. Ten minutes into the class, I was out of breath and seriously questioning why I believed I was in shape. By the end of the class, though, I was hooked.
Going for those classes twice a week has become a constant since then, and has been an incredible experience so far. In the middle of 2014, we started restructuring Nutrova in both our product range and strategy, to move towards what you see today. Once again, this meant long hours, increased travel and erratic schedules. As we started to scale up in 2015, going to the gym took a backseat and these two classes a week were all the exercise I was getting. While this kept me in decent shape, attempts to get back to the gym just wouldn’t work out, as I wasn’t recovering fast enough. It was plainly obvious that I would have to fix my diet and erratic meal timings to be able to do both, but being in ‘ok’ shape quickly became acceptable and I stopped trying.
A few months ago, while trying out the protein formulation we had under development, I noticed that my recovery improved dramatically, even allowing for a few days of strength training in the week. This was very encouraging, and was the starting point for our Sciencing our Lifestyles experiment.
When Radhika, Meghna and I decided to get on a structured program using Nutrova’s products, I was optimistic that things would work out, but I wasn’t sure as to how much change would be possible in just 3 months. Sachit and Kripa reiterated this, setting realistic expectations given my starting point. My body fat was at 12% and lean muscle mass was 36.8 kg at the outset, so we weren’t expecting a dramatic change in body composition. I was more interested in strength gains, and a 10 rep max on the squat, deadlift and bench press were the metrics that Sachit recommended we measure. Once again, to set realistic expectations, he reiterated that any real change would take some time. When it came to nutrition, Kripa felt that my diet was reasonably healthy, but I needed to increase my protein intake to address slow recovery. While this was great in theory, eating more wasn’t very practical, given the travel, long days making sales calls and weekends in production and R&D. Her solution was to add Nutrova Whey Protein Isolate to my diet post exercise (which was now five days a week), and in between lunch and dinner. She also suggested that I use Nutrova Antioxidant Protection to aid muscle recovery, given that it contains powerful antioxidants.
While fully acknowledging the inherent bias in talking about products we make, the results were far beyond what I expected. My 10 rep maxes increased on all three lifts: squats increased from 75 kg to 82 kg (~10%), deadlifts from 90 kg to 110 kg (~22%) and the bench press, from 57 kg to 62 kg (~9%). My 5 rep max on the squat and deadlift increased to 90 kg and 120 kg respectively, which is a personal record of sorts at a body weight of 73.5 kg. What was really surprising was that working towards these strength gains did not affect recovery at all, even though this period overlapped with an increased training in Krav Maga classes, for the P4 exams I ended up giving in September.
Could this have been done without supplementation? Sure. Could this have happened without expert guidance and just with better time-management? Probably. But the reality is that running a start-up places constraints on time that were easily addressed through the right nutritional intervention and products. The icing on the cake was that the products were our own.
I am really glad that we decided to go through this programme and use ourselves as examples of what’s possible when using nutritional science in a smart, effective way. Market research that we’ve carried out has shown us that long hours and erratic schedules are one of the main reasons that many of us, aged 25-40, avoid doing all we can with regard to exercise and good nutrition. Hopefully, our little attempt at Sciencing Our Lifestyles helps show, in a small way, that this doesn’t need to be the case.