Aamir Khan’s ‘fat-to-fit’ saga

Aamir Khan aka Mr. Perfectionist is known to get into the skin of the character to impart reality to the story. For essaying the role of older  Mahavir Singh Phogat, wrestler father in the film Dangal, he put on 27 kilos taking his total weight to 97 kilograms. After that, he went on to lose nearly all of it in the span of 5 months to play a thinner and more muscular younger version of himself in the movie. He reveals about this ‘fat-to-fit’ transformation to Connected to India through vigorous work outs including one hour of weight training, three hours of cycling, walking for about an hour and a half, swimming for an hour, playing tennis for one a half to two hours at Canyon Ranch in Arizona.

Aamir Khan revealed that he put on 27 kilos taking his total weight to 97 kilograms. Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures

CtoI: Your body transformation video has gone viral. From what a friend shared, another video has gone viral of a guy that claims to be a fitness guru. In it, he said it is impossible for someone to transform one’s body over six months the way that you’ve done, and that you could have possibly taken steroids (although he claims to be a huge fan).

Aamir Khan: Well, I’ve not seen the video but these girls were telling me about it. On whether it’s possible to do the transformation, you do the math. You can lose one pound a week at a very comfortable pace, but you can lose two pounds a week if you go slightly fast and that’s a very good weight. To begin I was losing four pounds a week, but that’s not my average. For the first three weeks I lost 6 kg – roughly 14 pounds. I went to a place called ‘Canyon Ranch’ in Arizona, which is essentially a place for help that people go to for physical, mental or emotional improvement of health.

My goal for weight loss was very specific. They have a team of doctors and specialists that can help in guiding you in terms of how you should be doing it. I was there for three weeks and it really helped me focus on what I had to do. I was actually training eight hours a day, which is insane, quite honestly. I would do one hour of weight training, three hours of cycling, walking for about an hour and a half, swimming for an hour, playing tennis for one a half to two hours. My whole day was just different activities that were physical in nature. In some of them, like trekking, I would lose a huge number of calories in just three hours. For swimming, or more of aqua aerobics (exercising in the pool), I would lose much less. You don’t lose many calories in that as it’s not that tough on the body, about three hundred calories in an hour.

I think roughly 1kg a week is a good target to have, which is what I was losing except for the first three weeks where I lost 6kg. I had five months, or 20 weeks, in which I could lose 1kg a week – so after 17 weeks I lost 17 kg. And in 3 weeks I had lost 6 kg. So in total I lost 23 kg.So, physically, it is possible. In fact when I went up to 97 kg – I had started at 70 kg – I didn’t lose 27kg interestingly. When I came down to my fittest I was still around 78-79 kg because fat is lighter and muscle is heavier. So I ended up building a lot of muscle and that’s why my weight didn’t go back to 70 kg. When I was at 9% body fat after my weight loss, my weight was around 78 kg or 79 kg. So, I lost about 20 kg in terms of weight.

Aamir Khan speaking at the Dangal press conference in Dubai. Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures

CtoI: So is building muscle as challenging without losing what he claims (the weight)?

Aamir Khan: In terms of workouts, what people don’t know is that I was actually training throughout the entire period of two years. Building muscle in such a short time is not possible.

Even when I was fatter and ate all kinds of junk and high-fat food, I was working out as hard. The muscle was built atop a thick layer of fat so visually it was hard to see the muscle surrounding it, but I was actually training very heavily as I knew I had to bulk up.

When I lost the fat, it was easier to see the muscle that was already there. The training did not just last that five months. My heavy, physical weight training comprised of repetitions of 8-6-4. Generally people do 10 repeats of a particular exercise such as squats, lifting the weight that you can take – or even 12, 15 reps.

My first set used to be 8 reps as the weight was so heavy, I couldn’t do more than that. And then I couldn’t do more than 6 reps in the second set. For the third set, I would do not more than 4 reps, and go down to 2 reps – meaning I would lift so heavy that at the end of 2 reps I just couldn’t lift it anymore.

CtoI: Did you feel bad while you were putting on weight?

Aamir Khan: I didn’t feel good, but my muscle building continued throughout the process and the last five months was focused on fat loss. I’m saying it’s possible, but if a particular person feels that I’ve done it through steroids, then that is his opinion  I don’t need to convince him.