Bhat recalls an experiment from 2012 when Gopichand went on a Ketogenic diet, popular in the US then, for a whole year just to check if his players would be able to take it. That was right after tennis star Novak Djokovic made it popular; Gopichand restricted his own intake to just 8-10 things permitted by the diet chart. “He read and researched, and checked it on himself, going into training aiding recovery and fitness. He could have beaten all the active Indian players at that time, he became so fit,” Bhat says, laughing. But he dropped the idea when he realised his players, whose every morsel he monitors, might not be able to take it.
But while some nutritionists have encouraged the protein craze, a number of experts are urging caution. They point out that protein powders and supplements, which come from animal products like whey and casein (byproducts of cheese manufacturing) or from plants like soy, rice, pea or hemp, are a relatively new invention. The vast majority of Americans already get more than the recommended daily amounts of protein from food, they say, and there are no rigorous long-term studies to tell us how much protein is too much.
80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.
My breakfasts, for example, have completely changed. Over the past few decades, typical breakfasts in this country have become “lower-fat versions of dessert,” as Gary Taubes, the author of a new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” puts it.
Mine used to revolve around cereal and granola, which are almost always sweetened. Now I eat a combination of eggs, nuts, fruit, plain yogurt and some well-spiced vegetables. It feels decadent, yet it’s actually healthier than a big bowl of granola.
These results strongly suggest that extra protein is advisable during weight loss, Dr. Phillips said, to avoid stripping yourself of muscle.
But exercise is also key, Dr. Phillips continued, particularly weight training, since it is known to build muscle. Even the men on the lower-protein diet lost little muscle mass, he pointed out, which was unexpected and almost certainly due, he and his colleagues concluded, to exercise.