Hard yolk to bear
Bodybuilders struggle as eggs cost more and food prices soar, unlike their spirits
Bodybuilders struggle as eggs cost more and food prices soar, unlike their spirits
Inflation is not just crazy, it is positively eggcentric, that is what the city's swathe of bodybuilders say. They have been especially hard hit by the escalating prices of eggs, their primary source of protein during competition months.
Shyam Rahate with son, Dheeraj at home
On an average, a competitive bodybuilder consumes at least two dozen egg whites a day, but, with eggs going up by nearly 75 paise per egg, the future does not look as bright as an egg yolk for Mumbai's striated, six-pack set.
Says Suhas Khamkar, current Mr. Asia whose grocery bill is climbing along with his ascent of the bodybuilding ladder. "When I am in training, in peak season my food bill has gone to a whopping Rs 2,200 per day.
We are struggling to fulfill our dietary requirements -- from eggs, to chicken, fruit and even the humble vegetable like tomato or onion, tell me which essential has escaped inflation? A bodybuilder needs a minimum amount of protein from dietary sources, the other comes from supplements."
Khamkar who is training hard (it is bodybuilding season now) downs 24 egg whites daily, "If I am targetting a lower weight category, which is below 70 kgs. If I am preparing to compete between 70-75 kgs which I did during my Mr. Asia title contest in Bahrain last year, then I would be eating 45 eggs a day."
Right now, Khamkar has broken up his egg consumption into four segments, "six eggs before training in the morning, six eggs post training. I once again have six eggs in the evening, pre-training section and six eggs post-training in the evening."
Says Khamkar, "I have been competing as a bodybuilder since the past 12 years and it was always a struggle to meet dietary requirements, but nothing like it has been now because the cost of living has gone up so sharply."
Khamkar, a Sion resident who thinks the windows of the world have opened up to him because of his sport, believes the view outside is not particularly rosy.
It shows how Indian bodybuilders are treated compared to their foreign counterparts and it is not a pretty sight. Khamkar says, "The competition in Bahrain was some of the toughest in my life, because there were so many bodybuilders from other nations.
I was also struck by how some bodybuilders had vital crutches like a doctor, a masseur and a coach with them, while we cannot afford that kind of support staff."
Khamkar says bodybuilders raise money through well wishers to compete abroad, "yet rising prices make it more difficult for us," He explains, "Last year, I was to go to the US for a competition. I did not get a visa as I had an inadequate bank balance."
Suhas Khamkar shows off those biceps, when egged on
Khamkar's daily intake with some variations goes like this:
1/4 kg of chicken
900 grams fish
4 kg apples
Other fruits like oranges and mosambi (sweet lime)
Khamkar says bodybuilders must be, "tension free" if the, "government can help us monetarily with our food bills, then, a lot of our problems would melt away." Khamkar, a Central Railway employee earns
Rs 12,000 a month as his salary and though he is all praise for his employers says he spends nearly thrice that on his diet. "A lot of the money comes from prize money, we earn at competitions. Yet, it is only the top bodybuilders that win prizes, the beginners are still struggling."
Khamkar thinks the bodybuilding coffin is shutting as rising food prices are forcing bodybuilders to re-think their choice of sport, "They have to be given solid incentives like a national level medallist must be given a Class I officer's job," says Khamkar who believes, "even a pat on the back by the government, some kind of recognition would be great."
With the strain telling on his purse strings, Khamkar says, "those eight-hour training sessions are fuelled purely by adrenaline and love for the sport. When I go on stage and compete it all seems worth it."
In his off-season, Khamkar admits to indulging in gajjar halwa, but right now, the going in anything but sweet for the Ticket Checker, (TC) who laughs as he says, "People usually try to evade TCs but they pose with me for pictures at the station, especially after my Mr. Asia win."
Eggs consumed: 24 eggs a day
At nearly 20 kgs less than Khamkar, 55-kg bodybuilder and Kandivali resident, Jayesh Kharat spends Rs 1,000 a month only on eggs in his diet, "a Rs 200 climb from what it was just a couple of months ago. The egg prices have hit me the hardest; earlier it was Rs 2.50 per egg, now it is more than Rs 3. That is a strain considering I consume 14 egg whites daily in body building season."
Like most bodybuilders, Jayesh says his salary as fitness trainer is not enough to support his diet, but his mother Ashray Kharat ensures that her son gets all the eggs he needs. "It is getting more expensive every day but we support and encourage Jayesh because he loves body building, it is his passion.
We cannot shatter his dreams," says his mother who wakes up at 4 am to cook Jayesh's breakfast. One is sure those egg white creations are spiked with a special ingredient which can never be hit by inflation: A mother's TLC -- Tender, Loving, Care.
Jayesh's daily diet
Protein shake: 4
Oats: 120 grams
Chicken: 100 gms
Vegetables: 1 helping
Salad: 2 helpings
Yet, a bodybuilder does not live on, "TLC alone," laughs champion bodybuilder Manish Advilkar. Advilkar who trained actor Salman Khan for a decade despairs for the next generation of bodybuilders, "If they ever arrive at all. With food costing what it does these days, this sport is sure to die out," says this senior clerk with Western Railway who also works as a personal trainer. "As professionals, we can manage but these are very hard times for beginners," says Advilkar.
"In fact," adds Advilkar, "I see the lower middle class and the middle class being priced out of bodybuilding altogether. Bodybuilding was never a sport for the rich but it might well become one," he explains. Advilkar says, "Eggs are one of the purest forms of protein, they are essential to our diet. Earlier, 10 eggs cost approximately Rs 26. Today they cost nearly Rs 40, look at the jump."
Jayesh Kharat consumes those eggs at express speed
Then, Advilkar says, "We have not taken into account the advanced supplements that one needs, even whey protein, which is better than egg would cost Rs 6,000 for 1.5 months. Who, except the rich can afford to spend that much?" Like Advilkar, most bodybuilders feel the government has to step in to save this game.
"It is not just eggs but even other protein sources like fish and chicken that have taken a quantum leap," says Advilkar. Recent job avenues like private gyms help bodybuilders as they can be employed as personal trainers but they Advilkar says, "pay Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 while a bodybuilder's dietary expense is more than twice that," explains Advilkar, who ends with, "I have suffered through my career, now I wish the younger generation gets help, so that they do not suffer like me."
Rs 6000: Cost of whey protein for 1.5 months
It is not so much about suffering, "as it is about introspection," says champion bodybuilder, Shyam Rahate who admits, "I often ask myself, why have I taken up this sport? Have all the sacrifices been worth it?" Shyam says he has cut down his egg intake, "from 30 a day to 20" because, "eggs have become so expensive. A bodybuilder needs to spend at least Rs 500 a day and that is a very conservative estimate, on his
food. Today, that 500 note can buy less and less. I cut down because I do not want my family to struggle. At peak competition time, one needs Rs 2,000 a day to keep up with nutritional needs. Is that possible?" he asks almost rhetorically. Like others, Shyam cites the big 'S' - support that can help bodybuilders keep popping those eggs.
"India has truly talented bodybuilders. Let them not fade away because of rising prices," says Shyam, who like the others is also preparing for the Mr. Universe competition to be held in the city later this year.
30 to 20: Cut down on eggs
Big time competitions notwithstanding, with all these strongmen struggling through spirit-sapping inflation, the sport's future looks as fragile as eggshells.
Bollywood into eggs and Khalli's eggcentricities
John Abraham, Bollywood's Popeye thanks to his bulging biceps has at least 10-12 egg whites a day to fuel that body. He told a journalist that he ate eggs extensively while getting ready for Dostana. Hrithik Roshan too says eggs form an important part of his diet and Arjun Rampal is part of the egg brigade. For Bollywood actors flush with funds egg prices cause not a dent in their fat wallets.
Meanwhile, reports state that wrestler Khalli was given an egg-welcome when he entered the Bigg Boss season 4 house. The channel had provided him a breakfast of 20 eggs and milk, as he was ushered into the house and locked in.
Manish Advilkar and his favourite food
Khalli-lore has it that the wrestler consumes 25 eggs at a time, seven times a day outside the Bigg Boss house. Those figures are not authenticated and sound excessive. Even if inflated, they are an indication of the importance of eggs for all those who live by their biceps.
Post Party Nourishment
Egg bhurji, Mumbai's favourite late night snack has been affected by rising prices. The snack often comes to the rescue of late night party revellers and those who work the night shift. When restaurants are closed and there seems nothing on hand to silence the rumbling stomach, simply trundle on to the nearest egg-bhurji seller and join the famished digging into the egg-pav combo snack in relief.
Where do you get the best bhurji?
Mumbai's railway stations are formidable bhurji-pav addas. The bhurji is usually sold on hand carts and is especially good outside Dadar station (W), Vile Parle station on the East side and both sides of Andheri station.