Health is wealth’ is one of the most common phrases everyone knows and remaining fit is the only method to get this ‘wealth’. The idea of physical fitness has not remained popular in Pakistan in past years as most of the people only confined it to body building. But with passage of time, the fitness industry is growing in the country with several fitness coaches, gyms and instructors.  Lahore-based Usman Zulfiquar Khan is definitely one of the best and top notch certified fitness professional and boxing coach.

Usman has done BSc. Honours (Kinesiology) from University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, USA in 2009. Before that he got Personal training certification in 2005 from International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and Nutrition Certification from American Council of Exercise (ACE). He is two-time state boxing champion of Illinois, USA with (16-4) record and 2009 Golden Glove Champion in 125-pound category. He is currently fitness and boxing coach at Synergy Fitness and MMA Gym.

While talking exclusively to The Nation, about fitness, Usman stated that to him fitness is all about equilibrium and balance.

"Fitness is finding the perfect balance between, speed, strength, endurance and agility, and between fat, muscle and water, with adequate nutrition. The perfect equilibrium." ,” he said.

While explaining it the fitness professional said that a common misconception amongst people is that carbohydrates and fats are the enemy in terms of nutritional balance.

“Each macro nutrient serves a particular purpose. Carbs are your number one energy source, give your muscle volume and fullness and hydrate you, while fats again, are a source of energy, aid in the absorption of the other two nutrients, and insulate your body, whereas proteins too, give you energy and formulate the building blocks of muscle fiber,” he added.

He further explained that eliminating carbs and loading up on fat and protein on ketogenic diets is not sustainable though it could kick start weight loss. Anything prefixed "high", "low" or "no" for a diet does not work in terms of long lasting results. Apart from specific circumstantial diet regimes, this is the general ratio of macros that one should maintain.

On question of fitness culture in Pakistan, the coach said that he feels that this culture is in still early stages.

“The fitness culture which was introduced in India about 7-8 years is coming to Pakistan now, the trends which were in West, numbers of decades ago are now coming to our country. It has both positive and negative effects,” he said.

“On positive end, there is fresh awareness about fitness, healthy lifestyle, aesthetics and diets but on negative side, there is a lot of shamming and deception,” he asserted.

On negative aspect, Usman further explained that every Tom, Dick and Harry who has gone to gym at some point or a girl who is slim not fat has become a fitness trainer without proper certification or training.

“There are hardly seven to eight proper qualified fitness trainers in Lahore.”

"Among many of these challenges and boot camps, you hardly have one or two qualified professionals who lead a team of fit, or more often, seemingly fit individuals who may know a thing or two pertaining to their own health, but aren't nearly equipped enough to advise others. Then there is a famous fitness gym in Lahore, whose lady trainer cannot do simple push-ups."

“These 40-day, 42-days challenges are not boot camps rather they are mass workouts where people get injuries as only five to six trainers are catering almost 170 people which is impossible to do as an experienced trainer can't adequately focus on more than 20 clients, at the most," he said.

On diet plan of these boot camps and challenges, Usman mentioned that what these camps usually do is exclude carbs from your diet to fatigue students in a non-orderly format of muscle targeting, where the input to output ratio of calories is sufficient to lose weight by the end of the camp but what happens after the camp is when individual starts eating normal food with carbohydrates, he/she will gain weight again,” he explained.

“These camps mainly focus on weight loss not on fat loss and there is a huge difference between them.”

About his philosophy on fitness, Usman said that although weight is good depiction where you stand but it does not say how fit you are. Similarly, BMI is a useless thing that does the same. The major example of Body Mass Index (BMI) is between Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson and Inzamam-ul-Haq, they probably both have same BMI but one is drenched with lean meat and clean food, and the other is built on nihari.

“I ask my clients to get a body composition test which will tell me what his/her muscle composition, fate composition,  bone density and how much water are you holding in body, this whole test is body compositition test which includes Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is way more important than BMI,” he asserted.

“BMR tells how much calories you are metabolizing without doing anything, which varies person-to-person and on that reading I will suggest him/her diet and exercise,” he said.

On maintaining basic fitness, the coach said that it is mostly about diet than exercise as most of the fitness professionals believe that your fitness depends on 70 percent on diet, and 30 percent on exercise. This is basic mantra.

"One basic piece of advice I give my clients is to at least do some basic cardio, for a maximum of 30 minutes, but constant. Everyone can manage 3-4 runs a week, and if your aged, go for a 30-40 minute walk, progressively getting to it, and I promise you you'll see changes" he maintained.

While talking about boxing, its culture and future in Pakistan, two-time state champ said that in most of the world, boxing is not under government institutions rather it is run by private organizations.

“The issue in Pakistan is that it is under government which has no interest in the sport and people who try to run it privately cannot get sponsors as no one has interest in the sport,” he mentioned.

“There is immense talent of boxing in Pakistan but like many other sports except cricket, it is being ignored by both public and private entities,” he asserted.

On aspect of boxing being a bloody sport and concept that it makes an individual brawler and there is animosity in it, Usman negated the idea.

“Boxing teaches you control, both physical and mental. I was brawler before I started boxing but after I started training, I hardly ever fought on street. It calmed down to the point that I avoid fight because now I know what I can do to other person. It changes you; it relaxes you down which is biggest plus point of it. Yes! There is blood and sweat in it, you beat the other guy or he beats you in the ring but in end you can hug him and says ‘Good Job’ and this is beautiful” he explained.

The coach further added that if an individual is angry, he/she can come to the gym, hit bags, train and it will sooth him/her.

"Psychologically it strengthens you because it helps you evade the fear of the unknown. Most people don't know what it feels like to get battered and in a ring or cage, under professional supervision, you get to experience the possibility, and then it departs from your heart, incredibly boosting your self-confidence in the process",” he stated.

“Boxing makes you both physically and mentally strong,” he concluded.