Want to get into shape and wondering about how to control your diet. Well, no need to worry, as we have a person who is synonymous with health and nutrition in India, and has been performing a commendable job with his largest teams of dietitians in changing people’s lives via nutrition and food behaviour management. Ryan Fernando is one such person who has been a guiding mentor in helping people to achieve their goals in a very short span of time. Being a nutrition coach, Ryan educates and guides people towards healthier options and choosing foods that heal the body, rather than deteriorating their health and shape.
In an interaction with Rajeev Biswas, Sr. Sub Editor, from Sportz Business Fitness Magazine, Ryan Fernando the founder of QUA Nutrition, shares the need for scientific nutrition for food, and how he closely works with his clients to ensure that they understand the basis of nutrition themselves in order to have a healthy life.
Ryan’s knowledge about foods has garnered his popularity and love among professionals from various fields that the masses look up to. His clientele includes India’s leading sports celebrities and Bollywood megastars, who believe that their bodies are destined for greatness. During the 10th anniversary at QUA Nutrition, Ryan and his team are all set to launch a dedicated division for cancer nutrition, where they will offer customized approaches to nutrition to individuals.
Let’s read him and find out what he has to offer as far as nutrition is concerned.
Hi Ryan, tell us about your journey so far and what led you to choose nutrition as your career?
Hi, my name is Ryan Fernando and I am the founder and chief nutritionist at the QUA Nutrition clinics. I started my career as a nutritionist many years ago. I did my master’s in clinical biochemistry at the Goa Medical College, and clearly remember, working with the head of the biochemistry department. I am talking about 1996, over 25 years ago. I got an innate insight into all the blood deficiencies, imbalances and its relation to nutrition and diet. Over the years, I have specialized in nutrition and dietetics with various companies that sold foods supplements.
10 years ago, I decided to start my own nutrition company- but not with products, but with an understanding of what I had been doing for last 2 decades and implementing it to Service Nutrition counselling. My aim was to educate people towards correct nutrition. Product companies utilize products as a quick fix method, these products are called food supplements. I always tell people; food supplements are the nutritional convenience to your nutritional indiscipline. This was implementing my understanding of food and nutrition as science and emotion via customised nutrition plans.
As a skinny child, as a kid that fell sick quite often in college, I understood that the foods that I chose really changed my day and life. Studying in medical college allowed a further magnifying focus in this concept that food could heal thy body and it could have a medicinal approach to the healing of the human body. The nutritional indiscipline by people including sports people is what set me up with the idea of implementing nutrition. Since, I came from the land of football, Goa, my medical college overlooked the football field, while working in the lab, I would think how exciting it would be if I could analysis the urine and the sweat output of the football players, instead of doing research in the lab. In 1996, with no google or internet, research was limited to the library searches on a how we could enhance performance/s.
To make the long story short, I started out my career in nutrition because at a young age, I realized that nutrition does have an important play in people’s health and well-being. I decided to invest my life into communicating this understanding to the world.
Take us through your idea behind starting QUA Nutrition, and how it has been impacting the masses through your nutrition and food behaviour management?
Before I started QUA Nutrition, almost a decade ago, I worked with companies that sold supplements. I worked for the largest supplement manufacturer in the world called Nutralite, then founded a company with a pharmaceutical company in India called Tablets India to form a sports nutrition division called Bodyfuelz. In both these companies, we sold supplements. In both the companies, I had teams of dietitians. In these companies, each time – when we tried to call up people, pitch at exhibitions, go to football grounds, go to the academies, go on road shows, go on exhibitions, when we told people about the nutritional supplements; everyone says, yes, I know about this product, and it is great. But can you tell me how can you change the way I eat every day? This became a number one phenomenon in all the products selling ventures across the country; from north to south, to east to west- I would see that people from very rich backgrounds to the aam aadmi rickshaw puller would ask us general questions about –“What to eat? When to eat? How much to eat? “And because, the teams which were with me were predominantly dietitians and nutritionists, I realized, – Hey! here is a business model where people are asking us about- How to eat food correctly? Which means, there was a gap between the knowledge of nutrition, the preparation of nutrition and the consumption of the nutrition. I decided to dig deep into this. I used my degree from IIM, Ahmedabad, to understand the business sentiment of this idea.
There is a serious need for scientific nutrition education in our country. And this nutrition education can be conducted chiefly by dietitians, nutritionists, and health coaches. So, I set about founding QUA Nutrition 10 years ago with one clinic and two dietitians. The journey’s been nothing short of amazing. In 10 years we have expanded to all the metro cities, and have a team of over 55 dietitians that cover all walks of life from sports nutrition to medical nutrition, to genetic nutrition, to even paediatric nutrition and cancer care. We aggressively work in customizing solutions of nutrition for individuals. I named the clinic “QUA Nutrition” because QUA in Latin means- “in character of or in capacity off”. So, if you say “QUA Nutrition” you are finding of the character for nutrition of that person or you are finding the capacity for nutrition of that person. Over years, I have worked with various dietitians and nutritionists, and realized it is a very intense backend work, time consuming, thought provoking and mathematical and probability calculator that is required to build a custom diet chart. Because food, like businesses has a balance sheet. That balance sheet is known by calories, which is the money, and the currency is in forms of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Like the currency in the real market, each one of these food currencies have a different exchange rate. For example, fat is 9 calories per gram, carbohydrate has 4 calories and protein has 4 calories, so how do you split this up in the human body in consumption? How do you understand the individual components in the food? Is it a protein food, it’s a high carbohydrate food or it’s a high fat food or a combination?
With the processing food industry changing the way our food tastes, altering the way the food is constructed- it is more prevalent for more unhealthy options to fulfil your taste bud requirements, but not fulfil your nutritional requirements. I think what QUA set about doing, is for a person to involve themselves in an individual bespoke customized nutrition counselling and being catered by a state-of-art scientifically humanly and emotionally planned intervention diet chart, which will support you through each day on what, when, how much to eat.
How you customize each client’s nutrition requirement and what are the technicalities that you primarily follow to design their nutrition plan?
QUA Nutrition clinics basically work on the principle of Bespoke customization of diet plans for clients. No one size fits all, therefore, at QUA Nutrition, we are not looking at generic advice. We are looking at customizable advice, based on all tests and any other medical and diagnostic input necessary. We merge that with your lifestyle, your schedule, your likes and dislikes, allergy patterns, goals, and other elements of lifestyle. To put all of this together humanly is quite difficult because it takes about 8 – 15 hrs to corelate and formulate thousands of permutations and combinations for the appropriate balancing in the nutrition plan. At QUA Nutrition, we have a proprietary software that structures this interrelation for this integration of data and makes the dietitians life easier and error free. It captures nearly 1.5hr of data in every counselling, integrating that into the client’s personalised plan, such that; every time a plan is being made, we tell the client- this is not a Qua Nutrition plan, this is your Bespoke Nutrition plan made by your genetics.
We integrate genetic testing; we take a saliva sample of client and send it to the gene lab which churns out what is known as a nutrigenomic report. Nutrigenomics is the science of understanding the impact of consumed nutrients and other food components on gene expression. For example, let us say I do your nutrition gene test for the vitamins, and results reflect that you have a gene that does not work well for B12, and maybe you are a vegetarian. As a nutritionist, I know very well that B12 does not come from any vegetarian food. Therefore, I must customize your diet chart to add a nutritional supplement of B12. Genetic testing understanding to integrate its results of caffeine, lactose, gluten, etc and other traits; we then with your blood test reports makes the nutrition plan exacting. The blood tests are a clear indicator of how your dietary habits have been. For example, if you test your cholesterol, and its high – then maybe you have not been eating too well in the last 6 months. Or, for example, an HbA1c or a fasting glucose level is high, then you customize the nutrition plan for lowering the glycaemic index of food, making sure that the carbohydrates are correct in every meal and the timing of the meal is also adhered too. Finally, we add things like food allergy testing or any medical testing like the microbiome testing, which advises the types of population of bacteria in your gut. Basically, analysing all of this and creating a Bespoke choice of the right foods for your human body.
Over and above, we constantly invest in training and retraining of our dietitians. Our dietitians undergo a rigorous training in process and protocols, and our clinics have one of the world’s only quality control departments for nutrition counselling and advise. When your diet chart is prepared, it is QC’d by a secondary dietitian who has never met the client, and this dietitian strips the emotional requirements of the client and focuses solely on the logical and scientific requirements of the client which are presented with clarity in the software. The quality control dietitian and the lead dietitian interact to make a better diet chart as per client’s customisation. In addition, if there are nutritional deficiencies, the dietitian also works with a supplement strategist. A supplement strategist is an expert on supplements, who brings the additional value to the client’s prescription by looking at all the deficiencies and presenting a defined strategy to the diet plan nutrition via food supplements.
Kindly share details about your clientele, and how have you managed to change their lives with your expertise in food and nutrition?
Some of our greatest successes have been in the athletics sphere and the fashion and celebrity’s industry. Many people ask us, I am not a celebrity why should I come to you? Let us rewind a little bit – Qua nutrition has built its entire principle of We also work tirelessly with the silent super stars battling cancer, thyroid, auto immune disorders, and many others, who choose to remain strong but not in the limelight with our nutrition plans.
With more than 50% of our dietitian workforce having worked in hospitals and specialise in specific subject fields within Nutrition like -sports nutrition, genetic specialisation, paediatric nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, etc. We are launching In July on the 10th anniversary – the cancer nutrition department. If I could put it in one nutshell, we set out to make Qua nutrition clinics the best nutrition clinics on the planet, which has global access via an e-clinic model. The art of understanding of matching the science to the cuisine is where my dietitians learn every day. Qua Nutrition prides itself on its process, its pedigree of dietitians, the training we invest in these individuals, to give a very bespoke service backed by the proprietary technology and software. This helps us play as the one of the leading players in the nutrition and dietetic service space in the world.
You have been working with many acclaimed Sports and Bollywood celebrities, kindly share with us your experiences with them?
Over ten years in QUA nutrition, we have had so many celebrities walking through the doors of QUA Nutrition at some point of time in their career. We do not claim to be handling them 24/7 for the last decade; but they have approached us for their nutrition plan, when they want the most intricate advice to transform or repair.
My most vivid is helping Dinaz’s break the Guinness world record of non-stop aerobics of 26 hours. Imagine a human working out for 26 hours without break! The fuelling that is required for this must be in exact with no scope of error. That was one of the best experiences I ever had.
I worked with Amir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Fardeen Khan, Kajal Agarwal and others. These are Bollywood Celebrities whose bodies demand the best diet plan for its success to mirror in their human body to be shown on screen. Amir Khan, perfectionist is the word, and he would be able to spot a difference in the calories between a nimboo paani made with local Indian lemon and made with a sweet lime. He was that accurate in terms of knowing his calories and being particular about it. Abhishek Bachchan, absolute respect to him for showing his gentleman like colours when following a nutrition plan. The respect, he gives a nutritionist was just so amazing. The beautiful Kajal Agarwal, we helped out during her pre-wedding span, in her movies roles that helped her understand how walking is one of the best fat burning exercises. Fardeen Khan, my latest trad with Bollywood, as he transformed himself by rejuvenating his body. He is most inquisitive person in terms of understanding his human body and an absolute privilege to work.
I do believe that the world’s going to change after COVID. People are going to realise that having two cars, two holiday vacations in a year is not worth the investment unless the body is not serviced like a BMW, Mercedes, or Ferrari. People are investing in training, nutrition and in the awareness of how to eat correctly and train correctly.
VISION OF QUA –
I believe the next 10 years for QUA nutrition is going to be amazingly great, because more people are going to demand personalised nutrition tuitions with a dietician. Indians love having a guru to advise direction to them, and the dieticians will become that guru, that guide and coach. With most of the Nutrition software models that encourage self-help booming, the empathy and understanding is missing and overtime this will result in the explosion of people wanting Bespoke services. I also see us venturing into the product space in the next ten years with a QUA nutrition range of bespoke and customised supplements. I am also looking at QUA nutrition moving a lot into the teaching space, by being a nutrition thought leader, a nutrition trainer and building hundreds of thousands of dieticians and nutritionists. The world needs more scientific education in the department of nutrition.
You will see a lot more of me investing in changing the performance of Team Indian, with a lot more performance medals coming the QUA nutrition way. In QUA Nutrition, we build champions, we fuel champions, we tell champions what is the right for food to eat. Our mission for the next 10 years is to change the way INDIA eats.
At times when the world is affecting due to COVID, what nutrition would you like to suggest for fitness enthusiasts in order to have perfect immunity?
The best way to improve your immunity is to change the way you choose your foods. Select foods that will boost your immunity and avoid foods that will harm your immunity. For example, if you are allergic to milk, then avoid milk else it will drop your immunity. The foods that I select for boosting immunity are Indian gooseberry ie Amla, turmeric, jamun, avoid all sugars and alcohol, and above all try to maintain a lower body fat percentage with an optimal BMI of less than 22. In simple, choose the foods that make your body sing and avoid the foods that make you cringe. Do not select foods for the pleasure to your taste buds, rather select them for their nutritious value.
As people couldn’t able to access the gyms due to lockdowns, in such a scenario what nutrition plan will you recommend coping with their training gap?
During the lock down when one cannot work out, I suggest a lower calorie diet with lesser carbs in the diet and higher protein. I recommend intermittent fasting which is a 12 hour to 18 hour fasting window. By eating lesser in each meal or by prolonging the gap between your last meal of the day and the first meal of the day, one can achieve a greater fat utilization in the human body as well as a better insulin sensitivity. This results in lesser storage of body fat as against when you eat erratically. Substitute your sweet milk tea with green tea thereby lessening calories. It is better to weight your food, especially your grains like rice and chapatis; increase your legumes, pulses, beans, and dals. On the weighing scale ratio should be 2 is to 1 of dals to grains.
Walking is also one of the best exercises to burn fat. At lower intensity, the heart rate shows that the substrate fuel that the muscles will utilize is more fat, 70% of the energy will come from fat what is the balance will be 30% from the muscle glycogen of the carbohydrate stored in the muscle. When you do higher intensity exercises like running or cardio, this ratio of fat burning drops.
Hence during this COVID period, I suggest walking and intermittent fasting are the best combinations for the general person for whom other dynamics may not be easily accessible.
As work from home seems the new normal of today, any nutrition tips that you can suggest for our readers for weight loss?
During work from home, I personally have been noticing that my water consumption has reduced as compared to the office. And with food preparation happening at home, the chances of smelling food, destroy self-control and push towards snacking excessively. During this work from home, I suggest the following –
- Keep a jug of 1 L in front of your computer and refill it twice a day. This should be the minimum you consume during the work hours.
- Focus on negative calorie foods like apple, pears, salad leaves, cucumber, celery, which do not contribute a lot of calories.
- Avoid peanut butter and any fat butters, reduce the oils in your diet, reduce the pancakes and dosas and any elements that are fried and hold a lot of oil, which has highest calories.
These added in small bits across meal add a lot of calories in total.
- Take 50% of your online meetings and conversations while standing or walking if possible.
- Remove snacking items from eyesight or home if possible.
- If you are looking to do intermittent fasting try and use black tea, black coffee, cucumber, celery, and apple in the morning half from waking till about lunch time. Have an early lunch. Do the same for dinner eat early. Keep your feeding window as low as 6 hours only.
- Keeping chewing gum at your desk should you have any sweet cravings.
- Brush your teeth after every meal so that you do not feel the craving for dessert.
- Add chamomile tea at evening to improve sleep and reduce stress levels.
- Eat two numbers of Walnuts at bedtime it improves your cravings at night.
Tell us what is Ryan’s favourite healthy snack, as far as health and nutrition is concerned?
My favourite snack is dates, raisins, and corn flakes with oats milk. My second favourite snack ok is a Spanish omelette. My third favourite snack is grilled chicken my 4th favourite snack is Atlantic Salmon.
Any health-oriented message that you would like to give to the masses around amid pandemic?
You are what you eat. Learn about your genetics and your microbiome individuality to design a custom nutrition plan that is based on your QUA and not on the love and culture that is been handed to you.
Make eating more scientific and focus on understanding your body’s fat and muscle distribution while you commit to an exercise regime that is suited to your age and genes. Muscle is the only age reversible organ, and feeding THE HUMAN BODY correctly with the right food, in the right quantity, at the right time is nutritional bliss.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.