India’s one of the most renowned nutritionists and health coaches, Luke Coutinho reveals that a person’s fitness is based upon four pillars of lifestyle, which has to work in tandem for maintaining the perfect balance. In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, Coutinho said, “It’s about growing a little in each of the four pillars of lifestyle day by day – balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep, and emotional detox. The target should be to making them work in tandem with each other.”
Journey from being a DJ to a life coach
Raised in Goa, Coutinho started his career by doing odd jobs. Studying nutrition and health was just another hobby he had picked up during his college days. Initially, he was working part-time on weekends at his cousin’s restaurant in Goa, where he waited tables, worked in the kitchen, manned the bar and later interested in the role of the DJ. “I would sit through the parties and observe people dancing to the tunes of DJ with so much thrill. One night, the DJ didn’t turn up, so I took on the role of the DJ and that’s how I took to this new role with a passion. I then started to work as a DJ at different times of the day and night, attending a bit of college in the day and somehow, pulling through the three years of college!” said Coutinho.
Soon, he stepped into the hospitality sector for some time and moved to a multinational company with postings in Dubai, London, and Qatar, before moving back to India and working with IBM for 10 years.
“When I started to work in the corporate sector, I noticed how the top management of companies neglected their health. They had prominent positions, travelled the world but had deprived health. I recognised this gap and understood that all that needed to be changed was their lifestyle,” Coutinho said, after which he started helping and consulting for free with a few people and was able to alter their health and lives.
Soon, he realised that it is the time to take the leap and chose the path of his passion. After mustering the courage, Coutinho quit his job to be a health coach, which opened the door to wonderful and boundless possibilities.
“Gradually, my list of patients grew by the day and I was loving my life and work as it brought meaning to my heart and soul. I just followed my heart, something my dad drilled into my head as we grew up,” Coutinho said.
The right nutrition
Nutrition has become one of the key elements in sports and fitness and one of the biggest components of this segment is diet. However, Coutinho never follows a diet plan, because he believes his body’s requirements are very dynamic and change from day-to-day. “I stay mindful. I listen to my body and give it food, rest, activity and sleep according to what it asking for. I love eating an early dinner by 6.30 pm and fasting through the night. This pattern of eating is in alignment with nature and has been a game-changer in my health and fitness.”
The dedication with which a sportsperson eat, sleep and train cannot be replicated by a person who does a regular nine-to-five job. So if they decide to adopt a sport or physical activity, they have to do it the realistic way.
Coutinho says, “We come across many people who take up marathon running, without assessing their Vitamin D and calcium levels and then come back complaining of knee pains, swelling and soreness. Not aligning nutrition according to your level of activity can be detrimental in every way – delayed recovery, increased chances of injury, slow progress, etc. One cannot simply decide to get on a training plan, without making adjustments in your nutrition.”
He further goes on to explain that we engage ourselves in any training, our body’s nutritional demands increase parallelly. It is thus necessary to focus on eating a nutrient-dense, balanced and well-rounded meal. It is equally important to emphasise on hydration and refilling of electrolytes through plain lemon water or coconut water mixed with pink salt. Nutrition pre, during and post workouts are equally important.
Inputs on weight loss
At a time, when everyone is becoming health conscious, their primary focus is to often look fit and lose the extra kilos. Our bodies have been designed to shed off that excess weight provided we create the right kind of environment – internally as well as externally. Coutinho opines that self-discipline acts as the key factor for reducing weight. Besides, there are several other aspects which have to be kept a track in order to reduce weight efficiently. “A lot of people don’t get to a point where the body should be able to start losing weight because they lack effort and self-discipline. Self-discipline is the centre of all success.
“Additionally, a lot of people do not understand that weight loss is multi-factorial. There are numerous things, right from your stress levels to the way you sleep, the form of exercise you do to rest and recovery and the quality of the food you eat. What people immediately start doing to lose weight is that they were crash dieting and undereating. Whereas losing weight does not require you to go on fad diets where you starve yourself. You should be able to control the quantity of food you eat and syndicate it with the right amount of exercise, so your body is able to burn calories.
They also ignore sleep which is so essential for losing weight. Some people sleep for six to seven hours, even though they are tired. It is the quality of sleep that makes a difference.”
He adds, “Sometimes you put on weight due to hormonal disparities. If you are incessantly stressed, your body is going to put on weight. Most people don’t look at stress levels. They are always looking at consuming less and working out more. That just adds to the stress.”
Besides weight loss, a person has to take care of nutrition effectively. Nutrition intake depends from person to person. Often, the root cause for health problems is directly related to nutrition. Coutinho and his team work on assessing the digestive capabilities of an individual and how well is he/she able to digest a specific food item, what suits them and what doesn’t, because it is no longer about what they eat, it’s also about how well you digest, absorb and assimilate.
“We look at what the person has grown up eating since we believe in going back to roots and traditions. We assess other pillars of lifestyle as well, like the level of physical activity, emotional health and sleep quality and design nutritional plans based on each of these as well. This is why no two people can have the same nutritional plan as all of us are unique individuals.”
Coutinho and his team have started working with people diagnosed with cancer by creating a 360-degree wellness plan for them, while they are already on their path of conventional treatment. They support a cancer-affected person with the required nutrition plan with the aim to provide them with the necessary elements that get wiped out after chemotherapies and radiations.
Cancer treatments usually come with plenty of side-effects, Coutinho helps a patient to recuperate from the problems like loss of appetite, body pains, lack of energy, joint pains, falling levels of haemoglobin, WBC’s, platelets, weight loss. He adopts a holistic approach to build a strong immunity system for them so that it could prevent cancer to come back.
Coutinho further helps cancer-affected patients by emotionally supporting them at all stages through various mind-body healing techniques like yoga, meditation, visualization, positive affirmations.
Coronavirus or Covid-19 or the novel coronavirus has affected over a lakh people in more than 100 countries, and killed more than 3,000 people. 42 cases of coronavirus have been reported in India so far. With the advent of the disease, fear has spread across the country. Coutinho shares a very homely method that could boost our immunity and are antiviral in nature.
Here are the tips he shares:
- Garlic – Chop garlic and add to a jar of raw honey, store for 3 days, consume 1 tsp – 1 tbsp daily.
- Star anise – brew a tea out of star anise or drop 1-star anise in your tea, soups or other beverages.
- Add ginger to your food preparations or brew a simple ginger tea.
- Coconut oil
- Resveratrol rich foods (black or purple grapes, cacao, good quality red wine, pistachios, strawberries.
- Vitamin C rich foods – amla, lemon, citrus fruits, peppers
A simple anti-viral tea recipe:
Boil one-star anise in water with 3 black peppercorns, 1 cracked cardamom, a dash of Ceylon cinnamon powder or 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, half tsp turmeric, 1-inch piece of ginger mashed or grated and raw garlic (2 minced cloves). Boil in 2 cups of water and simmer for 2 minutes. Consume water. This can be consumed twice a day.