Whether it’s Dangal or Ghajini, Aamir Khan is known to get into the skin of the character and transform physically. Getting the look right is no mean feat. Authors Ram Kamal Mukherjee and Devyani Ghosh in their latest book ‘Fitness Secret Of The Stars’ have interviewed the fitness trainers behind the amazing physiques of Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Priyanka Chopra and other stars and have written about their daily workouts, diets and plans.
Below is an excerpt of Aamir Khan’s fitness philosophy and the challenges of transforming physically to get into character.
Challenging All Fitness Limits: The Aamir Khan
Remember the suave and gentle Sanjay Singhania of Ghajini? After a violent encounter kills his love interest, the rich and young protagonist, who develops amnesia, transforms himself into an eight-pack wonder out to take revenge. Audiences across the country watched in amazement as a hunk emerged from the man who often portrayed sweet and playful characters.
That man is none other than Bollywood’s ‘Mr Perfectionist’ Aamir Khan who is known to
construct and deconstruct himself physically for his roles. From Ghajini to 3 Idiots, Dhoom 3 to Dangal, time and again, Aamir has made appearances in new physical avatars.
However, the ease with which he changes his physique almost every couple of years is no joke. Aamir’s unending dedication has elevated the art of bodybuilding to a new height. Almost every
Bollywood actor these days is a fitness freak, at times displaying a muscular frame comparable to
Michelangelo’s David. But Aamir’s body is almost undefinable. One year, an eight-pack muscular
avenger; the next, a happy-go-lucky lean college student; the year after that, a ripped six-packed
gymnast in a dual role. Who could say Sahir and Samar Khan of Dhoom 3 were the Sanjay
Singhania of Ghajini or the carefree Rancho of 3 Idiots, only a few years ago? Or the overweight
wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat of Dangal. Earlier in the movie (but later in real life), Aamir appears on the silver screen in a completely different look of a wrestler. One wonders how a suave and fit man like him could move around with the amount of weight he had put on for Dangal. But he did it with elan. Aamir Khan has achieved this versatility by sheer tenacity, a well-balanced fitness regimen and a proper diet with lots of rest.
Interestingly, in a 2010 blog post, Aamir shared the tremendous effort he put in for his continuous
body transformation. This chapter will highlight the diet and exercise plans that Aamir followed to
achieve the looks of his different characters.
A Structured Balanced Diet: The First Step to a Healthy Body
Most doctors and dieticians across the world stress on a balanced diet plan and discourage crash-dieting to lose weight. Aamir too ascribes to this and believes the body is not made in the gym; rather, it is the reflection of a healthy lifestyle that a person follows. One needs to put in extra effort to work on particular sets of muscles.
Aamir stresses that eating less or crash-dieting is like harming yourself. It is unscientific too, as once you start depriving yourself of food, your body tends to go into starvation mode. The brain thus sends a signal to store more fat for future use. In the process, the body is also deprived of vital nutrients, which can lead to deficiency diseases. Instead, in order to aid weight loss, Aamir eats small meals frequently to increase his metabolism rate and burn more calories.
The Ghajini Diet
During the shooting of Ghajini, Aamir would eat a small meal or snack every thirty minutes. His
daily calorie intake was spread across six major meals, which he was supposed to consume ever two hours. In between, he needed carbohydrates to keep energy levels up, so he would eat a high calorie fruit, like an apple or banana. Otherwise, he would opt for various vegetables, powerhouses of vital vitamins and minerals, essential for glowing skin and building immunity. Fruits and vegetables also helped him keep up his energy levels for his rigorous workouts. He had to work hard throughout the day to build that eight-pack wonder body we saw in Ghajini.
One should remember, in this context, that any form of rigorous exercise is not possible if you are not disease-free. That’s why it is essential to boost immunity to fight ailments such as common cold and viruses. That is only possible by consuming a daily dose of mixed fruits, mostly seasonal, along with green leafy vegetables, which is also why they were such an integral part of Aamir’s diet. Whenever he craved snacks, Aamir turned to brown bread sandwiches or papaya. To keep up his carbohydrate intake, he would have handmade rotis made with three kinds of cereals—wheat, jowar, bajra or other fibre-rich millets for major meals.
Like multigrain toast, these multigrain rotis were big energy boosters.
To make sure he was consuming enough protein, the primary component of muscle building, Aamir
would have chicken and eggs at meals on the set. He would have one or two pieces of tandoori
chicken with four egg whites or turn it into an omelette with vegetable soup. Such variety made
sure it didn’t become a repetitive, mundane diet routine. To keep a check on calories, every dish
was cooked in just 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil, which is light and easily digestible.
Aamir’s Ghajini Diet Plan
Break your meals into six daily portions, and have carbohydrate-rich fruits every two hours to boost
• The recommendation for carbohydrate intake would be multigrain rotis with fruits like apples
and bananas in between meals, especially before a rigorous workout.
• If you are a non-vegetarian, your protein intake can be two to three pieces of chicken in any
form along with four egg whites in any form, bhurji or omelette. Vegetarians can try out
vegetable soup with salads containing protein rich sprouts.
• Add fresh vegetables and fruits in between. Lowsugar seasonal fruits are the best. You can even
try out a fruit salad if munching on whole fruits gets boring.
• If you have that craving for an evening snack, do not look for pakodas or chips, but go for
healthy biscuits, brown bread sandwiches or even digestion-booster papaya cuts.
• Cook all dishes in minimal oil, preferably olive oil.
Preparing for the Dual Role in Dhoom 3
Dhoom 3 was indeed a challenge for Aamir Khan, despite being someone who pushes his body to
the limit. For the first time on the silver screen, he played a double role of twin brothers, one of
whom was autistic. Expectations were thus high from a man who had hardly ever performed action-packed sequences. He had to ride bikes, jump on trapezes and flaunt an agile acrobatic form. Such a role needed Aamir to be flexible and have fluidity of movement to portray the role of a stage gymnast. This was in sharp contrast to what the eight-pack Aamir of Ghajini had to do.
Dhoom 3 thus needed him to increase his basal metabolic rate (BMR), which would ensure he was
full of energy to perform the high-voltage action-packed scenes as well as keep his body lean and agile by burning more calories during the day. Aamir had many meals throughout the day in small portions, to ensure his body clock kept ticking and his stomach was never empty. He also ensured he drank at least 4 litres of water each day.
While shooting, Aamir also turned to green tea. Green tea helps boost the immune system, and
doctors prescribe such antioxidants to be included in daily diets. They can even fight gene mutation and keep cancer at bay. Aamir included carbohydrates in the form of muesli during breakfast and rotis at lunch. He usually avoided carb intake during dinner to keep the meals light and healthy. Early dinners without carbohydrates seems to be one of the best diet plans and is adopted by many actors to achieve that perfect lean look. This is because one tends to be sedentary at night and carbohydrates can get stored as fat when one goes off to sleep immediately after dinner.
Once you cut down on carbs, you must include high-protein food in your meals. So Aamir’s diet
plan included enough egg whites, dal and grilled chicken or fish rich in essential proteins for most
At times, curd was included along with fruits and sabzi to keep it vibrant. However, Aamir preferred boiled vegetables for his no-carb dinners and stuck to vegetable juices and fruits whenever he felt hungry between meals.
Aamir was usually not allowed to snack in the evening but to keep the metabolism going and feel
rejuvenated, he did have rusk biscuits or cheese cubes with a steaming cup of tea.
Aamir’s Dhoom 3 Diet Plan
• Break your daily meals into six portions. Start the day with a super antioxidant like green tea to
boost energy levels.
• Muesli, egg whites and seasonal fruits can make a perfect breakfast. If you feel hungry at midday, opt for seasonal fruits or vegetable juice.
• Eat the typical dal-roti-sabzi for lunch as this combination is not just healthy but also a super-light meal fortified with all nutrients. Round it off with a bowl of sour curd to boost your digestion.
Though snacking in the evening is fun, stick to just tea and a piece of light rusk or a few cheese
cubes (if you’re craving something salty).
• Dinner can be just a grilled chicken or boiled vegetables and fish.
Putting on Weight for Dangal
Just imagine if you are asked to gain 25–28 kg in just six months. It is as difficult to gain that much weight as it is to shed it. Dangal director Nitesh Tewari did give Aamir the option of wearing a
bodysuit to camouflage his Dhoom 3 six-pack abs. But Aamir took the harder route. He gained the
extra weight first, shot the larger part of the movie as an overweight wrestler, and then shed that extra flab for the other half of the movie. This transformation needed an extremely well-monitored diet plan and indeed a lot of determination.
To go from fat (gaining almost 28 kg in six months) to fit, Aamir followed a strict diet plan
under the supervision of Dr Vinod Dhurander. He first turned vegan, giving up milk and milk products completely. Vegan diets have, in recent years, taken Hollywood by storm. Hollywood heart-throb Natalie Portman, while explaining why she switched from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, made it clear it was not just to show solidarity with animals by not using dairy products, but also to avoid factory-made dairy products. In 2011, when she was pregnant, she did go back to consuming meat and milk, but returned to a vegan diet after childbirth.
Not eating meat also helped Aamir imbibe the role more as Mahavir Phogat was a vegetarian.
In Aamir’s own words, ‘Putting on weight was fun as I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. I
had a ball, I have to say, but it was uncomfortable.’
Getting used to the extra weight is indeed a challenge for anyone who has been as fit as Aamir. And if you are into a sport like wrestling, then it becomes even more difficult. Aamir’s wrestling training was affected as he had to carry the extra flab and was unable to move fast. Excess weight can put pressure on the heart and lungs, leading to heavy breathing when you run, walk briskly or jump, like one needs to in wrestling.
There were times when Aamir thought his decision to gain the weight first and then go on
to lose it was not correct. But he showed enough courage to carry around 97 kg and 38 per cent body fat. He ate about 1800–2500 calories a day to pile on the extra weight. This was the opposite of his diet philosophy: ‘Diet is number one in changing your body. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise—if your diet isn’t right, the results won’t show.’
However, the man who oversaw Aamir Khan’s magical transformation, breaking all myths of fit
and flab, believes everyone should go by a specific requirement and not follow others blindly. Dr Nikhil Dhurandar, professor at the Department of Nutrition at Texas Tech University and former president of the Obesity Society, knew Aamir had to simultaneously lose body fat and gain big muscles, something that is very difficult to achieve. Hence, he developed a dietary sheet for the actor, keeping in mind his likes and dislikes and changed the plan regularly to make it exciting. The result was stupendous, from an overweight obese man to a Greek god flaunting those perfect pectorals!
If you’re aiming for similar results, ensure your diet plan is safe. Slow and gradual weight gain or
loss does not shock the system. The diet chart should not, at any point, be unbalanced or overloaded with proteins, nor should essential nutrients like minerals and vitamins be ignored. Aamir’s Dangal diet, when he had to shed the weight, included small frequent meals with in between snacks of fruits and vegetable juices.
A Peek into Aamir Khan’s Dangal Dietary Sheet
Every day at dawn (around 4 a.m.), Aamir was given one whole egg omelette with a sprinkle of onions, tomato, coriander leaves and green chillies. This was done to boost the metabolism for the whole day.
• He used to start off his day with one level scoop of protein shake at around 6 a.m.
• Two hours later, he would switch to eating fruits (around 150 g). High-calorie fruits like banana
were avoided in the morning.
• At around 10 a.m., he was given 50 g of poha with chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies to make it tasty.
• A quick pre-lunch snack included one slice of bread and 100 g of tuna.
• Two hours later, he had a proper lunch that included 50 g rice, two kinds of vegetable dishes
(100 g each), 15 g of dal and 200 g of low-fat curd.
• At 4 p.m. he ate fruits as snacks (except banana).
• Around 6 p.m., he was again allowed to eat a slice of brown bread with any fish, like tuna.
• Dinner had to be finished by 7 p.m. with almost the same menu as lunch.
• All meals for the day were cooked in a meagre 5 teaspoons of oil.
• He was allowed to indulge in a cup of black tea without sugar/milk.
As Fit as Aamir
Aamir Khan has defied age at times and pushed his body to the limit where even pain resulting from muscle overwork did not deter him. After all, how many people can painstakingly work out for four hours a day, every day?
But perfectionist Aamir has never left any stone unturned to achieve unimaginable goals. His trainer, Satyajit Chaurasia, has always praised him for his tenacity and willpower. The stomach crunches Aamir had to do for Dhoom 3 were extremely painful initially, but he was so dedicated to his strict fitness regimen that he did not miss a single day at the gym while shooting for the film. He kept up the crunches for three months at a stretch. Once those muscles are regularly exercised, the tension releases and they fall into place, and the pain also subsides.
Aamir has always spoken of a three-point approach towards building these muscles and making them look amazing on-screen: a balanced diet, rigorous exercise and enough sleep. The actor has repeatedly said in interviews that sleep is as important to him as exercise. He advises those who
are interested in building muscles and sculpting their body to not underestimate the power of resting.
While shooting for Ghajini, Aamir used to sleep for at least eight hours every night.
Aamir’s Regular Gym Routine
Aamir is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 74 kg on average. His routine workout involves stretching exercises with dumb-bells, meditation and yoga.
Here’s a look at his weekly exercise plan:
• Aamir has kept Monday for toning up his chest. According to him the best exercises for the chest are bench presses, incline dumb-bell presses, decline presses, dumb-bell flyes and dumb-bell
pull-overs. Press exercises are extremely effective in producing a chiselled chest, exactly what Aamir Khan needed for his role in Dhoom 3. The upper and middle chest is best stimulated by benchpress exercises.
• It is as important to work out the shoulders as the chest, which is why Aamir replaces the chest
exercises with shoulder exercises on Tuesday. Shoulders comprise three major muscles known
as deltoids, and it is very important to develop all three. If one of the muscles is underdeveloped,
the whole shoulder starts paining. Since chest exercises do not take care of the lateral and
posterior deltoids, one has to dedicate one day to focus on these muscles of the shoulder region.
Shoulder exercises should be balanced in such a way that both shoulders look the same. Aamir
makes sure to do military presses, front shoulderpresses, sheet dumb-bell presses, shoulder presses, bent-over lateral presses and upright rows.
• Aamir Khan’s back exercises on Wednesdays include T-bar rows, seated cable rows, lat pulldown
fronts, fronted chin-ups, one-arm dumbbell rows and dead-lifts. Back exercises are a group of combined exercises, and Aamir goes for the perfect balance as wrong exercise can lead to lower-back pain. Back muscles are as important as the chest muscles because the weight of almost the entire body and arms rests on the back.
• Thursdays and Fridays are for bicep- and tricepmuscle development. Aamir alternates barbell curls, dumb-bell curls, preacher curls, concentration curls, wrist curls and reverse curls. For triceps, a mix of presses and kickbacks are most effective. The ones that Aamir does are short-grip triceps presses, rope pull-downs, cable lying triceps extensions, dumbbell kickbacks and dips behind the back.
• Aamir needed well-toned and sturdy legs for the role of a gymnast in Dhoom 3 as well as for
Ghajini. Leg exercises are very intense and hence Aamir prefers to keep them for the last day of
the week, after which he takes a break for a day. Saturdays are for squats, lunges, leg curls, leg
extensions and seated toe-raises for the calves.
• A flat and taut abdomen is every man’s dream. He spends time doing decline crunches, dumb-bell
side bends, crossover crunches, hanging leg-raises and seated knee-ups (done on an ab cruncher) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to make sure he has a strong core and maintains those abs.
In case you plan to attempt a similar routine or build your own workout using Aamir’s as inspiration, please keep in mind the level of your fitness, and the correct form and posture required for each exercise.
Try to seek help from a trainer who can guide you about these exercises.
About the authors
Born in Kolkata, Ram Kamal Mukherjee started his career as a film journalist 20 years ago with the Asian Age. Later, he shifted base to Mumbai and worked with publications such as Stardust, Mumbai Mirror (the Times of India Group), Mid-Day, Anandabazar Patrika and the TV18 group.
In 2005, Ram authored a coffee-table book on Hema Malini, ‘Diva Unveiled’. His first work of fiction was ‘Long Island Iced Tea’ and his authorized biography of Bollywood’s legendary actress Hema Malini, ‘Beyond the Dream Girl’, has fetched him national and international accolades.
Devyani G. Ghosh started her career at The Indian Express in Mumbai and, later, being the Mumbai correspondent for the Pioneer, Delhi, brought her into close contact with the world of Bollywood, as did a short stint as an interviewer with Zee Music.
The book excerpt has been published with permission from Penguin Random House.