Hardik Pandya's fitness secret: Moong dal khichdi, tempered just right by his travelling chef – The Indian Express

A simple moong dal and rice khichdi. Tempered with some mild spices and ghee. Semi-dry, but always served warm. The homely fragrance of this humble comfort food invariably has been wafting from an apartment close to the hotels in Australia where the Indian team with Hardik Pandya has been staying.
Packed into a tiffin, this simple soothing fuel of energy lands wherever India’s most vaunted all-rounder Pandya – ‘HD’ to his personal chef Aarav Nangia – goes to play, keeping him content and revved up for the game.
Ferrying Nangia, his personal chef, across the world to cater to his specific nutritional needs was one of the most important decisions Pandya took towards levelling up his fitness in the game. It costs, but Pandya decided quite early that it was a requirement he couldn’t do without, and was ready to spend from his pocket for his food.
The Indian team doesn’t travel with a personal chef, and players are usually paid daily allowances for their meals. However, Pandya who digs the food he grew up on, often has his chef travel alongside to ensure his dietary needs are perfectly met.
“For me it was important as a professional athlete to tick all boxes available in life and to make sure my body gives everything to this sport and never compromises on anything. It was important for me to tick boxes from fitness to travel to having the right chef and having the right sleep. I hired a chef who will make sure that till I play the sport, he will look after my meals,” Pandya told The Indian Express.
Chef Nangia mostly travels on the same flight as the Indian team – he has been put up at the nearest apartment to the team hotel in Adelaide.
“I have to make clean food, for me which means no preservatives. I have to keep it very simple. I have to take care of his macros. On a regular day, I have to give him (Pandya) 3000 calories and on match days, he has to put in so much effort and spend a lot of energy. He needs energy. So on match days, I give him 4000 calories,” Nangia said.
When playing domestically, he prepares food at the team hotel. “When in India, hotels are kind enough to accommodate me in their kitchen and when we are flying internationally and playing outside India, I have to take an apartment nearby and I carry my ingredients, cook in that apartment and head to his hotel room,” Nangia said.
There is an induction set-up in Pandya’s room as well. The chef prepares, packs and rearranges food before serving it to Pandya.
So what kind of food does Gujarat Titans captain and Team India linchpin like? “He loves vegetarian food and the food which he has grown up on in Gujarat. So that is his comfort food. There is a khichdi I make which is made of simple moong dal and rice. It’s a semi-dry one and it’s tempered with some low spices and some ghee which he likes to have.”
Pandya also likes jeera rice. However, the timing of his meals is very important in maintaining his diet.
“We need to keep the timing of his meals in mind. Because if his meal is delayed, then we don’t want to risk him having a bad stomach day or feeling a bit unwell. We just want to keep the timing on point. Even if he is travelling abroad, we try to keep his menu as fresh and inventive as possible,” Nangia said.
What if he wants to have something and is not suitable for his body? He says Pandya is very clear about his diet and doesn’t compromise much. “He is very mindful of what he wants and what he likes. His choices are very clear, very neat and he doesn’t like to indulge anything that he knows won’t suit him well or he won’t like. If there is something which he wants and is craving, for that we try to adjust his macro levels for that day. He has a pretty determined mind on what he wants to eat and it’s pretty clean. He doesn’t want to go out of the way (to experiment) and he is very conscious in that way.”
Pandya has been taking his fitness very seriously, especially after coming back from an injury. He has rejuvenated himself and under his captaincy Gujarat Titan won their maiden IPL title. And to remain fit and eat right, he isn’t taking any chances.
“I have to keep things hygienic and maintain strict quality control as far as the ingredients are concerned,” Nangia said.
Gentle moong khichdi, spiced just right, with ghee, and HD is good to go.
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