A winner's diet: Vikas Krishan's love for sweets and desi ghee

Indian boxer Vikas Krishan. K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images

'You are what you eat,' they say. So, what exactly is it that makes a champion? We bring you a closer look into the diet of champion boxer Vikas Krishan.

What is a food you can eat any time of the week?

I love having sweets. But not any sweets. My father has a farm where we raise Gir cows. I can eat any sweet made from ghee from the milk of those cows. I have to be careful with what I eat because I need to control my weight but at the same time, I feel as if I lose my power when I stop eating it and I need my power in the ring.

What is one dish you enjoy cooking for your friends?

When I was in the USA while I was competing in the professional circuit, I was the one who was cooking -- not just for myself, but also for my team. I used to make fish for [sparring partner and friend] Neeraj Goyat. I make baked salmon -- clean the fish, marinate it with some oil, salt and garlic and grill it in the oven. Neeraj used to love it. It's a really simple dish, but it's really tasty. I had a lot of friends drop by and I'd always serve this. Whoever I've served it to has enjoyed it.

What do you eat on match days?

On match days, I will eat whatever gives me energy. I'll eat what I get. If I get dal roti, sabji, great. If I get bread, that's not great but it's still ok. We need a lot of carbohydrates because we need energy for a match.

One thing I've realised works really well for me is homemade sweets. So I'll usually carry sweets from my home. These will be khoa (condensed milk) based sweets or mysore pak. I've done this since I started boxing. I had no idea initially that these would help me. My family is a little old fashioned in these things so when I used to leave home to go for a camp or competition, they'd say 'take these sweets, you'll get energy'. As I got more experience, I realised these sweets were really good for pre-match energy. I also eat a lot of walnut, almonds and raisin.

If I go to the airport for a tournament and my luggage is 20 kg, at least 10kg of that will be food from home. Everyone in the camp tells me I probably eat the best amongst all of them. I need all these things for energy. I'm not 20 years any more I'm 30 now! If I have to compete with those guys, I have to eat better than them.

Do you have a favourite country for food?

I don't have a favourite country for food because I generally don't travel around once I get to a competition. I'm very boring. I don't actually leave my hotel room. All countries are great but the only thing I have is room service.

Recently we went to Italy. I'd always wanted to travel around Italy but because there were fears with respect to COVID, I didn't want to leave. Additionally when you have a bout the next day, you aren't going to go looking for places to eat. And even two days before the bout I'll be training. The reason we are going for competition is to win not to eat. I don't even eat after the tournament because if I win, then most likely we are returning to India the next day. I was in Dubai where I got cut. We still had three days to go in the tournament . Of course, I didn't go out to eat in that situation. Why would I go out if I've just lost?

Have you introduced any foreign athlete to Indian food?

I've introduced the Italian coach (women's foreign coach Rafael Bergamasco) to Mysore Pak. He says he doesn't really eat dessert but he really enjoyed these khoa-based sweets. They are really different.

Have you stopped eating anything to help with your performance?

The big sacrifice has been to cut out Aloo Parathas from my diet, because I'd dropped down to a lower weight division. When we had the lockdown, I knew we wouldn't be competing for a long time, so I had a few once again. I haven't eaten junk food for at least the last two years. I'm sacrificing everything!

In the past I had no restrictions. I'd eat junk food all the time. Usually in the Asian Games, or Commonwealth Games, or even the Olympics, there will be a McDonalds inside the village. I'd go and eat there all the time. I wasn't at all dedicated. Even at the 2016 Olympics, I didn't have any weight issues because I was competing in the 75kg division even though I was only around 72kg. I'd go to the McDonalds and just eat there. Even before the quarterfinals, I was eating burgers and chicken nuggets.

Have you introduced anything to your diet to help performance?

I've always been someone who enjoys his food. I eat good food but I eat what is good for my game.

I haven't introduced anything very new to my diet. Perhaps the one thing I eat a lot of is ghee. I've got a lot of stamina now. I think it's because I have ghee in the night. It helps a lot with my recovery. Ghee is mentioned in Ayurveda and I believe it's really worked in helping my body recover from a heavy workout. I wasn't such a believer at the start of my career. When a man is in his 20s, you don't have to worry so much about recovery. But there will be a time when your body just doesn't recover the way it used to.

I don't use any supplements because who knows what they put in those things. Ghee is never going to be banned. My family has Gir cows in the farm we bought in 2009. These are desi cows. Indian breeds. I think the ghee from these cows is the best. There's a belief in the region I'm from that if your child is a little dull, then you give them ghee from the milk of a gir cow.

Is there any junk food that isn't that bad for you?

I'm pretty sure that pizza and chowmein aren't good - anything with a lot of refined carbohydrates. But I think you can eat dosa. It's got dal and rice and it's fermented. If you don't add too much oil in it, it's probably ok for you. At least it's not as bad as pizza or chowmein.