Olympic Swimmer Rehan Poncha on food, travel and fitness

Rehan Poncha has been an icon in Indian swimming, competing at the most prestigious championships including the Beijing Olympics, Commonwealth GamesAsian Games and the Asian Indoor Games. Already an Olympian, Rehan is now pursuing Golf, with a dream of making it to the 2020 Olympics.

In 2010, Rehan received the very prestigious Arjuna Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to sports from President Pratibha Patil. He is also the recipient of the Eklavya Award from the Karnataka Olympic Association.

This Olympics Rehan has a different role to play. Rehan is the Presenter for the Rio Olympics on Star Sports. So you can catch Rehan live on Television during the extensive coverage of the upcoming Rio Olympic Games on Star Sports.


In this exclusive Interview Rehan speaks about his inspiring journey from swimming to golf, his diet changes and fitness regime. Rehan also shares with us his love for travelling.

What was a defining moment in your athletic history?

I have enjoyed a lot of success over the years. I swam competitively for over 20 years. I had a lot of wins and a lot of national championships. But when I look back, definitely being awarded the Arjuna award in 2010 is a moment I cherish the most, because it was a validation for all the years of hard work.

I think the second would be competing at the Beijing Olympics, having my parents and coaches watching me as I represented my country at the Olympics. These moments really stand out in my memory but every race every win is equally special.


Tell us about your Olympic training. What where your hours of practice? 

The first ingredient is consistency. over a period of years. My training involved of 15 years of getting up at 5:30am, getting into that ice cold pool, followed by 2 hours of gymming & going back in the evening and training in this you also figure out how to study  getting your graduation done. It doesn’t stop, after a while your body and your mind gets used to it.

Success did not come to me immediately in terms of trying to be an Olympian. I had failed to qualify for the Olympics in Athens in 2004, I tried again 4 years later and I finally made it. The qualifying standards were pretty tough but I made it, I got better over a span of 8-9 months. My coach and I worked very hard, we had very focused goals and we pulled it off.


What was your calorie intake during your training sessions? How strictly did you follow food habits?

Swimmers are actually lucky because I could sport a six pack and have like no body fat when I swam, because of the sheer amount of cardio we don’t have to worry about what we eat in fact we are encouraged to eat a lot of calories.

Advice for young athletes:

From swimming stand point most important is to strike a balance between proteins and carbs. Because now a day’s everybody wants to chase that very high protein diet but you have to be eating a lot of carbs because there is a high demand on energy. If you don’t have fat on your body you leave yourself open to a lot of injuries.

I suffered a very bad muscle tear in 2009 and a lot of doctors and nutritionists told me that I had very less fat around my ribs. There is a lot of stress on the body due to the high intensity training so it has to be a mix.

What were your pre and post swim meal? What type of carbs and proteins did you prefer in your diet?

You need a lot of energy for the sport, you need a lot of power so pre training we were made to eat a lot of carbs, be it rice, bananas apples which introduces lot of natural sugar into your system. Carbing up for high intensity long training session is what we did.

Post training you are told to eat more protein, red meat is very important. I also had a lot of fish in my diet it has omega oil.  Vegetarians are encouraged to have whey protein which they can’t have in terms of meat.


What are your favourite to-go meals and snacks?

It depends on what I am doing. If I have three back to back workshops, I carry a slightly substantial meal because I don’t want to look tired. On the golf course I carry a lot of sports drinks because it is very important to be hydrated the entire day.

I think it is important to carry small snacks throughout the day. Cereal muesli bars, bananas, apples or some sort of fruit because it keeps your sugar up and they are easy to carry.

From swimming to golf that must have been an interesting journey. How did your food and diet habits change during this transition?

Today my diet for golf is a lot different to what it was in my swimming days.  It is a challenge and I have to be very strict with my diet if I have to be anywhere near my previous weight, because I possibly cannot run 60 km a day, it is practically impossible.

Habit changes would be eating less being a lot very strict with myself, and keep a tab on how many desserts or chocolates I eat.

Golf has different challenges, you are asked to put on some weight. So I have been asked to bulk up because it is a requirement of the sport. It’s a challenge but it’s interesting because I am adapting to a new sport.

Swimming, golf, travelling, I take it that you are an outdoorsy person. How much of a gym person are you?

I’d rather go out for a run then be indoors, but if it is for fitness I’d rather do it in the gym or at home because my exercises for golf are meant to be in the gym. My training hours at the gym have increased. I am not a gym buff. It’s not like I love to get into the gym but I think it’s necessary. The stronger, fitter and better I look, I take that confidence in the golf course.


Do you have any particular fitness regime?

I go to Dubai for my golf training. My trainer in Dubai works specifically with my fitness form, and I have learnt a lot of exercises from him. You need a different set of muscles for golf than I required for swimming, so it is important that I get into specific smart training earlier in my career.

How big a foodie are you? What is your favourite food?

I am a huge foodie. Also I am an Indian at heart, so I think butter chicken and Biryani would be my favourite combination. Also Mouglai food, I don’t think you can beat Mouglai food.

Being a Parsi I love our Dhansak, We have this fish served at weddings it’s called Saas Ni Machchi, It’s like a fish in white sauce, it’s the best food in the world.  Because I travel and I have eaten a lot of food around the world, but nothing could beat it.

We would love to know more about your travel blog.

As a professional athlete and Olympian swimmer, I have travelled to a lot of destinations where I competed or trained. I keep travelling to many states, I stay in the best hotels eat the best food. So I’m a travel junkie and a huge confessed foodie. I love to write as well, it’s a hobby for me, so my blog contains my travelogues and amazing experience I have around the world.


How do you keep up with your diet while travelling?

If I am travelling for work I cut down on carbs if its travelling for golf it’s a challenge to get yourself a tailor made diet. Invariably I am at the buffet picking out and filling up on salads. Because everything is so tempting but its stuff that you don’t need and you don’t want in your system. So I fill up the right stuff and I make sure I go to the gym

Do you have any words of advice for everyone reading this?

Spend time on figuring out what you love to do. Everybody says I love what I do I enjoy what I do. But my advice would be, find what you can see yourself doing at the hardest time and see if you can love that hard work and can love the challenge.

It’s the worst feeling in the world when don’t get into the Olympics, but can you love getting up and taking that challenge? Can you love doing the hard part of the stuff that takes you to your goal?

This has helped me to overcome a lot of challenges. Also I encourage everyone to be positive and look forward to their life.

Check out Rehan’s travel blog: http://www.travelwithrehan.com/

2 thoughts on “Olympic Swimmer Rehan Poncha on food, travel and fitness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s