Exclusive: This teenager is busting the myths about meat eaters' advantage in swimming

Dubai - Vedaant, son of celebrated Indian actor R Madhavan, is already among the best Indian swimmers at junior level


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Thu 1 Apr 2021, 7:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Apr 2021, 7:25 PM

For someone who doesn’t eat meat, Vedaant Madhavan’s progress in a physically demanding sport like swimming has shocked several swimmers.

Already among the best Indian swimmers at junior level, the 15-year-old Universal American School (Dubai) student recently showed his endurance with a 1500m freestyle bronze medal at the Fina-approved Latvian Open.

Not just the podium finish, Vedaant was also pleased with his improved times in every event he participated at the Latvian Open, his first competition since the Covid-19 outbreak and 15 months after his silver medal-winning performance with the Indian 4x100m freestyle team at the Asian Age Group Swimming Championships.

This is a remarkable achievement for a swimmer who got into the sport only three years ago.

And these achievements look even more remarkable when Vedaant, son of celebrated Indian actor R Madhavan, tells you he doesn’t eat meat.

“My father is a vegetarian and my grandparents too. I am an eggetarian. I eat lots of eggs to get my protein, around 12 eggs a day,” said Vedaant when asked about the secret to his strength.

“Also I eat lot of carbs and protein shakes. So my diet is basically more of carbs. In the morning I will have an egg sandwich and a juice. I have lots of rice for lunch with palak (spinach) and dal (lentil). And obviously eggs as well. Then in the evening, I have a paratha with eggs or another egg sandwich.”

The teenager nevertheless admitted that some of his coaches have still emphasized on the importance of eating meat for top level swimmers.

“They (coaches) definitely have spoken to me about that. But, you know, I am vegetarian by choice. I can have meat. I tried it before, but I just can’t (get used to it),” said Vedaant.

“And whenever I tell any swimmer that I am vegetarian, everyone, is just shocked because they wonder how I am so fast being a vegetarian. But I think it’s possible, you can keep that level.”

And one man who is not surprised by Vedaan’ts speed is Pradeep Kumar, the head coach of Indian swimming team who also trains young swimmers at Aqua Nation Sports Academy in Dubai.

Kumar says a non-vegetarian diet doesn’t give swimmers an advantage anymore.

“Maybe, 20 years ago, it would have made a difference, but today it doesn’t,” Kumar told Khaleej Times.

“What do you get from meat? It’s the protein, that’s why you consume meat. But today even a vegetarian can manage that provided that he gets the right group of vegetables. Also, today you get enough supplements, available with complete proteins. So it’s not an issue at all anymore.”

Swimmers of Vedaant’s ilk -- distance and middle-distance swimmers -- can still taste success without getting animal protein, according to Kumar.

“Things have changed so much in the past 20 years that nutrition wise, it doesn’t matter now, provided you get your sufficient proteins (from supplements) for building your muscles,” Kumar said.

“Generally, it’s like a gram of protein or a half gram of protein, depending on whether you are a sprinter or a distance or middle distance swimmer, one gram to 1.5 grams of protein per kg of the bodyweight is the requirement for a swimmer,” added Kumar before revealing the special qualities of Vedaant.

“He’s a swimmer with a very high potential. He swims various events -- 200, 400, 800, 1500. These are endurance-based events. He’s doing distance events so it’s about the ability to continue swimming at the same speed. He’s good at that,” Kumar said.

“He’s a very hard-working child, and also he has no attitude despite being the son of a famous father!”

Vedaant, who moved to Dubai ‘eight months ago because my dad was shooting here’, then revealed his admiration for this city.

“Dubai is amazing, like here they have many methods of recovery and I think recovery is a very important part of swimming,” he said.

“So yeah, Dubai facilities are way, way, way more advanced. It has definitely helped me in my recovery, like getting over my pain faster, being able to swim more often because of that. You know swimming is a very hard sports because it involves most of your muscles. So recovery is very important.”

So what inspires the son of a famous actor to endure so much pain every day?

“I just love the sport,” he said.

“Like when I am going to the pool, it just disconnects me from everything, like any stress that I have, I just go and swim and forget about everything. I just enjoy my time in the pool.”

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