When you think of bodybuilding, the first image that comes to mind is that of sweaty men with beefed up doley-sholeys, lifting weights and flexing their muscles in front of an awed audience. But city-based Deepika Choudhary is quashing that image and excelling in doing so, by taking over a sport that is largely considered male-dominated. What’s more? The 34-year-old bodybuilder is a certified molecular biologist working with the National Institute of Virology (NIV) too!

What started off as just a routine gym session has turned into a serious career for this woman of substance. “I was introduced to bodybuilding in 2012 when I attended a fitness expo for the first time,” says Deepika, adding, “There, I got know about the four categories in female bodybuilding – bikini, figure, physique and classic. I was inclined towards the figure category.”

Deepika is breaking stereotypes and her portfolio of wins is proof enough. She has won The Stevestone Metropolitan Championship, Atlantic States Championship, NPC Eastern USA Championship and many more bodybuilding competitions. Moreover, she even won the World Powerlifting Championship, held at New Delhi, in the under-60 kg weight category. A total of 75 women from different countries participated in the event. “I was actually preparing for the Tampa Pro 2017, which is a body building championship. I was to participate in the figure category but due to lack of finances, I wasn’t able to. However, I was lucky to have been selected for the World Powerlifting Championship. I had about 10 weeks to prepare myself and am happy to have won it,” she says. And mind it, this was the first time ever that she participated in a powerlifting competition.
Deepika’s daily routine can put the best of the best to shame. She alternates between cardio and weight training throughout the year. But Deepika has had her share of struggle. “This is male dominated sport, but I am happy that women participation is gradually picking up in India. When I started off, there was no acceptance, so I did it all undercover. Now, the mindset is changing positively and India has become a prime country investing in fitness,” she says. She also believes that the standards and format of competitions in the country need to be bettered for female athletes. “Women need to be coached properly. Most of them are not aware that the supplements for men and women are different. Without safety and proper guidance, the sport will lose its charm. We need to encourage women to become fearless,” adds Deepika.

In March this year, Deepika was ranked seventh at the Arnold Classic, which was held in Australia, where she competed against 20 participants from across the world. She is the only female athlete from India to hold a pro card in bodybuilding.

Powerlifting and bodybuilding in one sentence may seem odd. But for Deepika, practicing both is equally challenging. “My workout is customised according to the competitions I participate in. Bodybuilding is all about how your body looks. So the diet is mainly deficient of calories. I have five to six meals in a day, and my diet is high in protein, carbohydrates and good fats. I have big meals around my workout,” she informs saying that powerlifting is about strength. She swears by consistency and informs that she never cheats on her meals or training. “Consistency and discipline got me to win in my first attempt at an international competition,” she shares.

She hopes that more coaches come forward to guide female bodybuilders. “The literacy about the different divisions that a female can compete in is almost zero as of now. I met my trainer Shanon Dey in the US in 2012 and explained the whole situation. I was scared that she would refuse to guide me looking at my weak structure but she agreed. I was also worried about the training and diet plans as I wasn’t sure about the food items and their availability in India, but she substituted everything as per availability,” says Deepika.

On balancing two careers at the same time…

“I have supportive peers who keep encouraging me. I try to balance out everything. The powerlifting training takes about three hours whereas bodybuilding takes just an hour. I have to manage the rest and recovery time accordingly and also make sure my career as a molecular biologist doesn’t suffer.”

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