In conversation with Arjun Gadkari, Co-founder of Cocofly
*This blog is the first part of a mini-series as we learn about co-founder Arjun Gadkari's personal approach to health and wellness.
It comes as no surprise to hear that Arjun Gadkari, the co-founder behind the Cocofly brand, takes his own health very seriously, and gets very animated when you ask him about his thoughts on the subject. From triathlons to open water swimming to cold water surfing, Arjun follows what most would describe as a fairly active lifestyle. But Arjun's attitude to his own well-being and health doesn't fit what you might call the 'textbook' health mantra. In fact, on closer inspection, some of Arjun's theories are fairly unconventional. We thought it was time to dig deeper into Arjun's brain and try to get our head's around his unusual attitude to health and wellness.
WHEN IT COMES TO NUTRITION, IS THERE A DIET 'PHILOSOPHY' THAT YOU SUBSCRIBE TO?
I find myself talking a lot about Keto these days, but that's a lot to do with our involvement with Cocofly's Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. After researching the oil a lot before launch, I am pretty convinced by the power of ketosis. That said, the last thing I want to do right now is to lose weight! The concept behind diets like Whole30 and Paleo make total sense to me. Where practical I incorporate some of these guidelines into my overall lifestyle. But for me there’s a problem with the way we try to focus on shorter term diets that drive at short term goals, often superficial ones like losing belly fat or weighing less.
For me nutrition needs to feature in a wider lifestyle philosophy and crash diets like Keto can be used, if needed, to urgently get yourself to a different weight bracket before you get back on to the more sustainable nutritional philosophy. And because I am not currently looking to lose weight (and I’m not too fussed about trying to put on the weight either) I’m more than happy to focus on a sustainable approach to nutrition rather than subscribing to a specific diet.
And the biggest issue I see with these diets these days is that no 2 bodies are the same, and there is no reason why a diet that works really well for one person should be at all helpful for someone else. And sometimes these extreme diets can actually lead to health problems if they aren’t done right so it’s important to think about your own body and personal goals before jumping into a major diet change.
IN THAT CASE WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF NUTRITION FOR YOU?
My approach to nutrition is fairly specific. About 10 years ago I heard from a biochemist friend of mine that the antioxidants you consumed had no correlation to the antioxidants floating around in your body. If your body needed antioxidants then it would make them, and if it didn’t need them it wouldn’t make them. It was as simple as that. You can drink all the green tea you want and it won’t affect your antioxidant levels until your body decides it needs some and then it will go and make its own supply.
When I heard that I had a bit of a penny drop moment. The human body is so sophisticated and the human brain goes so far beyond what we are able to grasp. That’s when I started thinking about nutrition (and sleep and exercise) as a way to get the brain working to its own maximum efficiency. The idea that I have been experimenting with ever since is to focus on nutrition that improves the brain’s ability to run the body the way it wants, and just to be happy with whatever is the outcome.
The result of this was to focus on a few key principles rather than follow a strict diet:
- For macro nutrition, maintain balance between food groups
- For micro nutrition, widen the spectrum and get variety in the diet
- Optimise your ability to absorb by improving your gut bacteria
- Drink lots of water
- Be militant about getting a full night’s sleep and daily exercise
- Be calm. Stress destroys everything
DOES THIS ESSENTIALLY AMOUNT TO NEURONUTRITION?
From what I have read, Neuronutrition is similar, but has a fairly specific focus on hormones and finding emotional balance by addressing neurotransmission efficiencies. This follows exactly the same rationale, which is that the brain is incredibly powerful and the behind-the-scenes functioning of the brain is of supreme importance. What I like about the emotional balancing side of neuronutrition is also that it focuses on an end goal that is far more important than how you look: it focuses on how you feel and your ability to experience happiness. This ultimately is the crux of why we do anything at all, right?
But where I think my approach departs from narrow neuronutrition is where the approach I am describing here allows the brain to decide what is best for the body across the board. There is an element of letting go of the responsibility and leaving it to the unconscious brain to figure out how best to give your body the nutrition that it needs. You provide the basic ingredients and your brain does the heavy lifting.
As a big caveat here I have no idea if there is any scientific evidence here, but in my personal opinion, this approach that I have been exploring has so far worked out well.
HOW IMPORTANT IS SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE WHEN IT COMES TO PUTTING OUT AN APPROACH TO NUTRITIONAL INTAKE?
If something cannot be supported by scientific evidence when tested then it is difficult to take it that seriously. I think the problem only following what has been thoroughly tested is that research is the result of people doing research, which is problematic for niche ideas or ideas that end up being poorly funded for whatever reason. As a result there are many things that go untested or inadequately tested because they either lack funding completely, or there isn’t a big enough reason to go through the effort of getting the idea properly tested. The result is that some potentially very effective practices lack supporting evidence just because they haven’t been given the opportunity to prove themselves yet through well funded research. For example I have a lot of respect for Ayurveda and Chinese medicine because I think that they both offer valuable knowledge to offer, and the few times that I have explored them, I was impressed by the results. But compared to Western medicine and nutrition the amount of research that has been carried out is not enough to prove to what extent they work.
The best thing to do in my opinion is keep and open mind and gravitate towards what appears to be working for you. Look out for feeling more energetic, being able to concentrate better and overall feeling more positive - those are often the best signals that you are doing something right.