“I don’t think I have had any better teacher in my life than weight training. I always tell people that coming to the gym and doing weight training is not just a mechanical process but a spiritual, emotional and psychological opportunity to learn lot of things that you can apply in your life and use to handle life.” – Deepika Chowdhury
Deepika Chowdhury (pronounced Dee-pick-ah Chow-dhu-ree) is not only the first Figure competitor from India in the NPC, but she is also the first sponsored athlete (BSN) and IFBB Figure pro from the country. She has an incredible physique, interesting back story and an amazingly humble demeanor that allows her to inspire many. She took the time to sit down with me and share about how she achieved her Pro look, and what motivates her to keep going.
FitRx: Hi, Deepika, you have such an interesting story from growing up in India to competing as a Figure pro. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and life in India?
Deepika: I am 32 years old now and I work as molecular biologist in a government research center. I have a younger brother who never went to any gym but started working out at home long before I did. He has an awesome physique and was always my inspiration. We were raised by my mother alone and I am so grateful to her for struggling through her disease (she is Parkinson’s disease patient) and still taking care of us so beautifully. I have yet to meet a human as strong as her!
I got married to my best friend after eight years of knowing each other. We will complete 16 years of togetherness this year. We stay with my in-laws and both of them are the best in-laws one can wish for. But it was not so when I was married against their wish. In India we still believe a lot in caste and region when it comes to marriage. I was neither beautiful in their eyes nor did I fit in their caste system. The initial three years after marriage were extremely difficult to convince them to stay in the same house. But my husband stood by me. The stress had taken a toll on my health and it was him who encouraged me to join the gym so that I can improve my health.
FitRx: How did you decide you wanted to become a bodybuilder?
Deepika: I never thought even in my dreams that I would ever come to bodybuilding. I was skinny fat all my childhood and teens. After marriage, I started gaining even more fat and was not happy about the way my physique had changed. I was weak and would get sick a lot, and I also suffered from anger management issues due to a troubled childhood. I knew I need a change but was doing nothing to make that happen. It was then that my husband asked me to join gym with him.
I had no idea what I was doing in the gym and so I joined a fitness academy to learn about exercise science and extended it to learn about sports nutrition. After that I literally fell in love with this subject. I started reading about it more and that is when I came across images of fitness models. I was stunned looking at these bodies! They looked so beautiful to me compared to the models in mainstream magazines.
In 2012, I met Shannon Dey of Bombshell Fitness in New Delhi, India, at the Sheru Classic expo. I was amazed at the way she looked and everything that she told about fitness when it comes to women. I came to know about different divisions in bodybuilding for women through her, and I got hooked to the Figure division somehow. I saw the pro athletes onstage in the evening and I was so sure that I want to look like how Figure athletes look. Shannon Dey generously accepted my request to become my guide and allowed me to train under Gennifer Strobo as my coach. It’s been more than four years with Team Bombshell and I love our team to my bits and pieces.
FitRx: Awesome! How long did it take you to get ready for shows?
Deepika: I started weight training when I was 28 years old. Within few months of starting with weight training I could already see my body changing shape and looking so much better than ever before. The diet plan was modified according to Indian food culture and market availability by Gennifer Strobo. I started preparing for my first show that would be in March 2013— The Battle on the Beach in Daytona, Florida. In eight months, I was ready and I won my first show. I have done five shows total since then. By the grace of God and blessings of my respectable elders, I won all the five shows with two overall wins.
I feel so grateful to NPC and IFBB to let me compete in the USA and making my dream become reality. It was never possible without NPC. It is because of them that men and women of my country from the sport of bodybuilding can believe that we can do good and make our existence marked on international platform.
FitRx: Congratulations! That’s so incredible; it’s like you were meant to be in the IFBB from the start. What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishments in fitness?
Deepika: I am India’s first female IFBB pro in bodybuilding, and I am India’s first Figure athlete competing internationally. I pray there will be many more in future.
FitRx: Bodybuilding is such a “new” sport for women, and becoming more and more popular. There are many different outside views on it, but I’d love to know why you love competing in this sport?
Deepika: I can probably write a book on this question. Coming to this sport has helped me so much to become a better person, not just improve my physique. If I did not come to this sport, I would have never been able to motivate myself to work on my physique. Knowing the deadlines for the shows help me stay disciplined for a reason.
In the process of preparing myself, I can also develop myself as a person with better patience, thinking, mindset and less anger. I have been able to handle some unfortunate events in my personal life with a stable and strong mind. I don’t think I have had any better teacher in my life than weight training. I always tell people that coming to the gym and doing weight training is not just a mechanical process but a spiritual, emotional and psychological opportunity to learn lot of things that you can apply in your life and use to handle life. I would have never learned whatever I know if I did not come to this sport.
FitRx: I love it. How have you been treated in India on your journey to becoming the first IFBB pro and sponsored athlete from the country? Have you influenced other women there to give bodybuilding a try?
Deepika: I am grateful to my country for accepting my work. I have always been appreciated and that kept me motivated to get better. Some negative response was expected and is not abnormal I guess— to see a woman with more muscularity than normal in any society will face some resistance for sure. I am so thankful to all for appreciating my contribution toward female bodybuilding. According to the messages and comments I get on Facebook or in meeting women personally, I think I must be helpful to them in deciding to compete as Fitness athletes, and I am so happy to hear it every time.
FitRx: So, what is your current goal?
Deepika: To win pro shows. And to take leap of faith in being able to see myself on the Olympia stage as an Indian Figure athlete. [Deepika is hoping to compete in her first IFBB show this May]
FitRx: What does your training currently look like?
Deepika: I weight train five to six days a week, and 15-20 minutes of cardio after my weight training.
FitRx: You have incredible abs. What types of workouts do you do for them?
Deepika: I do not train abs unless I am asked by someone to show any exercise form to teach them. I do not train my abs separately. My weight training takes care of working them. Even if I try to do abs after weight training, I get cramps. I strongly believe if you can keep your core engaged efficiently while weight training through your breathing technique, you will give enough work to the abdominal muscles. If I do any work specifically for abs, I prefer planks.
FitRx: So your diet must be on point! What does your typical meal plan look like?
Deepika: I have six to seven meals in a day, prescribed from my coach Gennifer Strobo. What I love the most about the diet plans (which I have been following for more than three years) is that it has carbs, protein, fat and fibers all in place. I never feel weak or hungry even while preparing for a show. Certain food items are either unavailable or too expensive in my city to find— like avocado or orange roughy— but my coach gives me substitutes that I can find and will also benefit me just the same.
FitRx: What are a couple of your favorite meals/recipes?
MY PROTEIN COFFEE: Take a cup of warm water (do not take it to boiling to avoid clumps of whey protein powder) add whatever amount of coffee powder you want (I add about 100mg) and one scoop of chocolate flavor whey protein. Mix it thoroughly and ENJOY!!!
PIZZA!!!! Healthy choice…amazing taste….unbelievable ingredients…guilt-free cheat meal and soulful satisfaction of PIZZA!!!
1 medium head cauliflower: yes, you read it correct!!! It’s cauliflower.
½ cup grated cheese (any low fat will do)
1 tbsp pizza seasoning
Pizza toppings of your choice: greens, vegetables, grilled shredded chicken, garlic, onion, capsicum, cooked mushroom, cheese, etc.
1. Take just the head part of the cauliflower, and make “cauliflower rice”: Grate your cut and washed cauliflower in a mixer/food processor.
2. Boil water, then add cauliflower rice to it. Switch off your stove, and let your cauliflower rice stay in hot water for five minutes. Close the lid.
3. Now pour this in a cotton cloth and squeeze out all the water properly. Make it as dry as possible.
4. In a pan add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add cauliflower rice to it and cook till golden brown.
5. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees Celsius).
6. In separate bowl, crack eggs and add cheese.
7. Mix in cauliflower rice.
8. Add in spices.
9. Mix properly. Do not hesitate to use your hands for mixing. Pour this mixture in a pan on a baking sheet.
10. Bake for 40 minutes.
This will make amazing base to which add your desired toppings.
Put some more cheese and place back for five to 10 minutes. Your pizza is ready!!!
FitRx: That sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing both of those. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Deepika: I have so many, here are the ones I can think of now:
1. Take one day at one time— Shannon Dey
2. Growth is time dependent. Have patience and keep doing what needs to be done.— Gennifer Strobo.
3. Never say “IF I” succeed…say “WHEN I” succeed. Be confident.— Gennifer Strobo.
4. Do what is RIGHT and makes you HAPPY.— Shannon Dey.
5. Even if you might not be the first you can be the best.— Kaizzad Capadia
6) Be in the rep.— Azam Ali
FitRx: Thank you so much, Deepika! Best wishes to you in your IFBB pro competitions this year and in the future!
Follow Deepika’s Fitness Journey:
Instagram – @deepikapune