Indian shuttler HS Prannoy has lost over four kilograms in recent days and looks a lot leaner, fitter.

The 26-year-old was never on a weight loss regimentation or has suddenly became a fitness freak. In fact, in the past eight months Prannoy had been missing numerous training sessions due to varied health problems and had to reboot his eating habits, training schedules and rework his entire lifestyle in the past couple of months.

All those hours of filling food habit charts, going through multiple medical tests and a three-month wait to just connect with a US-based expert have finally starting to bear fruit as the world No 24 strung together two consecutive victories in a tournament for the first time since July last year. The former top-10 player reached the quarter-finals of the India Open Super 500 badminton tournament in New Delhi on Thursday.

On his way back

Having come from behind to beat Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the opening round, Prannoy kept his nerves when put under pressure by Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen to win 21-19, 20-22, 21-17 and set up a last eight clash against former world champion Viktor Axelsen.

But more than the results, what has pleased Prannoy most is that he was finally able to play two high intensity matches back-to-back and not feel tired.

“The last six months were terrible,” Prannoy said. “There were days I couldn’t train at all or when I trained, I had to stop after 15-20 minutes as whatever I ate ended up chocking my esophagus.”

While he thought that it was just a gastritis problem when it first happened at the World Championship in August, things began to go from bad to worse over the next few months and that is when chief national coach Pullela Gopichand suggested that he contact wellness expert Stephen Cabral in USA to find a solution.

It took Prannoy almost three months to get on a call with Cabral and he was then given a set of 15 tests to figure out what the exact problem was. The findings of those tests suggested a fungal infection in the gut and the process of rebooting his lifestyle started.

“There is a list of about 50 food items that I cannot eat which includes milk, egg, mushrooms and ham – things that I always liked to have and are part of almost every player’s diet. I was also advised to go on a complete gluten-free diet and since then I have been monitoring everything I eat,” said the Gosports Foundation supported player, who has been working with Bengaluru-based Invictus Perfomance Lab to work on his new diet plan.

The experts have prepared a detailed chart of food items that he can eat during tournaments and send him a steady supply of specialised energy bars to supplement for the absence of certain food items in his diet. “I can eat any rice-based food but have to monitor the content. Apart from that, I also have to monitor what I eat and how I eat from getting up in the morning till I sleep,” he added.

Though Prannoy preferred not to go into the details of the emotional toll the condition took on him, he did admit that he was grateful to his parents, who otherwise stay in Kerala, for moving to Hyderabad for the past few months to give him company and keep him motivated.

He, however, admitted that the last 12 months were probably the worst of his playing career as he first struggled with injuries and then had to go through six months of uncertainty.

“I think for the first time in 12 months, I could manage to train well for four straight weeks and the results are showing,” said Prannoy, who managed to play two hour-long matches on successive days.

Speaking about his second round encounter against Jorgensen, Prannoy said the drift in the stadium made things difficult for him in the second game but he was happy to pull through in the third game. The 26-year-old displayed all the qualities that gave him the nick name ‘Beast’ in the Indian badminton circuit as he won many points with his booming smashes and could overpower the tenacious Dane in the third game.

In the quarterfinal on Friday, he will face an opponent he hasn’t beaten in their past four meetings. But a rejuvenated Prannoy would be hoping for a new start.