Fit And Fab

From zero fighter to body building champ

Undergrad Jonathan Ong tells Joan Chew how he transformed from not being able to do a single pull-up to becoming a fitness enthusiast

Mr Jonathan Ong's diet is based on carbohydrate cycling after he learnt that his body adapted to fixed intakes of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, thus slowing down the rates of metabolism and fat-burning.
Mr Jonathan Ong's diet is based on carbohydrate cycling after he learnt that his body adapted to fixed intakes of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, thus slowing down the rates of metabolism and fat-burning.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Q What is your secret to looking so fabulous?

A Clean-eating, working out and having adequate rest. These three factors are similar to the three elements needed to ignite fire - a heat source, oxygen and a flammable material. Without any of these, starting a fire is impossible.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A After my rugby season in Jurong Junior College, all I did was to study for my A-level examinations.

By the time I entered national service, I had become so unfit that I could not do even a single pull-up.

  • BioBox


  • Age: 25

  • Weight: 69kg

  • Height: 1.66m

    The final-year chemistry undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences made the switch from dragon boating to bodybuilding a year later than his younger brother. The brothers help each other during training by sharing tips on squeezing the correct muscles and even debating on the effectiveness of various diet programmes. The elder Mr Ong felt the pressure to do as well as his 21-year-old brother, who came in tops in the classic category of the National Bodybuilding Championship 2014. With his younger brother's encouragement and help at oiling his body backstage, Mr Ong won the tertiary under-65kg category at his first bodybuilding competition, the Muscle and Fitness War 2015.

    The elder Mr Ong's girlfriend is an undergraduate at NTU.

I stared in awe as my army mates did 20 pull-ups at one go. I decided that I had to work on my fitness again. The memory of being mocked as a "zero fighter" still haunts me and motivates me to push the limit.

Q What is your diet like?

A My diet is based on carbohydrate cycling.

On days when I train smaller muscle groups, such as the shoulders, I consume 60g of carbohydrates. On other days when I train larger muscle groups, such as the back and legs, I eat 250g of carbohydrates.

My first meal at 9am consists of a small scoop of protein shake, the whites of six eggs, two egg yolks and a cup of broccoli.

Before, during and after my workouts, I consume different types of supplements. My other meals are at 2pm, 5pm, 8pm and 11pm.

I am very precise about how much I eat. On a high-carb day, I consume 300g of sweet potatoes and 150g of chicken breast at 2pm, followed by 300g of sweet potatoes and 100g of chicken breast at 5pm.

I allow myself a cheat day once a week to reward myself.

Q What is an example of your cheat meal?

A A foot-long egg mayonnaise sandwich, with lettuce, cucumber and capsicum, topped with honey mustard and chipotle dressing.

Also, a white macadamia nut cookie and a drink with the right mixture of Sprite and iced passionfruit tea make for an awesome meal.

Q Has your diet changed over the years?

A I used to eat fixed amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins daily. Within a month or so, I lost 3kg to 4kg, but my body was able to adapt and my metabolism slowed down.

With carbohydrate cycling, the body will be constantly "tricked" so that my metabolism and fat-burning rates remain high.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A Physical possessions are not important - only the values that you hold and pass on.

My top value would be to accept failure and never give up.

The second would be to ignore the naysayers, such as those who had told me I would never win a bodybuilding competition.

The third value would be to give back to the community. The maxim "aspire to inspire" is what I live by.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A No, although bodybuilding is a very superficial sport which involves a panel of judges scrutinising the bodies of contestants. Even though I'm not blessed with dashing good looks, I am still confident of myself.

Q Do you ever miss training?

A Rarely, as the effects of missing training are detrimental.

Strength will be the first to go, followed by the size of muscles and the overall proportion of the body and, finally, self-confidence. If I do not have enough time to clock in a workout, I would pack two training sessions in a single day.

Q Do you think you're sexy?

A I consider myself sexy as far as muscles and physical appearance go. There's still work to be done on the nerdy, bookworm side of me.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'From zero fighter to body building champ '. Print Edition | Subscribe