Last year, while Malaysians were gearing themselves up to face the mother of all elections, a couple of Malaysian bodybuilders were competing hard in Singapore to make the country proud.
The World Fitness Federation (WFF), which is an international bodybuilding organisation formed in 1968, ran its annual bodybuilding competition and last year, it was titled WFF Mortal Battle 2018.
While a few Malaysian bodybuilders took part in this competition to showcase their physical prowess and strength, one man completely stood out for his extraordinary performance.
, 30, had his eyes on the top spot, and he went on to win the WFF Mortal Battle 2018 men's bodybuilding in the novice category.
spoke to Yuvaraaj to learn about his fitness journey, motivation and inspiration.
Like most of us, Yuvaraaj suffered from weight issues when he was younger.
Being self conscious about his weight, a young Yuvaraaj decided enough is enough and set out to lose some weight and become leaner for better self-confidence and health.
“I wanted to lose some weight and started to go the gym. I was not a person who was very much involved in sports. So, going to the gym was difficult and life-changing.
“Once I started gym, I got hooked to it,” he said.
Yuvaraaj, who started going to the gym about seven years ago, said he began to seriously train for a toned physique and to build muscle, after some time.
“Like what I set out to do, I lost weight. And then came the difficult part where I have to build better definition. I worked hard to get the body that I have now,” he shared.
Yuvraaj said he usually works out for at least six hours a day, five times a week.
“I exercise in the morning and in the evening. I show up to the gym even on days that I feel lazy because when I show up, I tend to go on at full force until I get exhausted.
“I push myself to do better every single day. It takes sheer determination and focus to work out for that long every day,” he shared.
Preparing for the competition
Yuvaraaj said he knew about the WFF Mortal Battle 2018 competition through a friend and he initially wanted to "casually check it out".
Later, he was inspired to join the competition to see how far he would go.
“Preparing for the competition was extremely taxing and required my utmost dedication," he revealed.
He told us that while the work outs and the preparation are important, they are only half the battle. What really makes or breaks it is the food.
“During non-competition time, I used to have cheat meals on the weekends. When training for the competition, cheat meals are not allowed” he shared.
He said intense training and proper food management starts at least six months before the competition.
“For the first three months, I consume a diet called the ‘semi diet’. It involves having a morning pre-workout meal of oats and fruits before a 45 minutes to one hour cardio session.
“After the cardio, I eat brown rice with roasted chicken and vegetables. Strength training will take place after that. Around 12 pm, I will have brown rice, roasted chicken and vegetables again," he said.
Then, at about 3pm, he will consume a roasted chicken breast. The same cycle is repeated at 6pm and 10pm, after another intense workout session.
Yuvaraaj said sometimes, he changes his source of protein to fish or beef, but mainly sticks to chicken.
“Three months before the competition, the workout intensifies, along with the meals. Instead of roasted chicken, I ate steamed chicken, for a reduced fat consumption as much as possible.
“Carbs was also reduced. One week before the competition, food will be completely tasteless as I avoided salt to reduce water retention.
“Water was also taken minimally and that was the first time I started missing water because we all take water for granted,” he said.
Winning the competition
After six months of intense preparation, the day finally came for Yuvaraaj to show the world what he's made of.
Competing against bodybuilders from India, China and yes, even from his hometown of Malaysia, he eventually bested everyone that stood in his way.
“I didn’t expect to win but I thank God for coming out tops in the competition,” he said.
He told us that his bodybuilder friends and coach came all the way to Singapore to support him and he was grateful for the show of love.
“My coach Vinod Kumar, who runs a gym called Diet Pro Fitness where I train, played a major role in my success. He taught me everything that I need to know about bodybuilding. From the workouts to food, he was the one who guided me throughout my journey.
“The impressive thing about my coach is, he was so humble and selfless when it came to teaching his knowledge. At the end of the day, I could be seen as his competitor because he is also a bodybuilder. But, he did not see all of that. He amazes me with his humility. I would like to dedicate my win to him,” he said.
Yuvaraaj said he wishes to participate in more bodybuilding competitions in the future.
The problem with the bodybuilding industry...
Despite his win, Yuvaraaj admits that bodybuilding is a difficult industry to be in, especially without a strong support system.
“Firstly, bodybuilding is not a government sponsored sports like other sports.
“To boot, it is a very expensive sports. We have to watch our food intake and try to eat as healthy as possible. Everyone knows that it is not easy to eat healthy on a budget. Take me for example, my food alone costs me RM50 per day.
“And then there are the endless supplements like protein and calcium that is crucial to maintain muscle mass. Considering all these, at the end of the day, when any of the bodybuilders win a competition, the prize money is pathetic.
“Sometimes, it is just RM1,000. Other times, you just get a medal and a trophy. Why can’t there be proper appreciation for bodybuilders? Women who win in beauty pageants are giving more prize money if they win.
“As such, we need proper support from the relevant authorities to keep thriving in this industry,” he said.
Despite all the potential setbacks, Yuvaraaj told us that he'll do all he can to make the country proud, even if nobody knows who he is and the struggles he have to go through.