Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
I’ve been training since I was in high school but I really got serious about training when I was in college. I played sports since I was a young kid but decided that I was done when I moved to California for college. But being a competitive person I still craved a challenge. The weights became my sport. I enjoyed the individuality of it because like the saying goes “You get out what you put in.”
After college, I was given a great opportunity to become an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the college I attended for two years where I coached up to 20 teams, and then a Personal Trainer for a year. During those three years working in the athletic/fitness industry I trained in several lifting styles such as weightlifting, athletic performance, powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc.
Training has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always taken my training seriously by planning and analyzing my own programs and those of others to see how I can learn from them. But I never put as much effort into everything. I mainly just loved to lift weights, I enjoyed going to the gym and challenging myself. Everything else was just in the background when it should have been in the forefront, especially nutrition.
I enjoy food, coming from Hawaii, food is a way of life to me so when I decided to gain the most weight I ever had I began eating everything in sight. I satisfied all my cravings, I’m not big on sweets, I’m just big on food overall. I remember my girlfriend sometimes looking at me thinking that I was crazy and saying, “You eat the same amount of an average 4 person family.” Good! I had to get bigger. I set out to do something I haven’t done before, and she knew that I was going to do whatever it took.
My lifestyle before my change was always focused around lifting weights. It’s a passion. When I’m in the gym, I’m at peace. I feel like I belong there and this is what I’m supposed to be doing. The gym is more than just muscle, weights, etc, it’s a facilitator of character.
What was your low point or turning point?
I was never worried about what my body looked like. I felt bigger and stronger than I ever had, but when I saw myself in the mirror I felt sloppy. My clothes started to get tighter but not in a good way. Normally I buy my clothes a little larger than I really need them but when my shorts and jeans started to get tighter around the waist and some that I couldn’t even button, it got me thinking. Although I achieved what I was set out to do, it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be.
Another honest thing was my finance situation. I couldn’t afford to be eating all the food I was eating, so I guess it was a good time to start eating less food and preparing for my first bodybuilding show.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
There were a few things that made this transformation a challenge, but it was a challenge I gladly accepted. One of the biggest problems was financing the transformation. When I decided to compete in my first bodybuilding show I chose to stop buying supplements, since they were out of my budget, and spend most if not all of my money on whole foods. Then I began having a hard time paying for food, which is why I am so lucky to have the support of my girlfriend who offered to help me.
I also work nights at a restaurant. There would be some days where I wouldn’t get home until after 2 am, then I would be up early in the morning to help my girlfriend by cooking breakfast, making her lunch, and driving her to Cornell. It was the least I could do for the amount of support she was giving me.
Next, many people asked me if I had anyone helping out with my contest prep, in which I didn’t. A lot of the people I came across had a diet coach or trainer who were leading them in the right direction to achieve their goals. My contest prep consisted of a lot of researching and trial and error trying to figure out what exactly works for me. I had to learn on the go about my body while preparing for the competition. I still am learning.
Lastly, being away from family and friends. Moving to New York was like moving to a foreign country for me, but that’s why it was so great getting the support from everyone back home while they followed my journey. Also, I am lucky enough to have met a bunch of great people in Ithaca who are in the same program as my girlfriend, and who gave me amazing support going into my first bodybuilding competition. But being born and raised an Island Boy, I still missed my beaches and coconut trees.
What did your transformation timeline look like?
MASKED ACHIEVEMENT: During the summer while everyone wanted to get ripped and shredded, I was hoping to get big and strong, and that’s exactly what I did. I’ve never been above 200 lbs in my life because it has always been a challenge for me. But I did it. I started at 175 and ballooned up to 208. Although I felt accomplished that I was able to gain the weight and strength, I looked sloppy and felt sloppy. I then became confused about what I wanted to do from there.
THE NUDGE: I am a member of a great site called Muscle and Brawn, which has a solid group who are very supportive. Steve Shaw asked if I ever thought of competing in bodybuilding and that there was a group who will be competing in April at the INBF Natural Buckeye Classic. It has always been in the back of my mind to compete, so the idea intrigued me since I found myself not happy at where I was. If it weren’t for Steve and the rest of the group at the site this whole transformation wouldn’t have happened.
THE DECISION: I’ve never been to a bodybuilding show before, as a spectator or competitor, so I had no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself in to. It took me some time to make the decision, I didn’t even mention it to my girlfriend. I had to be sure it was something I actually wanted to do and not something I was thinking, “Sure, I guess I’ll give it a try.” I believe you have to be honest with yourself when you decide to do achieve a goal, or else you’ll be constantly debating to yourself whether you should be doing it or not. When I told my girlfriend I was going to compete, she wasn’t surprised. She knows how passionate I am about training and knew that if this was what I really wanted to do she would support me all the way.
THIS IS WHO I AM: There was a time during the winter months when I spent about a month alone. I am originally from Hawaii, lived in California for 7 years, and now live in Ithaca, NY for a year while my girlfriend attends Cornell University for her Masters. During those winter months she left for an externship along with everyone else that I knew. My winter was a quiet one, but I was able to focus on training and dieting. By this time I was seeing a significant change in my body.
But I remember the night it all hit me. It was a snowy Friday night, and I was performing dumbbell shoulder presses feeling exhausted and sweating profusely. The rest of the gym was like a cold ghost town with just a few souls up stairs slaving away on the treadmills. After I racked the dumbbells with my heart pounding, and my calluses stuck to the cold iron bar I looked in the mirror and for the first time ever thought to myself, “This is who I am.”
SUPPORT FROM HAWAII: For those who know me, know that my family means everything to me. It’s hard being away from home for so long. But when family and friends started following my journey to my first bodybuilding show, it definitely kept the fire burning in me. By just receiving an email from my dad and mom, or a quick conversation on the phone with my brothers, it was more than what I needed to push forward. Then what made it better, was the news that my dad and two brothers would be flying to Ohio to be there for my first show.
VICTORY: As I walked onto the stage for the first time, I already felt victorious. Each pose I hit, I felt myself sharing my hard work and discipline. There was no need to be nervous all the hard work was done. It was a long but rewarding 7 months and being on that stage made it all worth it.
Seeing my dad and brothers out in the crowd, knowing my mom and girlfriend were waiting for constant updates, and receiving constant messages on my phone from friends from all over made it more than just a transformation or a victory for me. It showed me how blessed I am to have such a great support system in my life, which is priceless.
Daniel's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
My training approach changed throughout my transformation. But, no matter what split I was doing I always made sure I lifted heavy, usually sticking with a 5-10 rep range. For a good majority of my transformation I used a Push/Pull/Leg split, training 4 days a week (Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri). It would go Push/Pull/Legs/Push, rest over the weekend, then continued the cycle the next week – Pull/Legs/Push/Pull, and etc. I had two workouts for each movement day that I alternated each time. So, if I trained Push twice in the week I would be doing two different push workouts. I also chose two exercises for each muscle group, making sure I kept with heavy weights and the basics.
Another thing to add is that there were some days I went off the program because I felt great. If I walked into the gym feeling energized, I took advantage of that and either did another exercise or added more sets. On the other hand, if I felt drained and fatigued I listened to my body and made sure I still went as heavy and hard as I could but I would cut back on sets and maybe an exercise. I really believe that you must listen to your body.
Please add a workout that worked best for you:
- Monday - Push
- Tuesday - Pull
- Wednesday - OFF
- Thursday - Legs
- Friday - Push
- Saturday - OFF
- Sunday - OFF
|Monday - Push|
|Dumbbell Incline Bench Press||4-5||5-10|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||4-5||5-10|
|Behind The Neck Shoulder Press||4-5||5-10|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||4-5||5-10|
|Rope Tricep Extension||4-5||5-10|
|Tuesday - Pull|
|Hammer Strength Pullovers||4-5||5-10|
|Underhand Grip Pulldown||4-5||5-10|
|Barbell Bicep Curl||4-5||5-10|
|Thursday - Legs|
|Friday - Push|
|Incline Bench Press||4-5||5-10|
|Dumbbell Shoulder Press||4-5||5-10|
|Dumbbell Bent Over Raise||4-5||5-10|
|Hammer Strength Dip||4-5||5-10|
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
Cardio during my transformation came to be more of an experiment. I tried all the different cardio plans such as performing cardio in a fasted state, HIIT, LISS, pre-workout, post-workout, etc. In the beginning of the transformation I realized that I was doing way too much cardio because my body weight was falling really quick. Being already on a cutting diet and doing too much cardio, probably wasn’t the best thing for me to do so I backed off the cardio and lessened the time as well. I let my diet do most of the work then slowly incorporated cardio. Later into the contest prep, I was doing 20-30 minutes of LISS three times a week post workout and HIIT twice a week on my off days.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Even when you are on a cutting diet, it is important keep lifting heavy, hard, and smart. It’s what built the muscles in the first place.
- I’ve never paid much attention to everything that deals with transforming your body at once. I really had to pay attention to each aspect; nutrition, training, cardio, rest, etc. You can’t focus on one thing more than the other in order to achieve your goal. It takes full attention all around in order to succeed.
- Keep it simple. Sometimes I got carried away with trying out different exercises or feeling like I had to do more than I really needed to do. Don’t get caught up with all the glitz and glamor you come across in the magazines. Keep it simple.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
After being on my transformation for close to 7 months and achieving my goal of stepping onto the bodybuilding stage, I am going back to the basics and training just three days a week using a full-body program and incorporating Olympic lifts. When I first started getting serious with training a few years ago, Olympic lifting was actually the first thing I got into so it has been fun incorporating them back in my routine.
Daniel's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
I followed a low carb diet with high protein and moderate fats, with re-feeds once a week. Like I mentioned before, I’ve never dieted before and I didn’t have diet coach or a trainer to write up a diet plan for me. I saw this all as a learning experience for myself to learn more about my body. I stuck to chicken breasts, whole eggs, egg whites, lean beef, green vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, and healthy fats.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
There were many mistakes I came across that I learned from; not eating enough healthy fats, too much protein, not enough calories, too much calories and the list goes on. It took me awhile to find the diet that worked best for me but after trial and error and more research I came across a diet plan that did the job.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Stick to the diet plan. If you are going to do a diet plan stick to plan long enough to see how your body does on it, then analyze and change things if you need to.
- Don’t be afraid of fats. You see “fats are bad” everywhere you go. But keeping healthy fats in your diet is essential.
- If you want to make a transformation, nutrition is key. You can train as hard as you want in the gym, but if your diet isn’t on point it will make it much harder.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
I allowed a cheat meal once week, but I didn’t go crazy with eating pizza and having ice cream. I usually went to a Japanese restaurant for some raw fish, rice, and green tea.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
I can’t say that I stuck to any supplements during my transformation. The supplements I did take were ones that I was given the opportunity to write reviews for such as; AAEFX K-Otic, AMS Pump Fixx, and Anabolic Addiction Rehab. All which were great products.
The only supplement I took consistently was creatine monohydrate from GNC since I had a ton of it. Other than that, I focused most of my time and efforts on making sure I was eating a clean and healthy diet since I wasn’t taking any supplements.
Advice For Others
What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Be honest with yourself and make the decision to make the transformation. Once you honestly make that decision everything will come into place.
- Stay positive and never doubt. You must always have constant belief in yourself because no one else is going to do the work for you.
- Have fun and embrace the challenge. There will be times when it gets tough, but those are the times you find out who you are and what you are made of. That’s when you can dig deep and overcome.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
For me, I’m a very competitive and driven person. When I set out to do something especially if it’s something I’m passionate about, I attack it with full force. So when I decided to transform myself and step on the bodybuilding stage for the first time I saw it as a great challenge.
For someone who is having trouble staying on track, I would tell them to think back to why they made the decision in the first place. Sometimes when things get rough you forget the reason behind everything you are doing and focus too much on the difficulties. Always believe in yourself and stick to your own path.
More From Daniel Aipa
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
Now that I’ve achieved my goal of stepping on the bodybuilding stage, I plan to continue competing. I’m already looking into my next competition. Going on this journey has solidified my passion in training, and becoming a natural bodybuilder. I’m going to continue training hard as I always do and use the lessons I learned throughout my transformation to improve myself as a natural bodybuilder, and as a man.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
I always want to better myself. After competing in the bodybuilding show, I realized this is what I want to continue pursuing. I’m always excited when I go to the gym, not because I get to lifts weights but because each visit I learn more about myself.
I remember after the competition my dad came up to me and asked, “So, when’s the next one?” When you have that much support and belief in you coming from family and friends, it’s hard not to be motivated.
Anything else you would like to share?
I just want to take the time to say thank you to my parents, Nathan and Hilary, and my brothers, Moses and Isaiah, for all of their love and support and making me the man I am today. Thank you to Mari, my girlfriend, for always being there for me and supporting me in what I am passionate about. I would like to thank the members of Muscle and Brawn, especially Steve Shaw, for giving me constant motivation and inspiration to keep pushing forward and for being the reason I embarked on this journey. Also, I greatly appreciate all the support from everyone in the Cornell University Master of Management in Hospitality program who have become mine and Mari’s family and friends since we’ve moved to New York. Lastly, to everyone back in Hawaii and California and everyone else who supported me during this journey.
Mahalo & Aloha.
How can people contact you?