The SuppVersity Student Spotlight: Duong Nguyen - Twelve Weeks of Intermittent Fasting Got Duong a Mind-Boggling, "Aesthetically Muscled" Physique

Image 1: Duong at the beginning and 
end of what is one of the most impressive
12-week transformations I've seen in quite
some time: -31lbs on the scale; -4" off the
waist and +0.5" chest circumference!
Being a true science geek, I soak up complicated studies like a sponge, but even as a practicing scientist (from another research area, though) all that knowledge would not help me to avoid looking like Sponge Bob, if my interest in the application of abstract theories to real world scenarios was not at least as pronounced as my interest in the formulation of geeky hypothesis about biochemical processes in petri dishes. Consequently, I have always been fascinated by the logs and stories of real people (not nameless subjects in a study) posted across the various health- and fitness bulletin boards, blogs and personal homepages on the Internet and lately, as it happens, I spotted one such story I found so extraordinarily appealing that I decided to ask its author, if he accepted to be the 'protagonist' of the first installment of a new regular column on the SuppVersity, the intention of which is to honor those of its "students" (i.e. you, ladies and gents!) whose stories can serve as an inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps:
The SuppVersity Student Spotlight! I want your stories! You do not have to be as ripped as Duong to inspire others. Maybe you are the admirable former fat guy, who fought off diabetes, the cancer survivor or former anorexic, who is about to start a new healthier life or "just" a geeky physicist like me, who loves the way working out and eating healthy makes him/her feel - whoever you are, tell me your stories and give others the chance to be inspired by your success!
His name is Duong Nguyen and the way he managed to change his body within no more than 12 weeks is so amazing that I will let the pictures (cf. image 1) speak for themselves and just have Duong tell you the inspiring story behind his new "athletically muscled" self [I edited the headlines, put some emphases and wrote the captions for the images].

Image 2: Before becoming an inspiration
for others, Duong got inspired by the story
of "America's Personal Trainer", Tony Little.
I. Duong's Story

As a young kid I was never lean or thin like a lot of other kids. I wasn't obese, but was considered "fat" especially as an Asian person.

I remember back when I was in 5th grade, my older sister would tell me that I should exercise. When I asked her why, she would respond with "so you don't look so fat". Me being in 5th grade at the time, I didn't care about looking fat. I knew she didn't want to look fat (not sure of the reason though), but at that time I didn't care that I was fatter than the other kids.

Even Duong needed "a Little" inspiration

However, what actually convinced me to finally start working out was an infomercial...a Tony Little (cf. images 2 & 3) infomercial to be exact!

I don't remember the exact product he was selling at the time, but I'm sure it was a series of videos showing people how they can workout at home to lose weight. What I remembered most about those infomercials was the story about how he got into a car accident, stopped working out and ate like crap because he felt sorry for himself. Image 2 shows the picture they showed of him looking all bloated and out of shape.

Image 3: Tony Little after his 1st accident
- yes, this the guy from image 1!

Seeing these before pictures and then seeing Tony Little as he was on the infomercial in the great shape that he was, had a huge effect on me!

Seeing what he looked like in his before and after pictures made me think that it was possible for me to make a change to my body with exercise!

So after seeing his infomercial multiple times (it was always on tv), I started to do some of the exercises Tony showed on his infomercial and this is how I got started working out.

The exercises were just things like push ups, sit ups, and other calisthenic type exercises, but I felt like I was getting results just from doing these simple exercises.

Then, when I was in 9th grade, my parents bought me a Weider home gym and weight set which allowed me to workout with weights. I fell in love with lifting weights and was able to build a decent base just from working out at home. I was still fat but I was getting stronger and could tell by looking in the mirror that I was gaining muscle!

Supplements are part of the game ...

This also was the beginning of when I would start using supplements. The story of how I got started using supplements is probably the same way a lot of others started; seeing an idol/role model sponsor a supplement and thinking that was how you can become just like them.

My favorite football team at the time was the Denver Broncos and Shannon Sharpe was one of my favorite players. He endorsed the supplement company EAS and I thought if I wanted to get big and muscular like him, then I needed to use EAS supplements. So I ordered some Myoplex meal replacement packets and Creatine HP as my very first supplements.

I remember making some great gains using the meal replacement and creatine so I was totally sold on using supplements!  I believe I must have gained 20 lbs over a course of 3 months. I thought "Wow, these supplements really do work!"

... but lifting heavy and proper nutrition remain the foundations of success

I didn't start lifting real "heavy" weights though until I joined the football team in the 10th grade. The program they had all their players on was a basic periodization program based on the Bigger, Faster, Stronger principles.

I gained a lot of strength and muscle mass doing this but unfortunately, I still did not know much about nutrition at the time. All I read about was how I needed to eat large amounts of food to gain muscle...which I did, but I also gained a lot of fat doing this. So, after I was done playing football, I wanted to lean up and look good with six pack abs, so I attempted my first diet in order to lose fat. At the time, the no carbohydrate/Atkins diet was all the rage so that's what I went with.

Progress means learning from mistakes

Image 4: Duong before starting
his 12-week intermittent fasting
approach to a new, ripped self.
Being that this was my first attempt at dieting, I made a lot of the same mistakes that newbies tend to make. My diet was too low in protein, too low in fat, and too low in calories in general. I also lifted weights using higher reps to "tone" the muscles and did too much cardio as well. I didn't know any better at the time...that was what the muscle magazines told me to do and I was just trying to get a six pack.

Needless to say, my first dieting attempt was a failure. Sure I lost fat but also lost a lot of muscle and strength. I also did not even end up with a six pack!...perhaps a very blurry one at best.

And now of course that I was smaller, I wanted to bulk up and be big again. At this time, I still hadn't learned the proper way to bulk yet, so I basically just ate whatever I wanted. I was still under the impression that I needed to stuff my face in order to grow.

You need to experiment in order to find what works for you

I also tried several different lifting methods/programs during bulking. I remember trying 5x5, HST, German Volume Training, DoggCrap Training, and other various programs that I found online. Some worked better than others but the experience and knowledge I gained was crucial in my overall development.

After a couple of these bulk/cut cycles, I did learn over time how to be more successful at each one, which means I retained muscle while cutting, and kept the fat gains at a minimum while bulking. Notwithstanding, bulking is still a difficult undertaking for me as you can see in my before picture (cf. image 3) - I just love to eat!

II. What Worked for Me

Image 5: This is the 'new Duong'!
Looks like a celebrity, doesn't he?
After multiple cut cycles of low carb diets eating every 2-3 hours, I stumbled across Martin Berkhan's Leangains website. His intermittent fasting approach to eating really interested me, as I never really did like eating breakfast and also didn't like having to eat every 2-3 hours. It basically went against everything about eating/dieting that was the norm.

The potential for muscle loss during the fasting periods did concern me, but seeing all of Martin's clients' before and after pics displaying their success inspired me to give IF(intermittent fasting) a try for this cutting period. So I read all that could about intermittent fasting on Martin's website and started my cut.

It's all about making a diet your diet 

Martin's recommendations call for a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour feeding window. My fast ended up being longer with a shorter eating window, but that was just because it fit my schedule better.

So everyday I would wake up, fast until around 3:30 pm when I would have protein shake followed by a workout, post workout shake, and dinner. Then maybe 1 or 2 hours later, I would have another protein shake. I squeezed my entire calorie intake for a given day into that short 4-5 hour period.

In terms of what I ate, I followed a low carbohydrate, high protein, high fat diet. On most days, I would eat chicken thighs and whole eggs for the high protein, high fat content along with some veggies and berries or a grapefruit.

You can't max-out on every workout - listen to your body!

For my weight training, I did a full body split training 3 times a week. Two of those days were "heavy" days so I trained using weights where I could only get 5 reps. The other day was a "medium" day so the rep range for that day was 8-12 reps.

My off days from weight training were reserved for either cardio or rest depending on how I felt. If I felt good, I would go do cardio. Otherwise I would just stay at home and rest. Most of the time I felt good, so I ended up doing cardio 3 or 4 times a week most weeks.

Image 6: BCAAs were a staple of
Duong's supplement regimen
Supplements can tip the scales

I felt certain supplements were very helpful with my cut. Here are the supplements I took advantage of during my cut:
  • BCAA's & creatine - used for possible muscle preservation and anabolism during workouts
  • Fatburner / thermogenic - used to decrease hunger, provide energy, increase mood, and increase metabolism
  • Testosterone booster - used to increase testosterone, decrease estrogen, and control cortisol
You can find all the details of my eating, training, and supplementation on my blog Aesthetic Muscle

III. What I Think, Finally Made the Difference

All in all, I have been weight training for about 10 years now but I have never really been satisfied with the way I looked until fairly recently.

More specifically though, my recent cut in the before and after pictures above was a difference of 12 weeks. I went from 189 lbs down to 168 lbs and am still continuing to cut. I would have to say that this has been my most successful cut so far as I seemed to have retained all my muscle and actually gained strength during the 12 weeks. I am also the most "ripped" I've ever been been.
Image 7: Already ripped and still making progress; two current progress pics at 165 lbs.
It was also the "easiest" cut I've had. With the IF eating pattern, it sometimes almost feels as if I am not even dieting since I am I am eating so much at once and getting so full.

IV. Suggestions for Others

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would definitely have wanted a mentor with the proper knowledge and experience to guide me. Although there was a lot of information available in magazines and the internet, I never quite knew what information was right. Having a mentor to guide me [or the SuppVersity to study < comment Dr. Andro ;-] would have saved me years of training incorrectly, not dieting right, and using a bunch of crap supplements.
Attention: If you want to "hear" more about Duong, listen to Carl Lenore's Super Human Radio on
Thursday, July 28 2011 at 1pm ET Duong and me (Dr. Andro) will be talking about his journey.
update: Show is now available as podcast, click here to download!
There was a also a period of maybe 2-3 years where I was tired of being fat and also getting fat during bulking periods, and I just wanted to be lean all the time. So I dieted down and stayed on a low carb diet with no bulking periods for a few years. Doing this cost me a couple of years where I could have been putting on muscle if I had known how to do it correctly. This was a mistake that I could have avoided if I had a mentor.
Advice from Dr. Andro: Don't forget to visit Duong's blog Aesthetic Muscle for more information about his awesome transformation!
Also remember, that consistency is the key. Even though I didn't know what I was doing in terms of nutrition for most of my weight training "career", I was always consistent with the weightlifting. I may not have been training and eating optimally, but I did love lifting weights and was able to build a decent amount of muscle over the years. I just didn't learn about proper nutrition until fairly recently and this was when I was truely able to transform my body.
Disclaimer:The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is by no means intended as professional medical advice. Do not use any of the agents or freely available dietary supplements mentioned on this website without further consultation with your medical practitioner.