Why Johnlu Koa has a regimen for looking good
The businessman, who has become an authority in the food business, has so much to share about fitness and nutrition
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When entrepreneur Johnlu Koa accompanies his wife, Marilou, president of Euromode fashion company, on buying trips in Germany, the principals can’t help but comment on his still-youthful looks. “You must be 38,” they would say.
To which Koa would reply, “That was 15 years ago.” Make that 16, as he turns 54 on April 18. He attributes this to a balance of healthy eating, nutritional supplements, daily exercise and Zein Obagi’s products.
Koa is the founder and CEO of the French Baker chain, L’Artizan, Globake and Teabros, the master Philippine franchisee of Chatime. He recently added the title “chief marketing officer” of Van Laack, the German menswear brand to which his wife holds the local franchise.
“I work without a salary. I only require her to listen to me,” he said in jest.
Van Laack’s market could identify with a businessman like him. “That’s why I have to work out and take care of my skin,” said Koa.
When he attends school reunions, his batchmates are surprised. While most of them look like blimps and have balding pates, Koa’s hair is still thick (he uses gugo shampoo); his face is almost creaseless (“No need to go to the derma if you apply Obagi and tretinoin,” he said) and his build is trim enough to tuck in a tapered Van Laack shirt. It’s a result of years of healthy living.
Fit for Life
Koa recalled that in the early ’80s, he would wake up at 5:45 a.m., leave his house in Cubao to be at the Quezon City Sports Club by 6:30 a.m., when the gym opens.
“I hate lying on the bench when somebody before me had used it and sweated on it. Yuck!” he said. The smell of freshly cleaned equipment was his motivation to come early.
Then he would hie off to his teaching classes at the University of the Philippines. The routine went on for five years, until the Koas moved to Pasig in 1987.
Back then, Shape at Ultra was the most popular gym, where he rubbed elbows with celebrities, businessmen and prominent personalities. While QC Sports Club provided free weights, Ultra was known for the Nautilus machines that applied more resistance in exercise movements.
In 1995, he married Marilou Peña and moved to Renaissance, which provided a gym using Precor equipment, engineered for ergonomic workouts. Koa then got a personal trainer who got him buff.
He complemented his workout with the Fit for Life diet, which recommended a significant consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, abstinence from animal protein and dairy products, and combining certain foods to avoid messing up the stomach. One rule was not to combine proteins with carbohydrates in a meal. Koa lost 20 lbs by avoiding the foods that clogged the system, according to the diet.
“One day, a ladybug bit me. I got H-fever and was hospitalized for one week,” he said. His parents blamed it on his diet and the fact that he was turning vegan. “I felt more at ease with vegetables with rice or bread than with meat.”
In 2005, when Marilou was pregnant with their youngest child, a friend suggested that she was not getting enough nutrition. The couple met Jaime Cua, an orthomolecular biochemist whose task was to provide maximum amounts of supplements that were natural to the body. Marilou did not experience bloating, constipation and labor pains because her organs were fully supported by nutrition. Their daughter Julia has strong bones and teeth, and good skin, and is advanced for her age of 5.
Under Cua’s guidance, Koa has also been taking 27 supplements a day, which include Omega 3 and Omega 6, hawthorne extract, and raw liver iron, to name a few.
“I get my peak performance with restful sleep. Less than six hours, and it won’t work as well,” he said. Still, the supplements eliminated the need for antibiotics and paracetamol.
“When I got a migraine, I would pop a paracetamol. I learned that I got the headache from excess chocolates, eating sweets on an empty stomach, or dehydration,” he said.
Since purified water tends to be acidic, he brings two bottles of alkaline water to work. The Koa household uses an alkalizer to change tap water through electrolysis. He avoids bottled water because of the dangers of absorbing dangerous substances from the plastic container.
Both his home and the French Baker outlets use glass and stainless steel utensils. He also eliminated cooking with aluminum utensils. “Aluminum is an unstable metal. It can chip, and you can ingest it and it stays in your system,” he said. He adds that microwaving with plastic containers can also produce chemicals that pose health risks.
For his exercise regimen, he prefers to work out at home. It saves him the hassle of driving and parking at the gym and paying annual membership fees.
Koa hops on the Precor Elliptical machine with its patented EFX technology that provides a low-impact workout. “There’s no damage to the knees,” he said. The 20-minute cardio workout keeps the excess bulge away.
He ditched the dumbbells and machines for rubber band resistance training, which, unlike conventional weights, provides continuous tension throughout the entire movement. It requires more concentration and control in lifting and lowering, thereby giving the muscles more of a challenge.
Koa said that with his years of pumping iron, he makes his own program that works out the various muscle groups on alternate days. He has never missed a day of working out with the rubber bands. It’s handy enough to be stuffed in a pocket of his suitcase. Every few months, he buys a thicker band for more resistance. The cardio, abdominal crunches and band resistance take only 30 minutes of his “me time.”
The Koas also believe in engaging in sports to maintain their closeness. It adds variety to their normal routine. It’s uncommon for couples to do long-distance cycling together. Marilou feels added security when Koa is around.
With a group of friends, Koa and Marilou go cycling to Timberland in Montalban or from Sta. Elena to Nuvali in Sta. Rosa in Laguna, on their mountain bikes. The Koas enjoy the camaraderie.
“We’re like a band of brothers. We look after each other,” he said. When the Koas were beginners in mountain biking, their colleagues would wait for them and help them negotiate difficult courses.
Marilou said she became courageous. “It was scary because you’re on a stony path. You could fall and get hurt. When you’ve climbed uphill many times, it improves your stamina,” she said.
In all, Koa likens fitness to business. “It needs discipline. It’s a way to stick to a schedule,” he said. He added that entrepreneurs must have a certain look. “Not sluggish,” he said. “Have good skin and muscle tone. It’s okay to have a little roll of fat around the middle if you’re over 50, but when you’re in a jacket, you should look debonair.”
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