Latest Stories

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


FOR HIS exercise regimen, Koa prefers to work out at home. He uses rubber band resistance for strength and the elliptical machine for cardio. PHOTOS BY NELSON MATAWARAN

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.

JOHNLU Koa and wife Marilou enjoy mountain biking together.

“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.

‘Me’ time

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.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: fitness , Johnlu Koa , Lifestyle , Nutrition , People

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  3. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  4. Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  5. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  6. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  7. A tale of two Priscillas: my mother Prissy and Chona Recto Kasten
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  • Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  • Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  • Tagle: Hope comes with warning on Easter
  • New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  • Sports

  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Rain or Shine drops Ginebra in big hole
  • Ateneo whips CSB; Davao debuts with win over FEU
  • PH pug Hipolito Banal decisions Colombian in Aiba
  • Former Pacquiao sparmate Porter keeps IBF title
  • Lifestyle

  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit