Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Dr. Michael Martin Malabanan
Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Dr. Michael Martin Malabanan

A few days ago, Dr. Michael Martin Malabanan wrote an emotional piece on his Instagram after winning at the Fitness International Federation tilt held last week in Singapore.

It was the radiation oncologist’s first time to compete in a bodybuilding competition, one that he trained for passionately for many months.

Malabanan—or Doc Mike to this writer, a former patient—wrote that he was dedicating his win to his dad, who died from chronic alcoholism six years ago. Seeing his dad’s emaciated body was a wake-up call for the cancer doctor to strive to be fit and healthy, so that he could grow old with his wife and children.

Doc Mike, 47, wants to inspire others—fitness, he said, can be achieved at any age.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Dr. Michael Martin Malabanan

What have you been busy with?


Any milestones, achievements or updates you want to share?

I just won in the Fitness International Federation (FIF) 2024 in Singapore. I won the gold medal in the Men’s Fitness Category, and first runner-up in the Men’s Physique Category.

Have you always been into fitness?

Since high school days.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Chest workout using cable crossover —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

What inspired your fitness journey?

My desire to live longer than my late father, who succumbed to alcoholism. I want to live longer to see my children—my tres marias—live their successful, happy lives. I want to travel around the world with my wife without any ailments. And I want to set an example to my peers that fitness can be achieved at any age with proper discipline and commitment.

What’s your fitness routine/regimen?

I wake up at 4:30 a.m., drink a glass of water, black coffee and hit the treadmill for 30 minutes.

I work out in the gym for 1.5 hours, with a fitness trainer to help me strengthen weak areas of my body, to ensure proper mobility and right execution of the workout.

In the afternoon, I also do cardio for 20 minutes at home using the treadmill again, then do sauna for 15-20 minutes to lose the water weight—this was very crucial for the contest preparation.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
The doctor at 41 and at 47

What are your favorite workouts and forms of exercise?

Back exercises are my favorite—lat pulldowns, pullover, dumbbell shrugs and core exercises like hanging leg raises.

How often do you work out in a week?

Six times a week.

Where do you work out?

Fitness First

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Pose down during the physique category

What are your fitness essentials/must-haves?

Distilled water, preworkout drink with creatine, BCAA with electrolytes, glutamine post workout. Support belt, gloves, elbow and knee pads (helps when I’m lifting heavy weights).

What’s on your workout playlist?

Metallica’s “The Black Album”

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ

Do you stick to a diet?

Initially no, but prior to the FIF contest I had no choice. As my chef wife would say, “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

Six months prior to the competition, I had to eat only kamote, fish, chicken breast. I had to avoid sauces, soups since they can bloat the gut. Definitely no alcohol intake.

What do you usually eat in a day?

Breakfast—black coffee; six to 10 scrambled eggs with only two yolks added; kamote, about one to two small pieces prior to workout for energy; lunch—fish and vegetables and 1/2 cup of basmati rice (it has a low glycemic index); dinner—chicken breast, vegetables (could be broccoli or cauliflower); snack—guilt-free cookies.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ
Dr. Michael Martin Malabanan with wife Ivyn and youngest daughter Ilana

What’s off-limits?

Alcohol; refined sugars found in those yummy mainstream desserts; oily and salty food

Do you have cheat days? How often? And what do you eat on cheat days?

Yes, once a week. I have steak, lamb.

What keeps you motivated?

My young children.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ

How did the pandemic affect your fitness routine?

It didn’t. I still worked out at home and even went to the clinics to see patients.

What are your other fitness secrets?

First, having a super supportive wife! My wife Ivyn has been instrumental. She was an inspiration for me to continue my diet regimen, since she’s a chef and a health buff herself.

Bodybuilding is judged on symmetry of one’s body, and if there’s any bloatedness of the gut, it won’t win any physique or fitness contest. Abs are made in the kitchen indeed. Bodybuilding is a mental game.

Second, not giving up when your body is telling you to stop, when your cravings are haunting you and enticing you to eat bad.

Cancer doc is also a bodybuilding champ

What tips do you want to share with people who want to get healthier?

Start now. Always think of the long-term benefits of a good exercise routine. Wouldn’t it be nice to fit into clothes that flatter your figure better?

We can avoid a lot of diseases, especially cancer, if we modify what we eat, and do our daily exercise routine.

We can also set an example to our kids that no matter our age, fitness matters.

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