Chris Cantada is popular for being the original drummer of the rock band Sponge Cola ("Jeepney," "Crazy For You"). He's also a self-confessed geek who has made a name for himself through cosplaying—his alter-ego online is that of the Green Ranger from the iconic Power Rangers franchise.
There's another side of Cantada, though, that's rarely shown on his YouTube channel. And the clip below might've been the only time that this version of him has made an appearance. It wasn't until May 23, 2016 that he fully recognized and revealed humongous Chris (his words, not ours) through a series of before-and-after photos on Instagram.
Growing up, Chris had a love for eating and video games. He never saw it as a problem, however, because although he did experience bullying for being the new kid in high school, he perceived being on the heftier side as an extension of who he was.
"It was just part of my personality as the school comedian," he explains. "I came as a package: happy guy, big guy."
He had no problems being the "pudgy" dude, so he saw no real reason to lose weight. Then, one day in college, Chris found himself standing on a weighing scale, staring at a number that left him shocked: he weighed 205 lbs. He was only 5'8", which meant that he was clinically overweight unhealthy. Something had to change, and Cantada was aware that he needed to take action.
The abandoned Air Walker at home found new life in Cantada's room. He swapped sugary drinks for water, white rice for the red variety, and junk food for healthier alternatives. "It's hard in the Philippines, especially with what the restaurants offered back then," he says. Yet in the span of one year, Cantada managed to lose 60 lbs. At that time, he got into a relationship with his future wife, right before Sponge Cola released its first album. "She saw me in the middle of the process."
Despite having achieved his goal of thinning down, he wasn't satisfied. Although he had shed the excess poundage, he felt that he had given up the physical power that came with it. He then entered the next stage of his fitness journey: strength and conditioning. Now, he is putting in the work to actually look good in Spandex and regain mass in a constructive way.
Cantada admits that he still has a long way to go before getting the quintessential Ranger body. But at least he knows that he is on the right path.
Why did you decide to focus more on building strength?
I've never been this disciplined with workouts. Before, I'd sulk after a month because I don't see results. This, I see, so in my head, sayang if I stop. So, I maintain and try to level up a bit, but still think of my body constraints, like I don't want to force it. I hurt my back during Sponge Cola. The reason why I left was also health and that's not my lifestyle—I don't drink or smoke. It's a good thing that throughout this whole process, my back is still good. If I want to go over my plateau, I try to be safe and balanced. When you do it, you think you're okay, then you'll feel the effects after an hour.
When did you decide to take things up a notch and embody the characters that you cosplay?
That was around 2008. I guess the best thing when you’re starting out is to kick it off slowly. Ang hirap kapag alam mo may nagyayabang sa tabi mo, so I try not to look. You really have to try your best not to compare—that's where you'll get injured. My whole thing is, I'm in this for the long haul. Slow, but I get to do it every week, rather than force it out, get hurt, and not be able to work out for a whole month. I just want to keep exercising. But there's a goal there, and you're still reaching it. Not as fast as you'd like, but you're safe. At the end of the day, you still get to do it.
As cliche as it sounds, what was the hardest part of your trip to wellness?
It was the eating. Before, I always used to drink iced tea in the morning, then I'd buy a bag of Doritos. Man, that was my life before—sloth. We were recording early demos for Spongecola and I would bring a box of Dewberry in the studio. My band mates were more healthy. But they didn't really tell me to lose weight, someone even said, "It's part of your personality. Be as big as your drumset." They didn't see anything wrong with that. It’s a personal decision. If I didn't decide on that, I wouldn't be this.
It seems that you didn't encounter any stumbling blocks along the way. What drove you to just keep at it?
As far as I remember, I was so focused. I really wanted to do it. There were some days I woke up and didn't want to work out, but I don't remember a lot. I was determined. Actually, I just kept at it, even though I forgot how fast or how slow the process was. I remember wanting to lose weight and seeing the results. Personally, my attitude is if I want something, I'll do anything to get it. After I lost 60 lbs. in a year, I sort of was happy. So, I started to get back some of my weight to maintain. Then, a hand was extended to me. I just liked the goal-oriented program. It wasn't about gaining muscle, but rather getting my full strength back.
How much of your physique is attributed to exercise and nutrition?
Most of it is workout. I just try eating a bit healthier, but it's not good enough for those I know who are really eating "clean." It's more of concentrating on exercise for strength. You're not going to look as ripped as other people but I just like doing a lot of side-by-side on Instagram, because that's really the only way I can see the difference. Wearing the same black shirt years ago, then days ago, kitang-kita talaga. Para akong hanger. I think the reason fitspiration posts work is because some people get inspired with what they see, especially with my past, 200-pound self, and present form. In my geek community on social media, a lot of nerds do all sorts of fitness stuff. That was another big motivation for me, when I started at the calisthenics gym, is to look a bit more decent in Spandex. A term was coined for that: "Ranger Fit." Every time I post online, I use it.
Describe the sense of fulfillment whenever you look at photos and put on your costumes.
I just want to see how it goes. It's easy for me to say I don't want to be huge, but it's hard to get jacked. Although right now, it really looks better in costume. There are times when I feel like, "Shit, these 25-pound (dumbbells) are not doing anything anymore!" Then I see how far I've gone, and it pushes me personally to just go for it. When I meet people I haven't seen in a while, nagugulat sila, because when you look at yourself in the mirror, you don't see the gradual changes. It just inspires me to keep going—I would rethink everything if nothing's happening.
Is there any connection between your fitness goals and geeky interests?
I want to be healthy, at the same time I'm in this world where I need to wear costumes and portray these characters, which have a certain body type. They perfectly go hand in hand, and hopefully I'll look like some of these guys. Also, I'm so used to hiring stunt guys, but I wanted to challenge myself with a recent action shoot, where I did fight choreography with a stunt team. I don't think I'll be able to do anything as realistic if I didn't have physical conditioning. But when I saw it, I was like, how? It's not crazy fancy, but I didn't know that it's possible. Right after we filmed it, I thought, "Thank God!"
What part of your fitness journey are you currently in?
I guess, I'll just keep doing the bodybuilding stuff. Try to be slightly more strict with the diet. I want to see if there's a chance that I'll have some sort of "ripped" factor, even with my excess skin. Yun lagi ang naghi-hinder sa'kin eh. No matter how strong your muscles get, they're still covered by this extra thing from your past. Right now, I'm just continuing, like five exercises for each body part. If I feel like I've reached a plateau, I can just do a different one. I went from two basic exercises to really experimenting with workouts. What's nice about these fitness stuff on Instagram, you see a lot of users doing everything, every day. It's always fresh. I always want to better myself, and I'm happy with what I'm seeing.
"I want to be healthy, at the same time I'm in this world where I need to wear costumes and portray these characters"
Can you detail your current training regimen and what your meal plan looks like?
I'm doing a four-times-a-week workout: chest, then back and biceps, followed by shoulders and triceps, and finally, legs and cardio (indoor cycling). The gym work is basically four to five exercises per body part, that's like 10 per session—four sets of eight to 12 reps. Each training day, I end with abs. Also, I only have one cardio day since I want to concentrate on the muscle building. As for my diet, it's not as intense as when I was really big. Now, you want to enjoy life. From Monday to Friday, those are the days that I work out, yun, talagang chicken breast, brown rice, and water. But Saturday and Sunday, for example, date with the wife, sige, iced tea. Again, those treat days are important. I love sweets, pero sa weekend lang.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own fitness journey?
Determine if it's right for you. I mean, you don't have to. It's cool to be healthy, but if you don't want to lose weight, you're not going to achieve anything. You need to have that goal that you want to be healthy, because it's always nice to be healthier for your life. For me, it was a good process because I really wanted it. It helps a lot with the motivation and seeing results when you want to. Set realistic goals, mini goals. Like for this month, I want to do three pull-ups. That's four weeks, pero biglang naka-five pull-ups ka na. The nice thing about setting small goals is that it's easy to surpass. That's basically it. Because those realistic goals will lead to faster results.