From Occidental to Olympia, Alex Yeung sacrifices and sweats in pursuit of professional bodybuilding

Bodybuilder Alex Yeung (first year) poses with his Powerhouse hoodie at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Sophia The/ The Occidental

Eyes open, jaws drop and conversations between friends come to a halt as one individual receives a meal from the Marketplace grill that floods each plate and fills the entire tray: multiple pieces of salmon and beef, a hearty scoop of vegetables and three mounds of rice. To the ordinary Occidental College student, this smorgasbord of the grill’s offerings is rather excessive. However, to Alex Yeung (first year), the colossal dinner is a vital part of recovering from hours of training in hopes of becoming a professional bodybuilder.

Yeung said he began weightlifting as a junior at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California, but not with the intention of becoming a bodybuilder. After tearing a ligament in his right foot playing basketball, Yeung said he began lifting weights to recuperate and gain strength before his return to the hardwood. Yeung said after his foot finally healed, basketball simply did not interest him as much as it once had, and he was instead hooked on weightlifting and building his physique.

“It’s so addicting to see your body change and see that you can get stronger,” Yeung said. “I think that’s what draws most people to bodybuilding.”

Yeung said he trains two times a day, six days a week to build lean muscle. He wakes up at 7 a.m. for a fasted cardio workout on the Stairmaster machine. At 4:30 p.m., Yeung said he returns to the gym for a vigorous two-hour weight training session where he focuses on high volume and shaping the muscle with each repetition to attain a physique that is fit for the competition stage.

“I want to become a pro bodybuilder. That’s really what’s pushing me in the gym,” Yeung said. “Sometimes when I’m feeling really tired on the last set, I envision myself walking across that stage and getting my pro card.”

Bodybuilder Alex Yeung (first year) does dumbbell curls to help build his upper body strength at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Sophia Thé/ The Occidental

Training is only one piece of the puzzle, according to Yeung, as sleeping and eating are also keys to his success. Yeung said he goes to bed at 10:30 p.m. to ensure he gets a full night’s rest and makes sure to eat plenty of food to allow his body to recover from training. During his bulking phase, Yeung said he eats eight or nine meals a day, each with over 60 grams of protein and 70 grams of carbohydrates. This diet helped Yeung gain over 70 pounds over the course of two years.

“Sleep and diet determines how you look, and that’s the premise of bodybuilding,” Yeung said. “It’s who looks the best on stage.”

There is much more to Yeung than simply being the biggest guy in the room. Yeung said that he loves to play video games — Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Battlefront are some of his favorites. Yeung can always be seen wearing his headphones and said he enjoys listening to rap music, especially Chief Keef. Additionally, Yeung said he enjoys spending time with his roommate, Kameron Mohebbi (first year).

“We’re really tight. I got really lucky with the roommate selection process,” Yeung said. “I love Kam, he’s like a brother to me. We joke about the same things, we both watch sports.”

Mohebbi said he appreciates Alex’s presence as well and thinks that his randomly-selected first year roommate will turn into a lifelong friend.

“I don’t have a brother, but [Yeung] basically is that to me,” Mohebbi said.

Yeung said he must take a variety of vitamins and supplements to optimize his performance and gains in the gym, including a “pump product,” which allows more blood to enter the muscle. According to Mohebbi, Yeung’s array of nutritional products adds an interesting flair to their room’s decor.

“If you look at our microwave, on top of it it’s all just his supplements,” Mohebbi said.

Yeung said he remains motivated despite setbacks to achieve his goal of going pro. In September, Yeung said he got sponsored by Be Ripped, an industry-leading fitness merchandise brand. This marked a milestone in Yeung’s bodybuilding career, as sponsorships are the main way bodybuilders make money. However, due to inactivity on his Instagram, which was the way he promoted the brand, Yeung said his sponsorship was taken away. Yeung said he took this as a lesson and uses it as motivation to push him forward.

“It sucks to see your hard work pay off and then it’s just gone,” Yeung said. “It really hurts. If I learned one thing from that, it’s to never take anything for granted.”

Currently, Yeung said he is preparing for local bodybuilding competitions with hopes of working his way up the ranks. His main goal is participating in Mr. Olympia, the most prestigious bodybuilding contest in the world. To get there, Yeung said he is open to something rather controversial: taking steroids.

“At the end of the day, it really comes down to how good you want to look,” Yeung said. “Bodybuilding is all about looking your best and in my opinion, you can’t look your best without steroids. It gives you that rounder, fuller, bigger look. I think it’s a necessary step to go pro in bodybuilding.”

Apart from going pro, Yeung said he has goals of inspiring others to pursue fitness. Yeung said his Instagram, @alexjmyeung, is dedicated to providing workout advice and inspiring others to live healthy lifestyles.

“That’s one of the best feelings for me, to see that I’ve inspired someone to start hitting the gym,” Yeung said. “The fact that I got people to work out — it’s just crazy to see that I’ve made an impact on people’s lives. I never thought I was going to be able to do that. It’s just really touching and it warms my heart to hear people come up to me and say that.”

Yeung said he knows that the road to Olympia will be long and difficult, but he has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

“If you want to go pro in any sport there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make,” Yeung said. “I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of friendships, my social life. It’s tough to sacrifice that stuff, but it comes down to, ‘Do you really want it? Do you really want to go pro? Do you really want to look your best?’ That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Yeung is self-motivated, but he said that he would never have gotten to this point if it were not for the support, love and guidance of his parents in both athletics and academics. Yeung’s father, Eddie Yeung, said he is proud that Alex has been able to find a passion that enables him to help others and prepare himself for the future at the same time.

“Many years ago, I also wanted to be a bodybuilder, but I was not as dedicated to the sport as Alex is,” Eddie said via email. “It is great that Alex is sharing his passion with others. I certainly hope Alex will use the experience he gained in bodybuilding (hard work equals bigger muscle), to apply to his schooling and professional life in the future.”

Despite the size of his physique and meals on his plate, Yeung said he hopes gymgoers and Marketplace passerby alike will not feel intimidated.

“If you are trying to get into bodybuilding or just trying to get into going to the gym, come find me,” Yeung said. “I love helping people out and I will help you.”