MIKE Nieto is winning on the basketball court again by losing big off the hardwood floor as reflected by the weighing scale.
In the run-up to UAAP Season 79, Ateneo's sophomore forward has been noticeably slimmer this preseason compared to his high school days and in his rookie year with the Blue Eagles, allowing him to play comfortably in the wing position.
Known as ‘Big Mike’ back when he was patrolling the paint for the Blue Eaglets, Nieto soon realized he needed to slim down from his 220-pound, 6-foot-1 built as he struggled to match up against bigger frontlines in the college game.
“I had a hard time kaya wala rin ako masyadong playing time kasi hindi ko tinanggap na dapat magpalit na ako ng position. I had a hard time defending so I decided that I needed to lose weight," said Nieto.
Fortunately for Nieto, his girlfriend Amy Lontoc was a member of the Ateneo track and field varsity squad so he found a coach, guide and inspiration all rolled into one.
"My girlfriend is a track and field athlete so we had a deal na kailangan kong magpapayat. Kaya takbo lang ako ng takbo kasama ng girlfriend ko. Pati ‘yung eating habits niya, ginaya ko," said Nieto, who's been on a no-rice diet during the offseason.
“Specifically, last September, nahirapan ako kasi pinilit ko talaga na kumain ng one (cup of) rice lang kasi saksakan ng dami ako kumain. As the months go by, nakasanayan ko na. October to January, hindi ako nag-rice kahit isa. More on protein ako like chicken. Hindi rin ako masyado nag-ca-carbs," he added.
The results were fantastic.
Nieto lost a total of 36 pounds since he began his weight-loss program, currently weighing in at around 184 pounds. The more important thing about what he did, Nieto said, is that he enjoyed the journey - and was so pleased with the effects.
"Mukhang nakatulong sa akin. Nung una, hindi ko ma-kontrol sarili ko kasi napabilis din ako. Para na akong track and field player kasi bumilis ako, and at the same time, tumaas ang talon ko," Nieto shared.
The lighter and faster Nieto said he can now keep up with quick guards in the college game, something he proved during the preseason tournaments.
"On a positive note, ang sarap ng feeling. Gumaan ang feeling ko. Bumilis ako at nakakasabay na ako sa mga guards na last season, hindi ko masabayan," said Nieto.
Nieto, however, said he has no plans of losing any more pounds as his Ateneo coaches feel that he is exactly in his ideal weight.
"Okay na ako. Ayoko na kasi, baka kapag nag-lose ako, masyado naman ako manipis. Okay na raw. Kahit ‘yung mga coaches, sabi kailangan ko lang i-maintain," said Nieto.