Tempe Challenge

Tempe Challenge Week 0-3

This is what makes me start writing a blog. I hope this blog can provide the informations on how #tempechallenge is done, a bodybuilding effort using tempe, affordable traditional food of Indonesia.

How It Begun

I ended up getting tempe as a bodybuilding supplement because:
1. Could not afford to buy protein supplements
2. Allergic to milk protein, causing acne
3. Could not dedicate my self in affording and consuming chicken meat of beef for daily basis (high in price and hardly found in daily home dishes)

As a biotechnology bachelor student, I had been taught to access trustable information source in scientific world, i.e. journal article: a premier source of informations written by researchers to document their research results. So I was used to browse informations about effective body building principles, including recommended foods for body building.

The purpose of building is different for each person, but commonly it is to build more muscle and lose more fat. And generally, recommended foods are those with high protein, and low fat. I found tempe has that core characteristics (18 g protein, 4 g fat in 100 g usually), and even more! Through literature researches I summarised that tempe also has the vitamin B12 which had only been found in animal products. The vitamin is good for cell replication and growth, making your body parts renewed well and in the end can make you age slower. And the most important thing is tempe is affordable, I can easily find it in my daily home dishes as an Indonesian.

I shared these informations, but surprisingly not so many people believe. Okay, I was used to hear my friends researched about tempe this, tempe that. Biotechnology students had a pretty good image on tempe, the indigenous fermented food is fabulous here. Unfortunately, it looks like tempe is still looked down as a “minimalist” food.

Sharing those benefits of tempe would be beneficial for many people, that is what I had in mind. People don’t have to spend much money on providing lean meats everyday and they may reduce the dose of those bodybuilding supplements, while getting bonus in ageing slower!

So I decided to make my self as a guinea pig in order to show people that tempe really can give a help to our bodybuilding strive.

How It Was Done

Diet. I took 1 fist-size (approx. 100 g) of tempe everyday. Thin-sliced and grilled in oven for 7 minutes so it turns crispy and tasty by the caramelisation reaction. I ate it by plain, salted, or with honey. Even raw sometimes.

I used tempe as a supplement, not as replacement for my diet. It’s kind of extra protein source. I ate normally, 6 small portions of Indonesian home dishes (mostly Javanese) with proportion of 1:1:1 of carbohydrate:vegetable:protein-source. I just found the proportion tastes really good for my tongue back then.

Exercise. I do not go to gym, since I always had lower-back problem after liftings. So I do these exercises 3 rounds until failure, every 3 days:
1. Push up
2. Hindu push up
3. Pull up
4. Plank
5. Side plank

I also do relax swimming and morning run for the other every 3 days. Just because I love it hahaha.

Documentation. I did the program for 3 months strict in November 2014 and posted progress photo every week in my Instagram account @driando (as I want to show people that tempe works, I had to go against my nature. Never had any idea to post any shirtless photo if it was not for this).

How It Felt

I really could feel tempe increases the muscle mass without giving more fat to my body. However, it was not as fast as if we use protein milk supplements. It is normal since the protein content and proportion are way different, tempe is a daily food for now.

What’s notably for my self is, that fist-size daily dose was too much for me. I got slight increase in acne in the third week. Too much is never good, this is what I found too when eating eggs more than 2 in one eating time. However, half-a-fist size works fine for me.

How It Turns Out

Surprisingly, quite many people noticed the tempe-based bodybuilding idea. And their questions are the reason I’m writing this blog.

However, there are several doubts on tempe because of its phytoestrogen content. It makes some people scared that they will more likely to be female-ish due to that estrogen-like hormone.

I dug scientific literatures out again and did not find any that says phytoestrogen will cause hormone-stimulated alterations in men. Not in soy, moreover in tempe.

How It Continued

Eating tempe in that amount and similar style everyday did make my tongue bored. I consciously notice that I did #tempechallenge as a proving campaign. As a person I realise I need variations of foods in my days.

So I continued the challenge but through consuming different types of cooked tempe, including fried ones. As I travelled to Yogyakarta and its surroundings to prepare the International Conference on Tempe 2015, I found so many variations of tempe. Really helped out to enjoy tempe this time. The 2 weeks trial contributed this result:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.30.51 PM

Those various cooking styles of course made the variables less valid in scientific context, but I found that eating tempe in its various cooking styles still helped me to increase the muscle mass, even though it was not as lean as eating just grilled tempe everyday.

The Viral

The challenge has not gone viral, only my little brother (@sergio_and on Instagram) joined me. Please post your progress in #tempechallenge hashtags when you give a try. We are not showing off right, we share the good news, so don’t be hesitate 🙂


I personally encourage everyone to give a try on using tempe as a lean protein source for muscle building or lean body maintenance. However, not every single our bodies’s response on foods we eat has been researched. Keep listen to our body because everyone has a different DNA code hence different metabolism and responses to food. Let’s find our own dose, our own style, our own equilibrium.

I hope this sharing will be beneficial and ideally be a solution for reaching everyone’s image of ideal body, and also promoting Indonesia’s very cool food which has been looked down.

Salam tempe!

Any question? Please e-mail driando.ahnan@gmail.com, I will sum the useful infos to be posted later.

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