MILFORD, Mass. -- Don't tell Popeye. It turns out you don't need to eat your spinach to get the world's biggest arms.
Massachusetts bodybuilder Moustafa Ismail eats seven pounds of protein, nine pounds of carbohydrates and three gallons of water each day to help maintain upper arms that measure 31 inches around – as big as a small man's waist.
Skeptics say there must also be steroids or some other artificial means behind Ismail's beyond-bulging biceps and triceps, and Guinness World Records is waffling on whether to recognize him.
But he insists they are all-natural, the result of a punishing workout regimen he started after a guest at his uncle's wedding in his native Egypt mocked his overweight frame.
"They call me Popeye, the Egyptian Popeye," Ismail, 24, said while working out in the Boston suburb of Milford. But unlike the cartoon character, "I like chicken, beef, anything but spinach."
It's not easy having the world's biggest arms.
Generous amounts of poultry, seafood and shakes provide the protein he needs to fuel daily two-hour workouts in which he lifts as much as 600 pounds. He also takes mineral and vitamin supplements and drinks plenty of water to flush out his system.
Then there's clothes shopping. The rest of Ismail's body is average, so it's a challenge finding shirts that fit his arms without making him look like a little kid playing dress-up.
Not to mention the controversy that ensued when Guinness decided to recognize him as having the largest upper arm muscles on earth and critics accused him of using steroids or other artificial methods.
He lost a night of sleep but then decided the criticism "is motivation for me – it's not something that's gonna put me down."
Ismail started building his muscles in his Egyptian hometown of Alexandria before moving to the United States in 2007 and settling in Franklin, southwest of Boston. To pay for his gym membership and dietary requirements, he worked two jobs as a gas station attendant, but gave up one after his wife complained that he was pushing himself too hard.
Then Guinness called last fall, offering him an all-expenses-paid trip to London for a signature appearance with the world's shortest woman and others.
He went, but then the controversy started. Strangers claimed online that he used steroids or had implants in his arms. Others speculated that he might have injected his muscles with a synthetic oil substance, synthol, used by bodybuilders to fluff muscle tissues.
"It is hurtful," Ismail said, noting that he has no scars that would have resulted from surgery and that supporting a wife in the U.S. and family members in Egypt doesn't leave him with spare cash to buy pricey synthetic oils.
He even went to Tokyo to appear in a Fuji TV documentary program in which independent doctors collected blood samples and X-rayed his muscles. They found nothing abnormal, he said.
Still, Guinness hastily removed references to Ismail from its website. Spokeswoman Sara Wilcox said in October that Guinness was conducting research with medical specialists and reviewing Ismail's category. She did not respond to emailed questions later seeking details about when Guinness would conclude the review and what it entails.
Some fellow amateur bodybuilders at his gym, however, support Ismail and say they believe his arms are natural.
"When I first saw him I thought `Oh my God, he's a freak' – the big Popeye arms, he's incredible, but he works out hard, so good luck to him," said Janice Vincuilla.
Ismail has lifted as much as 600 pounds but said he doesn't typically focus on how much weight he is hoisting.
"It's not about me lifting heavy weights," he said. "It's about me making the right techniques, even with the light weights, but getting good results out of that."
Latest Nigeria News
- Music teacher and mom-of-five murdered in her home
- Two drivers hurl litter at each other in Scotland
- Jared Kushner will speak to Senate about Russian contacts
- Heart-warming moment seals return to the sea in Cornwall
- London terror attacker tried to run somebody over in 1990s
- Liar tricked terminal patient into thinking she could live
- PM vows Brexit will make UK STRONGER as she meets Sturgeon
- London terror: Family of Kurt Cochran tell of forgiveness
- Massive gold coin worth millions stolen from German museum
- Truck kills three as it runs into group of schoolchildren
- Crenshaw family die in Cessna crash amid Disney World trip
- Marvel unveils lesbian Latina superhero America Chaves
- Sanford shooting spree in Florida sees woman dead
- Polish tree Jewish brothers hide inside named tree of year
- Mother-of-two and her daughter died in a house fire
- Doc doubled girl’s anti-depressants a month before suicide
- Police spy on motorists from the top deck of buses
- Call for 'back door' into messages is branded 'impossible'
- Dinosaur tracks found in 'Australia's Jurassic Park'
- France seeks a THIRD life sentence for Carlos the Jackal
- Boy, 7, who raised £41,000 to be buried next to mum dies
- Conman, 34, fleeced horse lovers out of £280,000
- PICTURED: Mother-of-two 'attacked with an axe by husband'
- Cyclone Debbie now Category 4 storm in Queensland
- Heavenly home! £650,000 chapel home has graveyard garden
- Britain's smallest house to be turned into hotel
- Is massive dam about to collapse and flood Raqqa?
- Chinese man is crushed to death between train and platform
- Trump says illegal border crossings are 'way down'
- Hizb Ut-Tahrir leader: Ex-Muslims should be put to death
- Physics student on walk is detained during Russian protest
- Conservative pundit Tomi Lahren axed from The Blaze
- Haunting images show everyday life in Magdalene Laundries
- Toddler visits beach for 1st time and can’t stop squealing
- Sydney bar Suey Sins accused of being 'racist and sexist'
- Couple demand apology after postman 'kicked' arthritic dog
- Hairdresser left with HUGE bruise after Menorca hotel fall
- Police search beneath M53 for body of missing man
- Ex-Royal Marine threw lover onto a pile of boxes
- Mother owns every £1 coin design ever made by Royal Mint