MILFORD, Mass.-- They call him the Egyptian Popeye.
That’s because Moustafa Ismail’s upper arms are as big as many people’s waists.
The Massachusetts resident has eye-popping biceps and triceps, and his upper arms measure 31 inches around!
His physique is a result of an intense workout regime that began when he was a teen. A guest at a wedding in his native Egypt mocked his overweight frame, and Moustafa began his fitness quest.
More than a decade later, the 24 year old bodybuilder has pumped himself up to an amazing size.
And it paid off. This fall, Guinness World Records awarded him the title of having the largest upper-arm muscles on earth.
Despite the "Popeye" nickname, Moustafa doesn't eat spinach! But enormous amounts of poultry, seafood and shakes provide nearly seven pounds of protein the bodybuilder needs every day to nourish his massive muscles. He also takes in lots of of carbs, at least three gallons of water, as well as various mineral and vitamins.
"Bottom line, like, you have to drink a lot of, like, water, to take care of your kidneys, like, to make all your systems clean," Moustafa says. "Because if you drink a lot of, like, proteins, a lot of vitamins, there's a lot of stress on your system, you need to wash all of this by at least three gallons of water every day."
Moustafa quietly began building his muscles in his Egyptian hometown of Alexandria before moving to the United States in 2007 and settling in the Boston suburb of Franklin.
Keen to pay for his gym membership and hefty dietary requirements, he worked two jobs as a gas station attendant for several years. He gave up one job after his wife complained that he was pushing himself too hard.
His arms continued to grow, and his appearance drew admiration and attention.
But his size had some drawbacks. He sound found that for a guy with a tremendous torso like his, shopping was no easy task.
“It’s like a challenge for me to go and buy a shirt from normal store,” Moustafa says. “I have to look for two or three hours in the store before I buy anything. If I put it on in the store it gets ripped.”
Earlier this fall, Guinness World Records offered him an all expenses paid trip to London for a signature appearance with the world's shortest woman and other record breakers.
But it wasn’t long after that trip, before some of the attention turned negative.
Moustafa said he was stunned by an onslaught of allegations from strangers who claimed that he either used steroids or had implants in his arms. Others speculated that he might have injected his muscles with a synthetic oil substance used by bodybuilders to artificially fluff muscular tissues.
He vehemently denies the use of steroids or artificial aids.
"I have been getting a lot of bad comments about people who have been saying I'm using implants or I did surgeries for implants or I use, inject myself with oil substance, which makes my arms that big,” he says. “But they reality is I did the tests, the ultrasound test. I did the x-ray test. I did a blood test which proved that I have nothing unnatural.”
The criticism prompted Guinness officials to hastily removed references to Moustafa’s record on its website. Spokeswoman Sara Wilcox said in October that Guinness was conducting research with medical specialists and reviewing Moustafa’s category. She did not respond to questions later seeking details on when Guinness is likely to conclude the review and what it entails.
Some fellow amateur bodybuilders, however, support Moustafa, and say they believe his arms are natural.
"He's very nice guy, he always has a smile on his face when you say hi,” said Janice Vincuilla, a former bodybuilder who works out with Moustafa. “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."
Moustafa says he respects the rights of the critics to voice their opinion. “It’s motivation for me. It’s not something that's going to put me down,” he says.
Despite the massive amount of weight he can shoulder, Moustafa insists he is not just a weightlifter. "It's not about me lifting heavy weights. It's about me making the right techniques, even with the light weights, but getting good results out of that," he said.