(AP) -- Moustafa Ismail of Massachusetts says having arms as wide as an adult man's waist comes with plenty of unexpected challenges, including difficulty in finding shirts whose sleeves would fit his 31-inch muscles without dwarfing his 5-foot-11 frame.
The eye-popping biceps and triceps, Ismail says, are a result of a punishing workout regime that began after a guest at his uncle's wedding mocked his overweight frame in his native Egypt. More than a decade later, the 24-year-old bodybuilder says he was surprised by recognition in the 2013 edition of the Guinness World Records as owner of the largest upper-arm muscles on earth.
"They call me Popeye, the Egyptian Popeye," an amused Ismail said of the media reaction after the announcement in September. But unlike the cartoon character, he smiled and said softly, "I like chicken, beef, anything but spinach."
Poultry, seafood and shakes provide nearly seven pounds of protein he needs every day to nourish the massive muscles, Ismail said while working out at the gym in the Boston suburb of Milford. About nine pounds of carbohydrates, at least three gallons of water as well as various mineral and vitamin supplements account for the remaining sources of sustenance, he says.
"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," Ismail said. "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."
Ismail quietly begun building his muscles in his Egyptian hometown of Alexandria before moving to the United States in 2007 and settling in the Massachusetts town of Franklin, located about 27 miles southwest of Boston. 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 Colombian wife complained that he was pushing himself too hard.
And then Guinness World Records came calling, offering him an all-expenses-paid trip to London for a signature appearance with the world's shortest woman and other anomalies highlighting the latest edition of world records.
Ismail said he was stunned by a barrage 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 known as synthol that is used by bodybuilders to artificially fluff muscular tissues.
"It is hurtful," Ismail says of the criticism from people who've never met him and don't even know him personally. "I have feelings too, like, I feel like ... if someone, like, (is) accusing me of wrong stuff, it hurts me, like, inside."