The secret life of a bodybuilder

The birth of a bodybuilder

Have you ever wondered how to get the body of a builder? Many people are fascinated by the lifestyle these people lead. This week we’ve learnt all about how to train like a bodybuilder. Nadine comes into the USC office every day at 9am and from her quiet demeanour you’d never know what Nadine gets up to outside the office.

Nadine wears leggings or jeans, long-sleeve tops and not much makeup. She looks like a healthy, happy young woman. However, underneath that modest demeanour, Nadine is totally and utterly… shredded. We’re talking 8-pack, bulging biceps, legs of steel. For the last two years Nadine has dedicated her entire life to bodybuilding. This is her story…  

The build up

As a teenager Nadine would flick through the pages of fitness magazines, dreaming that one day she’d look like one of those women. “I’d done sports since I was a little kid,” she says. “I started with gymnastics and jazz dance; I was always active. I like to move.”

From the age of 18 to 23 Nadine regularly went to the gym. “I didn’t really have a plan. I wanted to gain muscle but nothing happened and I never looked at what I was eating.”

Many of us fall into this fitness trap – we put in the time but don’t get the results we want. “I was never happy with my body. Never.” Nadine says. “But I think that’s normal for women. I thought I could never look the way I wanted.”

When life gives you lemons… get shredded


After she completed her Bachelor’s degree Nadine moved to Berlin. Then something happened that changed the course of her entire life. “I injured my left hand and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t work or train. All I could do was rest all day long. It gave me time to think hard about what I want – what my goals are.”

Ever since she’d flicked through the pages of those magazines Nadine had a secret dream. “It was always a life goal for me to go on stage,” Nadine says. “I don’t know why but I just love muscles.” Nadine had just turned 28. She knew that if she was ever going to achieve her dream she was going to have to start right now. “That moment I decided I was going to be a bodybuilder.”

But she needed someone to show her the way. Nadine used the time she was injured to do some research. She wrote to several bodybuilding coaches in Berlin and one coach wrote back. Michael Williams is from Berlin’s Bodybuilding association Berlin IFBB. He has over twenty years experience on-stage as a bodybuilder and training other athletes. He and his wife compete together at the World Bodybuilding Championships.

The following week Nadine and Michael met for a chat over a Diet Coke. “He asked me what my goals are and what I hoped to achieve. It felt good to tell him what I wanted – saying it out loud made it more real.” Michael wrote down a weekly four-day exercise plan days:
Day one – chest and triceps.
Day 2 – back and biceps.
Day 3 – complete back.
Day 4 – legs.
Michael came with Nadine once a month to show her the movements but otherwise she trained alone.

“At the beginning it was horrible. I was so nervous to walk into the weight area by myself with all those huge men pumping big weights. The first week I just cried in the gym because I thought I couldn’t do it.”

But with a little support from friends and family Nadine slowly started to gain confidence. “After two or three months I got used to it and then I started to love it.” But seeing results took a long time. “It took six months before I could see the difference I hoped for, especially in my upper body. And a lot of that was because of nutrition.”

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition

“You can’t build muscles if you only eat salad,” Nadine says. “You need to gain weight first, build muscles and then you go on a diet and get shredded. It’s always the same pattern.” Michael created a nutritional plan for Nadine that slowly introduced her body to a new way of eating. Because Nadine wanted to compete in bodybuilding competitions she had to follow this diet plan to a tee.

No cheat-days, no chocolate, no cake, no alcohol. Nothing. “By the end I only ate protein – just chicken and vegetables. No fruit. Even protein shakes had too much sugar and fat.”

In the lead-up to the competition Nadine’s meal plan looked a little like this:
Breakfast: Chicken
Lunch: Chicken and vegetables
Dinner: Chicken, vegetables and an optional egg

Surely that must have been painfully dull? “No,” she says firmly. “It didn’t matter. At the end of the day I wanted that body so I did what I had to do.” Nadine had never been a big drinker and she’s not a big foodie. “ For 18 months I pretty much ate the same thing every day. Pasta, rice, vegetables, chicken.”

Nadine’s parents weren’t big fans of the idea. “They said I would ruin my body and that it’s not healthy. And when I sent them pictures before the competition they thought I was too thin. I think me changing so much scared them.”

Nadine fully acknowledges that bodybuilding is not something you can only half commit to. You need to dedicate your entire life to it. “At the beginning it was four times a week so I had enough time to meet friends and I’d go out at the weekend. But now I just prefer to go training. It’s a hardcore diet and lifestyle. This is how I live. It’s my entire life.”

The competition

After 18 months of training Nadine competed in May last year at the Berlin Bodybuilding Championships. She hired a make-up artist and straightened her beautiful curly hair to make sure that nothing distracted from the star of the show: her body.

“I only spent ten minutes on stage,” Nadine remembers. “It was really funny because I didn’t look like me – I looked like a stage Barbie.” Nadine had no idea who she’d be up against on the day. “There were four of us competing. The other girls were much slimmer than me – so I knew I’d either get first or last place.”

Much to her dismay, Nadine came in fourth in her category. And, despite working so hard to get there, she’s very good-natured about it. “Last season the girls were much more like me so maybe I got the wrong competition. You never know who else is coming or what look the jury prefer.”

Nadine had followed a strict diet and training plan for the last 18 months. “The day after the competition I ate burgers, ice cream, waffles, pizza. I ate a lot. I gained 8 kilos in one month… my body needed the energy. It was hard to get back to normal life after the competition. I worked so hard for that body and then it was gone in a month. You can’t be shredded like that the whole time. Your body needs water and vitamins. No one can look like that all the time. It’s only for the stage.”  

Gaining more than just muscle

Nadine doesn’t show off her body. In fact, if it wasn’t for her Instagram I would never have known she’s a bodybuilder. She doesn’t even mention it in conversation. Personally I’d be walking around in a bikini 100% of the time but Nadine actively seems to hide her body.

“I never show too much skin,” she says. “I don’t need to. I do this for myself and to feel good in my body. My girlfriends say to me – “Wear crop tops! You have a six pack!” But that’s not me. I don’t need attention. Now I just feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I can’t tell you the difference between two years ago and now. I feel like a different person.”

Not everyone aspires towards the bodybuilding look, but Nadine has always admired it. Her story shows that with discipline and hard work you can achieve anything you set your mind to. “I learnt that if you truly want something in your heart and you work hard then anything is possible. And now when there’s a situation that scares me I just think Do it! You’re a bodybuilder, you can do it! Nothing scares me anymore.”

Who’d have guessed it; bodybuilding makes you strong in more ways than one.   

Feeling inspired? Urban Sports Club has tons of personal training partners across Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Take a look at our site to see what’s on in your area.

And check out Nadine’s favourite place to train, Berlin Strength, to get started on your journey whatever your goals are.  


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