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A disciplined champion

At 16, Mustafa Kabbani lived in Saudi Arabia and had no interest in working out.

Today the sophomore nutrition and food science major at CSU is the reigning overall champion of the Pacific USA XVIII bodybuilding contest, held Aug. 18, 2012 in San Diego, Calif.


He’s one of the top bodybuilders in the U.S., and, as Kabbani puts it, his transformation (both physical and otherwise) came about not from wanting to change his appearance, but to socialize.

“One of my friends was kind of heavy and he told me he wanted to go to the gym and get a membership to lose weight,” Kabbani recalled of his life in Saudi Arabia.

Kabbani, more interested in hanging out with friends and having fun than working out, reluctantly joined his friend at the gym that day. It ended up changing his life.

“I looked around at everyone and was shocked,” Kabbani said. “I had never seen stuff like that (weightlifting) before.”

He couldn’t sleep that night.

“The next day in the morning I went to the gym and got the membership,” he said.

As it turns out, Kabbani’s friend never got the membership. When Kabbani encountered him six years later, his friend told him he looked like a different person.

After winning about five bodybuilding competitions in Saudi Arabia, Kabbani moved to the U.S. in 2010 to attend CSU.

Since then he has won two competitions including the Colorado State Championships in his class and the overall title at Pacific USA.


Every day, Kabbani eats nine meals. Each one consists of about 60 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrates. Between meals, Kabbani also takes supplements such as amino acids.

His training consists of three separate hour-long trips to the gym in one day, five days per week.

“I also have my home trainer,” Kabbani said. “He’s a person who can check out and see if I’m doing everything right, if I look good, if I should change something.”

Kabbani’s trainer, Chris Havekost, comes to see him every two weeks to check on his progress, as well as talks to him every few days to make sure his diet and training is staying on par.

“It’s hard for me to do everything by myself,” Kabbani said. “Sometimes I see myself and I say ‘I look good’ and the next day I see myself and I say “No, I don’t look good.’”

Havekost, owner of Iron Prodigy bodybuilding coaching company, approached Kabbani about two years ago when he saw him at 24 Hour Fitness.

“I just knew he was going to be something special,” Havekost said. “The reason I approached him is I think if Mustafa can stay focused he’ll be one of the best in the world.”

According to Havekost, Kabbani is successful in bodybuilding because he is very genetically gifted, trains very hard and is disciplined with his diet and supplements year round.

His commitment to the sport, however, has made the most difference.

“He left a really great job and his family to chase his dream of becoming a bodybuilder,” Havekost said.

Kabbani’s next step is preparing for the Arnold Classic amateur bodybuilding contest in March in Columbus, Ohio.

“If I look the way I want I’m going to do it next year,” Kabbani said. “If not, it’s going to be March 2014.”

Pamela Bishop, key adviser in the School of Social Work, met Kabbani when he began dating her daughter, who also does bodybuilding.

“He’s just the most disciplined human being I’ve ever met in my life,” Bishop said. “He’s a really good role model. I have a 15-year-old son and he just loves spending time with him.”

According to, there are about 300 professional male bodybuilders in the world.

“I think really the only reason you would get involved in bodybuilding is if you fell in love with the sport,” Havekost said. “It’s a lot of sacrifice and commitment unless it’s something you’re already drawn too.”

Collegian Writer Emily Smith can be reached at

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