Lying on the floor of a flat in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove isn’t normally the place you would expect to find a European Bodybuilding Champion, but two weeks out from attempting to defend the title he won last year, that’s exactly where Stuart, or Stu Mac as he is known in the bodybuilding world, found himself.
After another day of high cardio, high training and strict dieting to get his body in the best possible condition for the WBFF European Championships, Stu was balled up on the floor, teeth clenched, light-headed and panicking after even temporarily losing the sight in one eye.
He admits himself to reaching for his mobile phone more than once, unlocking the screen to call an ambulance, before having second thoughts and placing the phone away again.
Fast forward two weeks and the pain, the agony, the fear and the word he uses himself ‘the murder’ of the training and dieting schedule pays huge dividends as our boy Stu Mac – from our own Stornoway – retains the WBFF European Title setting more history in the process.
“It has happened a couple of times now and this time was pretty scary as I even lost the sight out of one eye,” explained Stuart to the Gazette as he reflected on the run up to the European Championships.
“In the run up to competitions I have no fat left for fuel and I’m on a high cardio, high training and I would estimate running on a calorie deficit of 4,000 a day. It is murder to be honest but having won it might just be worth it.
“I would say it is likely the first time a Scotsman has ever won the European Title and if not it is without doubt the first time a Scotsman has ever retained it.”
As he his second European gold gong in a row was draped around his thick, muscular neck, with his proud mother Helen the proudest person in the crowd whooping with delight, the 32-year-old was feeling back on top of the world as the toast of his peers as WBFF Pro European Champion and the memories of his agonising blood sugar crash a distant memory – almost.
“It was so hard and I don’t know if I will go for three-in-a-row. A hat-trick would be nice but thinking about it maybe I could present it instead next year,” he adds with a warm laugh.
“Now all I want to do is all the things I haven’t been able to do when I’ve been training and dieting so hard like play golf, boxing and do a bit of travelling. I’m going to Thailand for five weeks in January which I can’t wait for.”
Stuart was always a keen, and capable, footballer as he turned out for Point on home soil here in the Hebrides and earned regular call-ups to the Lewis and Harris Select while still in his teenage years.
But he switched from lacing up to oiling up as he made the leap into bodybuilding almost by chance after leafing through a copy of bodybuilding magazine FLEX one day and being curious enough to learn more.
There was one bodybuilder who quickly became a particular inspiration to Stu who set out to follow in the footprints of international fitness model, Jaco De Bruyn.
Initially Stu felt becoming the ‘next Jaco De Bruyn’ was something out with his reach but just six years later and it can be argued he has surpassed the man who was initially his idol but who has since become his friend with the pair planning on spending New Year together in Jaco’s native South Africa.
“The president of the WBFF said on stage when I retained the European title that I’ve outdone Jaco now which was crazy to hear,” said Stu.
“Jaco was such an inspiration to me when I began but he didn’t win titles like I have so as weird as it is to say maybe he is right and I have.
“It is a cliché to say it is hard to put into words what it was like to hear a comment like that but it was simply unbelievable.”
Stu has sacrificed so much in his pursuit of bodybuilding glory and he has had more than his fair share of injuries including the most infamous and gruesome when he burst a vein in his leg that required the whole vein to be removed from groin down to ankle.
At the turn of 2018 Stu, or the Hebridean Hulk as we have tagged him in the past, achieved his professional card and his dreams of continental glory quickly followed as he took gold at the WBFF European last November.
He of course repeated the trick this time around with result which he says was ‘better than he could have ever dreamt’ but he has also aimed even higher and impressed in the Pro Male Fitness Model category on the global stage at the WBFF 2019 World Championship which took place in the Bahamas.
“I was aiming to try and finish in the top ten so to go to the Bahamas and place fourth was amazing,” he said.
“To be honest I’m absolutely buzzing about how it went. I’ve only been bodybuilding really for five or six years and I didn’t expect to do so well at all.
“I think I’ve just got good genetics and that’s what it really just boils down to. Having played football all my days back home in Lewis also helps a lot.
“I still play 5-a-sides in Glasgow, I love it, but when I’m bulking up it can be hard to keep up although I am pretty heavy and hard to knock off the ball. Yeah I’ve still got it,” he grins.
His transformation from a shy and skinny footballer, and from a maths graduate which took him through university and with a detour to the prestigious Mensa tests where his IQ earned him an invitation to join, to a European bodybuilding champion with the physique to make Hulk Hogan cover up in his prime is an inspiring tale of determination, blood, sweat and a refusal to give anything but everything he has in his tank.
Others can follow in his footsteps to personal glory, he believes. As he looks back on his own journey from skinny Stornoway lad kicking a ball up and down the street to winning gold on a European, he muses: “anybody can achieve their own dreams.”
“It’s about mixing your own determination with hard work and if you focus on yourself and really work hard then I think amazing things can happen – like it has for me.”