A Hull woman who needed to rebuild muscle after a painful knee injury has transformed into an award-winning bodybuilder earning the Miss Universe title.
Charley Alexander, 27, started her body building journey six years ago and has since gained several amateur titles. Charley, from east Hull, was recently awarded professional status when she became Miss Universe in the PCA Athletic Figure competition.
She has hit out at the misconception that female bodybuilders lose their femininity when they train their muscles and has insisted that “strong is the new sexy”. She said her body building journey started with a simple compliment in the gym.
Read more: Dad shocked by picture of himself at family meal makes incredible transformation
Charley said: “I had just started going to the gym because I had to stop doing other sports from a knee injury. I was approached by another gym goer who told me I had the shape to be a really good bodybuilder.
“I was really surprised by this because I wasn’t big at all but I was encouraged to research what it was all about. Like any woman going into the sport, I was worried about losing my femininity and becoming almost too big, but I realized there are so many different classes and it takes so long to get to the stage we all imagine when we think of a bodybuilder.”
Over the next six years, Charley started to place in amateur shows and this year, she earned the title of Miss Universe and became a professional.
Charley has now offered advice for anyone nervous of stepping foot into a gym. She said: “I would definitely say to go with somebody if you are nervous. The other person might be in the same boat as you or have more experience but it will build your confidence to work out together at first.
“People really underestimate how helpful the gym staff will be. Try to pluck up the courage to ask them how to use a machine or what machines to use to achieve your goals, and they won’t hesitate to show you.
“There’s also YouTube that gives you great ideas about what workouts to do and the proper techniques on how to do them. Start off by doing whatever you feel comfortable with and then build up your confidence by trying new things.”
Charley says “consistency is key” to getting the best results in the gym. She said: “Rome wasn’t built in a day! It is usually 8-12 weeks before you will start to notice any results.
“You also need to go at least three days a week and really stick to a routine to notice physical changes. Remember that you are your own worst critic so others will probably notice your results before you do.
“Once you start to see results, that’s when going to the gym becomes infectious because you just want to keep the progress going. It is also really important to show up on the hard days because they’re the days that count the most.”
As a bodybuilder with an extremely low body fat percentage, Charley wants to bust the myth that not eating is an effective way to lose weight. In fact, she says that not eating is the worst thing to do when you’re trying to lose fat.
She said: “The best thing you can do when trying to lose fat is to eat as often as possible- five or six times a day at least. They don’t have to be large meals, you can have a banana or some porridge as one of them but eating as often as possible speeds up your metabolism, which burns fat.
“If you are prone to skipping breakfast, your body almost goes into starvation mode and clings onto fat because it doesn’t know when it will get it’s next meal. If you have a regular supply of energy coming in, your body doesn’t need to store as much fat to function properly.
“Aside from eating regular, controlled portions, I would advise just eating as clean as possible. Plenty of protein and veggies are necessary but don’t dismiss carbs altogether.
“Many have the misconception that carbs are the enemy but they are a great fast-burning energy source that makes them great to eat before a workout. Your meals don’t have to be bland but definitely swap to things like low-calorie sauce and low-calorie drinks to make sure you aren’t consuming lots of hidden calories.
“As a bodybuilder, I also weigh all of my food to make sure I am consuming the right amount of maintenance calories because even the healthiest food can contain a lot if you don’t get the portions right.”
Charley is a natural bodybuilder, which means she hasn’t taken any steroids to achieve her look. Although steroids are far more common in the male community, she has seen plenty of women rely on steroids to get as big as possible.
She said: “There is a huge misconception that everyone in the sport takes steroids and it is true that some people do, especially in the men’s competition. However, you don’t need them to become successful, it just takes longer.
“I don’t use any sort of enhancement drugs, and it has taken six years for me to gain around seven kilos of muscle but on steroids, it would have probably taken about one year. I think a lot of people take them because they are impatient and want results as fast as possible.
“It does upset me when I see people take steroids but especially when I see other women take steroids. The side effects can be so damaging and women go through things like infertility, hair loss and a change in their jaw shape when they take them.
“Often, people don’t research enough about them and the effects are irreversible. I’ve won British titles without them, so it is absolutely possible to do well naturally.”