Khaled Found His Inner Warrior
When Khaled Amer, aka "The Spartan Bodybuilder," decided to use strength training to pull himself out of a deep depression, he helped his family become healthier as well.
It's impossible to ignore Khaled Amer sporting his gladiator helmet, bright red cape, and superhero-esque briefs as he walks around the streets of town making his YouTube videos. As he flexes and struts around with an almost royal swagger—posing for photos and greeting passersby and fans alike—it's hard to imagine where he was just a few short years prior.
Khaled had always been interested in fitness and staying active, but he never took it that seriously. He trained on and off, lifted weights, and ran a couple of times a week. However, he never really thought about achieving a larger goal. It wasn't until he found himself imprisoned in a dark pit of depression that "The Spartan Bodybuilder" broke free.
This is Khaled's story.
What led to your "aha" moment?
From childhood, I've been a happy person. However, depression fell on me due to a culmination of negative events and some painful hardships in my personal life. I became isolated, and I felt I was missing everything in life while others were enjoying their best days. My body weight yo-yoed erratically, and my workouts became a struggle. I didn't progress, not even a little.
As if things weren't bad enough, I constantly felt dizzy and deprived of energy at the gym. During the peak of my depression, my father was diagnosed with cancer. Immediately thereafter, my mother found out she had a large fibroid tumor. At that point, saying I was deeply depressed would have been an understatement.
Weight: 146 lbs.
Body Fat: 10%
Weight: 182 lbs.
Body Fat: 7%
You could basically say I gave up on everything in life. With my parents both dangerously sick, my morale felt lower than the deepest ocean bottom. That's when I did the thing that would forever alter my future: I took a stand.
When you say you "took a stand," what do you mean by that?
I realized I had to make a choice: I could fall down and be completely destroyed by my circumstances, or I could pick myself up and try to take a step forward. I started to look at life differently.
I became more focused on how to achieve goals. I decreased my fear of failure. I decided to achieve my dreams, regardless of anything else. One of those dreams was to transform my body.
How did you accomplish your goals?
Even when I was depressed, I never stopped lifting. Bodybuilding was my refuge. Still, feeling almost completely mentally destroyed, and feeling very lightheaded in the gym, didn't make things easy. I started to search for and experiment with the best possible methods to build my body. Focusing on achieving my goal was critical.
Considering my super-low energy state, I didn't follow any typical methods. Instead, I was adapting and changing my routine as needed in order to nail down what worked best for me. I'd try something, and based on results, I either kept the routine or tried another. It was as simple as that.
By focusing on and visualizing the end results, I started to reach my goal. People around me started to notice the differences in my physique. Some who had never lifted a dumbbell in their life wanted now to join a gym. My mental health, although not fully recovered, started to improve.
The people closest to me became happy for me, thereby making them happier. Sure, I trained to build muscle, but the core reason was to improve my wellbeing and overall mentality.
Did low energy hamper your efforts at all?
Sometimes my energy level was so low that I was literally close to passing out in the gym. I just wrote off bad days as inopportune times to train, and instead of forcing the issue, came back the next time ready to fight.
Skipping one workout was an option, but giving up was not. As long as I continued to try again, failure didn't mean much. Instead, failure became another step on the path to success.
Who inspires you?
I get inspiration from all the successful people who had to grind their way to success. My biggest inspiration, however, lies inside of me. I am my greatest and final motivational source. My past and what I've overcome is a neverending fountain of inspiration. My belief in what I will achieve is what drives me. I accept that I may fail, but I also know I will keep going.
What helped me the most was that I believed 100% that I would get bigger. I listened to music that motivated me and just visualized my body growing. As cliché as it sounds, loving what I did helped me power through the fatigue.
What aspect of your transformation challenged you the most?
The supplementation and diet tracking was never a problem for me, and the motivation for training was always there. The biggest challenge by far was fighting the lightheadedness and lack of energy in the gym. Every time, before entering the gym, I'd assess my energy level. Dizziness challenged me the most.
To cope with that, I basically stopped lifting extremely heavy with very high intensity, and I tested other methods. I eventually settled on moderately heavy weights, shorter rest periods, and strict form, which allowed me to keep the number of reps the same throughout the sets. All muscles were trained 2-3 times a week.
How is your family doing now? Is depression still a battle for you?
They're much better! My mother is completely recovered. My father still fights some day-to-day digestion issues post-surgery, but otherwise he's absolutely fine!
What's cool is that my newfound knowledge of nutrition actually helped him handle digestive issues. I had him take some digestive enzymes and space smaller meals over the course of the day, rather than eating big portions in one sitting, and his digestive problems lessened.
In terms of depression, it's still a grind today. I have a lot to improve. I feel worse some days than others. However, my current state now is much better than it was. The closer I get to achieving my goals, the better I feel.
Any suggestions for aspiring transformers?
You can achieve far more right now than you might think. Success takes believing in your goals, planning them out, and sticking to them. I don't know it all, but I've learned that not only can you overcome hardships and obstacles in your life, but that in some cases, these hardships can actually propel you out into a brighter world! Never give up.
You often wear a warrior uniform in your profile pictures and YouTube videos. What is the significance of this outfit?
I love to wear ancient warrior suits. Right now, I only wear it for the fun of posing, and don't have any immediate plans for stepping on stage. Not only is it cool, but wearing a warrior suit—for me at least—can be regarded as powerful symbol of being a fighter in any battle in your life. In my opinion, the suit actually represents a battle with myself to overcome my own fears.
What are your future fitness plans?
I plan to achieve my dream physique by building overall mass. I might compete in the near future if I nail down some parts of my physique— mostly carving out my hamstrings and upper pecs and developing a more pronounced V-taper.
Outside of the gym, I might venture into using my short films to help promote a healthy lifestyle; look for the warrior suit in an upcoming, inspirational video.