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No Ordinary Joe

SELECT Member Joe Buchanan balances running a successful business with being a champion bodybuilder

Joe Buchanan, bodybuilder and electrician

Over the past 40 years, Joe Buchanan has not only built a successful electrical business in his native Ayrshire, he has also crafted a reputation as one of Scotland’s greatest-ever bodybuilders.

In fact, after winning the Scottish Masters championship in 2018 he became the first person to hold that title after previously becoming both Junior Mr Scotland and Mr Scotland.

It’s a mightily impressive track record, especially since he began running his own firm in 2004.

Joe said: “I started as an apprentice with the local council – at that time it was Kilmarnock and Loudon.

“I spent 14 years there before moving to a maintenance role with the Digital Computer Corporation in Ayr. Eventually, they closed down and that’s when I became self-employed.”

Fortunately, he’s been busy since his very first days – “Even through the recession I was snowed under with work,” he says – and business is still full-on, to the extent that he currently has an adult trainee working with him.

He is also an enthusiastic member of SELECT, which he joined approximately 10 years ago: “It’s very useful to keep me up to date with technical developments and new procedures,” he says.

“There are first class training programmes too.”

From skinny to mighty

Joe Buchanan in action at Mr & Miss Scotland. Photo: AllSports Photography

First class training is something that’s also been key to success in his 38-year career in competitive bodybuilding. It all began with lifting weights...

Joe said: “I was a really skinny youngster and actually visited the doctor to see if there was something wrong. Luckily, I got the all clear. My uncle was weight training at that time. I visited the gym with him and that’s how it started.”

Always active and sporty he took to it right away: “The first contests I entered as a schoolboy were weightlifting competitions,” he said. “At 15 I won the Scottish schoolboys weightlifting championships. That was my first national title.

“After moving to bodybuilding I became Junior Mr Scotland in 1982 and Mr Scotland in 1990.”

There have been many more successes along the way too. Joe has competed at UK level, picking up second and third places in the British championships.

Last year’s Masters was extra special. He said: “It was magical when I became the first person to have won these three titles. My wife, Nicola said she’d never forget the moment I was announced as the winner.”

They say that behind every successful man there’s a successful woman – and Joe believes that’s certainly true in his case: “Nicola is at every workout. She’s the backbone of the team who prepares all the food and puts in lots of hard work. She pushes me on and motivates me – I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Being a bodybuilder is a constant work in progress, but one he relishes. Right now, he is ticking over with hour-long visits to the gym four or five times a week.

He said: “You can’t train flat out all year round. It’s like any other sport – you peak for specific events.

“My preparation begins eight months out from a major competition. That’s when I start upping the ante and doing a lot of cardio and gym work, as well as having a restricted diet.

“In the weeks before a competition I train three times a day, six days a week.”

Joe gets even more satisfaction from the sport now than he did when he was younger. He said: “I have competed in all-age competitions against guys half my age and held my own.”

That rewarding feeling

He said the winning feeling has only been surpassed when he has coached others to success. “That’s really rewarding. One person I helped was Michael O’Hanlon. He had just come fifth in Junior Mr Scotland when I met him, but I guided him until he won the overall Mr Britain title. Another competitor I’ve coached is Craig Anderson who went on to win the Mr Scotland title three times.”

Having reached the masters stage –he’s now 57– Joe said he’s taking things year by year. “I’m not competing in 2019. I have a grandson aged two and want to spend more time with him. Next year, we’ll see what happens. Plus, I’ve judged at a high level and might do more of that in the future.”

The only certainty is that there’s no chance of Joe getting out the pipe and slippers. He said: “I’m on a quest to encourage people to never lie down to old age. Far too many young athletes retire at a predetermined age. To me, as long as you have the fire in your belly and the desire to do it you should keep doing what you love.”


Seven meals a day – starting at 5:00am

It takes eight months preparation to work up to a major competition – and that’s when Joe starts getting REALLY serious.

His daily diet during that time consist of seven meals, the first taken at 5.00am. “I eat at three-hourly intervals throughout the day. Meals consist of things like chicken and fish for protein, as well as carbohydrate sources like baked potatoes, rice and oatmeal.”

In total, he consumes between 4,000 and 6,000 calories a day – that’s at least two to three times what would be considered a ‘normal’ daily intake for a male adult.

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