In recounting during a conversation the other day how he’d come to place third in a recent men’s physique show in New York City, a finish that has qualified him to compete in national shows and has opened doors to a professional modeling career, Beni Shoshi said, “The key is dieting.”
The ebullient Kosova-born 24-year-old business owner said it was his trainer, Chris Cosich of the East Hampton Gym, who clued him into this when he went to him to train at the beginning of last summer.
“My friends would say ‘You must be doing 1,000 sit-ups to get those six-pack abs,’ but in my workouts I just do 5 to 10 minutes of stomach exercises. Most of it is diet. Chris Cosich knows all about nutrition, and I just listened to what he said. I did everything he told me to do, and I finished third in my first show, out of 65 contestants. . . . He’s proud of me. Most people who come to him and say they want to be ‘cut’ don’t follow through, he told me.”
Thus, for the three months leading up to the show, pizza, burgers, Coca-Cola, and six packs of beer were out and skinless chicken, white fish, steamed vegetables, and water — frequently gallons of it — were in, said the 5-foot-8-inch Shoshi, tabbed by Cosich, a bodybuilder himself, to have more potential as a competitor in men’s physique, “a new and fast-growing sport.”
“The judges don’t want to see borderline bodybuilding. If you’re veiny they mark you down, though they do want to see that you’re cut. There’s no flexing. They’re looking for a more natural look and how you come across, your presentation. . . . You’re judged on your face, everything . . . weight doesn’t make a difference . . . it’s your shape, the look. . . .”
To get to this point — 10 pounds of muscle have been added to what had been a lean frame — was not been easy, said Shoshi. “I had to completely change my lifestyle, not only my diet, but I stopped hanging out with my friends. They wondered what was going on, but [not wanting to set himself up for a fall] I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing.”
The work ethic was certainly there. “I think I grew up quicker than my friends,” said the young interviewee, who, along with his family, came to America from war-torn Kosova. “We had to start fresh, building up was not easy. But we are a very close-knit family and we made it happen. I’m very fortunate to be here.”
“My uncle, Tasim Kastrati, was the maitre d’ at Gordon’s restaurant [in Amagansett] and I started in the kitchen dishwashing when I was 13. In a few years I was the face of the floor, helping to manage things. People who came there started asking, when I was 16 or 17, if I could do odd jobs for them, and that’s how my business [Hamptons Proprietor] began. In the summer I have up to 15 working for me, around 6 or so the rest of the year. It’s slowed down a bit, but we’re still remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. . . .”
He had arrived at his smoothly sculpted look through alternately “carbing down [to get rid of fat] and carbing up [to build muscle].”
The general idea, he said, was to “break down the fat that’s between the skin and the muscle so that the skin is tightly sealed around the muscle. It’s not easy! You have to want to do it, you have to work 100 percent. It took 12 weeks to get ready for this show. You want to eat, especially when you carb down, but you can’t. It’s work, eat, every two or three hours, and work out. When you’re home you can cheat, but you’re cheating yourself. Luckily, it was something I wanted to do. . . I view what I did as a huge accomplishment.”
And the water. “You drink a gallon every day, but in the week leading up to the show you drink two gallons each on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, you’re back to one. You go down to a half-gallon on Thursday, and by 6 p.m. Friday you’re off it — you carb up. I ate a baked potato, which draws the water out of you, right before going onstage. You’re ripped then.”
Paired with the diet is, of course, exercise.
“I did four days a week of lifting in the gym, free weights, though sometimes the machines. There was no special workout — the biggest thing was the diet. If I changed my diet today and continued to go to the gym, I would fall off.”
There were twice-a-day cardio workouts as well, Shoshi said, “to get your heart rate up. But you don’t run full out. If you do, you’re breaking up the muscle. You want to run or sprint-walk just enough where you lose fat, but not muscle.”
This year’s national show is coming too soon for him to put his body through the wringer again, he said, though his recent third-place regional showing has guaranteed him entry into next year’s national show as well.
“The last few days I’ve been eating what I’ve been craving,” he said. “I’m not dieting as strictly now. I have one or two cheat days a week. . . . The next show is in April. There’s one in June too, and one in August. I like the whole thing. I’ll pick the one that has the best exposure and the one I could do the best at.”
A professional health and fitness modeling career could, he said, last a decade or more. “There were guys over 40 there. I was one of the youngest.”
“After the show, I got a call from people interested in advertising nutritional products,” he said, looking down at his iPhone. “BE International. They saw my photo from the show. It’s natural stuff, a powder used in shakes that helps you recover from workouts. I’ve taken something like it on down-carb days. They’re going to fly me down to Florida. Where. . . ? I have no idea . . . I think it’s Miami.”
Asked if he’d give up his business should a professional modeling career grow out of his men’s physique success, Shoshi laughed and, without hesitation, said, “Yes!”