Built To Win

July 03, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr.

It's been two hours since Kevin Levrone has eaten and he' hungry. Real hungry. His last meal was a mere 1,200 calories that wore off quickly during a drive through Glen Burnie.

And now the stomach of the 250-pound, world-class bodybuilder is growling.

From the telephone in his BMW he calls Sher Jantz, a waitress at Mo's Seafood Factory on Ritchie Highway. "It's Kevin. I think I'm going to get the filet mignon this time. I'll be there in 10 minutes."

He's at Mo's in five minutes. The meal -- his fourth of seven daily and his second of the day at Mo's -- is on its way, Ms. Jantz says. Soon, a 16-ounce, extra-lean steak, five stalks of broccoli and a large bowl of rice arrive.

He eats at least 7,500 calories daily -- mostly protein. Nothing seasoned. Nothing fatty.

"You don't want the wrong things to stick to you," he says. He pushes aside a basket of bread. "Can't have that."

At 28, Kevin Levrone is still growing. He wants to get bigger. He needs to get bigger. He has to get bigger.

The Severna Park resident is one of the world's top bodybuilders, a rising star in a sport where men's and women's bodies are judged by their muscle mass and symmetry.

Bodybuilding has been lucrative for Levrone. Since he turned pro two years ago, he has won more than $200,000 from contests. First-place wins earned him $105,000 in two contests in March.

He has also placed in the top five both times he's entered the Mr. Olympia contest, the sport's most prestigious competition. This year, he's a favorite in the September event in Atlanta. (Closer to home, he'll appear July 16 at a Glen Burnie bodybuilding contest named for him.)

"I've got to eat a lot of food because my meals are low in fat," Levrone says while at Mo's, the Glen Burnie restaurant where he dines at least 12 times a week.

"My body gets zapped for energy. Carbohydrates. So once I feel a meal wearing down, it's time to eat again. People are expecting a lot from me now."

As he eats, waiters and patrons pass by and gawk at his forearms and biceps, which protrude from his custom-made Polo shirt. The attention is not new to Levrone, and he politely smiles at the onlookers.

"It's attention that you get used to because people aren't used to seeing anybody who looks like I do," he says.

For Levrone, eating, working out and trying to be a "regular guy" is a full-time job. Problem is, few "regular guys" pack 250 pounds of muscle on a 5-foot-9 frame, which features a 56-inch chest tapered to a 32-inch waist and only 2.7 percent body fat.

And few regular guys spend $500 to $700 a week on food, much of it in a restaurants where the waiters and cooks know them by name and know how to fix each of their meals.

And not too many common Joes get paid to pump iron, travel the world and appear regularly on the covers of workout magazines and on television exercise shows, sans shirt.

But those are just some of the trappings that go along with being a world champ, Levrone says, whether it's in bodybuilding or anything else.

"That's my job," he says. "I get paid to stay in shape and be physically fit. Everything I've got I've busted my a-- for. What matters to me is if there is some kid out there who looks at me and thinks that I'm his super hero. If I can put a smile on his face and send him a positive message, that matters.

Although he's posed before thousands of people on stages throughout the world, been pictured on magazines and appeared on television shows wearing only the briefest of trunks, Levrone says he is relaxed only when in the gym.

Which explains why he's there for two hours twice a day, six days a week. That leaves little time to spend at home with his wife, Lolita, a saleswoman for Saks Fifth Avenue.

"I'm either training or thinking about training all of the time," Levrone says. "This is what I like to do. It's one of the hardest sports in the world to be successful. In bodybuilding you have to know your body and have it down to a science. When I train in the gym, it's my world and that's it."

Levrone began bodybuilding in the late 1980s and has pumped iron seriously for about 10 years. In 1990 he entered his first bodybuilding contest, the Mr. Colossus in Baltimore, and won. ,, That year he also won the Mr. Annapolis and Mr. Maryland contests. The next year he placed second at the Junior Nationals and later won the amateur National Championship.

He turned professional in 1992 and began a string of impressive contest showings in which he has never placed lower than fifth place in national or international competition.

He highlighted his career in March when he earned $90,000 by winning the televised Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, and another $15,000 for winning the San Jose Championship.

"You have to always train, you have to always eat right and you have to eat properly," he says. "You have to discipline yourself everyday. You can't party on weekends. A successful bodybuilder is one who has really sacrificed a lot."

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