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Carnoustie bodybuilder with 44k social media followers reveals dark side of being an influencer

John Craig, 36, shares his diet and fitness routine - and explains why he eats two large iced donuts before every workout.

Carnoustie bodybuilder John Craig working out.
John Craig has more than 44,000 followers on Instagram. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

On a typical morning, John Craig eats six raw eggs for breakfast, followed by three portions of porridge and fruit.

He is also a fan of two iced donuts before every workout, and an intra workout shake with vitamins, amino acids and 100g gram of dextrose sugar.

His gym sessions – he lifts weights for two-and-a-half hours three times a week – are then followed up by another 1,250 calorie shake.

It’s all part of a carefully crafted 6,500 calorie diet he eats on a daily basis to maintain his 110 kilogram muscular physique.

John squatting 180kg.
John squatting 180kg. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

If all that sounds hard to believe, just take a glance at his Instagram account, john_craig_fitness, followed by 44,000 people and packed with motivational health, fitness and lifestyle content.

There are high-protein recipes, gym workouts, and drone footage of the 36-year-old looking ridiculously buff on the beach.

With thousands of likes and hundreds of comments on his posts, brand endorsements and his own fitness coaching app – he is living out the archetypal dream of a modern-day social media influencer.

It is not a typical career for a dad-of-two from Carnoustie, nor is it a title he appears to relish (“I hate that term – influencer”) so how did he end up here?

How John grew his online following

Speaking to me on the phone, he explains how it all started when he became an ambassador for a Texas-based bodybuilding company towards the end of 2020.

“I had to post on Instagram as part of the role. I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know what Instagram was at that time. I’ve never been one for social media, which might surprise you.

“But I am a very task-orientated person. Everything I do, I subconsciously try to be the best at it, so I really started to focus on making high-quality content.

“After a few months I had thousands of followers”.

John, who also works as an offshore platform supervisor, is speaking to me from an oil rig 100 miles northeast of Shetland.

He tends to spend three weeks offshore and two weeks back home in Carnoustie with his wife Inna – a fine art artist – and sons John, 10, and Ryan, 8.

John and wife Inna with sons John and Ryan.
John and wife Inna with sons John and Ryan. Image: John Craig

When his Instagram started taking off in 2021, John decided to seek expert advice from a media manager.

But this was when he discovered how fake the world of influencing could be.

“My media manager told me what to post and when to post it, helped me with engagement on my posts and told me what music to use on my reels,” he says.

“It was helpful to begin with, but then it started to get a bit ridiculous.

“He wanted me to get myself into the best shape of my life and then buy loads of expensive-looking jewellery and clothes and things.

“He told me to book a city-and-beach-type holiday where I would go to multiple places over a two-week period and have loads of different outfits on.

“He said I needed to get loads of pictures of me sitting next to plane windows, going on and off the planes and outside bars and restaurants.

“He said, ‘At the end of that two-week holiday, it will look like you have been on holiday for a year, but you’re always in the best shape of your life.”

John, horrified, decided to cut ties with him. “I thought he was joking. I was like, ‘I’m not doing that’.

John works out three times a week. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

John has also been targeted by fraudsters due to his large online following.

“Instagram is a horrible place actually,” he says.

“The more popular you get on there, the more scams you can get involved in.

“People have sent me fake nude images of me – with my face photoshopped onto another body.

“They have tried to hold me ransom for thousands of pounds or they’ll share them.”

But it’s not all bad, John says.

The qualified personal trainer and nutritionist has managed to build a strong community of like-minded individuals.

“I run my own Instagram fitness group which has got people from all over the world.

“They go on, share fitness ideas and support each other online.”

His profile has also helped him reach more clients with his one-to-one coaching business.

John regularly swims at Angus beaches. Image: John Craig

John, who can bench press, squat and deadlift 200kg, works hard to maintain his physique.

Although he has always had a love of fitness – a passion he honed during a stint in the military as a teenager – he says he only started taking bodybuilding seriously after the birth of his first child.

Bodybuilder John’s 5,000-6,500 calorie diet

What does a typical day look like?

“Most of my meals throughout the week are high protein, high fibre, full of healthy fats, greens and low to medium glycaemic index carbohydrates.

“Most of the year I’m in a slight calorie surplus trying to build lean muscle mass.

“That can range from 5,000 to 6,500 calories daily, depending on my goals and activity levels that day.

“I like to think of food as fuel, if I have a high activity day my carbohydrates will increase in line with activity. On low activity days the carbohydrates are reduced. My protein and fat intake doesn’t change too much throughout the year.

“For breakfast all year round I have six raw large eggs, three servings of oats with whole milk and berries.

“I have half a scoop of pre-workout 45 minutes before the gym.

Carnoustie bodybuilder John Craig drinks a 1,200 calorie shake during his workout.
Carnoustie bodybuilder John Craig drinks a 1,200 calorie shake during his workout. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

“And prior to the gym I eat two large iced doughnuts. This is for a quick burst of energy, not health.

“My workout is a full-body workout and takes two-and-a-half hours.

“I’ll drink an intra workout shake with 100 grams of dextrose (sugar) during my workout. Again, the sugar is for energy to help me through lengthy workouts and not health.

“Post-workout, I have a 1,250 calorie mass gainer shake with 250g carbs, 50g protein then go for a sauna and jacuzzi.

“Approximately an hour-and-a-half later I have a whole meal – something like 300g steak, basmati rice with rapeseed oil and some tenderstem broccoli.

“I will have two more similar meals throughout the day and then a couple of scoops of protein before bed.

John before he started bodybuilding.
John before he started bodybuilding. Image: John Craig

“Rest is important to me and I grow better with maximum intensity, frequency and volume I can recover from.”

But John stressed that his routine is not for everybody.

“I was telling this overweight guy in the sauna that I eat two donuts before I train and he was like, ‘Oh, I’ll need to try that’.

“But I was like ‘You just told me you’re here because the doctor said you’re unwell and need to lose fat’.

“What I’m doing for my athletic performance isn’t for everyone.

“I never tell people what to do. Instead, I like to encourage people to try new things or I’ll just explain what I like to do.”

‘Diets don’t work – it should be a lifestyle change’

John is also against dieting, believing it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

“Yo-yo dieting is a big thing gym-goers get wrong,” he said.

“It should be a lifestyle change.

“I feel diet culture is negative, whereas a lifestyle change is positive.

“I believe in making small manageable changes that you can easily implement and be consistent with.

Bodybuilder John with family.
John enjoys spending time with his family. Image: John Craig

“Many diets are designed to lose weight and are often achieved through restricting calories or starving yourself.

“They are easy to follow short-term, however when the individual stops restricting calories they are likely to regain fat and some more.”

Having recently launched a new fitness coaching app, Gorilla and She, John is keen to continue growing his online presence.

But more importantly, he says, he wants to be a good role model to his sons.

“I was never someone who was seeking popularity – I spend all my time with my two boys.

“I play football with them, take them outdoors and teach them about nutrition.

“Stuff like that is actually most of my life – but you won’t see that on Instagram.”