Professional Texan bodybuilder Branch Warren led a fitness demonstration, fielded questions, and performed a specialized routine for over three hundred people at the Wingate Institute last Thursday afternoon. Israel's National Center for Physical Education and Sport invited Warren to provide insight into the world of bodybuilding, as the culmination of a fitness course offered by the Nat Holman School for Coaches and Instructors. "The purpose of the event was to bring people of fitness together," said Anat Meir, a public relations representative at Wingate. As Warren demonstrated his incredible physique on stage, the crowd responded with thunderous applause and obvious appreciation. "Everyone in the audience is an amateur bodybuilder. Even you and I," said Yair Lahav, who is responsible for coordinating the study of nutrition and fitness at Wingate. This certainly seemed to be the case, as men and women of all shapes and sizes took advantage of Warren's expertise with personal questions about their own training regiments and health. Warren began his fascination with fitness as a relatively small 14-year-old while training to improve his performance in American football, baseball and track. While in the gym, he met a bodybuilder who taught him to exercise properly and urged him to actualize his potential. Two years later he won the state-wide Mr. Texas competition, and at the age of 18 Warren was named Teenage Mr. America. "That was when I realized this was something I wanted to do," explained Warren, now 33-years old. While the audience certainly celebrated Warren's visit to Israel, he too expressed a genuine fascination with the country and plans to return again with his wife. "Theres so much in Jerusalem that I want to see alone," Warren told The Jerusalem Post, "I was very excited about coming here. There's so much history. All you see is terrorism and violence on TV. You don't get to see the rest of the country." Warren became intrigued by the possibility of leading a seminar Israel through friend and fellow bodybuilder Dror Okavi. Okavi was crowned Mr. Israel in 2000 and 2001, what some see as a testament to the sport's potential for success in the country. Although few professional bodybuilders have emerged from Israel in comparison to the United States and Europe, Warren maintains that it is not talent that the country is lacking. He cites the lack of an established support system for bodybuilders, coupled with limited knowledge on the subject, as the main obstacles for aspiring Israelis. "A lot of guys here are hungry for knowledge," said Warren of the eager audience. "But in Israel how are you going to make a good living from bodybuilding?" The path Warren and other bodybuilders have chosen to embark upon is a rigorous one, complete with upwards of two hours of training and six or seven meals each day. "People think 60 to 70 percent is training. It's not true. 60 to 70 percent is nutrition," said Warren. He is careful, however, not to discount the impact of proper training. "Outside of the States and Europe they train hard, but not with the intensity they need to take it to the professional level," said Warren. In addition to the fundamental importance of maintaining a balanced diet and staying fit, Warren includes passion as a prerequisite for the sport. "I would never get to this level if I didn't enjoy what I'm doing. It's a complete lifestyle," said Warren. "You never really get a break." Although incredibly demanding, Warren credits bodybuilding with his elite level of health and says hes gone years since last falling ill. He is a strong advocate of healthy living and condemns the use of performance enhancing drugs, especially in young people. "If you take drugs out of the sport, bodybuilding is probably the healthiest thing you can do." Warren's hard work has not gone unrewarded. In addition to being recognized in international competitions such as Mr. Olympian, he is most definitely appreciated by the wider population. "Branch Warren's visit to the Wingate Institute was fascinating," said 20-year old athlete and attendant Rebecca Astrachan. "I believe it says a lot for an internationally accomplished bodybuilder to visit Israel. Warren is a great model for today's youth because his message is so genuine: find what you love and pursue it responsibly."