This is Romario Dos Santos Alves - otherwise known as the 'real life Hulk'

This is Romario Dos Santos Alves - otherwise known as the 'real life Hulk'

All of us - whether we like to admit it or not - have some kind of ideal physique in mind for ourselves. It might be the body we already have, or it might be something we're working towards, but we all have a goal figure that we think suits us best.

For Romario Dos Santos Alves, that ideal body was quite a strange one: he wanted to look like the Incredible Hulk.

He wanted it so much, in fact, that he literally risked life and limb in order to build up the comic book-style proportions - and this is what he looks like today:

Dos Santos Alves' mission to get swole began a few years back when he moved from his hometown of Caldas Novas to Goiania in Brazil. Upon settling down in his new home, he decided to join a gym. First of all, his only goal was to get fit, but that soon changed when he met some of the other patrons.

"When I got there, I saw really big guys, really strong, with huge arms," he said, and he wanted to be like them.

Unfortunately, the men he started hanging out with weren't achieving their bulbous biceps through entirely natural means. "I started to make friends with them and they introduced me to synthol," he said.

Synthol - a mixture of oil, lidocaine, and alcohol - is commonly used by bodybuilders to give the appearance of bigger muscles (a practice known as "fluffing"). It bulks out the skin in areas that are less developed, creating the impression of a larger muscle mass.

But, as you might have guessed, it isn't exactly healthy.

Almost instantly, the wannabe bodybuilder became hooked on loading up his body with harmful substances. Every day, he'd shoot the synthol up into his biceps, his back, his legs, until - eventually - there was too much of it for him to handle. His body swelled up to unnatural proportions, and his arms became the size of an average man's legs.

But he still didn't stop, and nobody tried very hard to deter him, either.

His partner said: "When he started using synthol I wasn't scared because I decided to always support him in whatever he does. I never gave him my opinion and said, 'you're not going to do that' - I was always supportive."

After a while, though, people became scared of him.

"Once, I was working at a very busy place," Dos Santos Alves said. "It was a church. A woman came up to me and said, 'my daughter is 12 and she won't come to church because she is afraid of you. She thinks you are a beast and a monster.'"

"What happened hurt me a lot that day," he added.

But he just kept getting bigger and bigger, and even when his arms began hurting almost constantly, he still wouldn't stop injecting the synthol.

The pain was caused by a build-up of the substance in his muscles, which then formed - as he described them - "rocks" in his biceps, triceps, and back. His muscles became so firm that he had to begin using needles that are intended for use on bulls in order to penetrate the tissue.

His lifestyle affected his mental health, too.

"That was the hardest part of my life because I had depression and I didn't know why. I lost my job because of that, because I tried to kill myself."

And then he was hit with some terrible news.

"The doctor told me: 'we are going to have to amputate your arm. Your muscles are all rock, your muscles are destroyed. You have necrosis in your arm, so the only way is to amputate.'"

By then, however, he had almost given up, and had decided that the only sustainable course of action to take would be to have his arm amputated - not just for his physical health, but for his emotional wellbeing, too. He went so far as to arranging the procedure with the hospital, and packed a bag to stay overnight for the operation to be performed, but he never went through with it.

At the last minute, the doctor said he would survive without the procedure.

That was enough for him to realise the dangers of his actions, however, and - since 2013 - he has held off from using synthol. He is often tempted to use other muscle-enhancing techniques, too, but says that the memories of his past trauma prevent him from doing anything dangerous.

"My dream is to be a bodybuilder. I'm far away from that but I am going to fight and I'm still going to achieve it."

Today, a lot of the feedback he gets is positive.

"Sometimes kids come up to me and say, 'Mum, it's Hulk, it's Hulk!' And they hug me, take a photo of me, and that's good."

The consequences of his earlier actions will always be evident in his hulkish figure, unfortunately, but Dos Santos Alves doesn't seem to mind. All he cares about now is building his muscles naturally, and being able to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.