Bodybuilder Bille Paea?Canberra local who competed in the Natural Olympia in San Diego.

Canberra bodybuilder Billie Paea came second at the Natural Olympia competition in San Diego last month. Photo: Daniel Spellman

Billie Paea is on a quest for a body with ''perfect symmetry''. In addition to working out twice a day, seven days a week, the Canberra bodybuilder, personal trainer and hip-hop dance instructor goes on a strict carb-depletion diet before competitions, all for what is still an amateur pursuit for him.

When the New-Zealand native moved to Canberra four years ago, athletics was his sport of choice, but a torn Achilles tendon meant spending extra time at the gym.

''One of the guys at the local gym said I had a good physique and should try bodybuilding,'' he said.

That guy was Harry Haureliuk, a member of the International Hall of Fame for natural bodybuilding, which uses strict drug testing to distinguish it from other bodybuilding competitions.

''I never thought I'd be into bodybuilding ,'' Paea said ''then [Harry] got me to watch a bodybuilding show in Canberra, yeah so it's been about three years now I've been competing, so I'm still new to the sport, but I'm doing well in it.''

Paea came second at the Natural Olympia competition in San Diego last month, the competition he aims to win, with his other dream to turn professional.

The sacrifices he has to make to compete are greater than many other amateur sports. He follows a strict diet with a lot of protein; chicken, beef, kangaroo and tuna are staples, as are vegetables, brown rice and sweet potato. Then at least six to eight weeks before a competition, he cuts out the carbohydrates in order to lose fat.

''[Diet is] the main part - it's quite hard to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, so that's sort of the art form of the sport. I'm learning as I go along and I've still got a lot to learn.''

When Daniel Spellman photographed Paea just before the Natural Olympia competition, Paea was complaining of dizziness and was still aiming to lose a kilogram before the show.

''It's quite technical fine tuning - you're dropping your water and you're also trying to cut down your carbs … it's all [to] burn fat, but your energy levels [drop],'' he explained.

It requires him to reduce his work schedule months out from competition, but it's part of a longer term goal, where getting bigger is ''not necessarily'' the main aim.

''Better conditioning … more proportioned,'' he said, ''not having one area too big or too small, it's that even physique - it's every bodybuilder's dream to have the perfect symmetry, which is maybe a 10-15 year goal. I'm a pretty focused person … I've still got big plans ahead, so it's just a work in progress.''