When we see an actor who is normally not that big get big for a new role, people are curious. I mean, was he on steroids? He exercised 8 hours a day? Was he eating McDonald’s to get all those calories?
how the hell do these guys gain so much weight?
One of the most common questions I get on my beginner weight loss course is how to lose weight or get toned as fast as possible.
And add that to the fact that there is a disgusting amount of bad science and bad information on the internet. this is a recipe for confusion and an opportunity for many scammers to try to sell you “the 300 workout” or some similar nonsense.
but, surprise, surprise, I’m here to the rescue to tell you that there are no secrets.
In almost every field since the dawn of time, high-achieving professionals have seemed almost magical to the layman. Whether in sports, medicine, or kung fu, a skilled person often makes people think that he possesses something special.
exclusive bonus: I’ve put together a step-by-step guide here on how to lose your next 5 pounds. you can click here to download it.
So how do Hollywood actors disfigure themselves? no secrets
I want to quickly point out a major flaw in human thinking, and it is this: that there is a faster, sometimes magical, path or technique that will take you to the next level.
and I think this plays with 3 defects of the human mind:
- the desire for quick fixes
- curiosity about “taboo” or mystical subjects
In the health and fitness industry, we are plagued by advertisements for rapid weight loss or muscle gain. we are told that “if you only train 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, you will become huge.”
Well, I can tell you from my own experience: that’s total rubbish. I exercised for 6 years, 4 or 5 days a week and made no gains for over 4 years (!).
In the “make more money” industry we see tons of get-rich-quick products being sold.
In the west, we are totally fascinated by the mysticism and kungfu of the east: pressure points that kill people and monks that control their energy.
but my point in stating all these things is this:
We are easily manipulated when we believe in quick fixes, magical techniques never heard of before, and when we are ignorant and uneducated on a subject.
My point here is to educate you so that you are not easily manipulated.
As you read how 5 celebrities became famous for movie roles, remember: there are no secrets.
here are some things you tend to see in common:
- eat a lot more
- drink protein shakes (here are three I recommend: isopure, beef protein isolate, chocolate vegan) protein powder)
- weightlifting(here are 25lb hex dumbbells I use, a set of 40lb adjustable dumbbells and a 16kg kettlebell for begin)
5 actors who gained weight for movie roles
#1 – how gerard butler gained weight by 300
when 300 came out, almost everyone was like “shit”. I think there were more straight men staring in awe than their girlfriends: it was a couple dozen men with the body most men dream of. smart marketing.
after the movie came out all sorts of crap filled the internet with “the 300 workout” or how gerard butler was getting huge for his role. It basically led to a lot more junk information that supported the general training stereotype: that you have to train 3+ hours a day to get huge, 7 days a week.
Why don’t we run through some facts? what was gerard butler like before and after the movie?
first things first:
- didn’t gain much muscle (if at all)
- cut back a lot
- got excited before action scenes
basically what you’re looking at here is: a normal weight guy who lost some weight.
There’s a saying that cutting adds 20 pounds of muscle; what it really means is that when you’re big and strong (but fat) you just look fat. when you lose some of that weight, even if you lose 20 pounds, you look bigger in the sense that you actually look like you’re working out.
So how did he look so big in the movie?
a. reduced his weight and added a modicum of muscle (that’s all)
Compare this to a totally random image I found online of a guy with similar circumstances: I wanted a guy whose weight didn’t change much, gained a little muscle, but lost a lot of fat.
dramatic, right? but if you look at the guy’s forearms and biceps, you can tell they’re just a bit bigger. however, the effect of 10 to 15 pounds of fat loss is very dramatic.
all butler really did was cut off a bit of weight to reveal the muscle underneath. it’s easily done in a few months (whereas you can’t build massive muscle in a few months).
b. he got “thrilled” before every action scene.
Have you ever seen actors talk about their roles in a movie and see them lifting weights or doing push-ups before saying action? the pump adds size to the muscle as it swells with increased blood flow.
For example, when I pump my arms, it adds almost an inch to my arms temporarily. that’s even bigger in big muscles like the chest and legs.
That’s crazy. I’m a 170-something guy, and with my arms and chest puffed out, I look like I weigh 180 pounds of solid muscle.
You can often see butler (as well as any other actor in a shirtless scene) getting all worked up before each scene to make himself look as big as possible.
the secret of gerard butler
& other hollywood film effects (shadows and dirt to improve abs)
#2 – how chris hemsworth gained weight in thor
chris hemsworth’s transformation is much more interesting to me, because it’s obvious that he gained a lot of weight for the role. when an actor is just a little overweight, 100 days of daily workouts with a flawless diet can seem like an amazing transformation.
But when an actor is underweight, there’s no way to pretend he’s big. what you gain is either fat or muscle (usually both).
what was chris like before?
so let’s take a look at the two main factors of how it got big, which are (as usual), not secret:
- ate a lot
- lifted weights
wow. what a surprise maybe I can sell a scam supplement on that too.
let’s see what chris said:
“I feel like I’ve been busy, but all I’ve been doing is eating all day,” he says as we pass a farm stand filled with organic broccoli. “Eating when you’re not hungry and eating that much food is exhausting.”
exactly the same was my experience when I gained 20 pounds last year: it was the most exhausting and demoralizing thing I had ever done. eat until you want to die, 5 times a day.
In fact, I only worked out 3 times a week last year (total time = 3 hours of exercise a week) when I earned the most I’ve ever earned in a year. I previously exercised for 6 years, and for 5 of them I didn’t see any improvement. not a pound of weight gain.
diet is 80% of your success. for both muscle gain and weight loss.
Now, what about your workouts?
duffer giver, a west coast personal trainer and former navy seal, said hemsworth’s workout was “pretty simple bodybuilding,” which is to say, a pretty typical bodybuilding workout.
Most bodybuilding workouts involve split routines, which means you do one muscle (or two), 5 to 12 sets for that day, on the same day every week. it is a high volume approach. stick to reps in the 6-12 range.
for example (split routine):
- Monday: Chest (6-12 sets for all of the following)
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Arms
- Thursday: Legs
- Friday: shoulders & abs
some people will put two muscle groups per day, for example: on Tuesday it could be “back & biceps” instead of just the back. that, in an overly simplified way, is it.
chris hemsworth’s secret to becoming huge:
- eat a horrendous amount of calories (just the right calories, emphasizing brown rice, a piece of meat, and vegetables at each meal).
- a typical bodybuilding split routine
#3 how mark wahlberg gained weight with pain & profit (2013)
Usually a pretty big guy to begin with,
mark wahlberg plays a bodybuilder in his 2013 film pain and gain.
for the role, he needed to get much bigger than he already was, and that meant eventually adding 40 pounds to his frame.
that’s almost double what thor earned for his role in the movie.
so what was mark wahlberg like before?
now let’s get the facts. of some direct quotes from wahlberg:
told e! online, “I ate 10 meals a day and drank mass gainers. i was drinking my own i created this line of supplements with (retail chain) gnc. It was a lot of work.”
“I used to wake up at two in the morning a lot to eat another meal and I was still full from the 10 o’clock meal.”
wait, that sounds suspiciously like chris hemsworth’s experience, my experience, and the experience of many others. eating an uncomfortable amount of food while lifting weights.
what about your training?
It’s basically the same routine as Chris Hemsworth in Thor, but with more volume.
shared his split routine:
Monday: biceps, legs and back Tuesday: triceps, chest, shoulders Wednesday: biceps, legs Thursday >: Friday free: Saturday free: biceps, legs and back Sunday: triceps, chest, shoulders
mark the secret of wahlberg’s success?
- eating a disgusting amount of food (up to 10 meals)
- lifting weights (typical bodybuilding split routine, see above)
#4 how tom hardy gained weight playing bane in batman
tom hardy played bane in the new batman movie and he was crazy about it.
He reportedly gained over 30 pounds for his role as the main villain, so let’s see what he looked like before:
so what information can we get from hardy himself about this weight gain?
speaking of a previous film of his, bronson, in which he had to gain weight, his dietary adjustments were as follows:
“for bronson, i gained about 7 pounds a week, without steroids. In the end, I gained about 2 1/2 stones eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet for the whole day. then I would eat pizza, häagen-dazs and coke: so not good things, but I had to put on weight.”
as well as chris hemsworth in thor, and mark wahlberg in pain & profit, I was eating an absurd amount of calories (although unfortunately also a lot of crap to speed it up).
I can’t find any specifics on his training (there’s a lot of made-up information online), but I suspect it’s not that different from any other celebrity’s weight gain.
so what can we take away from tom hardy’s weight gain?
a. didn’t gain as much muscle
Just looking at his body in the film, you could tell he was mostly fat. that makes sense since he apparently only had 4 months to gain that weight. that’s much more believable than 30 pounds of muscle (which is impossible, even in 1 year).
b. there were a lot of cinematic effects that contributed to how big it seemed to be.
If you noticed, in many of the scenes with Bane, Hardy was shot from below, in the shadows, or in some other area that allowed him to appear larger than he really was.
the secret of tom hardy’s weight gain (bane):
- massive calories (chicken and rice + junk food), although most of it was fat (you could tell)
- weightlifting (can’t find any data on the details)
- clever cinematics: in the film, bane was often shot from below or in the shadows, which made him appear larger. cgi was also used in the movie (it is unknown if it was also used to make him look bigger).
#5 how christian bale gained weight: from emaciated in the machinist to big in batman
christian bale’s earnings are much more interesting to me here because he’s a trifecta of interesting :
- gained an incredible amount of weight in a very short time
- and gained weight with very little fat.
from bale himself, on bulking up after losing so much weight for the train driver (see top left):
he said: ‘the director, christopher nolan, asked me to try to get as fat as i could because it would be very difficult for him to convince the studio to cast me if i was lanky.
‘in doing so, I overdid it because I was enjoying stuffing myself. I was ignoring advice about taking it easy because my stomach had shrunk and I should just go with soups.
“I went straight for pizza and ice cream and ate five meals in a row. my stomach expanded very quickly. I got really sick during that time, but I enjoyed getting sick. I didn’t care at all.
“in that short period of time, i actually went from 121 (pounds) to 180 (pounds), which is way too fast, which resulted in a few doctor visits to fix things.”
Let me tell you about the science behind starvation and weight regain (it’s easy):
When your body enters a state of “starvation” (prolonged depletion of nutrients and calories over time), all body systems are optimized to reduce metabolism.
I once went 5 days without eating in the sahara as part of a meditation experiment and at the time I was very underweight and worried about losing weight. Lo and behold, after the fifth day, some other people were like “yeah!! I just lost like 15-20 pounds!” somehow within a few days the weight was back, how is that possible?
Your body weight has a natural reference point where it always wants to stay. therefore, even after starvation, upon reintroduction of a normal diet, the body regains weight very quickly.
my point is this: christian bale starved himself to 121 pounds, and then, once he introduced his normal diet (apparently plus something, he mentions eating a lot of pizza and ice cream), he left back to his normal weight.
what about the muscles?
so we’ve established how easy it was for bale to get back to normal weight. but what about those damn muscles? I mean he has muscles and almost no fat.
let’s talk about muscle memory:
many people in the gym think their muscles magically start to disappear the day after they start working out, or a week after they start working out.
The truth is that the muscle takes much longer to disappear, I have seen studies that show that 3 to 5 weeks (or more) show a very small decrease in the number of muscle fibers.
But we’re curious about getting muscle back, because Bale was already training a few years before the driver. just look at it in balance:
bale was already very muscular and pretty ripped right before the filming of the machinist in 2004. so really all he did was put the weight back on (he didn’t actually gain impressive weight or more muscle than he already had) .
In one study, after 8 months off training, women regained their (almost normal) muscles in just 6 weeks:
In one study, a group of women weight trained for 20 weeks, detrained for about 30 weeks, and then retrained for 6 weeks. the 20 weeks of training increased fiber size by 16-47%, while the 30-week no-training period resulted in little fiber size loss (1-14%). just 6 weeks of retraining increased muscle fiber size to levels similar to those found after the initial 20 weeks of training!
So what happened in this study?
- women weight trained for 5 months
- then took almost 8 months off, no training
- and then went back to training for 1.5 months
- your muscles practically when they return to normal
It is totally realistic to state:
- that bundle was already in shape (see photo above (2002), right around the time he lost weight for his role in The Machinist (2004)); and
- bale simply regained his body weight after starvation, and within 2 to 6 months his muscle fiber size returned to near normal (which is possible, see previous study)
christian bale: not so special.
As you can see, very few actors are actually gaining muscle for roles, because it’s physically impossible to gain muscle in the short term (without steroids).
The only guys you see big, muscular, and lean are the ones who have years of weightlifting under their belts and obviously do it as a hobby, like hugh jackman.
in every movie is great. obviously he usually lifts weights.
Muscles take years to build.
So, what is christian bale’s secret to gaining weight?
- gaining weight back after his starvation diet (natural + junk food overfeeding)
- muscle memory: he was pre-trained and fit for balance in 2002, which he probably regained in a few months quite easily
side note: do any of these guys take steroids?
some of you may be wondering: what about steroids?
any message board you go to (I avoid them all for a reason), people easily say “roids!!!” because it is a general statement that requires no thought or analysis.
I’ve desperately searched for information on any actor who’s been caught on steroids, and a few come to mind: Sylvester Stallone was caught, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mickey Rourke admitted to using them.
since this is obviously a “taboo” topic, there isn’t much data on it, so let me pose a completely hypothetical situation:
If you were an actor paid $100 million for a movie, you’d do whatever it took to fit the role. actors have gained (and lost) 60 pounds or more to fit a role, regardless of the health consequences.
does that involve steroids? it’s up to you what you want to believe.
how hollywood actors gain weight for movies: there’s a lot of hard work (and maybe some “help”)
I opened this post talking about how the average citizen often sees the highest echelon of actors, entrepreneurs and successful people as something special. blessed. possess secrets.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about success, it’s this: The most successful are rarely the most gifted. Forget physical exercise for a moment: look at the people around you. in business, relationships, happiness – the most successful people I know have forged perfect habits that create perfection every day.
It’s the boyfriends and husbands who surprise their spouse every two weeks with something fun; it’s the new gym goers who started out with 5 minutes a day, and a year later, they’re up to 50 minutes a day; they are the businessmen and women who reach a new contact every day.
after all, success is simply the culmination of thousands of days of good habits.
Today, think of the thousands of small actions you will do today. Are they bringing you closer to the future you imagine? further away? nowhere?
Think about that the next time you pick up your phone because you’re bored, or eat without thinking, or criticize your spouse for something small. every act is you: are they getting you closer to perfection or nowhere?
how do I recommend losing the next 20 kilos and toning up
If you want to focus on fast weight loss (which is healthy) without counting calories, I would recommend changing small habits (not dieting).
In my 21-Day Beginner Weight Loss Challenge, I have literally hundreds of emails from students who lose an average of 5-20 pounds, usually in less than a month. but by far what people like the most is the emphasis on how to change habits, to discover a long-term sustainable strategy.
plus, there are over 500 people in my private group, the real food weight loss tribe, sharing their results, experiences, and yes, frustrations to help each other out.
If you feel like you finally need to do something drastic for your weight and your health, come check out my beginner weight loss course here. I not only bust common myths (eg, it doesn’t matter how many meals you eat or when you eat), but it goes beyond your diet.
come check out this free informational page to see the strategies that other people (regular people like you) used to get their results. -alex
images: Clarocine, Gerard Butler 300, before/after image, Wahlberg before