How in The Hell Can Celebrities Gain so Much Weight, so Fast?
When we see an actor who is normally not that big become big for a new role, people get curious. I mean, was he on steroids? Was he working out 8 hours a day? Was he eating McDonald’s to get in all those calories?
How in the hell do these guys gain so much weight?
And tack that on 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 lots of scam artists to try to sell you “the 300 workout” or some similar bullshit.
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 performers have appeared almost magical to the outside layman. Whether that’s in sports, or medicine, or kung fu — a skilled person often makes people think they possess something special.
There Are No Secrets
I want to quickly point out one major flaw in human thinking, and it’s this: That there is some faster, quicker, sometimes magical path or technique that will bring you to the next level.
And I think this plays on 3 flaws about the human mind:
- The desire for quick fixes
- The curiosity about “taboo” or mystical subjects
In the health and fitness industry we’re plagued with lose weight quickly, or gain muscle quickly advertisements. We’re told that “if you just workout 2 hours a day , 5 days a week, you’ll get huge.”
Well I can tell you from first hand experience — that’s total garbage. I worked out for 6 years , 4-5 days a week and saw no gains in over 4 years (!).
In the “make more money” industry we see tons of get rich quick products being sold.
In the west, we’re totally fascinated by the mysticism and kungfu of the east — pressure points that kill people, and monks controlling their energy.
But my point in stating all of these things is this:
we are easily manipulated when we believe in quick fixes, magical never-before-heard of techniques, and when we’re ignorant and uneducated about a subject.
My point here is to educate you so you are not easily manipulated.
While you read the following, how 5 celebrities got huge for movie roles, remember - there are no secrets.
5 Actors That Got Huge For Movie Roles
#1 – Gerard Butler in 300
When 300 came out, just about everyone was like “holy shit.” I think there were more straight guys staring in awe than their girlfriends — it was a couple dozen guys with the body that most guys dream of. Smart marketing.
After the movie came out, all kinds 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 garbage information that supported the general workout stereotype: that you have to workout 3 + hours per day to get huge, 7 days a week.
Why don’t we look at some facts though. What did Gerard butler look like before the movie and after?
First things first:
- He didn’t gain much muscle (if any)
- He cut down a lot
- He got “pumped” before the action scenes
Basically what you’re looking at here is: A normal weight guy that cut some fat weight.
There’s a saying that getting cut adds 20 pounds of muscle — what it actually means is that when you’re big and strong (but fat) you just look fat. When you cut some of that weight, even if you drop 20 pounds, you look bigger in the sense that you actually look like you work out.
So how did he look so big in the movie?
A. He cut his weight and added minimal muscle (that’s it)
Compare this to a totally random picture I found on the internet of a guy with similar circumstances: I wanted a guy whose weight didn’t change much noticeably, who gained a little muscle gain, but lost quite a lot of fat.
Dramatic right? but if you look at the guy’s forearms, and biceps, you can tell they’re only a little bigger. The effect of 10-15 pounds of fat loss is very dramatic though.
All Butler really did was cut some fat weight to reveal the muscle underneath. Easily done in a few months (whereas you can’t build massive muscle in a few months).
B. He got “pumped” before each action scene.
Have you ever seen the actors talking about their roles in a movie, and you see them lifting weights or doing pushups before they say action? The pump adds size to the muscle when it becomes engorged with the increased blood flow.
For example, when I get my arms pumped, it adds almost an inch to my arms temporarily. That’s even bigger on the large muscles like my chest and legs.
That’s insane. I’m a guy who weighs 170 and some, and with my arms and chest pumped I look like I weigh 190 pounds of solid muscle.
You can frequently see Butler (as well as any other actor in a scene with his shirt off) getting pumped before each scene to look as big as possible.
Gerard Butler’s secret
- Cut down on fat using HIT and circuit training
- Getting pumped before each scene & other hollywood cinematic effects (shadows & dirt to enhance abs)
#2 – Chris Hemsworth in Thor
Chris Hemsworth’s transformation is much more interesting to me, because it’s obvious that he put on a lot of weight for the role. When an actor is slightly overweight, 100 days of daily workouts with a pristine diet can look like an amazing transformation.
But when an actor is underweight, there’s no way to fake getting big. It’s either fat or muscle (usually both) that is gained.
What did Chris look like before?
So let’s take a look at the two main factors in how he got big, which are (as usual), not secrets:
- He ate a lot
- He lifted weights
Wow. What a shocker. Maybe I can sell a scammy supplement on that too.
Let’s see what Chris said himself:
“I feel as if I’ve been busy, but all I’ve been doing is eating all day,” he says as we pass a farm stand brimming with organic broccoli. “Eating when you’re not hungry and taking in that amount of food is exhausting.”
The exact same thing was my experience when I put on 20 pounds last year — It was the most exhausting, demoralizing thing I had ever done. You eat until you want to die, 5 times a day.
In fact, I only worked out 3 times a week last year (grand total time = 3 hours working out a week) when I gained the largest I have ever gained in a year. Previously I worked out for 6 years, and for 5 of them saw no improvement. Not a pound of weight gain.
Diet is 80% of your success. Both for muscle gain and weight loss.
Now what about his workouts?
Duffer Gaver, a west-coast based personal trainer and former Navy seal said Hemsworth’s training was “pretty simple bodybuilding,” meaning a pretty typical bodybuilding workout.
Most bodybuilding workouts involve split routines, meaning you do one muscle (or two), 5-12 sets for that day, same day every week. It’s a high volume approach. Stick with repetitions in the 6-12 range.
So 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 muscular groups per day, for example: Tuesday might be “Back & Biceps” instead of just back. That, in an overly-simplified way, is it.
Chris Hemsworth’s secret to getting huge:
- Eat a horrendous amount of calories (the right calories — emphasizing brown rice, a piece of meat, and veggies every meal).
- A typical bodybuilding split-routine
#3 Mark Wahlberg in Pain & Gain (2013)
Mark Wahlberg, who is usually a pretty big guy to begin with, is playing a bodybuilder in his 2013 movie: Pain and Gain.
For the role, he needed to get much bigger than he already was, and that involved eventually adding 40 pounds to his frame.
That’s almost twice what Thor above gained for his movie role.
So what did mark wahlberg look like before?
Now let’s get the facts. From some direct quotes from Wahlberg:
He told E! Online, “I was eating 10 meals a day and drinking mass gainers. I was drinking my own. I created this line of supplements with (retail chain) GNC. It was a lot of work.”
“A lot of getting up at two in the morning to eat another meal and I was still full from the meal at 10 o’clock.”
Wait, that sounds suspiciously like Chris Hemsworth’s experience, and my experience, and the experience of many others. Eat an uncomfortable amount of food, while lifting weights.
What about his workout?
It’s basically the same routine as Chris Hemsworth in Thor, but with more volume.
He shared his split routine:
Monday: Biceps, legs and back
Tuesday: Triceps, chest, shoulders
Wednesday: Biceps, legs
Saturday: Biceps, legs and back
Sunday: Triceps, chest, shoulders
Mark Wahlberg’s secret to success?
- Eat a disgusting amount of food (up to 10 meals)
- Lift weights (typical bodybuilding split routine, see above)
#4 Tom Hardy – Bane – In Batman
Tom Hardy played Bane in the new Batman movie and got freaking huge for it.
He reportedly gained 30+ pounds for his role as the lead villain, so let’s see what he looked like before:
So what information can we get from Hardy himself about this weight gain?
Talking about a previous movie of his, Bronson, where he had to gain weight, his dietary adjustments looked like the following:
“For Bronson, I put on about 7 lbs a week — with no steroids. In the end I’d put on about 2 and a half stone by eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet throughout the day. Then I’d have a pizza, Häagen-Dazs and Coca-Cola: So not good stuff, but I had to put weight on.”
So just like Chris Hemsworth in Thor, and Mark Wahlberg in Pain & Gain, he was eating an absurd amount of calories (though unfortunately lots of junk to speed it up too).
I can’t find any specific data on his workout (there’s a massive amount of made up info online), but I suspect it’s not that different from every other celebrity’s weight gain.
So what can we take away from Tom Hardy’s Bane weight gain?
A. He didn’t gain that much muscle
Just by looking at his body in the movie you could tell it 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 contributing to how large he appeared to be.
If you noticed, in many of the scenes with Bane, hardy was filmed from below, in the shadows, or in some other area that allowed him to look bigger than he actually was.
The Secret to Tom Hardy’s (Bane) Weight Gain:
- Massive calories (chicken and rice + Junk food) – Although most of it was fat (you could tell)
- Lifting weights (can’t find any data on the specifics)
- Smart cinematics — in the movie, bane was often filmed from below or in the shadows which made him look bigger. There was also CGI used in the movie (unknown as to whether it was used to make him look bigger too).
#5 Christian Bale – From Emaciated in the Machinist to Big in Batman
Christian Bale’s gains are much more interesting to me here because it’s a trifecta of interesting:
- He gained an insane amount of weight in very short time
- And he gained the weight with very minimal fat.
From Bale himself, about bulking up after losing so much weight for The Machinist (see top left):
He said: ‘The director, Christopher Nolan, asked me to try and put on as much weight as I could because he would find it very difficult to convince the studio to cast me if I was a beanpole.
‘In doing so I overdid it because I was enjoying gorging. I was ignoring advice about taking it slowly because my stomach had shrunk, and I should just go with soups.
‘I was straight into pizza and ice-cream and eating five meals in a sitting. My stomach expanded really quickly. I got very sick during that time but I enjoyed getting sick. I didn’t mind it at all.
‘In that short amount of time I did actually go from 121 (pounds) right back up to 180 (pounds) which is way too fast so that resulted in some doctor visits to get things sorted out.’
Let me tell you something about the science behind starvation and regaining weight (it’s easy):
When your body enters a state of “starvation” (prolonged reduction in nutrients & calories over time), all systems in the body become optimized for lowering the metabolism.
I once spent 5 days without food in the Sahara as part of a meditation experiment and, at the time, I was severely underweight and worried that I was going to lose weight. Lo and behold, after the 5th day some other people were saying “Yeah!! I just lost like 15-20 pounds!” Somehow, within a few days the weight was all back. How is that possible?
Your body weight has a natural set point that it always wants to stay at. So even after starvation, upon reintroduction of a normal diet, the body very rapidly regains weight.
My point is this: Christian bale starved himself down to 121 pounds, and then once he introduced his normal diet (apparently plus some – he mentions eating pizza and ice cream a lot), he went right back to his normal weight.
So what about the muscles?
So we’ve established how easy it was for Bale to go back to his normal weight. But what about those damn muscles? I mean he has muscles and almost no fat.
Let’s talk about muscle memory:
A lot of people in the gym think that their muscles magically start going away the day after they start working out, or a week after they start working out.
The truth is that it takes much longer for muscle to go away, I’ve seen studies showing 3 - 5 weeks (or higher) showing very little decline in muscle fiber number.
But we’re curious as to regaining muscle, because Bale already was training for a few years prior to the machinist. Just look at him in Equilibrium:
Bale was already very muscular and pretty cut just prior to filming of the Machinist in 2004. So in reality, all he did was gain the weight back (he didn’t really gain impressive weight or muscle more than he already had).
In one study, after taking 8 months off training, women regained their muscles (to almost normal) 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 16%-47%, while the 30 week detrained period resulted in only a small loss of fiber size (1%-14%). A mere 6 weeks of retraining increased muscle fiber size to levels similar to what were found after the intial 20 weeks of training!
So what happened in this study?
- Women weight trained for 5 months
- Then they took almost 8 months off, without training
- And then they retrained for 1.5 months
- Their muscles pretty much when right back to normal
It’s totally realistic to state:
- That Bale was already fit (see above photo (2002), right around the time of him losing weight for his role in the machinist (2004)); and
- Bale merely regained his bodyweight after starvation, and within 2-6 months regained his muscle fiber size back to pretty much normal (which is possible, see above study)
Christian bale: not all that special.
As you can see very few actors actually are gaining muscle for roles, because it’s physically impossible just to put on short-term muscle (without steroids).
The only guys you see large, muscular, and with little fat, are the ones who have years of weightlifting behind them and obviously are into it as a hobby, like Hugh Jackman.
In every movie he’s big. He obviously normally lifts weights.
Muscles take years to make.
So what’s Christian Bale’s secret to weight gain?
- Regaining weight after his starvation diet (natural + overfeeding on junk food)
- Muscle memory — he was previous trained and fit for Equilibrium in 2002, which he most likely regained in a few months pretty easily
Side Note: Are Some of These Guys Taking Steroids?
Some of you might be asking: what about steroids?
Any message board you go on (I avoid them all for a reason), people easily say “ROIDS!!!” because it’s a blanket statement that takes no thought or analysis.
I’ve searched desperately for information on any actors that have been caught with steroids, and a few come to mind: Sylvester Stallone was caught — while Arnold Schwarzanegger and Mickey Rourke admitted used them.
Since this is obviously a “taboo” topic, there isn’t much data on it, so let me pose an entirely hypothetical situation:
If you were an actor getting paid 100 million dollars for a movie, you’d do whatever it takes to fit the part for the role. Actors have gained (and lost) 60 or more pounds to fit a part – regardless of the consequences to their health.
Does that involve steroids? It’s up to you as to what you want to believe.
How The Best Are Made: There Are no Secrets
I opened this post talking about how the average joe often views the top echelon of actors, business people, and the successful as special. Blessed. Possessing secrets.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned about success it’s this – the most successful are rarely the most gifted. Forget fitness for a moment – look at the people around you. In Business, relationships, happiness — the most successful people I know have instead forged perfect habits that create perfection every day.
They’re the boyfriends and husbands that surprise their spouse every couple weeks with something fun; they’re the new gym-goers that started with 5 minutes a day, and a year later, are up to 50 minutes a day; they’re the business men and women who reach out to one new contact every day.
Success after all is merely the culmination of thousands of days of good habits.
Today, think about the thousands of tiny little actions you’ll make today. Are they bringing you closer to the future you envision? Further? Nowhere?
Ponder that next time you pick up your phone because you’re bored, or eat mindlessly, or snap at your spouse over something small. Every act is you - are they bringing you closer to perfection, or nowhere?
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