As the spacefaring superhero adventure-comedy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 readies its rollout into theaters this May, we’re finding we’ve gotten a little used to the entity known as Jacked Chris Pratt. Every year, it gets harder and harder to remember that his big break was playing slovenly, chubby (but nonetheless lovable) Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But Pratt’s career has always been about defying expectations—for one example, the role that made him famous in Parks wasn’t supposed to last very long at all. How did this one-time avatar of the dadbod drop down from nearly 300 pounds and get so shredded? Here’s a look back.
He built up to it
Impressive as the transformation was, playing Star-Lord wasn’t the first time Pratt modified his body for a role. His bulbous weight as Andy was a deliberate choice, and he lost a lot of it to develop a believable baseball player’s physique for Moneyball. Then he burned fat and bulked up even more to play a tier-one operator for Zero Dark Thirty, and after that, he gained 60 pounds of pure gut to play opposite Vince Vaughn in 2013’s Delivery Man.
"I just like to gain weight and lose weight," he told Vulture in 2012. "It’s a rollercoaster. I just want to do this. I want to touch God." But after that marathon binge, he started cutting down again for Marvel, and now that he’s in Star-Lord shape, it looks like he intends to stay there—at least for awhile.
He quit beer cold turkey
Anyone who drinks knows that one of the lousiest side effects of alcohol, besides the occasional hangover, is the hit to your waistline from all the empty calories—they add up fast, and too much even has a chance of inhibiting muscle growth. (Not to mention how unappealing the gym looks when you wake up with a foggy head.) So it’s no surprise that Pratt’s weight started to fall off once he cut beer out of his diet, which he did until the first Guardians of the Galaxy was complete.
We believe him when he says it was a struggle. "I didn’t drink for seven or eight months, which was really not that difficult for me," he said during an interview with Jay Leno. "I’m not like a huge alcoholic or anything, but I always prided myself on being in a pretty good mood. And then I stopped drinking alcohol for eight months, and I realize from time to time I got grumpy." Well, there’s always the gym to work out that aggression. Also, that first beer after eight months must have tasted amazing.
He worked—and ate—smarter
When it comes to working out, it’s about quality over quantity. Good form, good nutrition, and a workout plan will get you farther than trying to run ten miles every day on an empty stomach with no strategy. But Pratt, like a lot of people, had to learn this the hard way, spending a lot of time doing it wrong.
While preparing for his role as a Seal Team 6 member in Zero Dark Thirty, Pratt tried to brute-force his way to a ripped physique while starving himself, and while it worked in the short term, it definitely wasn’t good for him. "I was doing 500 pushups a day, working out at the gym, running five miles a day, but with no food, and I tore my body apart," he told People in 2014. "I felt terrible afterwards, had to get shoulder surgery, and I wore myself down doing that because I didn’t have the proper coaching."
Worse, after all that effort, once Pratt started eating again, the weight just came right back. It wasn’t until he started eating properly and following a plan he could sustain that he found a sweet spot. No more yo-yo dieting for this guy.
But his workout regimen was still insane
Dropping 60 pounds in six months—and keeping it off—is no walk in the park. It takes everyday focus and determination, or as Pratt has put it, "Three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work." But he wasn’t on his own. Marvel producers hand-picked a personal trainer for Pratt: Duffy Gaver, a former Navy SEAL who’s made a specialty out of getting actors into ass-kicking shape.
"It’s less about the workout and more about what you bring to the workout—your will, your desire, your discipline," Gaver has described his philosophy. "If it was easy, everyone would be in shape." So what kinds of workouts was he doing? Well…all of them. Heavy lifts, swimming, mountain biking, cardio, rowing, calisthenics—four to six workouts a week, with extra solo exercises on top of that. It’s enough to make your body ache just thinking about it.
He ran an Ironman triathlon for the first time
File this one under "why not?" In 2015, Pratt competed in his first Ironman 70.3, a grueling 70.3 mile triathlon that saw Pratt swim 1.2 miles in 47:55, bike 56 miles in 3:07:25, and run 13.1 miles in 2:53:42, for a total of just over seven hours of pain. Though fine-tuning his physique was surely a part of the reason he took the challenge, his main motivation was to support fellow participant Mike Day, a retired Navy SEAL who was once severely wounded in combat. "Mike Day’s story is just so incredible," Pratt said after the race. "I figured if a guy who’s been shot 27 times can tough this race out I had no excuse." What got him through the training and the race? "Competing against myself for times," he said. "And listening to books on tape while I run."
He did P90X and Crossfit
Most people, when picking a workout regimen, will choose one and stick with it, but Pratt seems determined to try just about everything. Along with the rest of his gym work, Pratt dabbled in P90X and Crossfit, two programs that emphasize high-intensity interval work with lots of reps and not much rest. These programs, like all high-intensity interval workouts, help you melt fat off your body by keeping it constantly in a fat-burning mode. It’s just as painful as it sounds, but when it comes to the time spent working out, you get a lot of bang for your buck—studies have shown that working hard and fast is much more effective in a much shorter timeframe than a long, consistent jog.
He was focused on the role
Anybody who’s ever tried to diet or maintain a workout regimen knows it’s an easy train to fall from. A couple of skipped days, a cheat meal or two, and before you know it you’re right back where you started. But Pratt had a pretty singular incentive to show up for his workouts. "All you have to do is just book a Marvel movie and have a deadline," he said. "Then it’s like if you don’t, and you get fat, you get fired."
Of course, this understates how seriously Pratt took the exercise. After all, for a while, working out was basically his job, and his goal was to excel. "Chris’ athleticism is amazing," said his trainer, Duffy Gaver. "He is incredibly disciplined and his work ethic is phenomenal. […] He isn’t the client you have to push; he’s the type of client you have to pull down. If you were to walk into the gym when he was training, you would have thought for sure you’ve got a guy getting ready for the NFL Combine."
Intense and focused, Pratt came into his training knowing exactly what he wanted: to entertain filmgoers as the best Star-Lord he could be. "He wanted more muscle, to be much leaner, and to be more fit," said Gaver. "He wanted to do justice to the role."