Taking on the role of an iconic superhero is a huge undertaking for an actor. Not only do they have to deliver a performance that honors the character’s story and pleases a rabid fanbase, but they’ve got to look incredible while doing so. This means long, grueling hours at the gym and more often than not, a strict diet many people would ditch by the end of day one.
While noshing on broccoli, brown rice, and grilled chicken for six months might sound like punishment, it’s often necessary. In addition to having to perform fight scenes and daring stunts, the actors are often in clunky and heavy suits. Ben Affleck’s Batsuit, for example, weighed around 75 pounds. It would be incredibly difficult to wear that for an eight-hour shooting day if you weren’t in great shape.
Dedication to craft aside, let’s not kid ourselves — even the most bland nutrition plan is worth it when at the end of the road is a multi-million dollar payday.
That said, if you’re looking for the diet secrets that the stars are using to get superhero shredded, read below and maybe you can look as good as the Man of Steel.
The universe within the Marvel Universe is in one piece thanks to Chris Pratt’s role as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, he had a baller spaceship and ragtag team of misfits helping out, but really, a diet high in fiber and free of alcohol deserves the credit.
A calculated diet plan with his nutritionist helped him to drop more than 60 pounds in six months in preparation for both Guardians and Jurassic World. Part of that plan meant skipping sweets and eating things like bananas with almond butter. He even shared his protein-rich snacks like sashimi — or "cat food" as Pratt calls it — with an Instagram segment called "What’s My Snack?" In another Snack segment, Pratt shares a shake that he’s about to enjoy consume called cacao baobab banana chia. It might look more like baby food than a delicious smoothie, but it’s hard to hate on just 10 carbs and 18 grams of protein.
Just a few years before blasting off into space, Pratt had more of a dad bod in the making on Parks and Rec. It was great for rocking out in Pawnee, Indiana, but was taking a toll on the actor’s health. In a 2015 interview with GQ he admitted the change was more than just about a movie role. "My bones ached, I had cardiovascular issues, I was unhealthy, I was feeling rotten."
While the actor had a strict diet, that doesn’t mean he didn’t succumb to the occasional cheat meal. While filming Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt revealed that he found a restaurant that was difficult to resist. "On a cheat day I would just go hammer like four of those [chocolate martinis] and eat like 40 ribs."
Pratt of course isn’t the only Chris in Hollywood who’s saved the universe from supervillains. Marvel fans have watched Chris Hemsworth put Thor’s mighty hammer to good use both with The Avengers and 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. But one can’t go around swinging that hammer unless their biceps can back it up, and the Aussie bulked up to do so.
Oddly enough, this didn’t mean continuously eating 3,000 calorie meals of steak, but adopting the complete opposite — a vegan diet. According to his trainer, he went high-protein while he was preparing for the film, but switched to vegan while filming was underway.
"For Thor he would eat six times a day, said Hemsworth’s trainer Luke Zocchi. "Clean proteins, veg, brown rice." In a separate interview, he explained, "We’re all in this mentality of ‘gotta eat animal protein, protein, protein’ but you can get a lot of protein from beans."
Rice and beans alone won’t have you looking like the god of thunder though, and in addition to heavy weight training, Hemsworth also kept fit through sports like surfing and martial arts. "I’ll do a ton of boxing or Muay Thai workouts," the actor told Men’s Health. "I surf a ton and I do a lot of yoga, too."
Not just any actress could pull off the role of the Justice League’s premier female butt-kicker Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot proved she was more than up to the task, but considering she spent time in the Israeli Army, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
To perfect her slim and toned figure for Wonder Woman, Gadot was sure to drink lots of water to curb any cravings and stay hydrated while training. "I drink tons of water," the actress told E!
Gadot’s trainers Mark Twight and Hayle Bradley put an InStyle editor through Gadot’s training regimen and prescribed a diet that was an even 50/50 mix of proteins and greens, so it’s pretty likely that was Gadot’s meal plan leading up to filming, too — though she claims she doesn’t have any diet restrictions. The actress regularly shares on Instagram her healthy — and occasionally not so healthy — eating habits. "I’m a foodie and I love to experience food, but at the same time I look at food as fuel and I want to give the best to my body," Gadot said in a 2015 interview.
While leafy greens might be a staple, that doesn’t mean that Gadot has forever cut out guilty food pleasures. "I try to eat healthy," she said before adding "but sometimes though, I eat cheeseburgers. That’s good for the soul. I make sure to balance everything out."
Sci-fi fans are well aware that Zoe Saldana is a total tour de force when it comes to playing a badass onscreen. Besides starring in blockbusters of the genre like Avatar and the Star Trek films, she’s helped save the universe twice as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise.
Before joining on for the second Guardians film, Saldana set out to lose the baby weight from having twins and did so with lots of organic veggies and healthy Latin food.
Despite being 80 percent gluten-free, the actress is a fan of sandwiches and doesn’t shy away from making a stacked panini. "Sometimes I’ll make panini, and I’ll buy a whole bunch of awesome cold cuts," said Saldana. "My husband just loves cured meats. So I’ll get bresaola and another thick salami from a local farm, or really good organic turkey breast. And cheeses… I get the panini makers out and everyone makes their own sandwiches."
Funny enough, it wasn’t just the physical demands that altered what she could eat, but the makeup department as well. "Having green makeup on and wanting to have soup is really hard," she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. "If that soup lands on your chin, and all that green makeup smears off, it takes forever to fix it."
The actors playing Batman have progressively gotten buffer with each film and Ben Affleck is the biggest Batman yet.
Of course, diet alone didn’t shape Batman’s physique, but we’ll get to that in a second. A big part of that was trainer Walter Norton Jr. who put the Hollywood A-lister through a punishing 500 workouts to sculpt Affleck’s 222-pound body. "We wanted his body to look like a heavyweight MMA fighter," said Norton. "Someone who carries a lot of muscle but is able to move."
As far was what the caped crusader was eating, nutritionist Rehan Jalali, who has been working with the actor since The Town in 2010, customized a meal plan for Affleck that would keep him energized for all those workouts. Those meals consisted of a lot of egg whites, oatmeal, nuts, and fruits as well as lean proteins such as vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, plus protein shakes before and after workouts.
The big questions with each X-Men film entry are how jacked is Jackman going to be and what did he eat to get so jacked?
The Aussie actor is a subscriber of the 8-hour diet (Sorry, you won’t look like Wolverine in eight hours). The diet involves limiting food consumption to an eight-hour window, followed by a 16-hour fasting period.
"I feel so much better on it…" Jackman told Men’s Journal. "And the great thing about the diet is I sleep so much better."
Jackman might have limited his noshing to just an eight-hour window, but he was putting down 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day eating everything from green smoothies to steamed vegetables and brown rice — though he’s strict about not eating carbs after 3 p.m. "If you just made that one change and did nothing else, you’d lose 11 lbs in the first month," Jackman said.
He also aimed for "1.3 grams of protein per 1 pound of target bodyweight" or in Jackman’s case, around 260 grams a day which amounts to around 11 chicken breasts.
All that disciplined eating doesn’t mean that Jackman can’t let loose once his Wolverine claws are put away though. The actor showed off his ravenous appetite on The Tonight Show in February 2017, indulging in a gigantic bowl of pasta with a little vino on the side.
Black Widow can’t be expected to help her fellow Avengers in triumphing over Loki if she’s feeling sluggish. In order to get in tip-top shop for the comic book movie and its sequels, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Infinity War, Johansson turned to trainer Bobby Strom and her stunt double Heidi Moneymaker.
Besides putting her through 90-minute circuit-training workouts, Johansson adopted a mostly vegan diet. This meant smaller meals that consisted of lots of fruits and veggies and things like oatmeal for breakfast.
This isn’t to say that ScarJo doesn’t know how to cut loose and indulge in a guilty pleasure cheat meal now and then. "I earned this piece of chocolate cake," the actress said of the food indulgence while filming Ghost in the Shell. "There was this incredible place in Wellington, Zany Zeus that had the best piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life."
One doesn’t become a Jabari warrior and defender of Wakanda by sitting around munching on Doritos and M&Ms all day. For Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, prepping for the starring role meant taking a on a few different diets.
"At first, I was eating a lot of meat, and then I felt like it was too much for the amount of energy we needed to extend every day," Boseman told Variety. The actor then shifted gears and like a lot of superhero actors, began adopting a more plant-based diet. "So my diet became more vegetarian as we went along. It’s a lot of eating because there’s a lot of physical activity."
There’s nothing easy about transforming from a mere mortal into a superhero either. Boseman admitted to Train magazine that it takes more than a nutritionist prepping your meals. "It is tough; you have to be very disciplined day-in-day-out…" he said. "With Black Panther it’s obviously based around protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruit and veg, natural foods. Lots of greens."
Considering that Black Panther made $700 million just in the United States, we’d say that day-in-day-out discipline was well worth it.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, most of us will never have to convince the masses that we can play Superman. Which really, is a blessing considering what actor Henry Cavill had to put his body through for Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman.
"I felt enormous pressure," the actor told Muscle & Fitness about taking on the legendary superhero. In order to get Superman-shredded, you’ll need eat around 5,000-6,000 calories a day. "We started off at about 3,000 a day plus shake," Cavill said. " But, two hours of work and then we moved up to 4,000 and then up to 5,000 calories."
Just because he’s Superman, that doesn’t mean he could eat whatever he wanted. Nobody moves faster than a speeding bullet if there 5,000 calorie diet includes boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Instead, Cavill’s nutrition coach Erin Blevins would advise him to eat things like like protein pancakes made with egg whites and almond flour for breakfast and grilled chicken and veggies for lunch and dinner.
This along with vigorous workouts helped Cavill bulk up to around 190 pounds with around four percent body fat.
Now that’s how you become the Man of Steel, kids.
While Hugh Jackman might workout for Wolverine by deadlifting 400 pounds, Ryan Reynolds’ training process for Deadpool was a bit more chill. "Hugh Jackman has a dedication to his craft that I’m afraid I don’t share," Reynolds told Men’s Health. "If I’m up at 2 in the morning, it’s because something has gone terribly wrong."
That doesn’t mean that Reynolds didn’t adjust his routine to get in shape. The actor admitted that he had to significantly change how he ate from his Van Wilder days. "I was pretty unhealthy," he admitted. "I didn’t care what I ate or what I drank." To get in shape the actor adopted a 3,200 calories-a-day diet of "clean whole foods" and began working out six days a week. "I was eating, like, live children as they passed in order to bulk up," joked Reynolds.
The best part of ending any superhero diet of course is getting the green light to partake in something as deliciously greasy as pizza. Reynolds told Men’s Health (via ET Online) that for him, it was all about grabbing a NY slice. "There’s a Patsy’s Pizza up in Harlem that’s pretty much the best pizza…on the whole planet."
For fighting off Nazis as Captain America, Chris Evans said that his strategy was all about commitment. Commitment to getting eight hours of sleep a night and eating the right protein foods day in and day out. "…you have to stick to eating things like naked pieces of chicken with broccoli," Evans told GQ. "It’s not that I have to give up food — it’s that I have to commit to constantly eating lots of bland protein." This meant kicking his social life and favorite ice cream to the curb. "I love the stuff, especially a brand called Brigham’s. It’s the best ice cream on the planet."
While the workouts with his trainer Simon Waterson were certainly punishing, it was the ritual of constantly eating to bulk up that really took its toll on the actor. "It’s in-between the workout that’s tough, just eating, eating, eating all the time…" said Evans. "You’re just so full, it’s a pretty uncomfortable feeling."
That said, Evans was all about sneaking in the occasional cheat day while on set. "I am a big believer in cheat days and I don’t mind every now and then having an ice cream sundae or a doughnut here and there and as long as when you are in the gym if you are working hard, it will pay off," revealed Evans.
Alexandra Shipp had some big shoes to fill following in Halle Berry’s footsteps as Storm in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. That of course meant lots of time at the gym and avoiding her "nemesis" — Mexican food.
The actress revealed in an interview with The Cut, that she’s vegan and tries to regularly eat healthy. "We are what we eat," said Shipp. "I had to figure that out." This doesn’t mean she’s only eating soy beans, however, and she revealed that she will occasionally stray from her vegan diet when traveling.
"I want to treat myself to eggs Benedict all the time," confessed Shipp. "I’m always blown away by the eggs in Europe." The actress admitted that even if guilty pleasure foods like cheese and rich creams hurt her stomach, if she wants it she’s "going to grab it and go for it."
If you’re avoiding the deliciousness of Mexican food, you’re allowed a few eggs. Nothing to feel guilty about, Alexandra.
One only need watch the trailer for Aquaman to know that Jason Momoa is in incredible shape. Then again, the guy wasn’t really slouching it on Game of Thrones either.
Momoa’s trainer Stuart Walton had a big part in helping the actor prepare for his role as the underwater savior of Atlantis and actually didn’t set any foods as "off limits" for his client. Walton made a point to incorporate a macro-style nutrition plan — tallying the grams of carbs and fats — with the foods that Momoa enjoyed the most. This meant a lot of fresh fruit early in the day and something like rice or quinoa as the day progressed. Momoa would boost up his energy for workouts with coffee beforehand and ate a lot of steak, avocado, and salmon with dinner.
Wait, should Aquaman be eating fish?