When Kumail Nanjiani was cast in Marvel’s Eternals, he was determined to step up his game to play the samurai Kingo Sunen. Before accepting the role, he would have probably described himself as a casual gym-goer, but once he signed on to appear in Eternals, he started a tough workout regimen.
Nanjiani quickly made a ton of progress behind the scenes, but it wasn’t until he shared his transformation on Instagram that people could see just how much he’d bulked up, and the whole internet immediately started buzzing over the photos. Nanjiani kept it modest, thanking everyone who had helped him, but he was also (rightfully) proud of all his hard work. So how did Nanjiani achieve such amazing results? The star and his personal trainer Grant Roberts have revealed a few key secrets behind his success in the gym. Here’s how Kumail Nanjiani completely transformed his body to get ready for Eternals.
Working with the pros
After seeing Kumail Nanjiani’s photos of his physical transformation, plenty of people wondered how he got those incredible results — and if they could potentially recreate his success on their own. However, Nanjiani has been open about the fact that his results would not have been possible if he wasn’t in a position of immense privilege. He worked with personal trainers and nutritionists throughout the year, all of whom were focused on creating a custom program for his body, goals, and lifestyle. He acknowledged that this probably wasn’t something that the average person could achieve without expert guidance and a whole lot of money to spend.
"I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world," Nanjiani wrote in his Instagram caption. "I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time."
3D body scanning
Over the course of his fitness journey, Kumail Nanjiani worked with many top personal trainers and nutritionists, all of whom played an important role in helping him achieve his goals. But he spent most of his time training with Grant Roberts, who has also worked as an actor — you might have spotted him in films like Million Dollar Baby or The Mule. His experience training celebrities and being in front of the camera himself meant that he understood exactly what Nanjiani needed to do in order to prepare for Eternals.
"My process is completely individualized and starts with the gathering of information," Roberts told Page Six. "Current lifestyle, body composition tests… I also have a 3D scanner that’s particularly useful for goal setting… and strategizing the nutrition and training program." The 3D body scanner that Roberts uses probably doesn’t come cheap, but these machines create accurate pictures of his client’s body composition, posture, and how their measurements change as they work out. It was an invaluable tool for creating Nanjiani’s training program.
Strict workout schedule
So, if you want to get muscles like Nanjiani, how often do you have to hit the gym? Nanjiani generally worked out for a little over an hour, four to five days a week — although he occasionally worked out twice per day. However, recovery time was an important component of his fitness program. He consistently took two or three days off each week, which was probably quite a relief after those difficult workouts.
Many people think that they need to push themselves to work out without taking a day off if they want to bulk up or lose weight, but having scheduled rest days so that your muscles can heal is actually crucial. Roberts definitely wanted Nanjiani to commit to a rigorous workout schedule, but as a professional trainer, he also understood that regular rest days would be the key to long-term success. Spending time relaxing outside of the gym is just as important as spending time in the gym!
They say that abs are made in the kitchen, and this was definitely true for Nanjiani. Getting fit wasn’t just about burning calories in the gym — he also had to ensure that he was fueling his body with healthy foods. Sure, you can technically lose weight while eating sugary desserts or savory comfort foods, but when it comes to building muscle, you need to start with the right building blocks and put nutritious foods on your plate.
What was included in Nanjiani’s food pyramid? He went with the low-carb approach to dieting. He also made sure to eat plenty of protein, which is essential for building muscle and having a sustained source of energy for workouts. Nanjiani also focused on adding healthy fats to his diet, particularly sources of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, he made sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. If you’re exercising as often as he was, you don’t want to forget your water bottle when you go to the gym.
No cheat days
Many people find that sticking to a consistent, healthy diet is even more difficult than finding a form of exercise they enjoy. But for Kumail Nanjiani, this wasn’t the case. He was so dedicated to his fitness program that he didn’t want to take cheat days. In fact, one of the nutritionists he worked with basically had to force him to take a day off from his diet and indulge every once in a while. Nanjiani credits David Higgins for giving him permission to enjoy his favorite foods and stop being so hard on himself.
What did Nanjiani reach for on cheat days? He grew up in Pakistan, and he loves Pakistani food — but he admits that this cuisine is very carb-heavy, which meant that it wasn’t appropriate for his usual meal planning. But he says that traditional Pakistani food, like biryani, naan bread, and rice, was his "go-to cheat meal" — and he would often feel so full after eating it that he had to take a nap afterward.
"No weak spots"
When Roberts designed Kumail Nanjiani’s workout program, he had a philosophy in mind: "No weak spots." Yes, they would target certain muscles, but overall, he wanted to create full-body workouts. His goal? Help Nanjiani look like a real bodybuilder. He encouraged Nanjiani to concentrate on "the symmetry of the musculature" so that he would see improvements all over.
Roberts admits that he pushed Nanjiani in a way that he had never been pushed before — but Nanjiani was always up for the challenge. He spoke very highly of Nanjiani as a client. He didn’t shy away from a challenge, and while Nanjiani credits Roberts and the rest of his support system for his accomplishments, Roberts says that Nanjiani was genuinely enthusiastic about getting fit. "I was excited to work with Kumail because I could tell he was ready to dedicate himself to the process," Roberts told Men’s Journal. "I have literally thousands of text messages to prove that point. Getting these kinds of results don’t happen without maximum effort."
Bulking up his shoulders
While Roberts was all about the "no weak spots" philosophy, Kumail Nanjiani did focus on working certain muscle groups where he needed to see more improvement. Roberts structured his workouts so that he would spend extra time working out his shoulders and biceps. Apparently, this was the area where Nanjiani was the weakest when he began working with Roberts. Roberts told TMZ that Nanjiani did lots of reps with dumbbells, including raising sets and overhead pressings.
Clearly, this approach proved successful. But if you want to follow Nanjiani and Roberts’ lead, remember that Nanjiani wasn’t just working his arms, shoulders, and chest — obviously, he doing core exercises and showing up for leg day, too. If you’re also aiming for a "no weak spot" fitness routine, it’s all about balance. The good news? While some aspects of Nanjiani’s routine are inaccessible for the average person — for example, most people can’t afford to have a nutritionist personally plan out their meals — anyone can pick up dumbbells and start lifting.
When it comes to helping his clients, Roberts clearly likes to stay on the cutting edge and utilize new technology in the world of fitness. While working with Kumail Nanjiani, Roberts regularly used electric stimulation (also known as e-stim) to target certain muscles. Your average gym-goer may not have used this tool, but apparently celebrity trainers like Roberts are big fans.
So, how does electric stimulation work? Basically, Roberts would place pads hooked up to electric wires on Nanjiani’s back over specific muscle groups. Sometimes, he would deliver a zap, which helped "fire up" the muscles. It may sound strange, but Roberts is a fan of using this method with clients. He used electric stimulation with Nanjiani about twice per week. It seems like it might be painful — and to be fair, most people won’t want to go that far in the name of fitness — but in Nanjiani’s case, it looks like it helped deliver the desired results.
Emphasis on intensity
When you start working out and eating healthy, you don’t see results overnight. The waiting game is frustrating, but it takes a while to notice the results you really want. However, according to Roberts, Kumail Nanjiani really didn’t have to wait long to see results. This is because Roberts went right in with workouts that were focused on intensity — packing lots of action into a short timeframe. This leads to fast muscle building and weight loss, which was probably quite motivating for Nanjiani. After all, working out for months on end and telling yourself that you’ll start seeing changes any day now can be quite discouraging.
"Kumail responded very quickly — as most people do — when introduced to training that shocks the system, whether it be for fat loss or muscle gain or — as in Kumail’s case — both," Roberts told Page Six. Starting with super intense workouts was probably very challenging, but there’s no doubt that it was for Nanjiani’s benefit.
Getting too muscular
When Kumail Nanjiani started working out to get ready for Eternals, he felt like he had spent years holding himself back from his full potential. He had generally worked in comedy — he was best known for Silicon Valley and The Big Sick — but he knew if he wanted to try something different, he would need to transform his physique. He had no idea just how strong he could get because he had never tried to figure out what his physical limits were.
It turns out that he was capable of more than he realized. In fact, at one point he was getting so muscular that Marvel told Roberts and Nanjiani to scale back and slow down a bit — apparently, he looked "too big and too cut" for the role. Therefore, Roberts lightened up on Nanjiani’s workouts. This probably wasn’t the kind of feedback that Nanjiani expected from the studio, but it had to be flattering.
The key to seeing amazing results in the gym isn’t just physical exercise — it’s also about your mindset. Kumail Nanjiani said that his perspective and sheer level of concentration on his goals were necessary to achieve the look he wanted. "When I’m exercising, I’m not thinking about anything else," he told Men’s Health."It’s like meditation."
Nanjiani even admitted that some of his friends were dismayed by his new attitude towards working out. He says that at one point, they essentially "staged an intervention" to get him out of the gym for a few days. They were worried that his intense focus on working out would detract from his skills as a comedian. Nanjiani knew that outlook might affect his work on funnier projects, but he said that in the end, he didn’t care. "I’m kind of obsessed with it," he said. Being funny wasn’t his only priority anymore — he was ready for a major change, and he was willing to accept the sacrifices that would come along with it.
There’s a common mistake that people make when they begin working out: they try to go all out and adopt some extreme habits, which inevitably don’t stick. Therefore, they end up quitting early on and giving up on their goals. As a personal trainer, Roberts is well aware of these pitfalls, and he was determined to help Kumail Nanjiani avoid them. Instead, Roberts made sure that Nanjiani was developing habits that would be sustainable in the long-term, even after he dialed back on his original, intense training schedule. "We sent him away in peak physical condition, but he’s had to maintain that," Roberts told The Hollywood Reporter. "I give him kudos for being able to do that, especially when he was working."
It looks like the new Nanjiani is here to stay — he’s come a long way throughout this journey, and there’s no doubt that his skills will impress audiences when Eternals premieres.
Saying goodbye to sugar
In order to achieve the results he really wanted, Nanjiani’s nutritionists basically had to micromanage his diet. He had to be exceptionally careful about eating sugar, and whenever he ate something sweet, he had to give them a heads up so they could plan his meals accordingly.
"They were like, ‘If you’re going to have a can of Coke today, let us know in the morning so we can adjust and account for it,’" Nanjiani told Men’s Health. Although he was allowed to enjoy cheat days, he soon found that after eating such a clean diet all week long, going on a sugar binge during the weekends would hold him back when he returned to the gym. Nanjiani admitted that on one particular occasion, he decided to indulge in sticky toffee pudding, but came to regret it the next day, saying that he felt so "off" that he had to endure "twelve hours of physical pain." He eventually got so strict with his sugar intake that he ended up going an entire year without eating even a single brownie.