Life / Health

The Wolverine diet: How Hugh Jackman went from slim to super

Hugh Jackman and his personal trainer, David Kingsbury, started getting ready for The Wolverine halfway through working on Les Misérables, for which Jackman’s character, Jean Valjean (a prisoner turned wealthy merchant), had to go from looking scrawny to robust within weeks.

“In the first section of Les Miz, Hugh had to be thin. But for the second section, he had to bulk up,” Kingsbury tells Metro. “That was actually quite early on, and that gave us an extra couple of months of training dedicated to The Wolverine.”

Initially, they worked on building up strength and size but in the final stages they had to trim him down.

“That year, Hugh’s weight fluctuated by about (44 pounds). By the time shooting for The Wolverine began, he’d shed (15 pounds) and gotten his body fat down to six per cent.”

Wolverine in numbers

Age. 44

Weight. 198 pounds

Height. Six foot two

Body fat. Six per cent

Calories/day. 5,000

Total hours of workouts /week. 11

Body. 70 per cent diet and 30 per cent training

Weights + cardio

Becoming Wolverine required Jackman to train for a total of 11 hours a week. Monday to Friday, he and Kingsbury would do one hour of weights followed by one hour of cardio. On Saturdays, he’d do a one-hour interval session using a gym sled and on Sundays, he’d rest.

Jackman was put on a progressive overload weight-training plan to build up strength on basic lifts like the bench press, squat and deadlift. The point is to increase the weights by about five per cent every four weeks, so that they get progressively heavier, adjusting the reps at the same time. “We’d always train early in the morning, so Hugh would drink a double espresso just before for a boost in energy and have breakfast straight after he was done with the exercises. We worked both the upper and lower body, doing different movements each day, in order to allow the body to recover. We focused slightly more on increasing the size of his legs, just to make sure he maintained his balance,” explains Kingsbury.

They combined weights with a mixture of interval training and steady state cardio, such as fast-paced walking.

“It would either be low intensity or high intensity, nothing in-between, as the middle ground stuff is the worst for maintaining muscle.”

The diet

Jackman’s workouts were so intense that he had to eat around 5,000 calories a day for his body to keep up. His diet included lots of protein (eggs, fish, chicken), vegetables (spinach, broccoli), carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes) and fats (avocado, nuts, peanut butter, olives) but excluded all sugar, including fruit and alcohol.

“He ate protein every day, but to maximize results, we’d cycle his carbohydrates. On weight training days, his first three meals would be carb heavy and the last three would include lots of healthy fats.

On non-weight training days (Saturday and Sunday) he would skip the carbs and just have healthy fats,” says Kingsbury.

What Hugh Jackman ate to bulk up

Meal 1

A large bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon, six scrambled eggs with ham and spinach, two slices of rye bread toasted with peanut butter

Meal 2

Broccoli, a 10-ounce steak, one boiled sweet potato

Meal 3

Two grilled chicken breasts with lemon and herbs, brown rice, spinach

Meal 4

Grilled salmon, half an avocado, broccoli

What Hugh Jackman ate to lose fat

Meal 1

Four poached eggs, smoked salmon, half avocado

Meal 2

Grilled chicken breast, spinach, half avocado

Meal 3

Grilled chicken breast, one tbsp of hummus, broccoli

Meal 4

Seven eggs (four whites, three whole) scrambled with lean ham, spinach