The 7,000 calorie diet that got Tarzan star totally shredded
Tarzan is the ultimate physical specimen.
His muscular and athletic body was honed by the jungle.
So when Alexander Skarsgard was getting shredded to play the iconic role he needed to build an ultra shredded physique fit for the King of the Jungle.
The Swedish actor went through a strict four month training and diet plan to get him in shape for the new Hollywood blockbuster Legend of Tarzan which stars Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
Skarsgard did a 12-week clean bulk to add muscle mass before completing a four week cut to get him ultra lean for the film which hits British cinemas on July 6.
The 39-year-old former anti-terrorist law enforcer was what you'd call the ultimate hardgainer - so his diet played a huge part in adding muscle to his lean frame.
The trainer and nutritionist behind Skarsgard's incredible transformation, Magnus Lygdback, has explained the nutrition plan that turned him into Tarzan...
What kind of shape was Alex in when you started and how did you have to get him to where you wanted him to be?
We started four months out, which is not much time. But we did work out really hard while we were filming, so a lot of the scenes you see in the movie when he’s looking super freaky that’s half way into filming and towards the end.
Four months is really pushing it. But we had a bulk up phase which lasted for three months and then we had a four to five week cutting cycle with a diet.
So that’s how we got rid of all the body fat.
He can’t have been far away to do a four week cut then? Did you do a clean bulk?
I don’t like to put on a lot of fat when I build up people. It’s a little too obvious. I’m a nutritionist, so if I do my work, my client will not gain a lot of body fat. I want them to maybe gain a per cent or two. But it’s not about gaining body fat when you’re bulking up.
The only problem is that when you have a lean guy like Alex, you don’t want him to lose body fat while bulking up, because then you know he’s not eating enough.
So Alex came in super lean and we started at 5,000 calories a day and he was losing body fat, so we had to up his calories so he was about 7,000 calories a day.
So long as you monitor it from week to week, you don’t need to carry that much body fat. It’s the same thing when you do a diet. If you plan it right, you will lose that body fat.
So you started off with a bulk at 5,000 calories. Did you slowly bump them up slowly to 7,000?
Not even slowly. Within three weeks we were at 7,000 calories. At the beginning I was monitoring him every second day, I was measuring his fat and all the measurements. So I would say within weeks we were up at 7,000.
Looking at the diet plan, it was very high fats. Is that a conscious thing? Did he work better off a high fat diet?
The body works well on fats. I think you should add healthy fats to a healthy nutrition plan. The ideal is to eat just as much fat as carbs.
I was working off a 30,30,40 ratio. Depending on week to week, I always tried to stay humble and I don’t know it because everyone is different. You have to stay humble and adapt accordingly. I would say most of the weeks he ate 40 per cent carbs, 30 per cent fats and 30 per cent protein. Or 40 per cent protein and then 30 per cent fat and carbs.
This was his bulking diet...
Looking at the types of foods he was eating, there were some serious superfoods in there. Does it really make a difference?
It’s an interesting subject. We know they’re good for you. Do we know how good they are for you? It’s really hard to compare and say if they work well or not because we have nothing to compare to.
What I would say is we leave no stone un-turned. Everything that we can do, we know superfoods are good for you – so we’re going to eat them.
When you’re doing something like this, you have to be really, really extreme and you have to do everything you can. We were planning when to work out, when to eat, when to sleep. You have to be very meticulous and very specific.
What were some of the key foods you were giving him?
The key was good lean meats, while we’re bulking up, good fats and slow carbs. While we were cutting he ate only fish and seafood. Shrimp, lobster, fish. While cutting the key was fish and slow carbs.
Fish protein is really easy to digest and you have all these fatty acids. Not only the Omega 3s, but you have a couple more unique fatty acids that help you to burn fat. So when you want to cut, fish is brilliant. It’s my favourite thing to use.
In my diet plan, what I do that’s a bit controversial – well, uncommon - is I always give my clients carbs at night. Every single plan is ‘no carbs after 5pm’. But the brain can only function on carbs and the brain recovers at night, so if you don’t eat carbs at night it means your brain is not going to be able to recover while you’re sleeping. Your sleep will be worse and you won’t recover.
Eat carbs at night. Hell yes. Slow releasing carbs that are high in fibre. Sweet potato is one of the best carbs.
This was his cutting diet...
There was one day I read you took Alex for a cheat meal. What was the reasoning and did it help him?
We did a diet and he had just finished. We were a week or two into filming. He was exhausted from working out hard and being on a strict diet. He was eating food out of a box six or seven times a day. I picked his food, not him.
I could see that he needed that. I knew also physically that we were at a place where we could allow him a cheat day.
I could feel he was tired. He just needed it. I took him to an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill and I had I’m order everything that he wanted off the menu. We sat there for two hours in the London sun. It was emotional.
Nothing happened physically. It’s not like he gained fat or anything. He needed it. It gave him extra energy physically and mentally and he came back stronger the day after.