How to transform your body Hollywood style

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Craig Budgen has spent over a decade getting celebrities – including The Hobbit stars Richard Armitage, Luke Evans and James Nesbitt – into shape for screen roles, offering a combined programme of nutrition and training that gets quick results. But although fast transformations are impressive, Budgen says if you’re training for the long term you can get even better results. 

Time will tell

What most A-list transformations come down to is time. If someone’s got three months to commit to getting in shape for a film, they won’t do much else. They can have their food prepared for them, they can sleep more, and because they’re recovering better they can train twice a day. It can take a toll on the body, but it’s possible for the short term. When you see people doing hours and hours of cardio and starving themselves to get in shape, that’s a problem – it’s not sustainable or healthy in the long term. But when people train, eat and sleep sensibly, they can achieve the body they want and keep it. 

Game plan 

Of course, most of us don’t have the luxury of taking weeks off work and having all our food 
prepared. But forward planning is a decent substitute. With a bit of careful planning you can make your regime just as effective. 

First, you should know how your body responds to food. I usually recommend that people eat three to four times a day, getting lots of vegetables and salad and reducing carbs over time. I don’t really discourage any foods apart from ones packed with trans fats – the damaging stuff in processed food – but I’ll assess clients to see what works for them: whether they can tolerate more carbs without getting fat, or less without getting low on energy. Eating too little fat or keeping calories too low is a big problem for some people. 

After that it’s about preparation. Set aside time to shop and cook – if you had to ditch one weekly gym session out of five to go shopping and load up on eggs, chicken and vegetables, that would be worthwhile. There’s no reason to live on bland foods, and you should try to rotate what you eat – having the same thing every day for two weeks will undoubtedly put you off it. Find a handful of meals that you like, and eat them once a week – no more. When you go out, don’t be afraid to order off-menu – most decent places will make substitutions. 

Level best

An actor charged with getting in shape will have a dedicated personal trainer or even a team of them. But with gym fees, mortgages and holidays to pay for – plus that body-shaping food – most of us can’t stretch to paying a PT for a weekly session. My advice? Find the best personal trainer in your gym and ask them for one session a month. Look for someone who pays attention to their clients, who isn’t on the phone all the time, who’s timing their rests. If they’re putting their client on the treadmill for half a session or just giving them a one-size-fits-all eating plan, they aren’t really good value for money. Once you get to know them, offer them a bit more to write you a training programme that should last you a while. 

Staying in

Finally, decide what you want and what you’re prepared to do to get there. You might see a film or read an interview and say ‘OK, I want to be 8% body fat like that guy’ without realising how much hard work it takes, both in the kitchen and the gym. If that’s what you want, that’s fine, but be prepared to make more sacrifices than someone who’s prepared to stay at around 10-12%. While he might be OK to go out for a three-course meal now and then – or even have a couple of beers and a takeaway – you might have to wave those goodbye. 

Snack time

Whether you’re an actor or an everyman, these snacks will boost your training

Mixed nuts

‘Carry these with you all the time,’ says Budgen. ‘They keep up your energy levels with a balance of protein, omega 3s and a nutrient called coenzyme Q10.’ 

Greek yogurt 

‘Mix in a scoop of protein powder – my preference is chocolate – and it’s almost as if the workout is your main course and this is dessert.’


‘Any dried meat is a great portable source of protein. Jerky’s just the most widely available. Try biltong or Mexican carne seca.’

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