Throughout his career, Alexander Skarsgard has landed some pretty impressive roles that have always left audiences reeling from his performance. From Meekus in Zoolander to the physically abusive and emotionally troubled Perry Wright in Big Little Lies, Skarsgard certainly has developed a penchant for dimensional characters.
It would be easy then, to look past the impressive body he’s honed in his craft and rest solely on his acting credentials alone, but then there was The Legend of Tarzan and well, when the costume department stipulates you’re going to be bare-chested and dressed solely in a loin cloth for most of the film – it’s not surprising that audiences lost it for the man’s abs.
The non-Disney remake pitted Skarsgard as the titular character of the film, which also starred the likes of Margot Robbie and Samuel L. Jackson. While the film may have failed to secure a sequel, it was Skarsgard’s sculpted chest that drew the most attention. You only need to see his Tarzan-approved six-pack to understand why Warner Bros. knew exactly what they were doing in terms of the film’s marketing.
At an impressive 6’4” and with the kind of genes you’d expect the world’s top male models to possess, Skarsgard doesn’t need much by the way of help with his appearance. In this case however, he did enlist the guidance of a nutritionist to not so much alter but improve his physique. Enter trainer and nutritionist Magnus Lygdback.
Speaking to Men’s Health, Lygdback revealed the diet Skarsgard followed to get in peak Tarzan shape. Explaining the short preparation windows most actors are afforded to get in shape, Lygdback stresses that the diet isn’t for everyone.
“When building a superhero, there’s really three cycles,” explains Lygdback. The first involves the “bulking phase,” which is then followed by the cutting cycle, during which actors get shredded. Finally, there’s the maintenance period, where the actor must endeavour to keep his muscle mass throughout filming. Given the fact Skarsgard was already large, Lygdback and the actor went straight to the cutting phase.
The cutting phase
Skarsgard’s second and third phase diet was based around seafood with “slow carbs” twice a day. For the uninitiated, slow carbs doesn’t mean just chewing a bread roll slower than you normally would. Instead, these carbs are foods like brown rice, quinoa, barley, faro, and cold potato. These were eaten with seafood and “good fats” like avocados and unsalted nuts. “The reason for eating less salt when cutting is that salt binds water, and you’re trying to get rid of that water retention,” says Lygdback.
Skarsgard’s daily routine
Given that Skarsgard was 200 pounds during the cutting phase, he consumed 135g of protein, 70g of fat, and 200g of carbs daily. He would wake up and take a shot of ginger, cayenne and lemon. Then he’d do a 30-minute HITT cardio session before sitting down to a breakfast of four eggs, spinach and vegetables.
Three hours later, Skarsgard ate his first snack – shrimp or a similar seafood. Three hours later was lunch which consisted of lots of vegetables, sweet potato, and salmon. Three hours after that was the second snack of the day: sashimi or lobster, followed by a 45-60 minute training session of heavy lifting. Then dinner: more slow carbs and protein.”
What foods to avoid
During the cutting phase, Lygdback had Skarsgard avoid any kind of sugar or “fast carbs” including bread, pastas, mashed potatoes, fruit and juices. He also made Skarsgard stay dairy and gluten free. “If I’m getting you in tip-top shape, and I only have a certain number of weeks, I’m not risking anything. So it’s dairy and gluten free for everyone,” says Lygdback.
The seafood certainly is a nice touch, especially when cutting diets have become synonymous with bland foods and repetition. “For me and my clients, it’s really important that you can enjoy your food,” explains Lygdback. “What’s the point of eating broccoli and chicken breast and white rice seven days a week?”