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Dietitians Weigh In On Hugh Jackman's Bulking for Deadpool 3

Dietitians Weigh In on Hugh Jackman's 8,000-Calorie "Deadpool 3" Bulking Plan

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, Hugh Jackman, 2006, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Warning: some things discussed in this story may be triggering to those with a history of disordered eating.

Hugh Jackman isn't new to the role of Wolverine — he's been playing the character since 2000, when he first embodied the superhero in "X-Men" — but that doesn't mean he's always Wolverine-ready. To prep for the 10th reprise of Wolverine, this time in "Deadpool 3" (out Nov. 8, 2024), Jackman has been giving fans a glimpse into what it takes to become the superstrong mutant — and it doesn't look easy.

On March 6, Jackman posted an Instagram photo of filled-to-the-brim food containers holding his six meals for the day. "Bulking. A day in the life," he wrote in the caption. "Thank you Chef Mario for helping me stay healthy and properly fed whilst … Becoming. Wolverine. Again."

The spread, put together by NYC-based chef Mario Spina, includes black bass with rice, Patagonia salmon with potatoes, two chicken burgers with sweet potatoes, and two grass-fed sirloins with noodles. Each container is labeled with the food and the number of calories inside, and together they amount to more than 8,000 calories.

Disclaimer: Most people do not need to pay much attention to the exact number of calories they're eating, nor do they need anywhere near this many calories — and for many people, tracking calories can actually be triggering. But for Jackman, who just ended his run on broadway in "The Music Man" (and has been singing and dancing up a storm on stage every night), eating this much is necessary to fuel his "bulking" goals.

"Bulking is an approach used by individuals looking to gain muscle mass and increase their body weight," explains Brea Lofton, MS, registered dietitian and nutritionist for Lumen. "The process involves consuming more calories than your body burns, which provides the extra energy to help the body build muscle tissue."

But in addition to that, "it's also important to engage in strength training exercises to stimulate muscle growth," she says. When you exercise or do resistance training, you create small tears in your muscle fibers. "Your body needs a surplus of energy (calories) to fuel your muscle growth and repair, and needs protein to support the synthesis of new muscle tissue," she continues — and that's what results in getting physically stronger as well as producing visible muscle gains.

For the past few months, Jackman has been sharing photos of his Wolverine workouts: peep him pushing major weight on the leg press in Paris, doing heavy dumbbell curls, and going for polar bear plunges to ease his sore muscles — which he blames on his strength coach, Beth Lewis. Jackman has also been enjoying a bit of friendly rivalry with costar Ryan Reynolds, who's tackling his own training program to prep for filming. Reynolds, who trains with celebrity trainer Don Saladino, has also been seen curling equally heavy dumbbells. (Call it a battle of the biceps.)

If this all sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. In January, Jackman said physically prepping for his "Deadpool 3" role is his "job for six months," per People. He's spending time with his family and training — that's it. "I've learned you can't rush it. I've learned that it takes time," he explained.

And he's right: "While rapid weight gain can be problematic and potentially harmful to your health, a slow and steady approach to weight and muscle gain is generally considered safe and sustainable," Lofton says. Plus, it can take time for your digestive system to adjust to the increased amount of food, which can lead to digestive discomfort or GI issues. That's why it's recommended to "gradually increase your calorie intake over time, rather than drastically increasing it all at once," she says. You also want to make sure you're eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health and well-being. Eating a balanced diet is key to not only gaining weight and muscle (if that's your goal), but also maintaining good health, she says.

With the help of Lewis and Spina, Jackman seems to be doing exactly that. In January, Jackman told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" that he was building up to eating 6,000 calories a day. "I'm on about 4,500-5,000 calories at the moment," Jackman said at the time. As of early March, he seems to have hit his target of 6,000 calories and then some. "Now I'm just eating and training," he said.

In case you're feeling inspired, take note that "it's not necessary to eat 8,000 calories in order to gain weight or muscle," says Kieran McSorley, a registered dietitian at Brentwood Physiotherapy in Calgary, Canada. "This number is very specific and set for his role in the movie but a normal person's actual number will vary depending on a person's individual factors such as their age, sex, height, weight, activity level, and goals. Eating a moderate calorie surplus, such as 200-500 calories above maintenance, can be effective for gaining weight and muscle at a healthier rate."

It's intriguing to see exactly what it takes for a celebrity to assume the role of a beloved character — but the fact that this physical transformation is a full-time job for Jackman is a great reminder that this isn't realistic for the average person. There's also a reason why Jackman has had to retransform himself into Wolverine 10 different times: being at peak physical fitness is just that, a peak, and it's often impossible to remain there for long.

"It's always important to remember that everyone's body is different and unique, and some people may be able to gain muscle on fewer calories while others may require a larger surplus," Lofton adds. "That is another reason why nutrition is so individualized, because the way our bodies respond to food can absolutely vary from person to person overall. In general, I usually recommend listening to your body and adjusting your calorie intake based on your individual needs and your intended weight and health goals."

Unless you want to be the next Wolverine, you can simply regard all of Jackman's work with awe — but there's no need to see it as inspiration.

Image Source: Everett Collection
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