How Zachary Levi Got In Serious Shape For Shazam!
If you want to play a costumed superhero,
then you need to look the part, and that means
intense workouts coupled with an insane diet.
Let’s take a look at how Zachary Levi went
from supergeek to superhero, and got ripped
When Zachary Levi agreed to take on Shazam
as his next big role, he essentially agreed
to make the gym his second home.
After all, this is a character who has stood
his ground in a number of scraps with Superman
over the years.
If this confrontation is ever going to play
out on the big screen, then Levi has to at
least keep pace with Henry Cavill, assuming
Cavill is still playing the Man of Steel by
the time a crossover is viable.
The movie’s official synopsis even described
Shazam as having a “ripped, godlike body,”
so there’s little wonder Levi began hitting
the weights almost every day.
During a chat with former Smallville Lex Luthor
actor Michael Rosenbaum, Levi said he’s working
out five or six days a week.
“Sometimes we’ll do two-a-days and then more
But typically, we’ll just go, you know, hour-and-fifteen-minute
session every day.”
That’s a lot of gym time no matter who you
are, and all that time pumping iron definitely
When someone who doesn’t work out regularly
starts hitting the gym hard, they usually
experience what’s known as “newbie gains.”
“Yes, you too can have a body like mine, if
you’re not careful.”
This was evidently the case for Levi, who
managed to pack on an impressive amount of
pounds within his first six weeks of training.
He told Rosenbaum in February 2018:
“Before I got the role, I was about 200 pounds.
I’ve hovered around 200 pounds most of my
Levi gave a similar account of his early gains
when Variety caught up with him almost a year
down the line.
Speaking to the Hollywood trade at the New
York City premiere of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
season 2, the actor revealed that he’d started
seeing results right away:
“I immediately put on about 24 pounds and
then we carved that down in about half.
So I’ve been hovering around 215 pounds, and
I’m in the best shape of my life and stronger
and happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.”
“What’s going on?”
“Oh, well, I got into really good shape.
Am I hitting the light right?”
“What is… what’s happening?”
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that
Levi had to consume a heroic amount of calories
to achieve a Shazam-worthy physique.
When Variety quizzed him about his weight
gain at the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2
premiere, the actor revealed that he’d been
taking on between 3000 and 4000 calories a
day ever since he won the lead role in the
“Lemme just wolf down this peanut brittle
Why would you do that?
Oh right, ’cause calories.”
Levi went on to give a more detailed breakdown
of his Shazam! calorie count during his appearance
on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast:
“3,700 calories, then with a bunch of other
supplements like fish oil, Omega-3s.”
It’s an impressive amount of calories for
sure, but how does it match up against Levi’s
The short answer is that, well, it doesn’t:
both Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill reportedly
consumed up to 5,000 calories per day when
training to play Batman and Superman.
Levi described his diet as “pretty lean and
clean,” and he really wasn’t kidding.
To achieve his body goals the actor had to
give up some of his favorite snacks and make
every single mouthful count, which is why
most of his meals consist of protein-rich
chicken and large portions of broccoli, a
favorite of bodybuilders everywhere.
Levi was even eating broccoli for breakfast
at one stage, documenting the experience on
One bemused follower took to Twitter to ask
the actor why he would do such a thing, and
Levi revealed that he has a variation on chicken
and broccoli five times a day:
“I basically eat the same macros all day long:
meat and veg of varying combinations.
I used to eat a lot of eggs in the morning,
but I think I have an intolerance to them.”
Hopefully that means he didn’t have to down
any raw egg shakes, Rocky style.
Levi’s physical transformation has clearly
been a source of inspiration to his fans,
with some even reaching out to ask the actor
for hints and tips on getting jacked.
He told one of his followers:
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I’ve been in the gym five days a week for
the last five months, and eaten pretty darn
healthy/strictly, but not so crazy that I’m
not still enjoying life.
The system works.”
When another fan asked how her skinny husband
could look more like Levi, the actor revealed
that he himself used to struggle with adding
muscle to his slender frame, and it was all
down to diet.
According to Levi, you can workout constantly,
but if you aren’t providing your body with
all the right tools then you’re going struggle
to improve on those newbie gains.
The former Chuck star replied:
“The key, I found, was quite literally consuming
You have to feed your muscles.
You have to give your body the building material
necessary to grow larger.
You have to eat, even when you’re not hungry.”
“14,000 calories later, I found myself down
at Subway, powering through a 12-inch veggie
on whole wheat.”
Levi might advocate eating as much as humanly
possible, but that doesn’t mean eating whatever
you can get your hands on.
When he was asked how he manages to eat well
while still enjoying his life, he gave a pretty
straightforward answer: avoid processed foods.
“From my perspective, the biggest favor you
can do for yourself is avoiding all processed
Sweet or savory, doesn’t matter.
It’s all breaking down in your body as sugar,
that is then stored as fat.
But there’s a lot of tasty CLEAN food out
Get into it.”
“Why are you eating stem first?”
“This is a new food for me.
How else should I eat it?”
“The other way.”
Junk food is far from the only obstacle when
you’re trying to balance gym life with a social
Alcohol certainly doesn’t help matters when
you’re trying to remain as trim as possible.
“I’d like to purchase some of your finest
Levi discovered the benefits of cutting out
the booze when he took part in Sober October
The star admitted:
“It was a little difficult at first, and it’s
still kinda strange not having a drink when
I do go out at night.
But overall I feel so much healthier and happier
and clearer of mind and heart.
It’s been a good cleanse.
May even take it longer.
Finding the time to prepare five clean meals
a day can be a big challenge for anybody,
let alone a busy actor.
But that’s where having a major Hollywood
studio as your boss comes in handy.
Levi praised Warner Bros. for helping him
reach his targets when he spoke to Michael
Rosenbaum, revealing that the studio had arranged
for his meals to be brought right to his door.
“I do meal delivery…
It’s part of the job.
And they’ve been very awesome about taking
care of me.”
That’s all well and good, but what does Levi
do when he’s not home?
As an actor he has to travel a lot, but even
then he sticks to his regimented diet plan.
“I use different meal delivery companies in
different cities, because I need to eat a
lot through the day, and I don’t know how
Like, at all.”
Imagine putting yourself through months of
training and hundreds of portions of broccoli
only for one of the biggest names in fitness
to call you a fraud.
That’s the situation Levi found himself in
during March 2018, when Men’s Health suggested
that the actor was wearing a padded suit on
Some behind the scenes photos of Levi in full
costume were leaked online, and regular contributor
Vinnie Mancuso took one look at the size of
Levi’s biceps and called foul play.
In response to the Men’s Health investigation,
Levi posted a picture of his bicep on Twitter
along with the caption “Sooo much padding.”
It was the actor’s way of getting back at
the fitness mag, but the author of the original
article wasn’t convinced.
In fact, Vinnie Mancuso said the photo Levi
posted was actually evidence that he was correct
about the suit padding all along.
In a follow-up article, he said:
“Yes, that is a large arm.
That is a gym-earned, above average sized
appendage [but] try to tell yourself honestly
that the arm in that photo is the same arm
[in the leaked photo].
You just can’t do it.”
Levi has had a hard time shaking the fake
muscle rumors since his spat with Men’s Health.
Some people seemed to think that he looked
padded out in a trailer that dropped in January
2019, with one fan questioning just how he
looked so huge.
The actor gave a purposefully non-committal
answer, but that’s likely because he’s sick
of addressing the story by now.
When Variety asked him about it on the red
carpet just a few weeks earlier, Levi again
denied that he needed extra mass.
“Especially in this area.
Does that look like fake?
Does that look fake to you?
According to a study by the Society of Behavioral
Medicine, having a workout partner can greatly
improve your performance in the gym, doubling
cardio results in some instances.
While many superhero actors are set up with
world-renowned trainers, the guy spotting
Levi is actually a photographer by trade.
Eric Blackmon has posted multiple pics and
videos of Levi pumping iron, unofficially
documenting the actor’s progress.
In October 2017, Blackmon tweeted:
“Apparently I’ll be getting ripped for Shazam!
as well, since Zachary Levi is kicking my
ass in the gym.
I need protein.
Despite the bleak winter weather, the pair
remained dedicated to the Shazam! cause as
2018 rolled around.
By February, Levi was already looking far
more heroic in their sessions, and by May
both men were looking fighting fit.
Levi replied to the second Men’s Health article
with another photo of his guns, and this one
was harder to argue against.
The actor posted a topless pic of himself
in the gym, along with a hilarious equation.
“It’s like the old saying goes.
Hard work, over time, plus chicken & broccoli,
minus carbs, divided by whey protein, in which
‘X’ represents the amount of supplements and
‘Y’ represents the sentiment of ‘WHY the hell
am I doing this to myself?!’, multiplied by
shameless selfies whilst staring into nowhere.”
Talk about taking your workouts to the next
“Why is it so hard to understand?
This is not fffffff—ing string theory.”
When he spoke to Variety in December 2018,
Levi was eager to discuss how being selected
to play the lead role in Shazam! changed his
life in more ways than one.
His name is now known across the board in
Hollywood and he likely picked up a pretty
paycheck for his work on the Shazam!
But he was also extremely grateful for the
chance to get healthy.
“Honestly, that’s the stuff that I’m most
Just the level of health that I’ve gotten
to, mental health, emotional health, spiritual
health, physical health, I am so jazzed about
that and I want to keep talking about that,
particularly mental health.”
It would have been easy for Levi to give up
after Men’s Health suggested that he just
wasn’t big enough to play a superhero, but
he wasn’t working out for anyone but himself.
“I just feel like we’re in a place, particularly
nowadays, where people need to be encouraged
and informed on what self-love is, and to
go and genuinely embrace themselves and love
themselves, so I’m really happy about all
“Sorry, I just had to reboot.”
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