- Warner Bros.
- Photos of Jason Momoa without his signature shredded muscles have prompted some people to criticize him, and plenty of others to come to his defense.
- Getting, and keeping, movie-star abs requires a long-term commitment to nutrition that’s not sustainable or healthy for most people.
- Often, actors, models, and bodybuilders use risky tricks like dehydration to boost muscle definition. They typically do it under expert supervision.
- To look fit while staying healthy, drink plenty of water, stay active, and don’t obsess over abs.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Actor Jason Momoa – known as the late Khal Drogo on “Game of Thrones” and star of “Aquaman” – was body-shamed this week after a shirtless vacation photo revealed the actor sometimes looks more like a regular guy than a rock-hard superhero.
“Admittedly, I think he’s down from an 8-pack to a 5-pack. WHO STOLE AQUAMAN’S OTHER 3 PACKS?!?” one commenter wrote on the US Weekly Facebook page, where the photo was published.
Plenty of other social media users have jumped to his defense (“You guys do realize maintaining chiseled abs and a perfect physique like he has in his movies is not sustainable right?” one commenter wrote), and fitness professionals agree.
Even if you’re in really great shape, they say, getting the Hollywood six-pack can take months of strict nutrition. And the really ripped look usually requires extra effort in ways that can actually damage your long-term health and fitness gains.
INSIDER talked to personal trainers and bodybuilders who weighed in on the truth about abs, the cost of getting superhero-shredded, and the best way to stay healthy and buff year-round.
Six-pack abs require great genetics and a serious dedication to diet
Everyone has abs. People with visible abs have low body fat, great genetics, or both, according to personal trainer Noam Tamir. And people with a superhero six-pack have all that, plus an incredible amount of dedication to their diet and meal planning.
“It’s like 90% diet. If you watch your nutrition very, very closely, you can get abs,” Tamir told INSIDER.
That means not just exercising regularly and eating healthfully, but also paying extra attention to dietary details such as how much protein, carbs, and fat you eat, and even when you eat them. It also requires patience: “Realistically, to get body fat that low, you’re looking at four to six months of being really diligent with nutrition,” bodybuilder Mike Lipowski added.
And even if you can get a six-pack, it’s very difficult to keep it. As soon as you lose your strict dietary plans, that ultra-clear muscle definition is likely to disappear as well. “It takes a lot to get it off, but it doesn’t take a lot to get it back on,” Lipowski said.
Plus, rigorous dieting can backfire because of the “rebound effect” of wanting to indulge after a period of strict control. “It’s really difficult and it’s not sustainable for the average person,” Tamir said.
Shedding water weight can make you look temporarily more buff, but it’s bad for your body long term
Many professional models, movie stars, and bodybuilders use a risky method that’s also not sustainable – intentionally dehydrating the body to make the muscles stand out. Hugh Jackman, for example, previously revealed his muscular Wolverine physique required up to 36 hours of dehydration.
The technique involves overloading the body with water and sodium in the weeks leading up to a shoot or competition, and then severely cutting both water and sodium to force the body to eliminate as much water as possible.
“Does it work? Yes. But I would never, ever condone it or suggest it,” celebrity trainer Justin Gelband told INSIDER. “It’s dangerous and it just wears you down.”
Specifically, going three days without water can kill you. And not drinking water can stress your heart, damage your kidneys, mess with your mental focus and increase your risk of other problems – and that’s just in mild cases. Dehydration depletes your body’s supply of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which your cells need in order to survive.
Aside from the health risks, there’s evidence that dehydrating your muscles can actually backfire if you do it wrong, leaving them flat instead of well-defined. “Muscles are made of 70 to 75 percent water, so when you dehydrate, the first place water leaves from is muscles. That, in effect, deflates your muscle,” Lipowski said.
Bodybuilders who swear by the practice have a complex set of rules they follow in order for the process to work, and celebrities “do it with experts around in case they need medical attention,” Tamir said.
To look fit while actually staying healthy, drink plenty of water and embrace your natural body shape
To get shredded, Lipowski said he drinks plenty of water since the body can get rid of anything it doesn’t need through healthy sweat or urination anyway. This strategy has the added benefit of improving your fitness gains, since studies have shown that dehydration can hurt your gym performance and increase risk of injury.
Ultimately, Gelband added that people should stop obsessing over abs and try to focus on a healthy, active lifestyle that works best for them. “Everybody is different and every body is different, and what’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for another,” he said. No one, he added, can be in tip-top shape all the time. Even Aquaman.