The actor shares his go-to chest day workout—and the journey he took to living healthy.
You probably wouldn’t recognize actor Ethan Suplee if you saw him out in public these days, even though he’s been onscreen, both in TV and movies, for the better part of the quarter century (he’s been in everything from Boy Meets World as a kid to Mallrats, American History X, Remember the Titans, My Name Is Earl, Wolf of Wall Street, and most recently Motherless Brooklyn). Suplee has pulled off one of the most dramatic and impressive transformations we’ve seen from someone living under the public eye, but his workouts weren’t to pack on the muscle needed to play a superhero. Suplee was more focused on transforming his relationship with food and fitness. Then the pounds dropped, and muscle followed.
The 43-year-old actor recently documented his progress, sharing that he had shed over 200 pounds and started packing on muscle with a consistent weightlifting routine. Suplee is all-in on this newfound health kick, to the point that he’s started his own podcast, American Glutton, that focuses investigates obesity, diet culture, and the ways that he has engaged with his own health over the last 20-plus years.
But this isn’t the first time Suplee, who has weighed over 500 pounds before, has slimmed down. So far, though, it feels like it’s the first time that all of his hard work will help him to actually maintain a healthy lifestyle. He opened up about his journey in a phone interview with Men’s Health, along with sharing his go-to chest push day workout on video.
Ethan Suplee’s Long Road to Healthy Weight Loss
Suplee says that he was always a “heavy kid,” and that’s when his relationship to his weight and food developed. His grandparents put him on a diet, so he began sneaking food and preferring to eat alone, a cycle that would become hard to break as an adult. “Food became just like every other drug, and I didn’t understand how my body used it,” he says. But there was still a long road ahead, and many of Suplee’s earliest roles showcased his size as much as they did his talents.
By 2002, Suplee knew he had to change. “I had this girlfriend at the time, and I just realized at some point that in order to have a lasting relationship with her and be able to lead the life I wanted to lead, I would have to do something about my health.” He opened up to her about his goals, and they set out to live a healthier life. Suplee started by putting himself on a liquid diet and estimates that he lost 80 pounds in two months, an extreme drop and lifestyle change that he would never advocate now. He shifted to a diet that only allowed him small portions of lean meat and vegetables, got down to around 400 pounds, then the weight loss slowed down. That wasn’t good enough for Suplee.
“You have this immediate massive drop in weight, and you go okay, I want to keep riding that roller coaster to the finish line,” he says. “But there’s no thought to the long term practicality of weight loss.”
Once 2005 rolled around, his wife was pregnant with their first child and Suplee was an exercise fiend, practicing Muay Thai and jiu jitsu. But his weight loss had plateaued, and he was thrown off his routine when he started filming My Name Is Earl. “I wasn’t factoring in how I was going to maintain my weight at work when I was working like, 14 hours a day, five days a week,” he admits. “Over the course of five years, I gained 100 pounds.”
Coming out of the show, Suplee picked up a new hobby, cycling—but the way he went about it wasn’t healthy. He restricted how much he was eating, doing “all kinds of really crazy stupid diets”—he once only allowed himself to eat while he was actually on the bike—to go along with a grueling cycling regimen, and dropped all the way down to 220 pounds. This was the least weight he’d ever carried, but that in itself was not satisfying. “I was really, really unhappy with how I looked, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin,” he says. “I felt like a light breeze would knock me over. I don’t know if I’m just big boned or a big dude, but 220 felt really, really small.”
After all the hard work, Suplee was still unhappy with his body. He also had loose skin from all his weight loss, something that negative media outlets used to shame him for his progress. “TMZ stopped me and was like hey, you look great, what’re you doing? And I said I ride bikes,” Suplee recalls. “Then they had people talk about it and someone said ‘well, he’s still a fat guy.” Suplee had 14 percent body fat at the time. Worse, Suplee says that paparazzi began to take photos of his loose skin for stories about the downside of weight loss, turning his hard-earned progress into a source of shame. “For the news to be kind of negative, I was like, fuck you guys,” he says.
Worse still, he crashed his bike, badly. He dropped cycling, then picked up CrossFit, but busted his knee and gained “easy” 150 pounds. He was back to square one.
Finding a Healthy Balance
Then, Suplee was cast in a new show, Hulu’s Chance. He began lifting weights for the role of D, a big, tough guy—and something clicked. “I found that I really enjoyed lifting weights and I could get my workout in an hour, and so that wasn’t like a huge part of my day,” he says. “Even if I had a really long work day, I could go before or go after.”
More importantly, Suplee decided to dig into the most difficult part of the equation, his nutrition. He started with keto, but everything finally clicked when he came across a TED Talk by Dr. Mike Isratel, “The Scientific Landscape of Healthy Eating”. “I probably watched it four times in a row,” Suplee says. “I was just like, this is not what I was being told.” Suplee had bought into the theory that all carbohydrates are bad in any form, so being told that the macronutrient is actually a necessary source of fuel was eye-opening.
He switched to a low fat diet, gained 8 pounds in three days, but stayed the course after doubling down on the science and checking his lean body fat percentage using a DEXA scan.
Now, Suplee is about 260 pounds, and feels much healthier. He uses progressive overload principles very slightly over a four-week periods, then comes back a little heavier and repeats the process. He’s mostly focused on hypertrophy, not lifting a house full of weights. “I don’t give a crap about how many plates I have on there, that’s irrelevant,” he says. “The only thing I’m trying to do at this point is lose fat and hold onto the muscle.” Suplee’s biggest goal is to get to 10 percent body fat, then see how much muscle he can pack onto his frame. He calls it a “crazy, kind of science-y fun project I’m looking forward to.”
The public reception to his recent weight loss is much more positive as well, with no TMZ hit pieces or shame paparazzi photos. Suplee credits that shift in part to being totally in control of the narrative, through his posts on Instagram and his openness on his podcast about his journey.
“The more I feel that I understand, scientifically, the more power I have over it.”
No matter what anyone thinks, Suplee is training hard now, and he plans to continue that going forward. That also applies to his acting career. “I made my career as the fat guy,” he says. “I don’t want to be fat anymore. If the podcast is what I have to do make a career, that’s fine.”
All of the effort has been worth it to Suplee for the knowledge he’s gained. That’s what he hopes everyone who marvels at his before and after photos can learn.
“The most important thing I would want anyone to take away is that for me, the biggest change was understanding how food works,” he says. “And the more I feel that I understand, scientifically, the more power I have over it.”
Ethan Suplee’s Chest Day Push Workout
Suplee is hard at work at achieving his goals, so the Men’s Health team met up with him at Grant Roberts’ Granite Gym in Beverly Hills, where the man himself, strength coach Grant Roberts, helped to walk us through his chest push day workout split.
Power Plate Pushup
1A. Dumbbell Incline Fly – 3 sets of 10 reps
1B. Dumbbell Incline Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
2. Low Bench Press (Machine Press) – 3 sets of 10 reps
3. Cable Scoop – 3 sets of 10 reps
4A. Dumbbell Pullover – 3 sets of 10 reps
4B. Dumbbell French Press – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
5. Double Skullcrusher with Hold – 8 reps, 5 reps, 3 reps, 1 rep
Author: Brett Williams
Source: Men’s Health: How Ethan Suplee Lost Weight, Got Jacked, and Found His Healthy Balance