Rob McElhenney’s transformation on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from Fat Mac to Jacked Mac is well-worn terrain. That transformation eventually culminated in the Mac Dance, one of the best and most surprising sequences in thirteen seasons of the series.
The reality, however, is that there wouldn’t be a Jacked Mac without a Fat Mac, because some of what Rob McElhenney did in transforming into Fat Mac laid the groundwork for becoming Fat Mac, as McElhenney explained to Dax Shepard in a recent Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard.
First, here’s the origins story of Fat Mac: Ahead of the 2011 season of It’s Always Sunny, Rob McElhenney was editing an episode. During the course of that episode, he saw himself in a shot and thought, “That’s not a good angle of me,” and considered finding a different shot that made him look better. McElhenney’s vanity, however, inspired an epiphany. These characters are gross and disgusting and should be aging as people in their situation might age, he reckoned. It’s important, he thought, that everyone on the show look as disgusting as possible so that it would be more realistic. So, he pitched the idea of gaining 50 pounds to the entire cast. “DeVito is the only one that agreed, and I was like, ‘No. Not you. You’ll die.'” After everyone else rejected the idea, however, McElhenney asked if it was OK if he did it. “Sure,” they said.
On the podcast, McElhenney explained to Shepard how he was able to gain 60 pounds in three months, a feat that was far more difficult than one might imagine. In fact, initially, McElhenney attempted to gain 60 pounds in a “healthy” way with the advice of a nutritionist, who instructed McElhenney to load up on chicken breasts, rice and vegetables. That diet didn’t work, however, because — as McElhenney explained — he just couldn’t muscle enough chicken and rice down.
“So, I went to my doctor, because I wanted to be monitored through the whole thing, because this is funny. And my doctor said, ‘To be clear, this is not funny. Don’t do this. This is really dangerous.'” McElhenney asked his doctor what was the healthiest way to go about it and his doctor told him there wasn’t a healthy way. So, he went back to his nutritionist, who told him he could eat a lot of chicken and vegetables and rice, or he could eat two Big Macs:
“So, I said let’s start doing that [eating two Big Macs a day]. So, then I had Krispy Kreme donuts. Every morning, I would have four of those … and by the afternoon, I was drinking ice cream. I would take ice cream, and I would put it out on the counter in the morning and it would melt and I would put weight gainer in it, and I would drink [melted ice cream] in the afternoon. I was also drinking [wine] heavily.”
“But this was the key,” McElhenney added. “I read that cottage cheese metabolizes really slow in your stomach, so if you eat cottage cheese, the last thing you want to do is eat it right before you go to bed because it metabolizes so slowly. So, that’s what I decided I had to do. So, I started eating cottage cheese in the middle of the night. I would wake up at 2 a.m. and I would eat cottage cheese. One week after that, I came in on a Monday and for whatever reason, it was like I popped … I went from 160 to 220.”
One problem, however, was that McElhenney found that all the weight was going into his gut only. So, he started power lifting in order to get the weight into his butt and legs and back. He also wore a step-counter watch, and his nutritionist told him that anytime he got to a set of steps, “I want you to stop and move as slowly as possible. Don’t get that heart rate up under any circumstances … At any point, when we were doing heavy lifting, we wouldn’t do more than two or three reps.”
While McElhenney did gain a lot of weight, he also gained a lot of strength through the power lifting, which he eventually translated into Jacked Mac through less food and more lifting. As for the consequences of gaining 60 pounds? McElhenney told Shepard that his blood pressure was fine, and his blood sugar was fine, but “I gained a fatty liver.” The fatty liver, however, went away after McElhenney stopped drinking. “Losing weight was easy because I was drinking probably 3,800 to 4,000 calories a day and when I stopped, I lost all the weight.”
How he got jacked, however, is another story, as he wrote on Instagram.
“Look, it’s not that hard. All you need to do is lift weights six days a week, stop drinking alcohol, don’t eat anything after 7 p.m., don’t eat any carbs or sugar at all, in fact just don’t eat anything you like, get the personal trainer from Magic Mike, sleep nine hours a night, run three miles a day, and have a studio pay for the whole thing over a six to seven month span. I don’t know why everyone’s not doing this. It’s a super realistic lifestyle and an appropriate body image to compare oneself to.”
So, to sum up: To gain 60 pounds in 3 months, drink melted ice cream and cottage cheese. To lose that weight and turn it all into muscle, hire the trainer from Magic Mike. Got it? Easy.