Zac Efron On How Getting Shredded For “Baywatch” Led To Mental And Physical Burnout - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Zac Efron On How Getting Shredded For “Baywatch” Led To Mental And Physical Burnout

Zac Efron admits that the pressure he faced to obtain the “ideal” physique for Baywatch was something rather harmful to his own health.

While some celebrities are known only for their transformations, shedding the weight or packing on the mass only to lose it as soon as the director rolls ‘CUT’ and the set emptied, others seem to exist in a state of being perpetually ripped. For Zac Efron, his is a physique that has come to be admired by men and women alike, with the former often looking to the star as an aspirational guide to fitness and health. Known for his energy and the unbridled enthusiasm for which he attacks life, Efron has always made fitness a priority in his life – even if you didn’t know this about the star, his bulging biceps tend to give it away. 

But while celebrities have long had to contend with the scrutiny of the public and Hollywood executives alike when it comes to their bodies, Efron faced a new level of such pressure when filming 2017’s Baywatch. Much like the series that had made actors like Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff a household name, the film was one that sought to have only the most toned, athletic, ripped individuals on screen – after all, the job of a lifesaver is a physically demanding one. 

For Efron, it meant sporting veiny biceps and washboard abs, along with unrealistic standards he held himself accountable to achieving. Speaking to Men’s Health US for their October cover, the star revealed that the pressure he placed on himself to obtain such a physique was incredibly damaging, ultimately impacting his mental and physical health. 

It was a valuable lesson for Efron, who realised the impact of perpetuating unrealistic body standards through his roles, both for himself and audiences around the world. “That Baywatch look, I don’t know if that’s really attainable. There’s just too little water in the skin. Like, it’s fake; it looks CGI’d,” said the actor. “And that required Lasix, powerful diuretics, to achieve. So I don’t need to do that.”

As the Mayo Clinic reports, diuretics are typically used to treat high blood pressure but such drugs have a history among bodybuilders as they help to reduce the amount of fluid in the body between the muscle and skin, helping to give the skin that lean look associated with being “ripped.” Abuse of diuretics can lead to severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and, in severe cases, even death. 

As well as taking diuretics, Efron admitted that he overtrained on little sleep and as the lack of recovery took a toll on his body and mind, excitement for the film project began to dwindle. “I started to develop insomnia,” he said. 

“I fell into a pretty bad depression, for a long time. Something about that experience burned me out. I had a really hard time recentering.”

zac efron

After filming wrapped, Efron took a break from acting and came to Australia where he gave himself permission to relax and get out of shape for the first time in his life. “At one point, that was a dream of mine – what it would be like to not have to be in shape all the time,” says Efron. “What if I just say, ‘Fuck it and let myself go?’ So I tried it, and I was successful. And for all the reasons I thought it would be incredible, I was just miserable. My body would not feel healthy; I just didn’t feel alive. I felt bogged down and slow.”

When filming for the reality show Down to Earth started streaming on Netflix, Efron once again saw his body subjected to scrutiny as it made headlines around the world, with people commenting on his “dad bod” and The New York Post saying it was a “far cry from his ripped physique in Baywatch.”

But in sharing his story of burnout and the abuse of diuretics, Efron wants others to know that the pursuit of the ideal body isn’t sustainable or worth it – particularly when the ways in which you are achieving it isn’t healthy. As he begins training for his next upcoming film, Efron understands that his is no longer a quest for perfection and the Baywatch body isn’t something to be coveted, not when there is so much sacrifice involved in order to achieve it.

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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