Born in Glasgow, Scotland, James McAvoy was raised by his grandparents after his parents separated when he was 7. In 1995, he appeared in the film The Near Room. He was not especially interested in acting, but his interest grew due to an attraction to his co-star. McAvoy considered becoming a priest and had already joined the Royal Navy when he was accepted at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire). After graduating in 2000, he moved to London and found work in tv and on film. His breakout role came in 2005 playing Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His star on the rise, he went on to win awards, including in The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, Split, Glass and many others. McAvoy has played a wide variety of roles on the big screen, small screen and on stage, two of his most popular being Professor X in the X-Men series and Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials. Although he does not have much of an online presence, McAvoy still has millions of fans on social media. He was married to actress Anne-Marie Duff from 2006-2016 and they have 1 son together. McAvoy is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs about 165 lbs.
James McAvoy’s Diet
As someone who is known for being rather skinny and pale, McAvoy proved he had a beast within him when he got shredded for the film Split and then went completely off the chain with Glass. There was a rumor circulating that he ate somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 calories, but McAvoy says that while he ate a lot of food for Split, it was nowhere near that much. For Glass, McAvoy hired celebrity trainer Magnus Lygdback to help him, and his diet plan involved counting macros. McAvoy would have 5 meals a day, and all of it was the wholesome kind of food: eggs, chicken breast, salmon, and plenty of veggies along with healthy fats and ‘slow’ or complex carbs to keep him fueled for long days on the set and intense workouts at the gym.
- Medium Carb 30% 30%
- Medium Fat 30% 30%
- High Protein 60% 60%
Pack In the Protein
McAvoy went heavy on the protein for Glass: eggs at breakfast, chicken breast at lunch, salmon for dinner, and steak as a snack.
McAvoy’s trainer Magnus Lydgback is a fan of whole grains like quinoa, beans and peas because they don’t cause insulin to spike, and then lead to a subsequent crash.
Skip the Scale
Because counting macros or calories can be difficult and tedious, McAvoy’s trainer recommends using your fist as a measuring tool. Eat a fist-sized portion of protein as a snack, eat 2 fists of protein for lunch and dinner along with a fist of fat, and two fists of veggies.
Ditch the Booze
McAvoy said giving up alcohol was also part of his get-ripped plan. It wasn’t his favorite part, but it worked.
To make his muscles bulge during filming, McAvoy would have some sugar in the form of a soda or candy bar. It’s an old bodybuilder trick to make the muscles look plumper. But that was literally the only sugar he was allowed while shooting the movie.
What to Eat
Slow Carbs: Quinoa, Legumes, Etc.
What to Avoid
Fast Carbs: White Bread, White Sugar, Etc
McAvoy on his Split Diet
‘Instead of eating 2 eggs in the morning, I’d eat 8. Then a snack of chicken breast. Then 2 chicken breasts for lunch, and a steak for another snack. Then 2 salmon steaks for dinner.’
McAvoy on Eating 6,000 Calories a Day
‘Just to set the record straight in case anyone decides to give this a go, I have never done this.’
McAvoy On How He Really Got Bigger
‘I gained more muscle weight and got leaner, but not by counting a single calorie. Good old Magnus Lygdback had me eating a lot but nowhere near the 6,000 calorie mark.’
McAvoy on Counting Calories vs Macros
‘We counted macros. I think probably a healthier way of tracking intake.’
McAvoy’s Advice on Special Diets
‘Stay healthy and eat well to enjoy if you can!’
James McAvoy’s Fitness Routine
Unleash Your Inner Beast
In just 4 months, McAvoy bulked his frame up with an additional 15-20 lbs. of muscle for the role of ‘The Beast’ Kevin Wendell Crumb.
Just Google It
For Split, McAvoy literally googled ‘how to get muscly’ and found a plan that he was able to implement on his own.
McAvoy developed his incredible physique with help from celebrity trainer Magnus Lygdback. Lygdback has also worked with stars like Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Alicia Vikander and Alexander Skarsgard.
For Split, McAvoy did a 5×5 routine, doing 5 exercises 4-5 days a week. Simple but effective.
To go from puny geek to massive beast required lifting some pretty heavy weights.
McAvoy usually hit the gym 2 hours after a meal. This required planning because he was eating about every 3 hours.
A James McAvoy ‘Beast’ Upper Body Routine
Assault bike: 30 sec fast/30 sec slow for 5 min.
Minimum rest between sets. Increase weight and decrease reps as you get comfortable with the moves.
Incline push-up (on bench): 15 reps x 4 sets
Chest fly (on bench): 15 reps x 3 sets
Alternating biceps curl: 8-10 reps/side x 3 sets
Skull crushers: 15 reps x 3 sets
Superset: Do 3 sets
Cable curl: 12 reps
Triceps push-down: 12 reps
The penguin: 60 sec x 3 sets. Lie with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Keep legs in this position and crunch up as you reach right hand toward right foot. Slowly lower back to center without drop-ping torso. Reach left hand toward left foot. Repeat continuously.
Dipping side plank: 15 reps/side x 3 sets
McAvoy on How he Grew Muscles on His Own
‘I googled “good way to put on muscle quick,” just went into a gym and did it myself.’
McAvoy on Exercising
‘I like playing sport, and I like doing physical stuff…But I don’t like the term “exercising.” I feel like with sport, you’re playing games. But with exercise, you’re literally just trying to stop yourself from dying too young.’
McAvoy's Trainer on His Goals
‘The work I do isn’t about building a gym body. It’s about building a character.’
McAvoy’s Trainer on Doing the Work
‘James is one of those guys who love the process. Because he had already been hitting the gym, and the framework was there, we were able to get more accomplished than I ever imagined.’
McAvoy’s Trainer on his Physique
‘I am amazingly proud of the results…He is not afraid of working hard.’
James McAvoy’s Supplements
McAvoy hasn’t shared much on the subject of his supplements, so below are supplements that can benefit anyone following a similar diet.
McAvoy has used protein supplements to gain weight previously, but he mostly ate his vitamins, minerals and macros in their original form for Split and Glass.
milk thistle extract
For those slender types out there, consider a mass gainer because eating all day long can get tedious.
James McAvoy’s Lifestyle
Skinny McAvoy was selected to play the role of a beefy boxer in Split and Glass due to a chance meeting with the director at a 2016 Comic Con. McAvoy’s hair was still growing in, and he matched the director’s vision for the role. McAvoy said he was drunk at the time of the meeting.
Split wasn’t McAvoy’s first role as a character with multiple personalities. The Ruling Class and Trance also required playing alter egos. As research, McAvoy watched YouTube videos of people with dissociative identity disorder (DID).
No, Neigh, Never
McAvoy is allergic to horses and has turned down roles if they involve any contact with the 4-legged sneeze-makers.
From training for Wanted, McAvoy really got into kickboxing, but he missed a target and punched a metal door, breaking 2 fingers and 2 knuckles, leading to his wearing a cast on Atomic Blonde.
McAvoy is passionate about soccer. His favorite team is Celtic FC. He says he would love to play Jimmy Johnstone in a film.
McAvoy performed a gutsy BASE jump from the world’s tallest hospital building to raise money for a Ugandan children’s charity. He supports the British Red Cross and has traveled to Uganda to increase awareness of their humanitarian projects in that country. McAvoy has also pledged money to create a 10-year scholarship program at his alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
McAvoy on How to Score Big in Hollywood
‘The moral of the story is: When in California, get really hammered.’
McAvoy on His Beard
‘I always have a beard between jobs. I just let it grow until they pay me to shave it. People are quite surprised it’s ginger. Sometimes they ask me if I dye my hair and I always say, “Wow, no! I’m trans-ginger.”’
McAvoy on Himself
‘I take a lot of pride in being myself. I’m comfortable with who I am.’
McAvoy on Social Media
‘I don’t do Facebook and I don’t do Twitter, and already I notice that, with some of my friends, there’s a whole sphere of conversation that I’m completely on the outside of.’
McAvoy on Motorcycles
‘I really do quite like zipping about on a wee Vespa.’