Joel McHale Talks FitForFood, Fitness and Food Snobbery


To say Joel McHale has been busy this February is an understatement. Aside from acting in the sitcom, Community, and hosting his usual gig on E!, The Soup, (often filming both in the same day), the funny man also fronted Fitbit’s FitForFood campaign.

The goal was for Fitbit users to burn 1 billion calories–a goal that was reached in just over two weeks–after which Fitbit would make a donation to Feeding America. Now that the calories have been burned, 1.5 million meals will be provided for people in need. Men’s Fitness caught up with the 43-year-old to talk about the campaign and other things McHale.

 MF: Why do you think Fitbit approached you to front this campaign instead of an athlete or fitness figure?

JMH: How dare you say I’m not an athlete! I just chose not to go pro. (He said with great sarcasm) Boy, I don’t know. They ran out of ideas; they ran out of names? I think one of the reasons is because I’ve had some success with making Internet videos for companies and making them funny, which is what they wanted. I’m sure it’s also because I’m known as being somewhat athletic. I exercise a lot and I used to play sports. But I’m happy they picked me, especially the fact that it had a large charity component. I think it’s rare for companies to actively incorporate everything the way Fitbit did. You didn’t have to do anything other than sign up. They reached a billion calories so fast they probably are regretting it. 

MF: Did you have a hand in coming up with the FitForFood commercial? 

JMH: Oh, yeah. My friends and I wrote it, obviously with great approval from Fitbit. They were very liberal about what we could joke around with. I think I came up with the idea or maybe it was my friends Boyd and Brad—Boyd Vico, Brad Stevens and K.P. Anderson wrote the White House Correspondence Dinner speech. The only thing they wouldn’t let us do is smoke a cigarette. We wanted to say “Nic Fit” and it wasn’t because they didn’t want us to, it was because of legal reasons. But a cigar was okay. And the cigar almost made me vomit and pass out. I had to create a lot of smoke with it, so I just started puffing hard. If they ever show the outtakes, at one point I think I went to my knees and just went “Guys I’m gonna stay down here for a bit; I’m just going to wait here.” Fitbit was great, though. I hope we do it again. It was really fun, and the whole thing about the calories buying meals is working. It worked. 

MF: Do you know how many calories you burned during this campaign?

JMH: In my lifetime? Billions. No, uh, jeez I just look at my Fitbit daily. It depends on how hard I exercise. I’ve got to say, I watch it more for my heart rate than anything, and I use the GPS for running. Go find some average number for an athletic male; let’s say 8,000-ish. I do exercise and work a ton, and don’t sleep very much. It pisses off my makeup artist. 

MF: You have two sons (6 and 10) and you’re quite the Seahawks super fan (you told Ellen DeGeneres how you can barely sit while watching the games). Given the choice to burn some calories running around with your boys or running in place watching the Hawks, what would you choose?

JMH: How big of a game is it?

MF: Lets use the Super Bowl. 

JMH: I’m going to take both my sons, put them in each of my arms and then run in place while watching the game. Extra workout, baby! I would get a good arms, cardio and legs workout. 

MF: How about nutrition—what are your most beloved foods?

JMH: Well, I’m a total snob when it comes to food. I do like really good food and I like high quality food. I love Jeni’s—I think it’s only out here [California]—Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. I love this beer called Pliny the Elder. There’s this steak that I buy from my butcher that I will hold up to any snake, I mean steak—steak or snake; I like to eat a lot of snake, it’s weird. I’m just a big snake man! Snake River Farms in Idaho makes Wagyu beef, and I think I can make it better than most restaurants. When I eat high caloric foods, I go all out. There’s also a place here called Domenico’s Foods that makes fresh pasta and fresh pesto with almonds and walnuts in it. It’s the greatest. So throughout the week I try to eat a diet called the 4-Hour Body that I pretty much stick to; especially if I’m filming Community because I’m always taking my shirt off. Then there’s a big, huge cheat day, and that’s pretty much my week. This morning I had bacon, eggs, kale and hot sauce, but you know I would much rather have a burger or a huge plate of spaghetti carbonara. 

MF: Explain the 4-Hour Body diet.

JMH: Basically it’s a slow carb diet, so you can eat things like beans and lentils—which are carbohydrates, but they’re not the same as wheat or potatoes—and all the protein and vegetables you can. There’s also a Slow Carb App. The theory is your body goes into, not a starvation mode, but “Oh, we’re not getting a bunch of sugar any more,” so we’re going to treat it accordingly. Then, once a week, you go nuts. You have a huge cheat day and that shocks your body into going “Oh, we’re gonna keep the metabolism going fast because this is how you eat, and we’ve gotta get all this stuff out of here.” Then when you go right back to the slow carbs, your body is still keeping your metabolism going fast. 

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MF: You’ve had some exceptional motivators for getting in shape—what with slimming down from your football days to toning up for that next-to-nude pool table scene in Community. What have you learned, from a training and perseverance perspective, over the years? 

JMH: When I played football, I lifted a ton of weight, I ran all the time, and I felt like my body was kind of breaking—and I wasn’t stretching. So I quit both football and running—I used to run marathons; I’m compulsive, or just regular obsessive—and I started just doing yoga, and my body felt great. Then my wife had our first baby, and I basically didn’t work out for a long time. I might have done a little bit of running. And then we had another son and I slimmed down a lot. Then I was in Deliver Us From Evil and I had to get very fit. I began exercising a ton, tried to get as big as I could. Then I made a pledge. I said I’m not going to get out of shape again. I’m just going to keep going. So I’m going to the gym almost every day for about 40 minutes to an hour, whenever I can get in there.

MF: What’s the hardest part of bulking up or maintaining your physique?

JMH: I think all leg workouts are harder than upper body workouts just because it’s a much bigger muscle. Even though I don’t like doing lunges and they annoy the hell out of me, I do them, because I know I’ll be happy sometime later. I really don’t have that much trouble with motivation. I’ve never been one of those guys that’s like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to work out today.’ I’m way too vain to not work out. 

MF: What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

JMH: I wish I could have signed Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber and Katy Perry their first record contracts so they could pay me for the rest of their lives. I guess I would have invested in pomegranate juice and kale, too. Who knew? If you had said pomegranate juice is going to be huge, I’d be like I don’t know it seems kind of hard to get those things out of there. Quinoa is just killin’ it. 

MF: Any advice for our readers?

JMH: Learn to read. No. Stay healthy. Let’s see. Hey men, stay fit! No, no. Men, keep up with the fitness

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