Star power transformation

How an actor become a fitness cover model in just 8 weeks.

Vital stats

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 198.5cm

BEFORE

  • Weight: 121kgs
  • Body fat: 25%
  • Transformation period: 8 Weeks

AFTER

  • Weight: 109kgs
  • Body fat: 13%
  • Total fat loss: 16kgs
  • Total lean muscle gain: 4kgs

Motivation to change

You’ll know Uli Latukefu from Netflix shows such as Marco Polo and the new movie Danger Close, but for his latest role in action flick The Legend of Baron To’a, Latukefu had to undergo a serious transformation to reinvent both body and mind.

“I had just finished shooting Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, and at the time I was pretty heavy,” Latukefu says. “My next role was the lead in The Legend of Baron To’a, and the character was meant to be extremely athletic – not only in appearance, but also in the way he moved. I needed to learn over a dozen fight sequences and prepare for rooftop-to-rooftop chase sequences that included dodging cars and scaling tall fences. As the lead actor on this movie I had a responsibility to leave no stone unturned. It was essential that I brought a strong physicality to the role.”

With only a few weeks left in the pre-production process, Latukefu knew this couldn’t be any normal transformation, so he sought out the best in the business.

“My good mate and co-star on the TV series Doctor Doctor, Rodger Corser, had been through his own jaw-dropping transformation under the guidance of Chief and Emilie Brabon, and fortunately they agreed to take me on as a client,” Latukefu says.

Chief and Emilie Brabon have decades of experience achieving aesthetic transformations

Challenging times

Being an actor may look like a glamorous job, but that’s not always the case. “It’s possible to go a long time without an acting gig, which makes it hard to stay hopeful and committed to what’s in your heart,” Latukefu says. “This becomes substantially more difficult if you have a family to provide for. I had projects and roles fall through, some on the day I was due to fly out, so I went back to digging ditches or painting houses. The acting business can be tough, so when I got this chance with The Legend of Baron To’a, I was just grateful and wanted to get to work and show up in the best mental and physical state possible.”

Calling in the experts

“Chief and Emilie Brabon have decades of experience achieving aesthetic transformations like Latukefu’s, so they also understood his need to be as strong and athletic as possible for the film. Chief’s DARC™ (dynamic aerobic resistance conditioning) based program combines functional weight training with power building exercises and a high intensity interval training style cardio. “The sessions were intense, yet efficient, but only lasted around 45 minutes,” Latukefu says. “We used equipment that I hadn’t really used before, such as the landmine, which was great for explosive, multi-directional exercises.”

The expert strategy

“Uli wanted an action hero physique in eight weeks, but also needed the athleticism that matched the aesthetic,” explains Chief Brabon, head coach at the SKWOD –Sweat and Social Club (8weekstowow.com.au). “To achieve rapid fat loss while building lean, athletic muscle we put Uli on a signature DARC™ Protocol that combines high intensity interval training with athletic-based resistance training.” These 45-minute workouts were done five times a week. Three weeks of this was done face to face while the remaining five were coached remotely.

“In the final weeks we used ultra high intensity interval training and low intensity steady state training,” Brabon says. “I focused on exercises that challenged both mobility and stability while targeting strength and hypertrophy because these drastically enhance athleticism. This meant traditional exercises that used benches or machines gave way to ones incorporating kettlebells, battling ropes and the landmine.”

Mental mana

“You’ve got to do the work,” Latukefu says. “We all have dreams, visions and aspirations in life, but the reality is that they don’t and won’t ever come to pass if you don’t get your hands dirty and get busy figuring it all out. “Sometimes the fear of looking stupid, making mistakes or wanting things to be perfect and presentable stops us from moving forward. The refining of yourself and whatever you’re working on in life is a constant process, which you need to embrace. You’ve got to learn that this process demands your patience where you need to learn, grow, apply and repeat.”

Recovery uncovered

Latukefu took the time to learn about how seriously professional athletes take their recovery after their games and events and applied it during filming and prep for The Legend of Baron To’a. “I did this because I got my fair share of knocks and bruises and from shooting every day, so I needed to be on point with how I treated my body,” Latukefu says. “This meant I applied plenty of recovery methods where I alternated between ice baths and hot tubs after training and shooting. “Another element I found helped was the use of compression boots. They were definitely not the first thing you’d want to do after a 12-hour shoot day, but I needed to show up the next day ready.”

Energy eating

Latukefu followed Emilie’s Carb Conscious Nutrition™ program, which cuts out sugars and most carbs for the first few weeks before gradually reintroducing them in smaller portion sizes. “It has been pretty amazing,” Latukefu says of the nutrition program. “I was never big on eating vegetables – to the point where I actually hated most of them – but now they’ve become part of our cooking at home. My daughter was the same, but now asks for broccoli because it’s our new normal.

“I think that was the biggest thing for me regarding nutrition. We have revamped out way of eating at home with our meals and it feels good. It’s no secret that you feel better when you put quality fuel in your body. It’s definitely essential to better living.”

Nutrition strategy

“To shred some serious fat, while increasing lean muscle mass Emilie created a custom eating plan based on her highly successful Carb Conscious Nutrition™ program,” says Chief. “This saw Uli strip all alcohol, sugars, fruits and complex carbohydrates from his diet for two weeks, then Emilie slowly started introducing specific clean, purposeful carbs back into his eating plan. “Throughout the entire transformation Emilie focused on fuelling Uli’s high intensity training with carbohydrates sourced mostly from vegetables, while ensuring he was getting plenty of protein from lean meats, fish and vegies.”

Here’s an example of what Latukefu ate in a day during the final two weeks of his transformation.

Typical daily meals

  • Breakfast: omelette with capsicum, mushrooms, avocado, spinach and haloumi, served on protein toast.
  • Mid-morning: post-workout protein shake made with almond milk.
  • Lunch: large, leafy green salad with lean grilled chicken and almond slivers.
  • Mid-afternoon: sashimi and nori (seaweed)
  • Dinner: lean beef stir fry, served on cauliflower rice, or a lean burger with all the fixings, but replacing the bun with crisp lettuce leaves.
  • Evening: a small protein shakemade with almond milk.

Adaptable eating

The biggest mistake Latukefu had been making with meal prepping and planning was not doing it so well when he was travelling. “Variety is key to me,” Latukefu says. “Though it’s not always feasible when away from home, mixing up my protein sources, spices and seasoning really helped. I don’t miss any foods in particular because I’ll let myself have it if I really want it, but I’ll have it way less frequently than I used to and in much smaller portions.

“I really enjoy feeling fit and healthy so I avoid that junk food lull you get afterwards as much as I can. Often it’s wise to see the food for what it is – fuel – and just set to work to get it into your body.”

Supplemental help

Latukefu used a Body Science stack, which included the following daily supplements:

  • Hydroxy Burn Lean 5 protein powder
  • Hydroxyburn Clinical tablets
  • Hydroxyburn Shred Ultra pre-workout
  • Hydroxyburn Sleep Rx sleep formula
  • ZMB6+ immune booster

Healthy hacks

Latukefu’s short cuts that helped him on his journey.

  • 1. “I drank black coffee first thing in the morning as it set me up with low calorie energy.”
  • 2. “I was set a goal to drink at least 3 litres of water each day.”
  • 3. “Get creative with cooking. Finding seasoning and cooking method combinations kept me interested. My new favourite is a fish curry with no coconut cream.”
  • 4. “I really make my training time count. Finding the balance between being social and training during sessions is important to stay enthusiastic, but if you set a deadline, you will always get the job done.”

Suggestion to others

“I feel support, accountability, and professional guidance are key to success, Latukefu says. “Having an individual or a group of people who care about you and what you’re doing will always keep you motivated, honest and focused. “Most of all, you should take the time to enjoy the process. Appreciate the sensation of seeing and feeling your body look and move in a new way at every stage because it’s exciting and very rewarding.”