How do you gear up to play a Marvel superhero who’s a superhuman blue-collar joe able to lift 25 tons and punch through four-inch steel plates?

If you’re Mike Colter—whose starring vehicle, Luke Cage, just debuted on Netflix last month—you start by packing on 30 pounds of muscle.

Colter, who first brought stoic Cage to vivid life in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, has long known very physical roles, having played a boxer in Million Dollar Baby. But the superhero character demanded even more of him. “Cage hearkens back to the time of Shaft,” he says. “He’s a badass dude.”

At first Colter went hard on cross-training workouts. “I felt like I needed to shock my body,” he says. “I overlifted and, because of that, ended up hurting my shoulder.”

So he rethought both his gym and diet regimen, adding swimming into the mix, downing two vegan plant protein shakes a day, and taking glutamine to stop muscle breakdown once the barbell is down.

“When I take the supplements, they definitely help me recover,” says Colter, who admits the rigors of a protein-heavy training diet can get tiresome.

While waiting for the premiere of Luke Cage, Colter—who’s also a new father—stayed limber by filming Girl Trip alongside Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Jada Pinkett Smith in New Orleans.

The comedy, directed by The Best Man Holiday’s Malcolm Lee, will be in theaters next year.

Hey, Mike: Hope you stayed away from the beignets, dude.

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