Former Missouri bartender David Cook rocked the world's most popular talent competition to become the new American Idol—by a margin of 12 million over heavy favorite David Archuleta, out of a whopping 97 million votes cast. MF recently chatted with Cook—arguably the fittest Idol yet—to learn more about his regimen, his diet, and his new rock record.
Some finalists, when they do the show, gain weight throughout the season. Perhaps it's the stress—or Simon's caustic critiques. But you actually got fitter as the show went on.
I'm the American Idol. That's what I do. No, it was more out of necessity, just to keep up with everyone else. Vocally, Idol is about as grueling as it gets, because you're singing every single day. I was forced into taking care of myself, and now I'm glad I did. Even if I was voted out week one, the benefits I gained from working out are tenfold. I haven't felt this good in a long time. I lost between 10 and 15 throughout the course of the show, and I probably dropped another five since.

What did you do to lose the weight?
I would do 10 to 15 minutes of cardio work, mixed in with some light weight training. Now, It's a lot more cardio-intensive workouts, like boxing. My trainer takes me out a couple times a week and we run football routes for about an hour and a half. More than anything, it's watching what I eat.  

What's your diet like?
I eat a lot of salad, grilled chicken, and fish. A typical meal for me is salmon and asparagus. If I'm on the go, I'd try to do a burger with no bun. I really just eliminate what carbs that I can and eat more lean protein and vegetables. It's all about substitutions, like changing white bread to whole-grain bread.    

You did a 53-date Idol tour this past summer. How did you stay fit on the road?
Everybody would go in the order they were eliminated from the show, so it ended with Syesha, Archuleta, then myself. When Syesha's set started, I would do the Perfect Pushup and I would do five pushups for every song leading up to my set. That equals to about 35-40 pushups a night.

So being onstage is a workout in and of itself?
You try to make it an emotional experience, not just for the people up front, but also for the people in the nosebleed seeds. You want everyone to walk out happy. When I would hit the stage, the way I put my set together, I wanted it to be high-energy so I'd always be running around the stage. At the end of the tour, my T-shirts fit better, which is nice (Laughs).

Is there a song off your album that makes the perfect workout song?
"Bar-ba-so." It's a real riff-heavy song, but with a groove and a swagger. 

What do you work out to?
Oh, I put "Chariots of Fire" on.

Tell us a little more about your self-titled debut, David Cook.
It's a rock record, but rock is a very generic term to use. I really tried to stretch the boundaries and come up with a different sound and piece an album that way. The record's really taken on that kind of life. We've got some mid-tempo melodic rock songs, uptempo four-to-the-floor kind of songs, and piano-based intimate songs. To me, it runs the gamut. In my last year, I've definitely accrued some things to talk about, as well as the 24 years before that. I think this record would be a very accurate snapshot of who I am and what got me to this point.

And you got to work with your own Idols, like Chris Cornell and Our Lady of Peace.
What's made this experience as great as it's been is not only do I get to write with my musical heroes, but they're actually cool guys. It's almost validating for me . . .  like, I'm not the worst judge of character.

Your life's been such a whirlwind lately. When do you sleep?
Usually on flights. If I whine enough for a day off, I get half a day — if I'm lucky.

How come your album doesn't include any of the cool covers you did, like "Billie Jean" and "Always Be My Baby"?
It's been discussed. For me, if I want to continue doing covers, it'll be in a live setting. I want this record to be about what kind of musician I am. I certainly don't want to bite the hand that feeds me. Idol's given me an amazing life in the last year. But I also want to be an artist right now. I don't want to sing other people's stuff.

During the Idol Final 2 performance, we learned that David Archuleta weighed in at "100 pounds, soaking wet." You think you could bench press Little Archie?
If you asked me that question a year ago I would say no . . . but I think now, maybe. It kind of depends. If we're maxing out, then maybe. If we're going for a set of 10? Maybe not.

There's some pretty funny YouTube clips circulating of you and fellow finalist Michael Johns dancing onstage. What's that about?
I think people started calling it The Mavid Dance. Hey, man, when you sing "Please Don't Stop the Music" as many times as we sang it last year, it gets a little repetitive. You do whatever you can to keep our sanity.

David Cook's self-titled debut is out now.