Zac Efron says obtaining 'Baywatch' physique had devastating effects: 'I fell into a pretty bad depression, for a long time'

Zac Efron is opening up about the lengths he went through to obtain his famous Baywatch physique.

In a profile for the Men's Health October issue, the actor, 34, speaks openly about the pressure he faced to achieve a near-perfect body for the role. But it ultimately took a toll on his physical and mental health.

“That Baywatch look, I don’t know if that’s really attainable," he said, explaining that it "required Lasix" and "powerful diuretics" to achieve. After months of grueling training, it all came to a head.

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“I started to develop insomnia and I fell into a pretty bad depression, for a long time," he shared. "Something about that experience burned me out. I had a really hard time re-centering. Ultimately they chalked it up to taking way too many diuretics for way too long, and it messed something up.”

Once they stopped filming, he said it took nearly six months for him to feel centered again. Overall, he says the experience forced him to rethink his health priorities — including daydreaming about, possibly, not making fitness a staple in his life at all.

"At one point, that was a dream of mine — what it would be like to not have to be in shape all the time," he said. "What if I just say, 'F*** it' and let myself go? So I tried it, and I was successful. And for all the reasons I thought it would be incredible, I was just miserable. My body would not feel healthy; I just didn't feel alive. I felt bogged down and slow."

Of course, Efron is no stranger to dodging criticism about his looks.

In April 2021, after appearing in a clip promoting an Earth Day special with Bill Nye, internet trolls began to speculate whether or not he had plastic surgery on his face, pointing to the fact that his jaw appeared larger than previously seen.

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The Greatest Beer Run Ever star explained to Men's Health that his face looks a bit different because, around four years ago, he shattered his jaw after smacking his chin against the granite corner of a fountain in his house. He ended up losing consciousness, and when he woke up, he says his chin bone was hanging off his face.

When asked about the plastic surgery rumors, Efron laughed it off, explaining that the masseter muscles (used for chewing) work together with the other muscles of the face "like a symphony" and that, when he was injured, the muscles on the inside of his face and jaw had to compensate.

“The masseters just grew,” he said. “They just got really, really big.” To this day, he works with a specialist and does physical therapy to mediate the injury.

That didn't stop the rumors, though. In fact they got so heavy that his own mother called to ask if they were true. Still, he doesn't let the gossip get to him.

“If I valued what other people thought of me to the extent that they may think I do,” he said, “I definitely wouldn’t be able to do this work.”

Looking ahead, the star says he's focusing less on his body and more on his soul. Of course, for the single Efron, love isn't off the table either.

“I’ve really been taking time to focus on, you know, self-fulfillment and trying to find my groove," he shared. "I know that probably when I meet the right person, it’s going to be when I least expect it.”

Efron has spoken in the past about how his Baywatch diet had long-term impacts. During a 2020 interview on Hot Ones — a show in which celebrities are interviewed while eating spicy chicken wings — he said he “never wants” to be in that level of shape again.

The star famously underwent a severe, challenging diet and workout regime to achieve the shredded physique on show in that film, in which he appeared alongside Dwayne Johnson.

In 2016, he revealed in a tweet that he had starved himself of carbs and sugars for nine days, as well as eating “only organic grass fed/free range protein and organic leafy greens” to achieve his body goals.

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“That was actually a really important time to do Baywatch,” he said at the time. “I realized, when I was done with that movie, that I don't ever want to be in that good of shape again.”

“It was so hard," he added. "You're working with almost no wiggle room. You've got things like water under your skin that you're worrying about, making your six-pack into a four-pack, s*** like that.

“It's just stupid. It's just not real," he said.

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