Hello, Reddit! I'm a Marine who ended up homeless in New Orleans after serving in the Marine Corps. But even while living out of my car, I never gave up my gym membership! It was there that Zac Efron befriended me and invited me to be his military advisor on THE LUCKY ONE, and then his trainer. Soon, my career as a fitness trainer took off! Since then, I’ve helped get JK Simmons jacked and trained Josh Brolin, Sylvester Stallone, Emilia Clarke and others create their on-screen looks!

Ask me anything! About the Marines, my strange life in the film industry, or about fitness!

Or Rampart. I'll talk about that too!

I'm here from 3PM EST till I drop!

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/VUwtMHe

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5025209/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Instagram: @aaronvwilliamson

Twitter: @avwilliamson


EDIT @ 9.52PM EST: I have to take a break! Why? Because I've got to put my own time into the gym. NEVER SKIP LEG DAY. I'LL BE BACK ON LATER TONIGHT TO ANSWER MORE QUESTIONS. Please feel free to keep replying and I'll get to as many as I can. If I don't reply, it's probably because I answered the question elsewhere.

Wow, this response has been truly humbling. Thank all of you so much for spending your Sunday with me.


Until then, you might like this little piece FOX in New Orleans did with me. It's an amazing reminder of how fortunate I am and how far I've come: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYlezYkpy04&feature=youtu.be

EDIT 2- MONDAY: I'll answer as many questions as I can throughout the day! Feel free to keep asking.

EDIT 3 - TUESDAY: Thank you everyone for an amazing experience! I've got to get back to work! Feel free to hit me up on Instagram or Twitter, and from now on I'll be here on Reddit as /u/aaronwilliamson!!

Thanks again!!!!!!!

Comments: 3264 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Chajos4595 karma

what is the best food to make me not feel hungry?

AaronWilliamson6472 karma

Oatmeal. It's a really good complex carbohydrate. Because of the fiber it will make you feel full.

This guy approves: http://cdn.quotationof.com/images/wilford-brimley-6.jpg

tammoth1841 karma

Oatmeal just doesn't seem to have this effect on me. I eat a bowl about 7am and by 10am i am feeling hungry again. And not "bored hungry" but actual "stomach grumbling" hungry

Edit: my first "holy shit my inbox!" My highest rated comment is about what a greedy git i am

AaronWilliamson312 karma

Any type of complex carbohydrate is going to give you a feeling of being "full" for a longer period of time. Most complex carbs have an increased amount of fiber.

pabbseven230 karma

What do you say to those who complain about carbs?

AaronWilliamson1328 karma

What did carbs ever do to you??

SupportVectorMachine1 karma

That's clearly his concerned-about-diabeetus face.

AaronWilliamson1 karma

ALWAYS watch out for the beetus.

dloud2864 karma

With someone like Sylvester Stallone who already has a ton of fitness experience, how do you approach training them?

AaronWilliamson5479 karma

I trained with Sly on BULLET TO THE HEAD. What I find when I train alongside actors of his calibre is that, many times, it's more about offering them accountability and motivation. He already knows what he's doing in the gym! He's trained with some of the best trainers in the world. But an actor's mind should be focused on the dialogue and the story they are telling, not the specifics of crafting their diet and exercise routine.

So that's where I come in with legends like Sly.

Or with someone like The Rock, it's more about being their training partner. Offering support.

umagrandepilinha1786 karma

Have you trained with The Rock as well? Good stuff.

Do you feel he’s more dedicated than other actors?

AaronWilliamson5629 karma

Working with The Rock is one of the biggest highlights of my career. In addition to training together, he also gave me a lot of insight into the film industry. I always appreciated the time he took, and still takes, to communicate with me.

He's one of the very few people I actually look up to and highly respect. He came from nothing, like I did.

dubs2112136 karma

You should have put his name in the title!

AaronWilliamson505 karma

I've honestly had the honor of working with so many amazing people.

donthategoskate1790 karma

I read somewhere that Chris Pratt went from chubby to ripped for GotG in only 3 months' time, to me that definitely doesn't seem like enough time to put on muscle and also burn significant fat. What's the timeline usually like for an actor getting in shape for a role, and for regular folks what do you find is the best duration for a bulk/cut cycle?

AaronWilliamson1116 karma

It's a very complex question. Typically, I only have ONE MONTH to transform people. Having three months would be like a Christmas gift!

The bodies of famous people are no different that yours. The more you can get your body to eat on a structured time schedule, the quicker your body responds because nutrient timing is everything.

elmiondorad0210 karma

Question on nutrient timing.

Since the boom of fitness coaches on Instagram has made everyone an expert on dieting and such, you often will see that the most important thing is calories in vs calories out when talking about goals.

I was following a 6 meal a day plan with 6 days a week of resistance training and 45 minutes of cardio every day (135-145 bpm). I liked it and noticed progress in both muscle mass and fat loss!

But then you see people like Terry Crews and other jacked people on insta that swear by intermitent fasting and jamming all those claories and macros in 2 meals later in the day.

What's your stance/opinion on this? Is the intermitent fasting better for someone that has to be at work 8 hours or is 6 meals a day with nutrient timing the better option?

AaronWilliamson422 karma

That's a great question! A lot of the transformations that I've been doing over the last couple of years have mostly been geared towards weight loss. Intermittent fasting is the quickest way and healthiest way to get in shape and lose weight. It has a lot of benefits, for several reasons. One of the biggest things with intermittent fasting

When you eat over the course of the entire day, the body is bogged down using most of its energy in digestion. When you intermittent fast, your body has the rest of the day to use it's own energy to work on other parts of the body, down to the cellular level.

With JK Simmons' use of intermittent fasting, in addition to his dramatic weight loss, one of the most noticeable side effects was that most of his aches and pains went away. That contributed to his quality of life. That also allowed us to train longer and harder.

Intermittent fasting - done correctly - can have huge benefits to a person's health. But it's best for someone trying to lose weight and lean out.

If you want to see what intermittent fasting can do for someone over 60 years of age, watch JK in the new season of COUNTERPART.

totalrobe688 karma

Ive read he already had significant muscle mass, and was a muscular 220 for high school wrestling.

AaronWilliamson463 karma

I'm not sure about Pratt specifically, but it's definitely easier to get back in shape if you were previously in good shape.

firefly63451778 karma

Dude... you gotta train me k? I wanna be like Zac Efron.

AaronWilliamson2152 karma

Can you sing and dance? And hold it down in the gym?

cjv892531 karma

I can’t do any of those, and I’m ugly as shit. I’d still like to be Zac Efron though. So, like, once a week for a couple months and we’re good?

Edit - I like you guys.

Edit 2 - by far my highest karma comment is me calling myself a mutant. What a day.

lurking_digger525 karma

You look pretty on my screen

cjv89209 karma


NotTheSameMartian126 karma

I'd be wary. Not sure what kind of digger u/lurking_digger is.

cjv89214 karma

Anyone who calls me pretty is good in my book.

AaronWilliamson524 karma

You're pretty.

boromsilicate1735 karma

How do you think the US government should/could help with the problem of veteran homelessness?

AaronWilliamson2262 karma

That's a GREAT question! And one that I think about a lot. I feel like if there were more transitional facilities that could house and accommodate service members when they come back, that would be a huge step forward.

When veterans get in trouble - when they do find themselves homeless - the most obvious thing they need is a place to sleep. The first thing that comes to mind is a "Fisher House" scenario - y'know those places next to hospitals where family members can stay for free when you're in the hospital?

The availability of a temporary facility like that would have been hugely helpful for me personally.

coswoofster627 karma

Why do so many end up homeless? Don't you have military pay or training that can transfer to other jobs or "connections" where you help each other? Military is such a bro squad... I don't understand the lack of connections and support. Or, is it most often due to untreated PTSD? Genuinely wondering.

AaronWilliamson1376 karma

One of the biggest obstacles for veterans seeking work is the lack of understanding that civilian HR reps have. They have trouble reading a veteran's resume. The skills, although very similar, are sometimes different in verbiage. So veterans miss out on opportunities because people perceive them as unqualified. But they are.

Also, for veterans who have been in combat, it's viewed negatively. There's this assumption that person might be unstable.

pennywise_theclown1367 karma

I don’t have any questions but cool story man! Awesome to see it all turned around for you.

Edit: guess I have to ask a question or it will delete the comment. Who’s been the most fun to work with?

AaronWilliamson1532 karma

That's a big question! JK has been the most fun to work with because he's been the most consistent. We've been able to do some things that stand out because he's older than the average actor going through a physical change in the gym. We're kind of defying the odds! It's a side of him that no one has ever seen before.

He's one of the most genuine, humble down to earth guys I've ever met. He's also up there with the most dedicated and disciplined people I've ever worked with.

If I told him to eat 3/4 of an almond, he would do that. No more, no less.

misfitskater6333 karma

I love ammans

AaronWilliamson402 karma


DryJello91 karma

It's the perfect amount of almond to eat really.

AaronWilliamson282 karma

The perfect amount is:

all the almonds.

notsomini1332 karma

How did Zac approach you? Wondering what the initial conversation and following weeks/months looked like.

AaronWilliamson3117 karma

I met Zac at the gym! I was introduced to Zac by his fitness trainer on THE LUCKY ONE, which was filming on location in New Orleans. His trainer was a former Navy SEAL, not a Marine, and Zac needed a military advisor who specifically knew about Marine life.

Zac and I talked about the movie and who his character was. I then went to set and met the producers and director, and they hired me. My job was basically helping Zac walk like a Marine and talk like a Marine. I would go over to his house and we would run certain scenarios, march certain ways and do other things that a Marine would do.

At the very end of that movie, when his fitness trainer left for home, Zac and I started training together. And from then on, I helped him prepare for scenes in other movies...shirtless scenes in NEIGHBORS, DIRTY GRANDPA, PAPERBOY. Things like that.

Zac is one of the few actors who has the discipline to achieve ANY look that a character requires. There were certain projects where he would bring his food with him wherever he went, just to remember to eat at the exact time necessary. He would set alarms on his phone, etc.

ChlckenChaser2023 karma

Zac is one of the few actors who has the discipline to achieve ANY look that a character requires

if thats a hot, buff dude then fuck yea he does

EDIT: Welp now my top comment is about Zac Efron being fit.

AaronWilliamson697 karma


chode174203 karma

hot buff dood that can act......he's not that bad of an actor too

AaronWilliamson219 karma

He's done some really fine work. "Me and Orson Welles" is a great performance.

Turjiinator991 karma

Is Josh Brolin a hugger?

AaronWilliamson1509 karma

Yeah, he is.

Edit: Josh is a straight-up genuine guy. He likes to make everyone feel comfortable and have a good time on set, but when it's time to work...he is ALL IN. He's very collaborative and wants to hear what everyone is bringing to the table. And he takes his work seriously. He deserves all of his success, and look at him: this year alone he's got INFINITY WAR, DEADPOOL 2 and SICARIO 2!

As an actor, I learned a lot from watching him work. And one piece of advice he mentioned to me I always think about...at auditions and on set, etc.

Josh said:

"We're in the profession of humiliation. If you can't handle it, this job's not for you."

biancaleesi356 karma

This is the Q&A I’ve been looking for

AaronWilliamson556 karma

You are the Redditor I've been looking for.

jakedaily98 karma

Does he snap his fingers a lot?

AaronWilliamson355 karma

Only when Ryan Reynolds plays dubstep.

Derninator686 karma

How common is Steroid use ?

AaronWilliamson1084 karma

Yes, steroids are used. But in my experience and with the calibre of actors I've worked with, it has not been needed.

I feel like steroids are often used when an actor is short on time and lacks the discipline to do what it takes naturally.

The idea that building an impressive physique is as simple as injecting steroids is ridiculous. It takes intense, disciplined training and proper nutrition to support the growth of muscle mass.

ellirae519 karma

Great to see you on here! With the USA in an obesity crisis, what advice can you give to people who can't afford a personal trainer but want to stay fit? What's the most important thing in layman's terms that we really need to know about our bodies?

AaronWilliamson960 karma

Here are some things to think about:

  • Portion Control

  • Food sensitivities. Pay attention to what you eat and how you feel after you eat it.

  • Drink enough water. Water is such a huge factor in optimal health.

  • Limit sugar and sodium.

  • Make sure you get a balanced breakfast. Don't go to bed on a full stomach.

ivy104518 karma

I never thought Zac Efron would be a fairy godmother. How would you compare your life as a marine to being a trainer? In what ways are you involved in veteran communities?

AaronWilliamson591 karma

Trainer vs. Marine? There's no comparison. It's like being on two different planets.

sausage-butt505 karma

Did you get a boner when you were training Emilia?

AaronWilliamson1477 karma

I learned this phrase as a Marine and I think it's appropriate here:

"I can neither confirm nor deny."

FaerieFay449 karma

I just wanted to say excellent work on JK Simmons, he looks amazing!! Congratulations on your success.

What was the kindest thing someone did for you as a homeless person & what was the rudest?

AaronWilliamson751 karma

It's a hard question. I never told many people I was homeless. I was living out of my car, but I was still able to keep myself together. I wasn't sleeping in a cardboard box on the side of the road.

I was still working trying to get back on my feet. I kept my gym membership, worked out and showered at the gym.

No one knew I was homeless. Which is what makes my story now so much more remarkable. I was embarrassed about it and didn't want to accept it.

cotdon123325 karma

What’s in that snack bowl?

AaronWilliamson688 karma

It's 10oz of cooked chicken breast, 1 small avocado, 2 cups of brown rice, 2 tablespoons of shelled hemp hearts, salt and pepper, and chipotle tabasco.

NotEmotions279 karma

What was it like to serve in the Middle East? How/Why was it different from your/our expectations of it?

AaronWilliamson682 karma

It was MUCH hotter than I expected. Even in the morning, it was like waking up in an oven. There was dust everywhere. Even when you're safe, you never really are. You're always a little bit on edge. Every time you leave the base, it's a 50/50 chance and you just pray that today is not the day.

vagabond9121 karma

What was Efron's routine and diet? How did he get the abs?

AaronWilliamson497 karma

When I worked with Zac, we did a lot of carb rotation. Leading up to shirtless scenes, we would do carb depletion and carb loading. Complex carbs like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice. quinoa.

One of my favorite ab exercises is hanging leg raises - as in hanging from a pull-up bar. The contraction you can get at the top of the movement, coupled with the full extension of the bottom of the movement...you just can't get that in any other exercise.

Also, cable wood chops.


If anyone is trying to do more abs, but still eating a shitty diet, it won't work. True story.

yoyogogo111114 karma

Have you had any offers or made any plans to get in front of the camera? Any acting aspirations?

Also, ever made a celebrity cry?

AaronWilliamson298 karma

Have I made a celebrity cry? Hahaha.

One time, we were on a huge crunch to get an actor in shape for a giant movie. He was very out of shape. SO I BROUGHT THE HEAT.


Hahaha. This actor couldn't take it anymore and basically quit. Because of that, they had to alter his costume and make all sorts or accommodations. At the end of the day, there's no magic pill, just hard work.

As far as myself as an actor, I've been in training for years. My first official role was on AMERICAN HEIST back in 2013. That's when I realized how therapeutic acting was for me. It really helps with a lot of the emotion issues I have. It allowed me to tap in and use things that I was always trying to stay away from.

I'm repped by Open Range Management and Rafterman Media. They have been great about looking out for roles they think I'm right for.

Sometimes people see me on set and think I might be right for something. I was training the cast for TERMINATOR: GENISYS. This acting role came up that required a stunt background. I fit the bill perfectly. So I auditioned for the producers and you can see me near the beginning of the movie!

kwirl92 karma

How do you help your clients navigate the vast number of nutritional plan options and determine the right choice?

AaronWilliamson137 karma

I always build a customized plan, because no one person is exactly the same. Even if they have a certain body type, they may be a little heavier, they may be a little thinner than others. And our time frame to complete their transformation for the movie is always different.

LongoSpeaksTruth71 karma

When / what did you help get JK Simmons "jacked" for ?

I want you to say for his role as Vern Schillinger, but I don't recall him looking overly ripped in that role ...

AaronWilliamson218 karma

If you're talking about the picture of JK that went viral (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b3dc8ee4b051b96ceb10de/t/57584835c2ea517ee85f46d4/1465403450341/), it wasn't actually for a project.

Everyone thought he was getting ready for Justice League, but he just had a goal that he wanted to be in the best shape that he has ever been in. And he achieved it, in my opinion.

Brandilikey62 karma

About military life and deployment:

I'm currently dating a man that was in my life for five years and he joined the military and we split up because he didn't tell me he did it blah blah. I got married and subsequently divorced and he found out through mutual friends and came looking for me via social media. Found me. After a few weeks of reconnecting tells me he still loves me. I believe him that's not the issue. I always felt he was my one that got away. My real question is how do I navigate a relationship with him post deployment without upsetting him? I never ask questions or assume his feelings. Hes just overall such a quieter person now. Army sniper fyi.

AaronWilliamson79 karma

Take the time to sit down and talk to him. Get to know him again. Who knows how much he's changed through deployment? Find out what he's been through.

InnocentTailor42 karma

First of all, we’re all pretty happy that you moved yourself into success.

My question is this: what gave you the motivation to keep going when you were down in the dumps financially?

AaronWilliamson76 karma

Thinking about everything I've been through. Thinking about the fact that I'm back from overseas, I'm alive and I'm healthy. I have all my limbs.

I think about my friends and other service members who sacrificed their lives and weren't able to come back and pursue your dreams. I think about my family. I want to change their lives.

I think about the people who have continued to believe in me, and continued to help me. Sometimes they've believed in my more than I believed in myself. I mean that sincerely.

MrVaperr16 karma

What kind of diets are these guys on?

AaronWilliamson67 karma

There are many diets out there. The most common flaw that I see is this:

When a trainer has a diet that has worked for them PERSONALLY, they try to offer that exact diet to all their clients.