When WWE legend Edge made his return to the ring at the Royal Rumble in late January, he twice left fans stunned. First, of course, was the fact that he was back in action at all, considering he was forced to retire nearly a decade prior due to a series of painful injuries that ultimately resulted in triple-fusion neck surgery. The second shock, though, came when Edge removed his leather trench coat to reveal his absolutely shredded physique.
The man you see there is FORTY SIX years old. And he's now gearing up for his first WrestleMania since 2011. The two-night pay-per-view event will "air" on WWE’s streaming platform this weekend (April 4th and 5th) without a live audience, a decision that's proven controversial. Major stars have dropped out rather than risk the further spread of the coronavirus.
“Whether there’s an audience or not, though, there’s an audience at home,” Edge says. In the last two months, he has zeroed in on his nutrition to ensure he gets an...edge over the weekend. “That’s what I want to do in this chapter of Edge. I want to be better than the Edge who was around for 15 years before. I want and hope that there are other 46-year-old guys who say, ‘Holy crap, I think I might be able to do that, too.’”
In the build-up to the big show, we caught up with the wrestler to discuss how changing his diet made his return to the ring possible, the benefits of meal prepping, and how he plans to make his match against Randy Orton his most memorable WrestleMania moment yet.
GQ: How much pressure was there to show up to your in-ring return looking a certain way? You had been out of the game for a while.
Edge: A lot of pressure, but pressure that I put on myself, for sure. And I’m excited to talk about this because it all started with changing my diet. You can’t out-train a bad diet. For years, I didn’t adhere to a strict diet. I ate okay, but I didn’t eat great. And I trained but, eh… I was retired from wrestling!
So your return to WWE was the impetus to make some changes?
Well, we lost my father-in-law and my mom within a two-month timeframe in 2018 and I just ate a lot of donuts. That’s where my depression came out, in eating. Finally, I looked at my daughters one day and I thought, I have to be better. I have to start eating clean again, because I’ve got to be here for them. That was the start of it.
What did that first step look like?
I tried a few, but I found a meal prep company that I will use for the rest of my life: Nutrition Solutions. That changed everything. I started eating their meals, stuck to them religiously, and then I started seeing the changes. It also caused me to put in work at the gym, because my body was feeling better. I was seeing the transition, seeing the change. You know, I was 250 pounds. Suddenly, I found myself at 220.
And this is all before you even had the idea of making a return to the ring?
It was. I just wanted to get healthy. And as I started to get healthy, it really started dawning on me. Like, Hold on a second. I feel great! I’m doing these fight scenes on Vikings [Ed: a show on the History channel, Edge plays a character named Kjetill Flatnose] and feeling fine. I’m wiping out on my mountain bike and feeling fine. I can look fine, but feeling fine is a different thing. I realized wrestling might actually be possible again. But it all started with the diet.
Can you give some examples of meals that are part of your new diet?
In the mornings leading up to the Royal Rumble, I’d have six hard-boiled eggs—just the whites. Then I would do Nutrition Solutions’ protein pancakes and a Dave’s English muffin. That was my breakfast, and three hours later, I would have my first proper meal. Throughout the day, I’d usually have two or three more proper meals. Lots of rice and chicken, and my last meal would typically be meat and a vegetable—like five ounces of sirloin and asparagus.
Was it tough for you to get used to eating some of the same types of meals fairly regularly?
I’m a creature of habit. I could truly eat the same thing every day. I’m okay with that. But I’ve also found products that really help keep me sane. Like Bolthouse Farms. They make these yogurt-based salad dressings that have very little fat and very little carbs. You put a little bit on your rice and it does so much to add some flavor in there without any huge macro imprint.
And then, if I’m watching TV at 9 or 10 o’clock at night and feeling like I just need a snack—you know when you just want that crunch? I found this company called the Cereal School, and they have a peanut butter cereal that has three grams of fat, one gram of carbs, and 16 grams of protein. That’s not going to store as fat overnight and I get that crunch that I need late at night.
Those three or four meals throughout the rest of the day, are those smaller meals? Or are we talking full-portion servings?
One thing I’ve found while traveling for my career is that portion control is normal in a lot of the world. Then you come back to the U.S. and you understand how out of whack our portion control is. We don’t really need to eat all of that. Living in Ireland off and on for two-and-a-half years is when that really dawned on me. I was eating normal portions over there. Nutrition Solutions has helped with my portions back in the U.S.—you know the macros you’re taking in. Then, for WrestleMania, we jumped it up accordingly and made the necessary tweaks to come in looking the way I want to look. And that just meant eating a little bit more. Not portion-wise, but just more often. Throwing in a shake here, or some overnight oats there, or rice cakes with peanut butter to get good fats in.
At a time when so many of us are social distancing and perhaps not getting in our usual forms of exercise, how much more important does nutrition become?
It absolutely becomes more important. When you have to tailor your workouts with what we’re dealing with, if your diet isn’t there, you’re going to start to see some negative changes happen fairly quickly.
Having a gym at home, even with everything going on, I’ve been able to maintain my workouts. I’m very lucky in that regard. WrestleMania is in Orlando, and I drove down here in my pickup truck. I brought my push-up bars, some dumbbells, a kettlebell—the things I knew I would need in order to get my heart rate up while away from home. Burpees are my friend right now, and a lot of planking.
You alluded to this earlier, but WrestleMania will be going on without a live crowd this year. I’m sure that’s not exactly what you had envisioned in your mind when you first started your journey back to the ring. Does that have any effect on your mindset leading into this weekend?
Honestly, I want this to be my best WrestleMania match ever.
That’s a lofty goal right there.
It is, but what a challenge! That’s what I’m going for. I want to blow people’s minds, man. I really do. I want to come back at 46 years old and be in the shape that I always wanted to be in. Right now, I have it all dialed in. My diet is now taken off my plate, so I can fully concentrate on telling the story I want to tell. I want to bring elements that I learned on Vikings, that I learned on The Flash, that I learned on Haven, and bring them into a wrestling match. By the time this is all done, however long it lasts, my goal is that people will say, “He was better now than he was then.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Real-Life Diet is a series in which GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in-between about their diets and exercise routines: what's worked, what hasn't, and where they're still improving. Keep in mind, what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
At least, when he's not coordinating charitable food deliveries, walking his dogs, and doing puzzles.
Originally Appeared on GQ