The season 44 finalist says he slept with protein shakes by his bed to help him bulk up before competing
Sure, Carson Garrett’s fire-making with eventual winner Yam Yam Arocho may have made headlines, but what’s really got people talking about the Survivor 44 finalist is the way he transformed his body to compete in the show.
“Out of all the prep I did for Survivor, gaining 30 lbs. was certainly the greatest challenge,” the 20-year-old superfan of the reality show said in a recent Instagram post where he showed off his incredible transformation.
“I…only wanted to eat kids’ meals. I’d even never been to the gym; in fact, I was scared of it lol.”
But as a superfan, the Atlanta resident knew he would be faced with incredible physical challenges on grueling show’s Mamanuca Islands, Fiji, set. And so, Garrett began prepping for his journey, eventually going from 115 lbs. to 145 lbs.
“Everyone always asks me, ‘How did you gain 30 lbs. to go on the show? That’s crazy! Like, I knew you as this really skinny guy and then all of a sudden you come out here and you’ve bulked up,’” he said.
“I’ve pretty much my whole life always been the really skinny guy, the guy that’s on the cusp of being underweight,” he said, adding that while he was in the casting process for Survivor — a time when most contestants "starve themselves for a month,” Garrett said he thought,, “Well maybe it’s a good idea to add a couple of lbs. to my body so that I don’t, like, die when I’m there.”
But it wasn’t as easy as just “eating desserts the whole time,” he said.
“I wanted to gain healthy weight that would help sustain me in physically taxing challenges on the TV show Survivor.”
Garrett said he focused on a “lean bulk,” which meant eating healthy foods while working out to increase his muscle gain.
“You’re restricting your diet so your body is forced to create muscle at higher rates than you would normally,” he explained.
Instead of hiring a trainer, the NASA engineering student employed a DIY method of bulking up: He tracked his muscle and fat gain with a smart scale, monitored his calories and scanned food packaging bar codes with apps, and used a website to figure out how many more calories he needed to eat to build muscle.
He divided his meals into 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fats — a split he admitted was challenging.
“I would go out of my way to make these gigantic protein shakes in order to meet the goals I had for my protein intake that day. And it was pretty difficult.”
Garrett, who says he supplemented his diet with creatine, didn't even let sleep stop him from consuming calories.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would have a protein shake on the side of my bed.”
The biggest downside? “Having this much food in your body…doesn’t feel good. When I would go to bed, I would feel like I was about to throw up.”
As for workouts, Garrett said he split his focus into three separate areas: pushing (to build up his chest), pulling (to build up his shoulders), and strengthening his legs.
“I had no idea what I was doing in the gym,” he admitted, adding that he looked up strength-building exercises up on the Internet, in lieu of cardio, which would just expend more calories that he’d have to make up later.
“It worked for me. It was extremely strenuous,, I remember so many nights where I was over my toilet throwing up,” he said, but did caution, “This was the process for me. Not for everyone else…most people are not training to go on Survivor where you lose a lot of weight.”
In fact, he doesn’t suggest his regimen to anyone who isn’t competing on the next season of Survivor.
“Unless you’re about three months from leaving to go to film a TV show where you starve,” he said, “I don’t recommend it.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.