Hunter March On Wellness And How He Powered Through Sugar Rush - Exclusive Interview

Stock up on your microwave popcorn. "Sugar Rush" and "E! Nightly Pop" host Hunter March is about to entertain you with a new YouTube show called "First Date," where he'll cook for celebrity guests in his kitchen. "We have a long-form date interview, and it's really fun," March promised Mashed in an exclusive interview for National Mental Health Awareness month. Spoiler alert: He may end up cooking largely gluten-free options for his mystery guests, and not because he's into an L.A. food fad. March's lifestyle has changed dramatically since he discovered his gluten intolerance. Where once he guzzled Starbucks croissants and Subway sandwiches, no more. "It meant no more donuts and cupcakes and cakes, except for 'Sugar Rush' where I powered through like a champion," March quipped. 

The TV personality's physical health habits have changed, drastically, too, March revealed. He grew up with what he describes as a "not earned" six-pack. Now, meditation and workouts serve a double purpose: buffing up for both his day job and for peace of mind. We'll let March tell you about that, himself — along with his buttercream philosophy, his Starbucks hacks, and whether or not he really played footsies on the set of Netflix's hit baking competition.       

Hunter March on the importance of physical health for mental health

Beyond the jokes on your social media pages, it's clear that you're very serious about physical exercise and physical well-being. When did you start prioritizing that in your life, and how did it change your day-to-day?

That's the nicest way to say, "Saw that you had a ton of thirst traps on your Instagram, what are you insecure about?" For me, physical fitness is something that I have a love-hate relationship with, because what started out as a way to look good — I've now reached the age in my 30s where it really does affect if I feel good the next day. As much as I work out, I [also] do a lot of stretching and physical rehab-style workouts for my body. Working out accomplishes a lot of things. 

I do a lot of strength-building exercises to put on muscle. That's my biggest challenge as someone who's grown up very, very thin. The hardest thing for me is to put on pounds, which I know is not a common issue or one that people really love hearing about. That's always been [my] biggest issue, so that's my biggest goal, usually. Because I'm doing strength, I do get the benefit of, "All right, well, at least I'm going to look good, too." For my career, unfortunately, people care about that. [Achieving good looks] does play into [my workout goals] and then it's this self-feeding cycle. 

What's the Hunter March who doesn't work out feel like? How do you feel the day after you haven't done the work? And how do you feel when you've done the work? 

The problem is I feel surprisingly okay when I do not do anything. I feel fine. That's the thing. I can go months without working out before I noticed that my anxiety has risen. My chance of falling into a depression or a melancholy skyrockets if I'm not working out. My confidence is lower, and I only notice it when someone says something like, "Oh, you look thin," and then I go, "Ugh, I have to start working out, and maybe that's why I'm feeling all these internal things!" It's mostly like when I work out and I see myself afterward, I do feel really good. I'm one of those people who goes, "I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing this for me," which feels silly to me, but it is true. I want to work out so much, so that I see myself in a mirror and I go, "I'd date that guy. That's the type of guy I'm attracted to."

Hunter March meditates

We also noticed a couple of shots of you meditating [on your socials]. Is that a practice you take seriously? If so, can you share some epiphanies you've reached while practicing meditation?

Wow. Wouldn't it be nice if the epiphanies could be shared so easily? Yeah, I have meditated a lot over the course of the last, maybe five years. My style of life — I've realized as I've gotten older — is I get very headstrong into something. I will go hard at it for two to six months, and then I won't touch it again or really pay attention to it for another six months. Then, I'll start noticing that maybe I need to get back into something, whatever. I did that with chess. I did it with painting. I did it with every sport I've ever played.

Meditating, although that's not the best way to meditate — a more steady, regular practice is really helpful — the times I have gone into it headfirst, I've learned so much about myself that even if I'm not meditating, as soon as I sit down again for ten, 15, 20 minutes of silence, I'm able to channel some of those things that I taught myself during the moments where meditation [was central and I was spending] an hour a day of reading about it. Whether it was Pema Chödrön or ... whoever it was, I'm able to remember those things.

One of the biggest epiphanies, again, it's really hard to describe, but it's the idea of not being so hard on yourself. One way to do that is to remind yourself that everything is constantly changing and there is no right, perfect thing besides "the now," because even as I say it, I go, "What the f*** are you talking about, man?" When I meditate, one thing I remind myself is like, "All right. If my brain does wander, [I can] bring myself back." I think [for] a lot of people that's the struggle — your brain wants to think, the monkey brain wants to turn and go to the past, or the future, work, anxiety, whatever.

And then when [you] remember nine minutes into [your] ten-minute meditation that [you] haven't meditated once, that the entire time [you've] been thinking about something else, instead of beating yourself up for missing nine minutes of meditation time because you were anxious about your family, whatever, you celebrate the fact that you brought yourself back. You celebrate the fact that, "Oh, I brought my mind back." It's not a big outward celebration, but it's like a, "Good job," and then you return to what you're doing because that's all meditation is. It's an awareness and a mindfulness, at least the meditation that I do.

How Hunter March found out he was gluten-intolerant

You spend a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking. We heard on the grapevine that skillets are one of your favorite breakfast foods. Did you make a conscious choice to change your diet to complement a healthy lifestyle? What do you eat in a day and how does that play into physical fitness and well-being?

I grew up having a high metabolism where, since I was a child, I had a six-pack that was not earned, but then I also had no muscles anywhere else on my body. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to, including fast food and donuts and sugary anything. I didn't crave it all the time but with every dinner, I would have a soda, not even thinking about the consequences [of what] that was doing to the inside of my body. Then, all of a sudden, when I was like 25, I started feeling really weak. I started feeling mentally fatigued, [to get] horrible brain fog[s]. I was doing a game show where we were shooting five episodes a day and I could not, for the life of me, during certain days, come up with a single joke, which was my entire job, to be playful and quick-witted and fun.

And on those days, it felt like I was trying to think through molasses. I tried everything. I went to the doctor, we did some blood tests. They were like "Nothing's wrong." I started doing an elimination diet where I cut out caffeine and then I cut out meat and then I cut out everything. Nothing worked. And then, finally someone was like, "Have you ever thought that you might have a gluten allergy?" I was like, "I eat so much bread. That can't be it," because I don't have celiac, my stomach doesn't get upset. They're like, "Cut out gluten. See if it works." 

I cut out gluten and it virtually, entirely went away. That brain fog and feeling tired constantly went away. I did a blood test and they were like, "Yeah, you are not fully allergic, but you have an intolerance, meaning your body's working extra hard to digest this food because you don't have the natural glutamine. You don't have the natural gluten enzymes that you would need to digest this properly."

The one dish that taught Hunter March how to cook

What happened when you cut gluten out? 

When I cut that out, it meant no more fast food, virtually. It meant no more donuts and cupcakes and cakes, except for "Sugar Rush" where I powered through like a champion because I'm good at my job and I would go take naps at every break I had.

Once I had to cut those things out, you have to start cooking for yourself at some point because it's embarrassing to go to restaurants every single day and go, "Do you have anything that's gluten free?" Even in L.A., it's still a little ... You don't want to be that person all the time. You want to be capable of making your own meals. I started cooking a lot to give myself meals that I couldn't get elsewhere. Because of that, I learned [the ins-and-outs of] the breakfast skillet.

I cooked [it] every morning for like three years. Even though it was one recipe, I learned so much about the fundamentals of cooking. I learned about the fundamentals of produce, and the water content and produce, and how that affects the crispiness of everything else. The potatoes, I learned the difference between cooking with the bacon fat, as opposed to olive oil or butter, and [I learned] the burning points of each of them, or the smoke points of each of them. Even though it was just one recipe, I learned almost every fundamental that I still use today because I cooked it so many times where every difference was an intricacy that I could pick up on.

Hunter March reveals his fast food weakness

You grew up eating Subway — and your first job was at Starbucks where you were a fan of the croissants – 

I was a big fan of croissants! What interview did you listen to or read? When did I say that? 

Two different interviews. You [may have been] talking to Candace Nelson during one of them. You may have let [it] slip.


So later in life, you find out you have a gluten allergy so you cut down on fast food. Now, are there any gluten-free, fast food options that you still go for? 

Jersey Mike's. If you want a tuna sandwich or something, they've got the gluten-free bread, but it's expensive and it's not great. In-N-Out is still my favorite fast food restaurant and it's because they do Protein Style. It's always great. I'll still get the French fries. I'll still get a Double-Double, sometimes I'll get two Double-Doubles. I don't mind eating the processed foods and all the meat. I don't mind eating those occasionally, especially as I'm in this process of trying to put on weight. 

It's actually helpful to get the calories in if, maybe, you don't want to have more brown rice and chicken breasts. In-N-Out, to me, is the best fast food for a number of reasons. Double-Single Animal Style Protein Style with a side of fries, and then I will have a sip or two of whoever got a Coca-Cola around me, but I rarely ever order one for myself.

Hunter March's Starbucks memories

You worked at Starbucks. You once told Candace Nelson that customers will inevitably upset you. Can you remember your most ridiculous Starbucks order, because those are legendary? What's your insider advice for ordering at Starbucks now?

Oh my God, this whole interview can revolve around the Starbucks knowledge I have because it was such a great experience in terms of learning hacks for a lot of cooking, a lot of flavor stuff, and especially drinks. We'll start with the most ridiculous order, [which] was: A man would come in with his family of five and they were not in the best of shape. I used to think to myself, "I wonder if these people know how unhealthy Frappuccinos are." This person not only ordered a Frappuccino, but they would say they would want a venti Frappuccino with only 15 ice cubes in it. Now, keep in mind, the ice cubes are small. They're not like your fridge ice cubes, they're those ones you get in a soda shop. They would only want 15 ice cubes.

Here's the crazy part: The ice cubes are the healthiest part of a Frappuccino. They took out about 80% of them, probably more, probably like 90% of the ice cubes were gone. Then, a lot of us would eyeball it when this person, he came in all the time with his family. I eyeballed it once. I must have put in 20 ice cubes as opposed to 15 or something. He drank half of it, his whole family, they each drank some of their drinks, like a decent amount of [their] Frappuccino, brought it back and said, "I don't think you put 15 ice cubes in these."  I was like, "At what point did you notice that?" ... "Was it midway through, big guy?" Then my manager pulled me away and said, "We'll handle it, sir." That's when I learned that the customer is never, never right, but has to be treated as so.

That was really frustrating for me, but also, I was young and I didn't like being wrong. Now, I don't care. If someone wants something crazy, it's your life. You're paying eight bucks for a drink, you deserve to have it with 15 ice cubes. I'm sorry to that man and his family for putting up a hard time.

Hunter March shares his insider Starbucks tips

What about Starbuck hacks? 

The hack that I learned was if you really like your iced teas, [Starbucks] waters down half with water in almost every one of the tea-based iced tea drinks. You say, "No water," and you basically get twice as strong green tea or twice as strong passion tea, whatever, which is good if you want caffeine. The other thing is, you can't do this if you don't work there, but if you go home and you want to make Starbucks whipped cream, which is notoriously some of the best-whipped cream in the entire world, just go get one of those whipped cream canisters online, use the Starbucks vanilla — eight pumps of vanilla for however much they recommend filling up the whipped cream with heavy whipping cream.

You can replace the vanilla flavoring with any pump that you can find a flavor of. Whipped cream's usually vanilla, but I would make white mocha whipped cream, I would make pumpkin spiced whipped cream, we would make mint whipped cream. All these flavors that were just for us employees. That was better than the health benefits.

Hunter March's butter cream opinions

After you discovered your gluten intolerance, you downed a whole lot of buttercream for the show. You're on the set of" Sugar Rush," you're eating a lot of buttercreams. What separates a good buttercream from a great buttercream? 

I feel like I'm only going to be reiterating what my smarter, better judges have said in the past, but the consistency [of the buttercream] is very important. You want it to be a full consistency, but you don't want to taste the granular sugariness. You want to make sure you get all your sugar – I don't even know how they do it — melted or whatever, or mixed out of it. You want to make sure to mix all the actual grainy sugar out, and you don't want it to be too sweet. You don't want it to not be sweet enough. In my mind, you want it to look really clean. 

People, a lot of times, even on "Sugar Rush," people would buttercream their cupcakes as if they were bringing them to their fifth-grade class. It's like, "You can make it look so clean," but that comes from a good consistency. Almost every contestant on "Sugar Rush" [presented] the best food I've ever had in the baked goods world. It was amazing. There [were only] only a few where we were like, "Why did you do that? Do you not want to win? Are you trying to lose right now? Because you will."

Behind the scenes at Sugar Rush

Now, when you were hosting "Sugar Rush," part of your job was to go up to each individual table of the contestants and see how things were going. What's the most alarming or surprising thing you saw when you got to a contestant's work table? 

I'm a clean freak nowadays. My kitchen is always spotless, and I try and keep everything really well-kept. Luckily, ["Sugar Rush" contestants] can only get [their spaces] so messy in an hour. It's one of those things where, if I went into their kitchens at home, I don't know what they'd look like. I guess the most alarming thing I ever saw was a man who would, from a 400 degree oven, pull out the baking tray with his bare hands every time and then would pull it out, put it on the [counter]. I was like, "You are revealing to everyone right now that you are a superhero. Stop it, you're going to blow your identity." Then his partner was like, "Yeah, he does that. That's his thing." I was like, "Oh my God, could you imagine if that was your thing? You're like, God, really? I couldn't be seven foot? I had to have oven mitts for hands?" Superpower. 

Could come in handy, though. 

Oh my God. For sure. 

Can you share your favorite "Sugar Rush" guest judge story? 

Let me Google all the Sugar Rush guest hosts. I am surprised I did not find the love through those guest hosts ... I come up first when you search "Sugar Rush: Extra Sweet" on Rotten Tomatoes. No critics consensus yet on "Sugar Rush: Extra Sweet." Interesting. My guess is it would be close to 99%. My favorite. ... I love funny people, so I would say that my two favorite guest hosts were Fortune Feimster. Fortune Feimster? This is transcribed, so the audience has no idea that I'm saying it wrong. They're like, Fortune Feimster or Fortune Feimster. What the f*** is this interview? Is he having a stroke? 

It would be either Fortune or Liza Koshy, two of my favorite guest hosts and people ever. [They are] so funny and consistent and really have their comedic brands down. [That] made it really easy to play into that, and then Liza Koshy shaking one of the boxes that had an ornament style chocolate thing in it, it was like a gift box and she was like, "I wonder what's inside." She shook it up. [That episode created] so much controversy online because people thought she was being really disrespectful. To me, [that was] maybe one of the funniest moments I've ever seen in my entire [career]... I was dying laughing. I thought it was the greatest thing. We had got it approved from the producers and I gave Liza my unbroken box, and it was so funny. Those were my two faves.

What the Sugar Chef judges really do off-camera

What are you guys doing at the judges' table or off-camera while we're watching all of the contestants sweat over the prep and the baking?

Candace is mostly playing footsie with me. It's a lot of me trying to kick her toes away, because they'll crawl up my ankles and stuff, and I got to stop her. Adriano, same thing. He's got a further reach, but he likes to do the toe grab. He'll spread his big toe and his second toe and try and wrap them around my ankles and stuff. It's real cute. In terms of our conversation, it's a lot of, "You know what sounds good right now? Our 45th cupcake of the week," and then we get up and we go eat another cupcake.

It is such a weird world; when you're watching at home, every episode is an orgasm of flavors portrayed on screen. For us, luckily, all of it's delicious, but you do get to a point where you're like, "If I..." When we're done with the show, we don't look at cupcakes or sweets for months afterward. It's a nightmare if someone tries to give you a cupcake, but then also you have a weird addiction to sugar afterward. Your sugar need is so high because it's like a drug.

Hunter Rush on whether we get a Sugar Rush season 4

Now, you are on the set for ten to 12 hours while you're filming. How do you take that much sugar a day? 

It's fun to watch the day progress because as soon as we tried our first four cupcakes — which is when we're eating the most — we have to eat four cupcakes, and the next round is three confections, and the final round is only two cakes. That first [round], every guest judge tries to eat all four cupcakes. They're like, "This is so good. I can do this." We're warning them, we're like, "Stop it. You're going to die." Inevitably, we're getting to lunch, they eat lunch, and then we all crash to varying degrees. The guest judge always crashes the hardest because they didn't pace themselves with how much sugar they were consuming.

I got really good at taking power naps. I was able to take a 30-minute lunch — 30 minutes of being in my dressing room, and in that 30 minutes in my dressing room, I would do a 20 to 25-minute nap, and then as soon as they were ready for me, I'd say, "You guys are going to have to work some magic to get these bags out from under my eyes because I could sleep for another three hours." We would do the rest of the show, which was ... It was such a good show to be a part of because, although it was long 12-hour days eating food that does not condone a stable energy level, I loved Candace and Adriano. I loved all the producers. I loved everybody. Luckily, it was a great show.

Okay. Do we get a Season 4?

I wish. I don't know. Maybe if you write them a personal letter, they'll do it, but we'll see.

Hunter March has a new show

Who is the one person who you want to cook a meal for you?

Dead or alive? Does it matter? To cook a meal for me or for me to cook a meal for? I'm actually doing a YouTube show called "First Date" where I bring celebrity guests and I cook for them in my kitchen, on my show. We have a long-form date interview, and it's really fun. I've always thought to myself, "If I could do this show with anybody and maybe have them cook for me, it'd be my grandfather who I never had a chance to meet," but he was a television host in the '50s and '60s and it'd be really nice to be able to ask him questions and have that guidance. As much as I love my mom and dad and as smart as they are, especially my mom, this industry is very unique, and to think I almost had a mentor that was my grandfather is really...

It's comforting, in a way, to know that it's in the blood, but it would've been really special to meet him and be able to say, "Hey, this is what I'm going through. What do you think?" Or honestly, to get some connections. I'm all about nepotism. If I could have gotten into the door sooner, for sure, I would've done that. I would not care about those people working in mailrooms. Instead, I had to work on sets as an intern and a PA, and in an art department, and then, luckily got to where I am today, which is a very blessed place.

The ingredient Hunter March couldn't live without

What's one ingredient you could never live without?

Does everybody say salt? Everybody must say salt.

Some, but mostly the big chefs they salt. You would be surprised, so you're in good company.

If you say anything besides salt, you have no idea what you're doing in the kitchen, or you're trying to be cute and be like, "Cumin. There's no way I could make my famous chili without..." No, you couldn't make your famous chili without salt. You can make it without cumin. The second would probably be, if I was going for something a little more specific, garlic. Garlic is such a big ... My steak, salmon, pastas, everything. I'm a big savory flavor guy. Garlic adds so much richness in terms of the aroma and the flavor. I would say salt as my obvious answer and then garlic. Do a lot of people say olive oil?

No, we don't get a lot of olive oil.

Those idiots. I hope they all read their Mashed interviews and they go, "I can't believe I didn't say salt and olive oil. I'm a dumbass." [It would be] those three. Again, I'm a fundamental guy. I don't really joke around a lot. I'm straightforward. I'm like the mean guy from "Ratatouille," the food critic. I would say those three things. That's a cheating answer, but whatever. Also, with how much I stutter through my sentences, good luck transcribing this [and] the tone, nobody's going to get that as being sarcastic the entire time.

Hunter March talks E! Nightly Pop

What is your experience like behind the scenes at "Nightly Pop"? What are we not seeing every day? What might you want your fans to know from what we're not getting? 

Being on E! is an odd thing because so many people who want to be television hosts really dream of that "E! News" opportunity because it's a really big place for people to go to work that muscle and to get that work in. You see people like myself, Morgan, Nina, Justin, the regular E! talent and you think, "Wow, they're great at what they do." Or you hate us, whatever, but I'm talking to the ones that like us. Everybody there has worked so hard to perfect their craft. 

When it comes to comedy and everything, it's a constant. I'm constantly writing. I'm constantly thinking about the jokes afterward and trying to figure out how they could have been better. The only reason I bring this up is, if you aspire to be a comedian or a television host, whatever, [don't] ever get dissuaded by someone being at a level that maybe you're not yet. Get excited to know that you could get there and surpass them, probably. 

Someone reading this is probably going to end up being way funnier than me and replacing me on my show, at which point I will wait outside of the studio for them to get into their car and I will ram them, in my car, until they agree to quit the show and then I get my job back. I think it's: Work really hard and whoever you are looking at, if you want that life ... or even if you want to be funnier in your real life, or more better educated — Nina can talk about anything and it seems great, Morgan is a style queen. It's pretty impressive. All of it's pretty doable. I like talking as if we're on Mount Olympus, whatever. You get the point. 

What was the funniest episode that you filmed in the recent past? 

Well, with Morgan being gone for 99% of the episodes, it's always nice when she makes a surprise appearance. She did that recently on our 500th episode, made a surprise appearance, and it was always fantastic seeing her. She's coming back on June 1st or something, or June 2nd. I'm excited to have her back. I think our best episodes are ahead of us. You know what they say — it isn't until episode 600ish that you really start finding your groove. 

You finally feel like you're in it. 

No, we're close. We're at like 550 episodes. We got another 50 episodes of stumbling around in the dark and then, soon as we hit Episode 600, it's really going to click, finally.

Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website to learn more about the mental health resources available during May, which is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and the rest of the year. New episodes of "Nightly Pop" air on E! Monday through Thursday at 11:30 p.m. ET.