TUESDAY TALKS: NATALIE MATTHEWS
- IFBB PRO competitor, vegan chef, and creator of www.fitveganchef.com
3 foods I can’t live without: Oats, tofu, and peanut butter powder.
Favourite pre-workout meal: Oats with peanut butter powder and berries.
Favourite post-workout meal: A vegan protein bar
Favourite exercise: Wide grip strict pull-ups and heavy deadlift
My guilty-pleasure: Vegan donuts!
Dear Natalie, thank you so much for accepting my invitation into #TuesdayTalks interview. I am so glad to have you here! Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
I am a vegan chef, cookbook author, and professional IFBB bikini athlete in the sport of bodybuilding. Through my platform, I share healthy vegan recipes and my personal journey to the stage. I love to inspire people to live an active, healthy, and compassionate lifestyle while breaking the stereotypes that vegans are weak and can't build muscle on a plant-based diet.
How long have you been vegan and what Inspired you to make that transition?
I went vegan 6+ years ago for health reasons, stayed vegan for the animals and our environment.
How does your typical “day on the plate” looks like? And what is your diet like during the preparation for the competition and during the off-season?
I follow a flexible dieting approach, which means I count macros. I eat the same way all year round. The difference between contest prep and improvement season is that during competition prep, I lower my calories over time to decrease body fat %, and during my improvement season I do the opposite increasing calories over time to a caloric surplus to gain muscle.
- Breakfast: I start my day with oats. I can make anything with oats from pancakes to brownies. The possibilities are endless. Oats are always a staple in my diet.
- Favorite snacks: protein bars, seaweed crackers, rice cakes, roasted edamame beans, protein popcorn, kamut puffs, whole grain cereal, or fruit.
- Lunch or Dinner: I never eat the same thing. I like to make macro bowls, burrito bowls or vegan sushi bowls.
I'm a chef and I like to have fun in the kitchen. I love switching things up.
What kind of supplements do you use? Do you think that it’s possible to build muscles on a whole food plant based diet only?
Yes, you can build your body with whole foods. I'm a high-level athlete and I put my body through a lot. I don't rely on supplements to get my results. I do like to supplement to make sure I'm getting what I need as a preventative measure. I take creatine, b12, vitamin D, vegan omegas, and I use protein powders from time to time.
Your physique is just incredible! What’s your workout routine like at the moment? How often and what do you train?
At the moment, I work out 5 days per week. My workouts are long about 2 hours total including cardio, but that's how I love them. I train lower body 2 times per week and upper body 3 times per week. Two days are strength focused days, where I focus on putting more weight in the bar and increasing that weight over time. On strength days my reps are anywhere from 8-10 and on my non-strength days, my reps are anywhere from 8-20 reps. On my non-strength days, I focus on form and I pick lighter weights. I do light steady state cardio for 5 days per week.
Do you take any rest days? If so, what’s your favorite kind of relax?
My workouts are long and intense so I give myself 2 full rest days. During rest days I go on steady-state walks anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Nothing crazy, I just get the blood pumping and enough to get a light sweat.
And my last question is - what would be your nr.1 advice for someone who would like to start competing in the bikini fitness?
Be patient. It takes a lot of time, dedication, consistency, and sacrifice to get on stage. I do it because I absolutely love it! I love both sides of this sport...I love the building phase and I love getting shredded to expose all your hard work made in the improvement season.
I would recommend starting off with taking the time to build your body first. You want to build your body so you have a nice foundation to start a prep.
In a building phase, you want to focus on lifting heavy, eating enough, and slowly building your calories up so you are at a great starting point. Shredding is easy, building muscle is hard. Take a proper improvement season, you won't regret it. I took a whole year to build before ever stepping on stage. I do believe that first long improvement season helped me become the athlete I am today.