It’s only been three months since I first met Natalie in her hometown of Lafayette, CA and in this short time, she’s managed to break a new American Record in swimming and land the cover of ESPN’s coveted 2015 Body Issue. She was also in Toronto competing in the Pan Am Games, where she broke a Pan Am Games record in 100 free. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Natalie.

SPEEDO_15_PERF_JHP_CAM_A-219_CMYK

With a competitive swimming career that spans 26 years, she’s a 12-time Olympic and 20-time World Championship medalist, and is one medal shy of becoming the most decorated American female Olympic athlete in history. Not afraid to try new things like being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, Natalie is a go-getter in every aspect of her life and “mediocre” just doesn’t exist for her. So when we heard that Natalie was impressed by our enchiladas and burritos and that she wanted to be a part of Luvo, we knew she was going to be all in. Within days, our team was on a flight to California to meet her at one of her favorite local restaurants, Gather.

“Growing up in a family where we always had home-cooked meals together, food is a big part of who I am,” Natalie tells us. “I really started focusing on nutrition at the age of 13, when I began eating at the cafeteria of the Olympic Training Center. Everything was so healthy but still tasty, and I could feel it was making a difference in how I felt and performed in the pool.”

SPEEDO_15_PERF_TA2_CAM_A-206_CMYK

Today, at the age of 33, Natalie’s training is more intense than ever as she aims for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics and pushes through a diagnosis of scoliosis – she says good nutrition is what fuels every stroke.

Before her 6 AM start, she has a big breakfast including steel cut oats, eggs and toast. Then, she re-energizes and recovers with a green smoothie, hard-boiled egg and toast before her second practice that starts around noon.

“The most transformational change in my diet was when I started focusing on recovery food in college. With the right protein, carbs and good fats, my body was able to recover so much faster.” Natalie says she’s currently in a ‘Cherry-Almond phase’ for her recovery smoothies, which includes frozen dark cherries, almond milk, half a frozen banana, chia seeds and vanilla protein.

At home, Natalie lives with her husband, Ethan, and her two dogs – a Border Terrier and an American Bulldog. Just like her mom, Natalie nurtures a food culture in the home.

“I first started growing my own herb garden on the fire escape!” Natalie laughs as she remembers her college days at University of California-Berkeley. “It started out as a way to save money, because herbs can get expensive and you can never use it all up – but I fell in love with the process of growing.”

Natalie’s now created an urban farm just outside her home with six vegetable beds, a dozen citrus and fig trees, as well as eight chickens for fresh eggs. In true Slow Food fashion, she even makes pasta and sausages from scratch. Her long-term goal is to publish her own cooking and lifestyle book.

Though food and swimming are totally different in nature, I’m starting to notice that Natalie approaches them in a similar way – with passion, commitment and patience, which she describes as ‘innate stubbornness.’

“I’ve always been strong-willed, competitive and confident…even when I don’t think I should’ve been,” Natalie admits. “Luckily, my parents pushed me into sports!”

SPEEDO_15_PERF_TA2_CAM_A-106_CMYK

The message she wants to send out to athletes and non-athletes alike is to ‘trust in the process.’ “The obstacles and challenges you face along the way are just as, or more important than the successes,” she explains. “Now looking back at my injuries and other setbacks, I know it’s what made me a stronger, more well-rounded person.”

“Taking care of my body with the right nutrition, training and recovery has allowed me to have a long and competitive career. I’m so excited to join Luvo to help educate and inspire the next generation of athletes and youth to respect their bodies, so they can reach their full potential.”

We’re all in with you Natalie. Welcome to the Luvo team!

Did you enjoy this post? Stay in the know with more nutrition tips, and exclusive promo offers — join our newsletter.