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057: Origins of a Bodybuilder with Natalia Coelho

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Ever wonder how some of the top bodybuilding competitors today got their start? You’ll hear the origins of a world class bodybuilder today when you listen to Natalia Coelho on this edition of Awesome Health Podcast.

Natalia is a 2-time Arnold winner and a 5-time Olympian; she is one of the best competitors in the world right now. It all began when Natalia’s family moved back to the US. She was born here but her family moved to Brazil til she was a teenager. Coming back to New York was tough on Natalia: she didn’t know anyone and she didn’t speak the language.

But she took solace in the gym and loved going there. One day an old school bodybuilder asked her if she ever competed. She didn’t know what he was asking her about, so he told her about bodybuilding and started teaching her some of the basics.

She also started studying on her own: YouTube videos, anatomy books, podcasts were her main sources of information and she consumed them all. The bodybuilder from her gym helped her get started and she entered her first competition at 16. Since then she’s competed 29 times and won 7 world class titles. She is one of the best and today she tells us how she does it.

I wondered how she continued to stay focused and Natalia says it is passion. She is passionate about getting up at 5am for her cardio, following her diet, etc.  And it’s been like that since day one: she loves the process and the experience of preparing for and competing as a bodybuilder.

Even when she’s tired, she still enjoys the process and sticks with it. In fact, that is one of the things she does that some other competitors don’t do: she sticks with her program year-round. Other competitors will eat clean and train hard during competition season, and then stop when they’re done. But Natalia stays on track throughout the year, and this includes different preps for every competition.

She goes on to tell us what she is doing right now in terms of nutrition and training, plus one simple thing a lot of people miss that can make a big difference in competing (and in life) and what she does when she gets cravings.

Join us to hear those details and so much more on this fascinating episode of Awesome Health Podcast with Natalia Coelho!

Episode Resources:

Read The Episode Transcript:

Wade Lightheart: Good morning, good evening and good afternoon. It's Wade T Lightheart from BiOptimizers, the Awesome Health Podcast and I have been just dying. I shouldn't say that, but I am just so excited to be doing this interview. Our guest today is someone who has really achieved the performance side of the kind of BiOptimizers trend. We focus on aesthetics, we focus on performance and we focus on health and aesthetics and performance. This lady has just transformed what's possible for female physiques and she's done it at an extraordinary early age. She's one of the world's top female professional bodybuilders. She's lined up an incredible array of wins. Of course, my background was in bodybuilding and I made it to the Mister universe but that was it. I mean there's a whole other dimension and her level is beyond the beyond. And she is going to be competing this year at the super bowl of women's body building the Ms Olympia. She's one of the favorites and she's going to break down some of the myths around female bodybuilding. Also, what does it take to be at that level and to do it at the age that you are. You're just in your twenties. It's unbelievable. It's like, I can't imagine that you could be this good this early. So where the trajectory is. Who knows? Natalia Coelho welcome to the Awesome Health podcast.

Natalia Coelho: Thank you. Thank you so much. So nice being here and thank you for sharing a little bit about me.

Wade Lightheart: It's really amazing because when I got started in this whole field as a former bodybuilder, I started training at 15. I think you did too as well. The only thing is it took me 10 years to win my first show and you're competing at the world's best in five or six years. Tell me, how did you get start, what attracted you as a woman? Cause a lot of people think this is a male sport, but it's not just a male sport and it's people like you that kind of set the ultimate pinnacle, which drives the entire industry in a lot of directions that maybe some people don't want to look that way. But because of what you're able to do, you change what's possible for women. You you're able to provide an insight and an inspiration or a point of reference to say. I might not be a professional bodybuilder, but I certainly can make my butt look good or I can build some arms and all that sort of stuff. How did you get started? What attracted you to the sport?

Natalia Coelho: Yes. So I was raised in Brazil, so I was born in New York but raised in Brazil. So I moved from Brazil back to USA when I was about like 14, 15 and my whole life changed like my family, my friends, everybody was in Brazil. I got here without speaking English at all. So it was very tough for me to be in a new place and I didn't know anybody. You know, sometimes you move from one city to another city and it's already hard. But moving from one country to another one is a huge change. So I got here and I always liked to be at the gym, the environment, whatever. And I didn't have a car or anything. Of course, I was very young so I would just get my bicycle and ride to the gym. And this was like a place where I could find myself.

Natalia Coelho: Like even if I didn't speak English or didn't know anyone, I could just have my own time, you know, being somewhere that I would feel good with myself. So I would always go to the gym the same time. I always like, I tried to be very consistent with whatever you do and that's what I was doing. And one day a guy, a body builder, the old school body builder,came to me at the gym and he asked me if I competed. And I was like compete in what, you know, I didn't have any idea what you're talking about. But he started talking to me about body building and he taught me some things, some movements, some things that I can do more to develop more biceps or shoulders or whatever. And I found it so interesting that you can change yourself, you can change your body, you can change your health, you can change anything you want.

Natalia Coelho: You just need to want to, you know. So I started studying for that. I bought a lot of books, like anatomy books, physiology books. I started watching podcasts and videos on YouTube. So that's how I started. Like not really wanting to compete, but just trying to learn more about the body, about what I can do to change my body. And then I pretty much read all books. Everything you can think of I would have and I will. I bought the old school encyclopedia from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've read the whole thing and I had a lot of man seeing all throughout this whole crazy thing going on that I just want to learn learning. I was in high school, so in high school people didn't understand my desire to learn about the human body. People were like "you're just like a lawyer, you know, you like to study".

Natalia Coelho: I'm like, no, I want to know more about the body. It fascinates me so much to know what we can do. We have the power to do whatever you want with our bodies. But anyway, so this guy that I met at the gym, he took me to one competition towards the show. And I was like, okay, that's fun. But I don't think I would be on stage competing because it's different to be watching a show and to be competing at the show. But before I know it is the next, I wasn't at the same stage that I first watched the girls competing. I was in that stage competing and I got the first place. I was 16 years old and I was between girls in their thirties. And I was just like, what am I doing here?

Natalia Coelho: Even when I was in the lineup, like getting ready to go on stage, the girls in front of me look at me and they're like, how old are you? And I'm 16 year old at the time. They're like, well I could be your mother. I've been competing in training for 20 years, if you really show I'm going to quit. They told me that and I was like, I'm sorry, I'm just starting now. But I actually won the show and it was an amazing experience. The time that I stepped on stage, I knew I would be competing forever, like for as long as I could because it's something that I cannot put in words. To compete and to feel like the energy. The time that you step on stage, you remember everything that you trained all your diet and everything to get to that moment.

Natalia Coelho: It's amazing. It started pretty much from a guy at the gym who took me to a show to watch the show and he started everyday at the gym pushing me. He had a son and his son was competing as well, but he didn't have the drive. So the guy was like, well I have all this knowledge, I'm trying to make my son compete but he doesn't want to. So when he saw me at the same age as his son with the drive and very focused at the gym, he started putting his energy into me and showing me "look at this CD, this video here, watch Jay Cutler podcast. Watch this, watch that." And we started learning and learning. And I just got into it and I always dealt with body. Once you competed, once you're getting to this lifestyle, you're not going to get out. It's like you starting to try it out, it's going to be a long journey.

Wade Lightheart: There's a couple of things that I think are really interesting and when I was 15, I got into bodybuilding myself and read in Arnold's encyclopedia of bodybuilding and that was so inspirational for me and, and the fact that, you know, there was a lot of things I couldn't control in my life, but there was something that I could control and I could see progress and I could see the self-esteem out of the emerging aspects. But what's really unique about you, you're probably the first female bodybuilder who is on the exact same trajectory as Arnold Schwarzenegger. The level that you're at in your physical development at your age, the only person that's been there was Arnold and of course bodybuilding wasn't as competitive. A lot of people don't understand that. Yes, he was world champion at 23 years old but the reality was there was only about 300 really good body builders in the whole world and now there's literally hundreds of thousands of bodybuilders that you're competing at.

Wade Lightheart: And frankly, for those who aren't watching on YouTube, you look like a female superhero. You not only have great development, but you're beautiful, you're attractive, you're very smart, you're intelligent, you've got all these things. What has been your secret to be able to be so focused and to learn so much? It's so level and then being able to apply it to this, it's extremely difficult. I don't think people understand of all the sports out there, it's one of the few that's 24 hours a day because diet is everything. What is that level of intensity and focus and drive to, to be as good as you are.

Natalia Coelho: I would say it's passion because a lot of people do that. Thinking about getting a trophy or thinking about looking good on stage, but when you have passionate about doing something, when you do it because you love doing it because you love the process, you love waking up at 5:00 AM to do your cardio, you love eating rice and chicken, you don't complain, you just enjoy the process. And that's been like that since day one. Since the day I decided to compete, I said I'm going to enjoy every today and that's how it should be. Like right now I coached a lot of athletes and sometimes they see, they complaining about things that they shouldn't, you know, if you're competing, if you chose to do that, you should enjoy. Of course it's not easy like there are some times that you're going to be tired.

Natalia Coelho: Then you have to do level session of cardio, boost training plus everything else you have to do in your life. But if you love doing it and you feel focused and you have a vision, you're going to get there. So everything gets worth it. So I think since the beginning, the most important thing in my life was to have passion for what I do. Every time I was in school I would go to classes excited to learn, like the professors will finish the lecture and I would be like, no, no more. I want to know more, keep on going. And people looked at me like, what are you talking about? So it's just because I love it, you know, and everything that I was learning in school or learn any podcasts, even yours, like I took your 12 week course and I have a lot of notes from that. It's like everything that I learned, I applied to myself and I see the results. So it's pretty much you got to love what you do. And that's, I think it's like the formula to success.

Wade Lightheart: Beautifully said. I think that's one of the common elements of people who are great at anything. They actually absolutely fall in love with the process, not necessarily outcome and if you can master the process, the outcomes take care of itself. But at some point, obviously you had success early on. Was there a point when you start to think, maybe I could go all the way, where was a key moment that said, you know what, I could be a professional. I could be the world's best. I could be champion of the world.

Natalia Coelho: To be honest, since the first time that I competed, I saw myself, I could see myself on the stage. I believe that I could do it and I think that's the number one thing. Like whatever you want to do in life, you have to believe in yourself. If you cannot see yourself as a winner, you never going to perform as a winner. I always tell that to myself. I actually wrote exactly this phrase on my wall. Every time I would wake up, I would read that and keep that in my mind to reflect about it. So I always knew that if I wanted to work hard for that in one day, you could take like five, 10, 20 years. But I didn't care because it's all about the process. You know? I was enjoying the process. So I think it was like winning shows and becoming pro and getting to this state was just like a result of all the passion, all the work, all the discipline that I had. And I don't know, it's like you can not think about I'm doing that to be in the show. You have to do that because you want to do it. You know what I mean? It's like you'll have to be excited about doing it.

Wade Lightheart: I think that's one of the elements that a lot of people don't understand that get into fitness or get into a sport or they are doing it for this kind of externalization. Not necessarily the love or not the exploration or not the little minor things. What are some of the things that you do, I'm curious, I think people are curious like what's a day in your life look like to be at your level of physical development? What are some of the things that you absolutely have to do? What are some of the things that people would be surprised about? And then anything else that you might add that things that you do to be at the top of your game?

Natalia Coelho: Well, right now things are crazy right here all over the world because we are locked down. But until last year, because I just graduated from university, but until last year, I would be having very, very busy schedule. I would be in school, in class, like sitting down in school for at least eight to nine hours a day everyday, Monday to Monday, even Saturdays and Sundays I wouldn't be studying. And so let's say I woke up, I was in practice, so I will do my cardio. From my cardio I'll go straight to my university, which is like an hour and a half from my house. So it was a long drive. I would get there, be there for like eight hours or so. I had like one or two breaks like gaps in classes and that's when I would eat.

Natalia Coelho: Sometimes I was just very tired from my prep. I would take a nap in my car and then go back to class. I would finish class, go train, I have to train, I had to work. So I was doing like online coaching and stuff like that. So I had my laptop with me and then I had to prepare for the next day because I like to cook my meals at least for like two days. But I was constantly cooking. I like to eat the meals fresh so you know, just the main thing, more of the nutrients content. I was very, very busy and thank you God that's when I was getting ready for Ms Olympia here because sometimes it's like a smaller show. You can still manage your things, but I don't know, like it was very tough. Sometimes I questioned myself like, how did I do that?

Natalia Coelho: Because it was crazy. Even the airplane, when I was traveling to a new area, I had an online exam the same weekend. So I was studying. I was like in the hotel between pre-judging and finals. I was taking my online course, my online exam, and my mom was like, you're crazy. You're about to go to finals. You have a show to go. And I'm like, yeah, but I had school and she's like, if you talk to your professors, they would understand. I'm like, no, I don't want to do that. You know? Because I was always the type of person who doesn't like to bother anyone. If I have to do something, I will do. I would get it done no matter what, what I have to do, I have my time management or whatever I have to do, but getting done.

Wade Lightheart: It's almost an unbelievable level of focus and discipline. I've competed and let's face it, I mean those last few weeks are not the easiest as well as staying mentally focused. How are you able to do that? Is it just because that you're so passionate about what it is that you want to do or what it is we want to achieve that everything else just doesn't matter. You just kind of defocus. Like you just put the blinders on and that's all that's going to go happen.

Natalia Coelho: I don't know if it's because of the way I was raised that like my grandfather is an Admiral of the Navy, Brazilian Navy. So I always watched him like very strict, he was very methodical about everything he did and they always had to monitor him a lot. So I don't know if that's something that I had inside myself, growing up seeing someone like that. But I always been very focused. You know, when I have a goal you can put as many obstacles you want on my way, but I will get to my goal. You know, I get to my final results. Whatever I want to do, I will do it. So I believe as he said, it's passion because if I wasn't passionate about it, if I didn't love what I was doing, I would never be able to go to what I gave.

Natalia Coelho: It was crazy. Like new beginning. I was working at a gym, I was a personal trainer and I opened the gym. So the 5:00 AM I will drive to the gym, open the gym, 5:00 AM stay there from five to 1:00 PM, 1:30 we'll start my classes. So I would rush to the university, take my classes, stay there for like maybe six, seven hours, leave there, go back to the gym, training a few clients, train myself, go home, study, cook, eat and do everything that I had to do for the same thing next day, waking up at 4:00 AM and sometimes I had to do the cardio before opening the gym. So I would wake up earlier, do my cardio fo 4: 30 open the gym. It was hard. And a lot of people don't see that. They only see like, okay, she looks good, she's on stage, she goes to the gym, she trains for one hour and that's easy. She has good genetics, but genetics don't wake up at 4:00 AM to do what I did.

Wade Lightheart: So true. And oftentimes there's a lot of people who have, I would say better than average genetics in any given sport, don't have what I call the above the shoulder genetics, the mental discipline and toughness or the heart. One of my former coaches who coached I think over 400 titled winners. I asked him one day, I said, what do you, what do you think really makes a champion in your experience? And he said it was heart. What are some of the obstacles or challenges other than the logistical stuff, what are some of the things that were challenging on your rapid rise that came up for you that people might not know about or they might not understand that you've had to overcome. Is there something that you had and then maybe how you overcome it if there is any.

Natalia Coelho: So here's the thing that I think nobody knows because everybody sees the pictures of me and my mom always together. Every competition, everywhere I go, my mom's like my biggest hand. But in the beginning she was not like that. She did not like it at all. She was very against that because when I started competing and training to compete, I had to say no to a lot of things that teenagers wouldn't say. I didn't want to go party. I didn't want to eat what teenagers eat and on weekends I was excited because the gym will be empty, you know, like okay, nobody's the gym. So the gym is all mine. And my mom's like, Oh wow, go to movies go do something. I'm like, no, I need to sleep. I need my anabolic sleep. I need to sleep and wake up rested.

Natalia Coelho: So in the beginning she thought I was a little like crazy. She's like, you will miss your best years of life. I moved from Brazil to here and I started competing here and I have a competing in Brazil, so my family still lives in Brazil. And when my mom told them, Oh Natalia is going to start competing and doing this and that, everybody there was like, that's not a female sports, she is going to become a man. She's going to be to masculine. And like a lot of things against me, my mom pretty much did everything she could to stop me. And for example, you know that body building is strategy sports. So there are a lot of things involved with even like Superman's health supplements. They're not cheap if you want a quality stuff, you spend money on that. And as you always say, I will never forget that.

Natalia Coelho: There's nothing more expensive than a product that doesn't work. I would have to start paying for my own food because I wanted special food that is more expensive than regular food. So my mom's like, Natalia, I'm sorry, but we cannot afford that. I'm like, no problem. I'm going to work more hours. I'm going to do whatever I have to do and I'm going to pay for my food. So I don't know how many times I ate like outmeal because it was like $1, but that's why I was waking up so early to go to work before, you know, going to school because I wanted so bad to have my food, to be able to afford for my things instead of just like relying on somebody paying for me, my mom paying for me. And I feel like most my mom saw that I really wanted to do that and she was like, you know what, if that's what you want, I'm going to support you, because you're going to do it no matter what. I know you so I better support you. I'm like, yeah, that's right.

Natalia Coelho: She started trying to understand a little bit about how the sports works and I show her a lot of videos about competing about how a body building life looks like and I show her, I started like trying to teach her the process so she could get used to it. And since then she just like started supporting me more and more. And today she doesn't miss a show, literally the last show, she's like, I can lose my job, but I'm on using your show reel there. And she almost lost her job. But anyway, I think it's, it was very tough. It wasn' an obstacle for sure because financially speaking, I was only 15 I had to get a job. I didn't speak English, I didn't know anyone.

Natalia Coelho: I didn't have a car. I would go to the gym by my bicycle, you know, drag my bicycle and if you come here to Florida where I am, everybody knows me as the girl of the bicycle because I would go always at the same time, the same path, the same thing. Like everybody knows me riding my bicycle since I was 15 about like that age. But you know, things get better and I always knew that it was just a phase, no matter what you go to, you know it's temporary. So I knew it wasn't really like that forever. And one like advice that I'd give to a lot of girls who are young and they just thought in trying to know, getting to whatever goals they have is still remember, keep in mind that is temporary. Like when I was going to school and I was taking pre-meds classes it was very, very heavy on me.

Natalia Coelho: I would be studying for like let's say one hour of class. I needed to study for four hours just to get ready for the class. So I didn't have time for that, but I would make time and I kept telling myself it's temporary. So you're going to remember that. You're going to remember that, like time flies, you know? So I think to have a goal, to have a vision that everything is going to pass through, it's just a phase. It's the best thing you can keep in mind when you're trying to achieve something

Wade Lightheart: That's a really powerful concept I think for people to get is that when you have that clear vision, it makes it easier to deal with whatever challenges you're having in life. Because it's like, okay, I've got that vision and so this is going to pass at some point and we're going to go through this and whatever. I'm so committed to that vision. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Switching gears, you kind of alluded to as your mum was first on the outside in talking about female physic development or your family members and stuff, what are some of the challenges and how would you speak to particularly to men and women who have a misperception of what it is to be a, what I would call a female physique artist. Because for me when I did the sport, it's a sport but it's also art.

Wade Lightheart: There's an artistic component to it and I think it was captured really well by Arnold Schwarzenegger and pumping iron when they did the event at the Whitney museum, which actually funded pumping art cause they ran out of money and the whole thing was is bodybuilding a sport, is it an art? And cause it's this debate of the intellectuals and the artists and it was the whole thing that really thrust bodybuilding into the mainstream. How do you address that perceptions or you know, people saying, Oh my God, her biceps are bigger than mine or how do you exude what it is to be a female? And of course this is a big conversation in the world today with women and what women can do or what women can look like or what women can be like or how they choose their lives. Because you're obviously on a very visual impressive state. Anybody can have a personal feeling about something, but you're bigger than life. It's like there you go, voila, boom there, take a look at this. You know, like there's no hiding it. How do you deal with that? How do you think about it and how do you feel about it? Cause I'm really curious about that because I think it's fascinating.

Natalia Coelho: Well, I think it's like nowadays people have to realize that there is not such a thing as female and male sports like gender. I think a lot of people have too much like misconceptions about what female body do this do what they don't do and what we have to do, what we don't have to do. Because it's just funny to see like what we can do just by training and dieting. Like we can totally transform our bodies and people are like, Oh, but you're a girl. You cannot have bigger biceps than a man. And I'm like, why not? Like if you're trying, you can get bigger than me, but you know, you don't train. So it's not my fault. I just think I like the way things are going right now because I think people starting to realize that we can do whatever we want to do and people are always going to judge us no matter what.

Natalia Coelho: You know, so you just have to accept that and let them hate us, say whatever they want to say. But a lot of people are going to support you as well. So it's a tough place to be because you're going to have to deal with a lot of people, a lot of things, a lot of comments. Oh, you're too weak. That's a compliment for them. When you tell like a female that she's too weak, sometimes this gets to her mind, she's like, Oh my gosh, I need to weaken my fat. You might look good and it is going to intimidate someone? But the bottom line is, are you really concerned about what they're saying? You know, I will have people show yourself with how you look with what you're doing. Because if you are, you're just going to let them talk.

Wade Lightheart: You know, it's funny that you bring that up cause I always share with people. I think to walk on stage as a body builder… So you step on stage in a public era wearing almost nothing on under the eye of judges who are looking at every flaw and probably the most critical audience you could potentially have bodybuilders or you know, somebody walks out on stage and single digit body fat, they're fat. The standards of physical development are so high and so many people are insecure about their physicality or how they present themselves wherever they are on the spectrum. Do you think that subjecting yourself to such an extreme place has actually giving you a better sense of self or more self confidence? How would you see that experience?

Natalia Coelho: Absolutely. A hundred percent because like no aspects of my life, body building has taught me how to just have confidence, to do whatever you want to do and to go there. Like, okay, so let's say I had a speech to do in class and it was my first speech. I never spoke like publicly and I had a lot of accents. As you can tell, I have a Brazilian accent very strong and if they haven't competed before or if it wasn't bodybuilding, I don't think I would be able to do as well as I did because after that speech people came to me and talked to me. Like my professors, my professors were very smart. They worked like researchers in hospitals and they like clinical staff and they talk to me like in a whole new level or people started talking to me and we found out the eyes look at me with another eyes. Because just like I went on stage, I got the microphone and I was talking as everybody in the school, even though I don't know a lot of words, sometimes people don't get it because I talk too fast or whatever.

Natalia Coelho: But I was so confident on stage and by the first, the first step that I did on stage, my head was like imagine you're coming to compete. You know you train for that, you prepare for that, you're there. There's no way out. You know? So when you're about to compete, when you get on stage, you have to forget literally everything that you have in your mind and focus on at the moment right there. Because you won't get one checklist. The judges are going to look at you, you have maybe like 10 seconds to make impression if you don't press them or whatever, they're just going to be "whatever, next,". So I think I applied a lot of concepts that I learned from bodybuilding, from the sports, new disclaimdiscipline, everything that I learned, I applied to everything in my life. Like when they go to a job interview, when I'm talking to clients, when I'm talking to someone. There are no words that can express what bodybuilding has made to me. How this has changed my life. Always possible.

Wade Lightheart: It's so interesting because Arnold Schwartzenegger when I was 15 years old and said in his book "The education of a bodybuilder" that he was able to achieve success in life because of hard work, self-discipline and a positive attitude. And I had never really heard that in the community that I heard about hard work, the self discipline and the positive attitude component and you obviously radiate all of these principles of like it's an echoing of kind of the things he said and he said that literally everything he achieved in life he learned in bodybuilding. So going from the physical side to the mental side, how do you see your career trajectory going? Cause it's obviously on a rocket ride, you're stepping on stage. I mean you, I think you went to Arnold's contest, you've met the King as they say, and you're obviously heading to be the queen of the sport and maybe setting in a career that might set up the all time hall of fame as your trigger. What is your vision for the future? Seeing that you're at such a high level at this age already?

Natalia Coelho: To be honest, I have so many goals, so many visions. I always tell people that I'm like the mini Arnold because I see myself doing exactly what he did. You know, he came from another country, he didn't speak English, he didn't have a clue about how to get to where he wanted to, but he was driven. He was passionate and he did everything he had to do and look at him, look at him now, you know, like he's the lead agent of bodybuilding. Everybody knows him. And I I don't want to just to compete. I don't want to just win titles. I want to be the image of female body building. I want to be like an ambassador of the sport. I want to show people what this sports is about. I want to show them that it's not only about competing, it's not only about getting the trophy, you know, I just want everybody to see my passion and get inspired by what I do.

Natalia Coelho: Not only competing, but like, Oh, she followed her heart. She did that. I can follow my heart. I can follow my dreams. You know, I just want to inspire people. And I think that's gonna drive me very far. As far as competitions go my ultimate goal is doing Ms Olympia as many times as I want. People always ask me, how many times would you want to win Ms Olympia? I want to win as much as I can, as much as like I am healthy and passionated you know, to do what I'm doing. I won't stop.

Wade Lightheart: Beautifully said. Let's talk a little bit about training and diet. I'm very curious about that. Like how much, how frequently do you train, what's the diet that you're entailing and does that change throughout the years? Like off season, on season, all that sort of stuff. I'm looking at your competitive seasons and I don't even know how you peak for that many contests in one single year. I did three in one year and I thought I was going to die. And here, you know you're winning like six, seven titles in a year. Can you explain to people the difference between maybe off season, on season and what those would entail or maybe a day like training or dietary wise. Cause I think people are fascinated by that.

Natalia Coelho: Okay. So I'm going to share what I do but that's very personalized.

Natalia Coelho: That's to the extreme because I'm the type of person that is either zero or a hundred. I don't have the middle, so either I am doing my best or I don't do it at all. So when it comes to dieting, I eat clean all year round and that's why I can compete as much as I do because it's a lifestyle and that's what a lot of people don't realize. What you see the most nowadays is people competing. They eat super clean, they eat well, their protein, their carbs, everything is weighed on the scale. But after this show they explode. You know like they rebound, they have a lot of problems. They get a lot of problems like health wise and they regain everything they lost, they start feeling bad. Just like I said before in many videos that you did about how important it is to not bounce back.

Natalia Coelho: But anyway, so that's why I try to keep my diet pretty clean all year round. Not only because of the competitions but because I care about my inside. And I think that's number one. You have to realize how important it is if you want to have a long life, not only like as an athlete, but as a regular person. You have to watch what you're eating and people are like, Oh, but I drink two gallons of water, I do this and that. Okay. But every detail matters what type of water you're drinking, you know? There are so many little things that people don't realize that can make a huge difference. So talk about my diet because I'm going out of the topic.

Wade Lightheart: I think it's really good to contextualize that. Like those little tiny details compelled upon you is have an exponential effect. So go ahead. Keep going.

Natalia Coelho: So the difference between my pre-contest and my off season, it's much just the amount of foods that I eat. So let's say I'm going to compete, I'm going to start prepping my food slowly go down, I do some carbs cycles. So I do like low carb day, two days a week, two days in a row, and a third day is like a higher day. But pretty much depends on how my body's responding. So I've done 29 shows so far and none of my preps were the same. Every prep changes because your body changes daily. You know, like some shows I had to peak earlier and some shows I didn't peak at all. For some shows I was drinking two gallons of water the night before the show, which is crazy.

Natalia Coelho: So I think you'll have to listen to your body and to know how your body works so you can adjust things. But I've been eating six times a day right now. I'm a little off season, but it's not really off season because I'm never off. So I call it improvement season because I'm terrified because that I'm off, I think you are going to listen. You're going to hear me saying that I'm not on season maybe 30 years from now. When I'm setting down with fun, I'm still on improving season. So it'd be eating six times a day. I have carbs, all my meals pretty much coming from sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, these two sources are my favorites. That's what I do the most. And protein about 20 grams, 25 grams of protein from you. People like, Oh, but 20-25 is too little to be a bodybuilder.

Natalia Coelho: You do that to be an athlete. I'm like, no, it's not. You don't need to do like extremely amounts of foods, especially if I'm taking all the help, like health supplements to help you to break down the foods properly, there's no need for that. As far as my favorite vegetables, I eat that like pretty much since I was 15 every meal at least four times a day. I'm eating that just because I like it. And it's funny because people think, okay, she always liked vegetables. So it's easy to go on diets if you like vegetables. Nope. It's not because you can teach your body to like a certain food. It's just like about the good bacteria and everything that is going on inside your body. You can reteach your cravings for example. Your brain eats something that is constantly changing.

Natalia Coelho: So just by eating something and telling like your body, Okay, for these type of things, I'm about to break down these types of foods or whatever. You can totally program how you feel, what you crave, what do you like. But I eat six times day. Right now I'm training four times a week. I have two days off and in all my days off I do not change my diet. I still eat pretty much the same foods. That's where my body's recovering. So I do need the nutrients because I trained the day before and the following day my body needs those food trends to rebuild whatever was broken down. And when I'm getting ready for competitions though, I do probably like half of the carbs or one third of the carbs that I'm having on my training days.

Natalia Coelho: These little things make a huge difference. People don't realize, but every gram of food makes a difference. So in prep, I always have six meals as well. That's why I try to have six meals in my off season. So it makes easier for me to just have a schedule and just change the amount of foods. But let's see. Six days, six times a day. Carbs, protein. I have just like healthy fats. I put some oil, coconut oil in my food. I put some almonds or avocado or whatever it is into your five news. So I have six meals. Three of the meals have added fats. The other three, I just have a little bit more of carbs. So it's just like a balance to not have too much carbs and fats at the same meal. On track it's hard to say because every week I meet with my coach and we change the diet.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah, it makes sense. Now training wise, are you a intensity person with a low volume or are you a high volume type of thing? Cause there's kind of two schools out there. There's the volume trainers, which I would say following the Arnold Schwartzenegger camp and then maybe the intensity people, which would be the Mike Mentzer and Dorian Yates style of training. Do you follow one particular style over the other?

Natalia Coelho: I believe you don't have to do one or the other. You can always do a mix of both. You have to do what your body responds better to. I like to do more like a volume type of training because I think just lifting heavy weights by the experience that I had with other people or the athletes by what I listen and have studied is just like too hard on your joints. And sometimes you're putting so much pressure on them that your carrier is not going to be too long. So you have to be smart. The most important thing is to be smart, train smart, and bost your training. You know, sometimes you have to do more reps. Sometimes if you're strong you can do heavier, but I would never go to the gym and do something that I can do more than 12 like reps easily. That means to me that is too light, too easy. So I try to give my reps the range of eight to 10. So I would say it's like moderate heavy, but still, I like to do some supersized, some job sites. I like to play with my training variables to make sure I'm giving different stimulus to my muscle.

Wade Lightheart: I think a lot of people underestimate how much art and science, like the prep, the drinking, the feedback, learning about the physiology and how your body responds and seeing those changes in the mirror and how tuned in you have to be to really perform at your best. Is there anything do on the mental preparation side or the psychic side that allows youto stay at that level of performance for so long? If there were any tips or you do conditioning, do you do psychology stuff? Do you any programming or affirmations? Is there anything that you do that allows you to kind of go to that next level?

Natalia Coelho: You know what? I meditate every day, even like five to 15 minutes. It can be something very quick. You should try it and you will come up and they're just like getting ready to have your first meal, whatever. I do that like literally every day. And that helps me to like put everything together. Think about my day, think about my goals. Think what am I going to do today to get me closer to that goal? And that's one of the things that people miss a lot. You know, they don't stop and think about things. They just wake up and go and do things, we never rush. I like to take my time. I am like the kind of person who needs to plan ahead everything. Like my mom tells me all the time, if I want to have like one hour, watch a movie with you, I have to carry like a week before.

Natalia Coelho: I'm like, because it's not about the hour that I'm watching the movie. It's about what I'm doing around this hour, you know? So I think meditating has helped me a lot to stay focused, especially when you're competing for so long, so many times a year, when you made state at least like three times a week. I think it's doable. It helps you to see your goals, to see why you are, to see what you need to do and to have like an inner peace, you know. Okay. I feel good. I know what I need to do, I know where I am. It's just like some little tools that we can use to feel better and to feel less lost, you know, cause sometimes you just feel lost and you have to keep reminding yourself why are you doing that?

Wade Lightheart: Beautifully said. I remember the days when I would be sitting there and I my girlfriend at the time was like when can we go out? And I'd have to think about it because okay, it's gotta be a Friday. Yeah, we could do that on Friday at seven o'clock. Cause I was the same way. I was working two jobs, training twice a day, doing the diet and the preparation and all that sort of stuff. I'm going to ask you a question that I think a lot of people would be curious about. Does a person at your level have time for romance or people in your life or these types of things cause people kind of wonder. You don't have to answer it, but I'm curious because I know a lot of people will be like, how does that work for someone at that level or how does athletes at your level deal with those types of distractions that are the emotional side of life, or the intimate side of life.

Natalia Coelho: Well I would have that. So the last five years, even if I had time, I wouldn't want anyone in my life because I knew it would be a distraction. I needed like whatever extra time I had, I would be investing all my knowledge, I had so many goals and so many things to do and if I had one little time extra time I would fill it out with something that would improve my the future, you know? And as I told you before, when I do something, when I commit to do something, I want to give my all. So even the relationship that I feel that I'm doing my best because I'm focusing on my career because I'm focusing on school because I'm focusing on this show that I'm getting ready. I feel bad, I feel like I'm not doing enough, like it's not Natalia.

Natalia Coelho: Natalia has to give her a hundred percent. If I had a boyfriend, I want to be the best girlfriend in the world. So right now, I have more time management, like my life's a little bit better in the sense of being able to divide my priorities. I know how to get ready to a show. I know what it will take me, how many hours of this or that. But in the beginning I just wanted to focus in the show, my career in school. I think if I would have a boyfriend, I don't have a boyfriend at the moment, but he will definitely have to be someone who understands my lifestyle, my space, because that's very important. I need my space and I'm pretty sure all the athletes who are watching this will agree with me that even though you're in a relationship, being an athlete requires a lot of patience, requires to understand your lifestyle in a whole new life. So I'm pretty sure it will be an athlete or at least someone who competed before who know where we go to because it's not easy. It's not easy.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah, I totally get it. And I think that's a really important point for people to understand because there's so much I would say on social media, which a lot of people are connecting with, particularly young people when finding a mate and getting attractive or it's all about look at me and it's a component but it's kind of window dressing because at the end of the day if you want to achieve what you need to achieve, you need to be very clear about what your values are, what your goals are and what that structure is going to be. And even though a lot of people might find you attractive, obviously you're going to get all these kinds of inputs and people coming after you and things like that, you're very clear and kind of focused on what it is that you need to do and understand what are the requirements. And I don't think a lot of people really understand the requirements it is to be like with any professional athlete, let alone a bodybuilding athlete, which is a 24 hour days. There's no off switch in bodybuilding. What is your suggestion, because I think your position is really powerful in the sample.

Wade Lightheart: What is your suggestion to women particularly who oftentimes feel the pressure to compromise their goals or their values to fit in with the lifestyle of what their man and wife or their guy wants or their partner. How is it that you were able to hold that and maintain that power as a woman to say, no, this is important to me. This is what I'm going, I'm going to do this thing, and so what if he can't make it out? How do you get to that or what would you share with women who have trouble with that?

Natalia Coelho: Well, I would say like you have to love yourself before you love anybody else. You know? Because the thing is if you don't love the life that you're creating, what's your future, then maybe you'll love someone today, but this person can cheat on you, this person can do something to hurt you or make you feel sad. But you're never going to do that to yourself because you have the power over yourself. So if I want to get to somewhere, I can just like work my mind having gets to this place. But I cannot control what other people are going to do. I can control everything I do. I can control my emotions. I can control my actions. I can control the outcome of everything that I do. So I think the girls out there who are in new relationship and struggling with that, they need to talk to their partner because if he's not supporting you, if he'snot helping you to get to your goal, not understanding you, maybe it's not the right person.

Natalia Coelho: And nowadays I think it's even easier to find someone like that because a lot of body builders, like male body builders support their girls. They train together, they prep t together., help each other like, Oh, you want me to, I don't know, buy a chicken. I do that. So I think the person really has to have the same lifestyle, otherwise it is not going to work because as every little thing makes a difference. So let's say, okay, my boyfriend wants to go out today, it's Friday night. That's what boyfriend and girlfriend do. But I'm getting ready for competition. These hours of sleep are so important to me. Am I going to just go out with him or is he going to support me and say, no, let's stay home.

Natalia Coelho: Let's cook something. Just watch a movie. Understand what you're going to and support you because not many people do it. So it gets to a point where you have to analyze things and really think to yourself, is this person helping me to achieve my goals or does he just want me to be by his side and do whatever he wants and only things about himself. I'm not like that. And that's why it's very hard for me. You know, I raised my standards too much because I do my very best to be where I am. So I want someone in the same level or better than me to push me. I don't want to feel bad to tell my boyfriend that I have to train like, sorry, but I cannot do that because I have to eat at six or because I have to train now because I have cardio in the morning. I don't want to be in this situation. So I think pretty much like the person cannot make you feel bad. That's the most like the bottom line. You have to feel comfortable to tell him, no love, tomorrow. I have get up at 4:00 AM so I have to sleep and he's gonna tell you, okay, no problem. You know, go sleep, rest. That's important for you. It's important to me too. So we gotta be in the same boat, going to the same direction.

Wade Lightheart: It's very well said and I love the clarity around it and understanding. It's an alignment of values and understanding of what you're going through. And Tony Robbins talks about if you go to his date with destiny shows or these types of events, the one thing that you can tell with people in their lives is what kind of standards they have. Goals are one thing, but standards are another. And for example, when you see someone with your kind of development, it's really clear where your standards are relative not only just to the population but also inside your sport. That's what's kind of put you at that elite level. And you see that with virtually every high performer, Tom Brady and TB 12 talks about the standards that he has and what he incorporates on a daily basis to do that.

Wade Lightheart: And you can go back in the day to Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was early in acting and they would say, you need to crawl up these rocks and cut your knees up and all this sort of stuff we don't want to do again because no, I'm going to do it beat opponent and a hand on his tie for 12 hours when no one else would do it. Because it's those little moments where you kind of flip the mind, you know, to overcome the mind goes, I always had a saying where the mind goes, the body will follow.

Natalia Coelho: Yeah, it's true.

Wade Lightheart: So, so what do you do? So this is some leading up to this one. Like what happens when the little sneaky things come in? I want to have this food or maybe I don't want to go training today. Like does that ever happen to you or has that ever happened? Do you ever crack a little smidge or do you never break ever on anything?

Natalia Coelho: I think I am like the toughest person you're ever going to meet about that because I can tell like with a hundred percent, I can affirm to you that I've never cheated like even one gram of food, like extra foods. I have an idea, if I have a scale and I'm supposed to be 30 grams of oatmeal, if the scale stays 32, I will take off two grams of the outmeal. But I am that meticulous, you know? So of course cravings come, come and go. It's normal. I'm a human, but I know it's just like my bad bacteria and I tell her back, Nope, I'm not feeding you. That's what I do. Because I think once you study the human body and you understand that physiology, what is going on inside you, you'll know why you're getting these responses.

Natalia Coelho: You know what is craving, what's going on inside me like the hormone asking for sugar or for carbs or for whatever. So once you understand that you can deal with that. I understand the reason why I'm feeling that way. The same thing with prep. You know, sometimes you're very tired and people are like, Oh my gosh, you look sick. You know, eat something, eat a pizza, you need a pizza. And I look at them like, no, it's just my body. You know, like my body composition is changing, my body's feeling it. So that's why I feel that way. So it's kind of like everything is connected and one thing that I learned in school is connected to how I'm feeling right now that is connected to an experience that I had before. So I think all of that together help me a lot when it comes to cravings, just like the needs of eating something different. But there are also a lot of things that people can do nowadays when you're craving something sweet. There are so many recipes that you can do with protein, eggs and rich yogurts or you know, a few things that you can use from your food that you can cook in a different way and makes you feel better.

Wade Lightheart: That's super great. What are a couple of things that people don't know about Natalia and they would never guess? For example, I was listening to Georges St-Pierre talk on Joe Rogan and like, what do people don't know? And he's like, I'm fascinated with dinosaurs and he went on this whole terror. You'd never imagine he's into dinosaurs. Is there anything out there that you think that people would be surprised to know about you?
Natalia Coelho: That's a good question. Well, I love dancing.
Wade Lightheart: What type of dance? Like what type of dancing?
Natalia Coelho: Well, it's Brazilians songs. Like here, people don't really know the Brazilian songs, but in Brazil we listen to our songs or sometimes music that are very popular and that I used to dance a lot when I lived there. I would go out like just to dance with my friends and I also love playing soccer. I used to play soccer every weekend in Brazil, but since I moved here because of my lifestyle and my busy life, I haven't played. But these are two things that I like to do and that I haven't done in a while and I believe people don't have a clue that I do.

Wade Lightheart: That's really cool. Do you think that some movement in dance and soccer contributed to your athletic abilities as a bodybuilder?

Natalia Coelho: Yes. Another thing that I think that I believe helped me a lot was that I was in ballet classes. I did ballet for a long time because my father knew a professional ballet teacher or whatever she was for like 30 years old or so. So every time I would go to her house, she would be like in metallic posture, but I would be sitting like that. So nowadays I can see like like in the airplane or when I'm studying, I'm always with posture. You never gonna see me like curve or anything like that. And this has helped me not only on stage with the presentations because the ballet gives you a voice, but also when training. So I have like, I always have perfect back and the form of my exercise always very proper because I have the foundation and the muscles in place, let's say like that.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. I noticed a lot of people you start out in ballet or gymnastics really cultivate well-balanced aesthetic physiques and present well. And you know, I think you're well known not only that you have the physical development, but you're able to present it in such way.

Wade Lightheart: There's an art to moving on stage that gets people's eyes to follow you. And I think it's a magnetics part the way you move or how you move or how you hold yourself. You talk about 10 seconds and a lineup of the world's best are your eyes drawn to some person. And it's almost a transference of energy and it's hard to explain. And one of the things that I learned from the sport, which led to my speaking career was how to hold people's attention on stage. Cause I'm like, now I can speak now. You know, like before I even started standing there in a marble bag, I was like, God, I can't say anything. I can't do anything and it's over in 10 seconds. If I don't, I'm not ready. You're getting ready this year for the, for the big one, this super bowl of bodybuilding thing, the miss Olympia, it's a new format. It's back, it's going to be bigger and better than ever. What's going through your mind? Do you think about competition or do you think about yourself and what do you see happening this year?

Natalia Coelho: To be honest, just by you talking about it I get goosebumps. I'm not even joking. Like I have, sorry.

Wade Lightheart: Feel it. Yeah, I feel it. Right.

Natalia Coelho: It's very, very weird because I think it shows like all the emotions and everything that I mean to just to get to the stage, you know? But I am very confident as always. I've been doing everything, literally everything I can to be my best package. I try not to think and focus about competition because that's something I cannot control. All I can control ir myself, my training, my diet, my health, my body. So what I can do, I promise you I will be doing my best and more. I'm just very excited. I was looking for the hotel, the fights, everything yesterday because they publish the new dates and everything, but I can not even book the flight yet. I think it's like only six months before something like that.

Wade Lightheart: We're almost at Christmas time, isn't it? That the show is or something?

Natalia Coelho: Yes. The week before. It's going to be December 16th to the 20th.

Wade Lightheart: And where's it going to be held this year?

Natalia Coelho: The plan is Hollywood. Oh my gosh, that's going to be insane. It's the first time they're reading back to the Hollywood's but it used to be in new Orleans, in Las Vegas.
Wade Lightheart: Wow, that's a super incredible. And do you actually see yourself standing there getting the trophy? Do you get like winning and the feeling? Do you visualize those things or do you hold those things in mind?

Natalia Coelho: Every day, every night. That's all I can think about it. And I'm not the type of person who's like, Oh, I'm not going to think about getting first place because if I'm not going to the winner, I'm going to be upset or whatever. I don't get upset, it just fires me up even more. Makes me want to work harder to go back there and fight for the title. So I visualize myself everyday. I can see myself as a winner and I know I will be one day or another. I don't know how long it's going to take, but I've been doing everything I can. And like last year I placed third the year before I was second. So I got the judge's feedback. I've been working on that. And I brought what the judges told me and I won, so I talked to them after the show and a lot of people were like, why are you doing that?

Natalia Coelho: Why are you asking for feedback if you just want to show? And I'm like, because not every show that you're going to be standing next to the same girl. So there's always something to do. Doesn't matter if you're the winner or the last place, you're going to get feedback. You can try to improve whenever you can. So I talked to them and they gave me such positive feedback. They said improve what they wanted to me to improve. They said they like what they see and they told me to bring the same package to the Olympics and I'm like, okay, I know what to do. I'm going to work on that. And just make sure I'm healthy and good and happy and bring my best.

Wade Lightheart: It's super beautiful. I think that's really important. And what I've noticed about all of the great champions throughout history, they're not competing against anybody else. They're competing against their self yesterday, their self last year, and then once they hit the crowning achievement. And I think it's only a matter of time if I think it's going to be this year based on what you brought to the stage this year with the Arnold classic, which is mind boggling. How great can I become? Like what is that limit? And I've noticed that with all of the champions throughout history and you certainly have that spirit and that energy and that vibe. So it's a real honor to have you on our podcast today to capture you at this moment in time because you know what happens after this? Things change. There's all kinds of different pressures. It's one thing, climbing up the championship level. It's a whole other thing once you're there.
Natalia Coelho: You know what? I wish more people would stay humble because so many people when they get to the top, when they get to where they want to be, they change. They're another persons. They think they're better than everybody else. I was just comparing a few things when I was at Ms Olympia and people would come and talk to me. They're like, Oh my gosh, you're really talking to me. You're really taking a picture with me. And I'm like, I'm not different than you, I just accomplished this because I worked hard and you're working hard too. You can get to where I am. So I just wish more people will be more friendly and more humble with each other. Even like competitors, if you see me on backstage, you're going to see, I talked to everybody, I helped the girls, the girls helped me. And that's how it should be because this world is not easy. And athletes, we're actually working to bring that back to the stage. We are community. We need to help each other. That's the way we are going to grow. That's the way the sport's going to grow.

Wade Lightheart: Beautifully said. And I think that's one of the fun parts of the sport, being backstage before that final thing and everything's done in those last things. You're trying to get every little thing back and to be in the room where you're in with the world's best on the planet at any given time. That very, very small seven and a half billion people planet. You are he best of the best of the best. And it's an honor and a privilege to be in that situation. I know you've been very grateful with your time with us today and everything. So what are some of the things you do where can people connect with you or see your social media or the types of things you're doing or things that you're promoting? How do they follow you all this sort of stuff because you're so inspirational. Can you share with people how they can find out more about what it is that you do and what you're doing in your career?

Natalia Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. Everybody can get in touch with me through my Instagram, which is ifbbpronataliacoelho. I am always there. I am personally answering all questions or comments so you can just direct message me. And in my Instagram you're going to see my websites, my email. So there are many forms to contact me. I do have like online coaching and I'm sponsored by a few companies that I have promo codes and everything's listed on my Instagram as well. There's a link there on my profile so people can get in touch with me there. I do have a fan page on Facebook, which is Natalia Abraham Coelho my whole name, but they can also find that on my Instagram. So I would say the main source is my Instagram. They're going to have access to everything.

Wade Lightheart: Super amazing. And thank you so much for joining us today. I think it's been fascinating to climb into the mind and the lifestyle of truly a world class athlete and a world class champion and a great human being. Thank you so much for being on the Awesome Health Podcast today. Folks, all of the links are in the Awesome Health Podcast show notes. You've seen it here. First, the Ms Olympia to be, I've called it right now, Natalia Coelho. She will be a champion and she will be a champion for the long time. She had her words applying in your life and reap the rewards. It's another great episode. Thank you for being here Natalia. See you next time on the Awesome Health show by BiOptimizers. Take care and be healthy.
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