If you've ever made the excuse that you don't have time to train or look after your health, allow us to introduce you to Nathaniel Butters. As director of a successful software company, a hectic travel schedule and 14 hour work days are the norm. But Nathaniel hasn't allowed it to stand in the way of his fitness goals...
After a holiday to Thailand in January 2017 left him battling with serious health issues, Nathaniel decided it was time to make a change. After switching to a plant based diet, kicking up his training programme and introducing some smart supplementation... things started to change, and fast.
Nathaniel reached out to us earlier in the year to tell us about his transformation and the role in which Vivo products played in helping him reclaim his health. We were so inspired by the story, we arranged a very special Q and A to share with you guys on the blog!
Check it out below:
Plant Based Transformation: Nathaniel Butters
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself…
I'm turning 40 this year so it is going to be a year of goal smashing…
I’m the company director for a software company, we offer smart software solutions into the energy efficiency and renewables sector and are based near Manchester UK. It’s a high octane job but very rewarding, I work long hours, train hard and am pretty relentless when it comes to anything that I can make a challenge!
With regards to fitness I have weight trained since the age of 18 and have been a bulky 105KGs at my heaviest in my mid 20’s but that wasn’t any real shape of sorts just pure mass and bulk. Up until finishing university I played a lot of sport to a reasonably high level but from the age of 25 weights took over as I became increasingly busier with work commitments.
More recently I suffered from poor gut health and quite a systemic imbalance of gut bacteria. I think I’d had underlying issues for some time as I hadn’t felt right for ages but for whatever reason when I came back from a holiday in Thailand in the Jan of 2017 something just really kicked off. I could have picked up a parasite or bacteria whilst away but I’m not sure it may have just been dormant for a while and then something tipped the balance.
In the January of 2017 I started suffering from chronic fatigue, incredibly sore joints in particular shoulders, a big drop in body weight and muscle and massive drop in strength. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and whatever was effecting me physically was also really having an impact mentally as well as I started to suffer with anxiety, self-doubt a whole host of things it was really bizarre. I started to read everything I could about gut health and the gut biome and its incredible how having any sort of dysbiosis can throw the whole chi of the body out.
After a bit more research and speaking to a number of practitioners who were considered as experienced with gut conditions I started on an anti-fungal protocol to attempt to rebalance the imbalance followed by a course of high strength probiotics to then replace the good guys back in the gut.
Going through this process was not easy and it took time plus there’s so much conflicting information out there and not a lot of people experienced in gut biome so it’s really difficult to know what approach to take. That took me up to August so over 6 months to start to feel half normal again. It was at that point I started to think about getting back in shape.
Even though I had still kept training at the gym whilst not feeling great I was just a case of turning up without purpose and that needed to change.
When did you first go plant-based? And what motivated you to make the change?
I made the transition from being pescatarian at the end of December 2016 to being fully plant based in January 17. The main reason behind this was that I had spent 3 weeks in Thailand over Christmas and New Year and decided that was the route I wanted to take in the NY.
After the previous few years of experimenting with diet and eliminating wheat and diary previously away in Thailand I ate almost completely vegan anyway and decided to make the final step and go fully plant based on my return to the UK. With having the gut dysbiosis for me there was only one way forward from that point on and that was to stick fully plant based and continue on the journey.
What results did you experience when you made the switch?
Its only really been from getting back into a focused training routine from September I’ve started seeing great results. The only way forward from the condition I was in as a result of the previous six months was to hit training hard and have the accountability from a coach and trainer at Ultimate Performance.
Since structuring workouts, committing to a minimum of 5 training sessions per week and counting macros I’ve seen a massive change in both body composition and strength. Restoring gut health has definitely made a big difference I can’t stress how important this has been, and its still ongoing.
How do you structure your diet? Are there any specific guidelines you follow?
Initially when I started training in September after taking a full appraisal of weight and existing body fat percentage myself and Chris the trainer established a baseline daily calorie intake of 2500 with a macro split of 40% protein 40% carbs and 20% fats this was divided into 5 meals of 500 calories. After 6 weeks on this program we then switched to a calorie deficit of 500 less to 2000 cals per day which was achieved by reducing each meal by 100 cals with the same macros. Over the period from September to the end of December my bodyfat reduced from over 17% to below just 10%.
What are your go-to meals?
I don’t really have go to meals as such I just rotate between beans, legumes, lentils, myco protein, tofu and tempeh for my sources of protein. For starchy carbs I tend to stick with sweet potato, quinoa, some brown rice and gluten free oats. I scaled the fruit back to help with restoring gut health as the candida may have been feeding off the sugar. I always make sure I have lots of leafy greens and vegetables with each meal.
A staple for me for a high protein injection usually as meal one of the day and post training is a protein shake of Vivo Life PERFORM, coconut water, almond milk, maca powder, soaked chia seeds, a handful of blueberries, spinach and some almond butter (total 400 cals). I do need a few more quick prep meals in the repertoire so I’m open to suggestions!
How often do you train and what is your current training split?
Recent training since starting with the guys at UP Fitness in Manchester has been much more focussed doing a lot of volume training exercises and push pull superset combinations, which is something I’ve not done for a long time but everything is undertaken with a purpose and a goal in mind so exactly the focus I’ve needed to get back into a structured training routine. My training in particular in the last 4 years has just been a case of turn up and move weights about so I’ve not really had much in the way of results more just damage limitation.
My current training routine I’ve just started this week is geared around building as much muscle as possible in the next 4 weeks then shred for the following 4 weeks. I’ve committed to a photo shoot so its pedal to the metal for the next 2 months!
Do you use any particular methods to help with recovery?
Rest, I try to get enough sleep (always seem to fall short on this one!) and making sure I stay on track with diet. As for supplements I use Vivo Life SUSTAIN BCAA as an intra and post workout along with vegan vitamin B12, D3, magnesium, and digestive enzymes to make sure I’m maximising digestion from foods. I’ve also been using probiotics to help keep the good guys in check in the gut which does seem to help.
I like to try when possible to do mobility work and Chinese acupuncture as you definitely notice the muscle soreness a bit more as the thirties draw to a close!
What advice would you give to other people looking to transform their body?
If anyone tells you that you can’t build muscle or an impressive physique being plant based, you can firmly tell them it’s BS! If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything but you have to be prepared otherwise you are not going to be able to get the results. I work anywhere from 12 to 14 hour days at times and travel all over the UK but still have to find the time to meal prep, prepare supplements and pack a gym bag most days.
If you want the results this is the way it has to be, you also need to make sure you have an understanding girlfriend, family and friends!
Inspired by Nathaniel's story? Have you got a transformation to share with us? Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about your journey!