Elsa Pataky talks food and fitness

Elsa Pataky in the July issue of Women's Health.

Spain has bestowed a ton of gifts on the world: sangria, La Sagrada Família – and Elsa Pataky. But just like we’ve only recently climbed aboard the manchego cheese part express, it’s also taken us a while to discover what the Spanish have known for some time: Ms Pataky is hotter than a fresh paella.

She’s starred in more than 25 films, including the multibillion-dollar Fast & Furious franchise, which made Hollywood sit up and pay attention. She’s produced her own film, The Wine of Summer, and co-authored a wellbeing book Intensidad Max, inspired by her legendary love of fitness.

Oh, and she’s also responsible for those ovary- exploding photos of Chris Hemsworth cradling tiny babies – the pair have been producing adorable offspring since 2012. If you only know her as the wife of Thor, don’t feel bad – but when they met in 2010, it was Pataky who was the more famous half. “I didn’t know who he was when we met,” she says of Hemsworth and their intro. “In Spain, nobody knows Home and Away!”

Before the Thor franchise turned Hemsworth into Hollywood gold and its fifth-highest paid actor, it was Pataky who’d be chased by paps and fans, in part because of that banging body. It’s been just over a year since she gave birth to twin sons Sasha and Tristan (their daughter India Rose turned three in May) – not that you’d know it by looking at her.

“It’s definitely part genetics,” she says of her bounce back to pre-baby form. At 161cm tall, she is naturally petite. “I was always the little one in school.” But she also happens to be mad about exercise.

“I love fitness, I love sports – I’ve been into it since I was 15, working my body and just building it. I always admire sports bodies in women – that athletic look. Even when other people say, ‘Oh, she’s too muscly,’ I always like it. I’ll never be in that professional shape, but I like to get as close to that as I can.”

So, right up to week 35 of her pregnancy, when all other exercise had become a logistical impossibility, she was still doing pilates. “With twins, you have the risk of giving birth early, so I had to calm down a bit, which is very difficult for me.

I found an instructor who knows pilates especially for pregnancy. They could tell me the exact exercises to do, so I could just work my legs and not bother my belly, which was getting huge.”

Her workouts now need to fit around her family. “The babies usually have a nap around 9am andyou just have to use those moments,” she says. She nips off to their makeshift gym, doing a 40-minute circuit: bike, weights, rowing and sit-ups, four times a week.

Women’s Health cover girl Elsa Pataky.

She even manages to fit in regular swims and yoga sessions. “You can really work out your muscles but keep the length of them, giving you a nice long shape,” she says.

Elsa credits yoga with improving her diet. “Yoga teaches you to be the master of yourself. I know emotions can get to you around food, but it’s all about not having too much of anything. So with cake, it will be two spoons and that will be it.” Not that decadent restaurant desserts are a regular issue. “Now we don’t have time to go out – and we’re always tired – so we stay home.

Chris is a really good cook. Often, I’ll put the kids to bed and he’ll cook.” His culinary skills: meat, fish, salads and veg soups. And between them, they’ve come up with an ingenious solution to sugar cravings. “We’ll have one of the baby’s squeezy pureed fruit pouches. Chris steals them all the time! More than me.”

Given Hemsworth’s intensive training for his ongoing superhero role, to get to spend more time together they often combine their workouts. They’re both into Muay Thai boxing. “He’ll hold the pads for me, although I won’t for him as he’d smash me into the wall.

When he was training for Thor, he came home with this body-fat measurer – you know, where you clip the parts where you accumulate fat? So it became a competition between us. If I had some fat somewhere I’d be like, ‘Grr, I’m working on that part.’ It’s fun, it’s just like a challenge, for no other reason than because I like to challenge myself.”

They also surf and race dirt bikes. She’s into the adrenaline buzz, always has been; riding bikes and horses since she was young, and – she casually drops into conversation – once jumping out of a helicopter to ski down the Pyrenees. “I’m a fearless person and my dream was always to be in an action movie where the female characters are as tough as the men.”