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Name: Karina Inkster
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 125 lbs
Birthplace: Burnaby, BC
Current Residence: Vancouver, BC
Sports: Strength training, swimming, jump rope & sprint conditioning.
Website: http://www.karinainkster.com

Why did you become vegan?
My veganism began with vegetarianism. At the age of 11, I decided I wanted no part in the inhumane treatment of animals, and I aimed to enjoy a diet that had as small an impact on the environment as possible.

To me, veganism is the respect for and the celebration of all life on Earth. Veganism is a diet, a sense of interconnectedness with the web of life, a form of activism, and a lifestyle.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I had a fairly active childhood but began consciously thinking about fitness in 2003. I started weight lifting as part of an overall fitness regimen, and fell in love with it! Being fit keeps me happy, healthy, focused, and motivated in all areas of my life.

How would you describe your nutrition program?
My nutrition isn’t a ‘diet’ or a ‘program’, it’s a lifestyle. I eat about 3000 calories per day of delicious plant-based foods that fuel my chosen athletic disciplines, without worrying about tracking everything.

I think about food a lot, and it’s not always in a good way! I have many food allergies I need to be constantly wary of, including a severe allergy to raw fruit. As a vegan, that’s a challenge! I have to cook all my fruit before eating it, which takes up a lot of time. I’m also allergic to tree nuts, so I need to ensure I get sufficient healthy fats from other sources.

How would you describe your training program?
I train between 6 and 8 times per week, on a maximum of 6 days per week (so I always have at least one rest day). I lift weights 4 days a week (2 upper body days and 2 lower body days), with a few conditioning sessions added in – usually swimming or jump rope.

What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
The only supplement I use is brown rice protein powder, a few times a week. I try to get my nutrition from real foods instead of supplements, but I find protein powder extremely convenient as a quick snack in a smoothie, or as a protein-booster in recipes like energy balls.

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
Unfortunately some people think that veganism and athleticism don’t mix. On the contrary! A well-planned and balanced plant-based diet can support an athletic lifestyle very well, whether it’s focused on endurance, speed, or strength. The “But where do you get your protein?!” question is thankfully becoming old news!

What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
For me, balance and enjoyment are tied for first place. Balance applies to both physical fitness (developing all aspects of fitness, including strength, cardio, and flexibility) as well as the fitness lifestyle (balancing workouts, personal time, family time, and work). Enjoyment should speak for itself!

What do you like best about being vegan?
I like knowing that I’m eating a diet that’s best for me – physically and psychologically – as well as for the planet.

What do you like best about being fit?
Being fit affects all aspects of daily life. For me, being fit means I’m energetic and driven; I sleep better, stress less, and know that I’m decreasing my risk for countless health problems later in life so I can still run around like a crazy person when I’m 92.

What are your strengths as an athlete?
My strengths are in speed and in muscle strength. I’m a fast swimmer but wouldn’t last in endurance events, and my love of weight training translates into strong muscles. (Also, I can beat all the female and most of the male trainers at my gym in pull-up contests.)

What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Consistency and intensity are key. Stick to a regular training program over time, and make sure you’re challenging yourself with each workout to see progress. Also ensure your vegan diet is complementing your training (e.g. sufficient carbs for endurance athletes; sufficient protein for strength athletes, etc.)

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Sometimes it seems less daunting to commit to only a month of being vegan. This is how I started, and I felt better than ever before during that month! Needless to say, I never looked back.

I’ve also created a free 10-day e-mail course, How To Go Vegan, that simplifies the process and provides lots of resources. Enroll at www.karinainkster.com.

What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
Feeling and seeing the results of my lifestyle are great fuel to keep it going. I feel great, and want to keep it that way! I also want to help others – whether or not they’re vegan – to achieve their own results, which is motivation for me to be my best.

How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
This site is the definitive resource for vegan athletes, and I’ve referred often to the articles and discussions. I like that veganbodybuilding.com connects vegan athletes from all over the world, building a community where we don’t feel so alone!

Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
I’m passionate about supporting others in leading healthy and active lives, and I’ve worked hard to overcome significant barriers to engaging in physical activity myself. I deal with a potentially life-threatening condition called food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which prohibits me from training after having eaten within 8 hours, in case a food triggers a serious allergic reaction when coupled with exercise. I also face severe seasonal allergies and asthma that limit my activity for 5 months each year, as well as weekly allergy shots after which I can’t train - again due to anaphylaxis risk. This means I have to carefully schedule all my workouts, and always train in the mornings (sometimes at 5am so I can get it in before work) after having eaten only oatmeal – a known “safe” food. I also went through full time graduate school while working 3 jobs and still managed to train 6 days per week. I’m motivated to help others to overcome their barriers, too! Check out my site at http://www.karinainkster.com.