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Name: Karina Inkster
Age: 25
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 120 lbs
Birthplace: Burnaby, BC
Current Residence: Vancouver, BC
Sports: Weight training, triathlon (swim, bike, run), power yoga.
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 training 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 diet is clean, varied, and based on whole foods. At the same time, though, I don’t deprive myself and I do indulge in small portions of “cheat” foods such as dark chocolate (my favourite!). I don’t count calories and I eat 10 or more small meals and snacks per day.

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 problem! 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?
My training program varies with the seasons, but always involves 6 training days per week. In the spring and summer I have debilitating pollen allergies and asthma, so I need to train indoors. During these months I weight train 4 days a week (2 upper body days and 2 lower body days) with short cardio and do 2 longer cardio sessions per week, which are usually swimming or running.

After allergy season ends in the fall, I switch to more outdoor training such as running, plyometrics, and rope jumping, with 2 or 3 weight training days per week. When the weather gets too cold for outdoor training, I switch back to a higher volume of weight training and less cardio.

What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
1: Multivitamins: General health and extra nutrients because I cook all my fruit (thus losing some of its nutritional value)

2. Green tea extract: Antioxidant

3. Protein powder: For muscle building and before bed so I don’t wake up ravenous at night

4. Vegan EFA (omega 3-6-9 oil): Extra source of healthy fats because I’m allergic to tree nuts

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 be my healthiest for my current and future family.

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.

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.

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.

Thank you so much!

The Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Team