‘I’m Vegan And A Nationally Qualified Powerlifter – Here’s What I Eat In A Day’

The athlete originally adopted a plant-based diet for health reasons


(updated )

3 Minutes Read

Katya Gorbacheva, a vegan US-based athlete, at the gym Katya Gorbacheva is a US-based powerlifter - Media Credit: Oleg Stepanov

Most of us grow up believing that athletes rely on diets of raw eggs and steak to maintain their physique, but here are a growing number of plant-based sportspeople shutting down this stereotype. 

One of these is Katya Gorbacheva, a nationally qualified powerlifter who has bench pressed 85.7 kg (193 lb), squatted 165 kg, and deadlifted 182.5 kg. Katya resides in North Carolina, and competes with the Vegan Strong PlantBuilt Team. The Vegan Strong PlantBuilt Team is made up entirely of plant-based athletes, and they all competed in Mr America in Atlantic City last year. 

Gorbacheva also runs her own coaching company named TotalBodyLab. It sees a team of elite powerlifters help plant-based athletes succeed in competitive sports and personal wellness goals. She says that the company combines her three passions – fit tech, athletic performance coaching, and environmentalism.

Here, she speaks to Plant Based News about her daily diet, favorite protein sources, and journey towards veganism. 

A daily diet as a vegan athlete

Much of the population mistakenly believes that meat-free diets are lacking in protein, but vegan athletes like Gorbacheva are proving them wrong. She maintains she gets more than enough by eating plant-based sources like tofu, seitan, and vegan meat alternatives. She also ensures to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains each day. 

“My day often starts with oatmeal with flax seeds, TVP, berries, or baked apple,” she says. “Definitely not a fan of smoothies or salads – I prefer rich food with plenty of flavor. When I’m lazy I’ll just throw halved veggies on the tray (onions, zucchini, eggplant, squash) and bake with seitan (my signature recipe is here). Buckwheat is another staple since childhood – since I’m Russian-Ukrainian.”

For dinner, Gorbacheva enjoys a “big hot plate” of veggies, plant-based meat or tofu, complete with some grain and vegan cheese or nutritional yeast (also known as nooch). She finishes off her meal with vegan ice cream with puffed quinoa.

Despite the fact that many people believe vegans are weak and unfit, Gorbacheva’s plant-based diet is enough to fuel her strict training regime. She enjoys hiking and walking cardio with her dog daily, bench presses on three-four days a week, and squats once or twice a week. She also deadlifts around once every 10 days. 

Katya’s vegan journey

Katya Gorbacheva, a vegan US-based athlete, at the gym
Oleg Stepanov Gorbacheva went vegan for health reasons

Gorbacheva decided to go vegan after experiencing health issues related to animal products. During a routine blood test at work when she was just 23, her LDL cholesterol (sometimes known as “bad” cholesterol) indicated “borderline heart disease.”

“It was a shock, truly,” she says. “I tried to eat ‘clean’, cooked my own meals instead of going out most of the time, and ran and lifted weights regularly.”

After watching plant-based health documentaries like What The Health and Forks Over Knives, she decided to give vegan eating a try. After eight weeks, her cholesterol had dropped three fold. “It took me longer to go 100 percent vegan,” she says. “However, blood work and how my body felt made it clear – animal foods are not good for a human body.”

Since adopting a fully vegan diet, her decision has become about more than just health. “I’m also a huge environmentalist, and the ethical part makes sense,” she says. “I wouldn’t eat my dog. Why would I eat a pig? Why would anyone?”

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