10 plant-powered powerlifting women

| 12 April 2023
minute reading time

Can you be a powerlifter on a vegan diet? That’s a question that these strongwomen answer with a resounding yes! These powerful women prove that a vegan diet can give you all the gains you need to set and break world records. The hardest thing about writing this post wasn’t trying to find female vegan powerlifters, it was deciding which ones – of many – to include.

1. Katya Gorbacheva

Katya Gorbacheva is an American powerlifter competing with USAPL and USPL. She has transitioned from the bikini and figure categories of bodybuilding with fantastic success. Competing in the 75 kg category (raw), she has squatted 165 kg, benched 87.5 kg and deadlifted 172.5 kg. Her competition total stands at 425 kg.

“I’ve always considered myself healthy, however it came as a surprise to me when during the free blood testing at work my triglycerides were through the roof, and LDL cholesterol indicated ‘borderline heart disease’. I was 23. It was a shock… I started researching ways to decrease cholesterol, and found ‘What the Health’, ‘Forks Over Knives’, the China Study and other information about how whole food plant based diet can help… And it did! My cholesterol dropped 3 times over the course of 8 weeks… Even though I went vegan for health, I’m also a huge environmentalist, and the ethical part makes sense. I wouldn’t eat my dog. Why would I eat a pig? Why would anyone?”

2. Anastasia Zinchenko

Anastasia Zinchenko has been competing in powerlifting for several years, recording some high profile placings and impressive totals. She’s competed in the 63 kg and 72 kg weight classes, and taken regional UK titles, national placings – and competed internationally. Her best lifts in the 63 kg weight class are a squat of 115 kg, bench press of 75 kg and a deadlift of 140 kg. In the 72 kg category Anastasia has recorded a 117.5 kg squat, 75kg bench press and a deadlift of 142.5 kg. In 2022 she broke her personal records while competing in the 75 kg category. .

“Initially, my interest in was coming from the health perspective… I was curious of how I would feel eliminating all animal products (I was vegetarian at that time). However, the more information I gained about the negative impact of factory farming, the more my decision of living a vegan lifestyle became motivated by morality. I don’t want to support something and contribute to something I consider as being wrong or unnecessary. For me, veganism is about doing the least harm possible, to respect all living beings, the environment and ourselves.”

3. Hollie Kempton

Hollie Kempton is a qualified clinical nutritionist and an incredibly strong powerlifter who has achieved some amazing lifts. Competing in the ~48 kg category, she has squatted 112 kg and benched 67 kg. Her deadlift is over three times her bodyweight at 163kg.

Concerns about health, particularly a family history of cancer, encouraged Hollie to reconsider her food. As a result of this, Hollie moved to a wholefood plant-based diet. She’s lost track of when she completed the transition, although by 2014 she had eliminated all animal products.

“I eat a completely vegan diet focused on whole plant foods. I love all sorts of plant based meals. I have become so obsessed with cooking that I wrote two of my own cookbooks: Simply Fresh and Winter Wellness to encourage more people to enjoy plant based meals.”

4. Sahy Lalime

Sahyuri (Sahy) Lalime is an accomplished Belgian powerlifter with Japanese-American roots, She has competed nationally and internationally, achieving fantastic totals. In 2018 and 2019 she won best overall female powerlifter at the Belgian Nationals. She has also competed at the IPF World and European Championships.  The 2019 Europeans saw her weigh in at 62.25 kg, squat 152.5 kg, bench 80 kg and deadlift 180 kg.  The squat and bench press are her personal bests, although Sahy has beaten that deadlift with a 182.5 kg lift at the Belgian nationals.

“My motivation to go vegetarian was based purely on not wanting to kill animals. Having experienced the trauma of losing my mother when I was kid, I became very sensitive to death and didn’t want to take part in bringing that type of pain and suffering to others. So after I left home for college, I became a vegetarian. While there, I learned about veganism from a bunch of hardcore punks I worked with at my college radio station. Until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that the dairy industry was just as vile, if not more vile than the meat industry.”

5. Yolanda Presswood

Originally competitive in the bikini and fitness categories of bodybuilding, Yolanda started competing in Crossfit in November 2014 and then moved to powerlifting in October 2016, with her first competition in December of that year. In February 2018 she entered the California State Championships where she broke the State records for squat, bench and competition total, and the National record for squat. The following year she entered the US nationals at the lower weight category of 60kg. She broke State, National and World records in Squat, Deadlift and competition total.

“I was lacto-ovo vegetarian from 16-19yrs old. I’ve always hated eating flesh… I went vegan back in 2010 after reading a little book called The Ultimate pH Solution. It was not a pro vegan book per se, it spoke on the acidic nature of animal flesh and products in our bodies. I had already been predominantly dairy free since I was 19. Being health conscious it made sense to cut out all animal products. I decided I’d look deeper and picked up Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet. It was there that my eyes were opened to the atrocities animals suffer every day. I couldn’t look away.”

6. Julia Trezise-Conroy

Julia Trezise-Conroy is a powerlifter from New Zealand who has been recognized with some amazing lifts. She holds the national records in all three lifts in the sub 52 kg category. Julia had success competing at the IPL Drug-Tested World Championships in Atlanta, Georgia in 2017. Lifting in the under 52 kg open raw category she recorded a total of 305 kg, breaking her own previous record in the sub 56 kg category. Her 65 kg bench also broke her own national record. The deadlift of 140 kg was another improvement of her own previous national record.

As a fitness professional, Julia went vegan for health but soon embraced the ethical reasons too:

“I became exposed to a lot of information that shed light on the reality of using and abusing animals for food and other products. Once you become aware of the animal abuse happening every day, it just seems untenable to continue to contribute to that. I wish I’d had my eyes opened earlier; if I had known at the age of ten what I know today, I would have been vegan since then. I regret my years as a consumer of animal products, and I regret contributing to the needless suffering of animals.”

7. Alison Crowdus

Alison Crowdus is a powerlifter based in Northern Kentucky, USA who has qualified for the XPC Finals at the Arnold Sports Festival. In May 2017, she was listed in the all-time bench press rankings with the twelfth biggest bench press of all time worldwide and was ranked at number one in the country.

“I was in the process of losing weight and had lost around 70 pounds so far, but still didn’t feel well. I began reading The Kind Diet and within the first chapter, the author talked about how after two weeks of eating a plant-based diet, her body felt lighter, skin looked brighter and head was more clear – so I decided to give it a shot. Over the course of a month, I filtered all of the animal products out of my diet and quickly noticed positive changes in my body and mind, improved recovery time with my training, a better awareness of food and flavours (which has helped in my career as a chef) and a greater appreciation and connection with my body – so I never went back.”

8. Hulda B. Waage

In a nation known for its powerlifting and strength sports, it can be hard to stand out – but Hulda B. Waage has done this. The Icelandic powerlifter has established herself as a leading powerlifter who competed in both raw and equipped powerlifting, holding several national records. She holds the Bench Press national record having broken it with a 133kg lift (equipped). In 2019, she broke the national bench press record with a 150 kg lift at the bench press championships. She then won another National title, breaking two more records.

“Two years ago I was watching videos on YouTube thinking about how I was going to lose weight after having my younger daughter… Suddenly I remembered how much veganism meant to me and how I had blocked my feelings towards the meat, dairy and egg industry for all those years. No more! So in a week or so I went vegan.”

9. Melody Schoenfeld

Success in powerlifting has given Melody Schoenfeld records at State and National level. The American has shown enormous strength in kettlebell, old time strongman challenges such as bar bending. She has broken California state records for all three lifts (bench press, squat and deadlift). In 2015 was awarded the USPA National record for deadlift in the women’s 40-44 age category.

“I have been slowly heading [towards veganism] since I was maybe 5. I have always been a huge animal lover. One day in college, I realised I’d gone two months without [eating] chicken, and I hadn’t even been trying.  So I thought, well, OK, I can do that… I did my research, and that was enough to convince me.  I’ve been happily vegan ever since!”

10. Veronique Cormier

Veronique Cormier has established herself as a leading powerlifter in her home nation of Canada. She competes in the 57 kg category. At 18 she competed at the Eastern Canadian Championships and at 20 she hit the nationals (Junior class). She lifted a total of 312 kg there and went on to the Pan American Championships that year. In 2020 she lifted a massive 345kg, over 6 times her bodyweight on return to the Nationals.  The lifts placed her second nationally and qualified her for the World Championships.

The lifts at the 2020 Nationals were a big step up for Veronique. She added serious increases to all three lifts to show what she can achieve. This was her first large meet since turning vegan in the summer of 2019.

The move was made for ethical reasons centred primarily on animal cruelty, and the transition was a great success.

Content sourced and adapted with permission from Great Vegan Athletes.

About the author
Nicholas Hallows
Nicholas has been vegan since the early 2000s and worked for Viva! between 2017 and 2020 as a Senior Administrator and Web Content Assistant. He is a qualified teacher, specialising in Language and Literacy, and an accredited Proofreader and Editor. He is now a freelance writer covering topics including veganism, mindfulness and minimalism.

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