Caroline Hale is a vegan powerlifter who started out going to the gym to lose a bit of weight and maybe tone up a bit (like many women do) but soon got bored with the endless cardio and sets of really light weights and starting looking online for something that was more to my tastes. It was then that she found out about powerlifting and came across a website for vegan fitness where there were a lot of member involved in strength training. Caroline didn't start out with competing in mind, she just wanted to challenge herself and as the powerlifts (squat, benchpress and deadlift) are all very functional lifts it made sense to do them and to show others that vegans can be strong. It was only when a powerlifter at her university gym saw her training and the number of a coach that she started thinking about competing. Caroline has completed two competitions and is looking forward to her third competition this year.
I became vegan at 19 for animal rights reasons.
How long have you been vegan?
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
The biggest benefit from being vegan has been on my conscience. Becoming more aware about what I am putting into my body has meant a lot of health benefits too.
What does veganism mean to you?
It means doing all I can to live without cruelty to animals.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I think the biggest misconception is that veganism is extreme, difficult and unhealthy. I try to address this by living by example.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
I find I eat a lot healthier than many other lifters and I get more nutrients for the same amount of calories as someone eating a standard western diet.
What is your biggest challenge?
I haven't found there to be any big challenges concerning being a vegan powerlifter, no one who matters has questioned my ability as a vegan to be strong. The only thing that is a bit of a challenge is non-leather equipment but if you are willing to order from overseas you can get good quality vegan belts and lifting shoes.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
So far everyone has been supportive. If anything it is a complete non-issue, which is not what I was expecting but it was a plesant surprise.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
I have some good vegan friends and those who aren't vegan don't make an issue out of it. My family is pretty accommodating of my veganism, aside from the odd joke about it.
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
The most common question would have to be "What do you eat?" to which I respond with everything but animal products and I'll reel off a list of tasty vegan things I have eaten in the last few days.
Who or what motivates you?
I am motivated in my strength training by all the amazing vegan strength athletes out there.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - If I am rushed I might just have a protein shake, but when I have time I like to make porridge with some fruit and nuts.
Lunch - Salad wrap with a protein source like tofu or legumes or leftovers from dinner the night before.
Dinner - Stir-fry or curry with brown rice or a salad wrap.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - I probably have too many snacks to mention. Lately I have been snacking on dry roasted edamame soybeans (they taste great and are really high in protein) but I also snack on a lot of nuts and fruit, especially blueberries and I would be lying if I didn't say chocolate and biscuits weren't up there too.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - I eat a lot of tofu but I also love pea protein isolate as smoothies and shakes are so quick and convenient after a workout.
Calcium - I really love dark green leafy veggies.
Iron - Legumes
What foods give you the most energy?
Oats give me a lot of energy in the morning and the other one would be healthy salads with a lot of greens
Do you take any supplements?
I supplement with B12 and drink protein shakes after training.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Strength train regularly (while giving your body time to recover) and make sure you are fueling your body with a lot of healthy food.
Losing weight - Try to do something physical everyday, even if it is just a walk and try to keep your calorie intake slightly below the amount you are using up but be smart with what you choose to eat so that you are still getting all the nutrients you need.
Maintaining weight - Try to find a training/diet balance that works for you.
Improving metabolism - Strength training, you would have heard it before but muscle really does burn more calories than fat, and trying to fit a walk in the mornings will help you to get up and going.
Toning up - Being toned is really just a matter of having defined muscles and a low enough body fat percentage for the definition to be visible so it differs for different people. Some people would need to build muscle, some drop fat and some do both.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By trying to show, through my own life, that it is easy and achievable and that you don't have to make massive sacrifices.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Look up the nearest powerclub to you online. If there are no clubs around the place find a local gym that has Olympic bars (most do) and start lifting. I've found veganfitness.net to be a wonderful resource and way to get advice if you don't have other lifters to train with. You can even upload a video of your lifts to get feedback on them.
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