Plant-Based Athlete: Interview with Vegan Fitness Competitor Samantha Shorkey

Samantha Shorkey is a vegan athlete that currently lives in Vancouver, BC, but grew up in small-town Ontario. Loving animals from an early age, she’s been vegetarian since she was 8 and vegan since 2011. Her biggest athletic accomplishment was winning 1st place in her first-ever competition, as a vegan against meat-eaters, in an untested show!!

Plant-Based Athletes: An Interview with Vegan Fitness Competitor Samantha Shorkey

Samantha is currently training for the BC Championships in June 2014 and then hopefully onto the nationals in August of next year. While she’s off-season and ramping up to start training harder in February, she’s been focusing on her other passion, The Vegan Project.

The Vegan Project is currently in the midst of re-vamping their website, adding some cool new features and getting ready to launch a new e-book in November. It’s titled “What to Feed that $%^ing Vegan: the Holiday Edition” and will have lots of healthy, classic vegan dishes to satisfy those vegans & vegetarians coming to dinner and meat eaters too.

The Vegan Project currently has two other e-books available: Jacked on the Beanstallk: Plant Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes and Vegan Cooking at Home: Plant-Based Living Made Easy.

They’ve been kind enough to offer North Coast Naturals fans a discount if you purchase the combo. Just enter the coupon code “NCN” here: 

Special on the The Vegan Project E-Book Combo for North Coast Naturals Fans

First of all, when and why did you become vegan?

I grew up in a small, rural village outside of Ottawa, Ontario in a log house in the middle of the forest. We didn’t have cable TV, but we did have nature. My mom was my biggest hero, always feeding the birds, raccoons & deer, taking in stray cats and even raising orphaned baby squirrels. Sometimes we would have 30 deer behind our house and it would literally break our hearts to see them disappear every fall when hunting season was on.

I just couldn’t understand how people could hunt and kill such beautiful, sweet creatures. So at the tender age of eight, I became vegetarian. I went vegan in 2011 when I learned more about the dairy industry and realized that animals were still dying because of my milk and egg consumption.

Watching “Earthlings” also affected my views completely. I wish they would enforce the viewing of that in every high school. It is BEYOND horrifying. Every time I “attempt” to watch it, I just bawl my eyes out and repeatedly wail “I’m soooooo sorry!!” I am confident that if every meat eater watched it, they too, could not help but feel guilty and horrible for contributing to it.

Have you always been this dedicated to fitness?

I’d always enjoyed going to the gym, but I didn’t get serious about weight training until I dated a personal trainer for four years. Although, I did love doing Tae-Bo in my living room for many years. Good ol’ Billy Blanks… oh the memories.

I suppose I’ve always been quite strong and healthy because people were always surprised to hear that I didn’t eat meat. Plus the constant questioning of my diet inspired me to not only want to impress them with an above-average “healthy-looking” appearance, but to blow their minds when they saw just how “Jacked on the Beanstalk” I could get!

Plant-Based Athletes: An Interview with Vegan Fitness Competitor Samantha Shorkey

What would a typical daily menu look like for you when you’re preparing for a contest?

As I already mentioned earlier, I get this question A LOT. To help them out, I put out an e-book called “Jacked on the Beanstalk: Plant-Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes.” It’s $10 (USD) and incudes a sample meal plan from when I was about 10 weeks out from competing. I also share my favourite spice combinations, a grocery list and 20 recipes.

Purchase Jacked on the Beankstalk: Plant-Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes

Generally-speaking in terms of diet, I eat a lot of tempeh and protein powder for protein. I get my starchy complex carbs from sources like yams, squash and oatmeal. And for fats, I love my almond butter and coconut oil!

I pay close attention to macronutrients when trying to lean out and preserve my hard-earned muscle. Macros, for those who don’t know, are nutrients that provide calories, or energy. Nutrients are substances needed for growth and metabolism. There are three macronutrients: Carbohydrate, Protein & Fat. I get 50% of my daily calories from carbs, 30% from protein and 20% from fats.

What is your weekly training schedule like?

Pre-competition training means I’m doing cardio six days per week and weights four to five days per week. Right now, I’m not in crazy competition-mode, so I’m doing both cardio and weights every second day. I do 20 minutes to half an hour of cardio in the morning and about an hour of weights later in the day. My current weight training program is an upper/lower body split. So I’ll do upper body one day then lower body the next, and then I switch my program every six weeks or so.

What do you find more challenging: training hard or consistently eating clean?

For me, the diet part is definitely harder. I’m so in love with dates and nut butter! And I love to bake so I’m always on the hunt for healthy, low-calorie sweet treats to satisfy my cravings. I don’t find going to the gym challenging at all. I thoroughly enjoy weight training. Cardio, on the other hand, I’m not a fan. I definitely need to motivate myself to get on that treadmill sometimes.

Plant-Based Athletes: An Interview with Vegan Fitness Competitor Samantha Shorkey

What are some of your favourite vegan foods?

Anything that’s dessert. My friends always bug me about my brutal sweet tooth. If it’s vegan and there’s sugar in it, I will no doubt think it’s amazing. Here is an example of one of my favourite, healthy desserts from the e-book! It’s a little raw fruit pie and it’s insanely delish: Easy Guilt-Free Raw Vegan Pear Pie.

What is your biggest challenge as a vegan fitness competitor, or fitness competitor in general?

Hands-down the last few weeks of competition dieting are a challenge, both physically and mentally. When you’re eating a bare minimum amount of calories, combined with a lot of exercise, you’re going to be hungry. Because my fat intake was so low, I was craving peanut butter like it’s nobody’s business! Being able to resist the temptation to eat is one of the most intense, brutal tests of self-control I’ve ever had to face. It teaches you self-discipline like you wouldn’t believe! There were many times I gave into the temptation and there were many times I was stronger than it. But man, what a mind trip!

How do other fitness competitors respond when they find out you’re vegan?

There’s definitely a lot of mixed reactions. A lot of respect and interest for sure, but there have also been “haters” who say it’s just not possible to surpass “all” in this sport on a completely natural, plant-based diet. It’s cool to see how many vegans are proving otherwise though, like my bodybuilding inspirations: “The Vegan Dread” Torre Washington, Robert Cheeke and Giacamo Marchese.

The best response for me has by far been from the vegan fitness community. We are so supportive of each other and I love that we have so many different avenues to connect on and offer advice and information to each other!

Plant-Based Athletes: An Interview with Vegan Fitness Competitor Samantha Shorkey

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about vegans?

That we’re all a bunch of scrawny, protein-deficient, unhealthy hippies carrying around burlap bags, stinking of patchouli, getting drunk off wheatgrass shooters and the “nutrient-rich, live energy from earth-grown food.” I love that I’m so far from this stereotype, along with the other girls of The Vegan Project. I like to think we’re a new breed of vegans that’s not only healthy and fit, but also sexy and cool.

What advice can you give someone who is interested in moving towards a plant-based diet?

I always suggest baby steps first. If you’re a meat eater, try going vegetarian first or incorporate just two or three vegan meals into your diet every week. And if you’re already vegetarian, try to only eat vegan at home and allow yourself cheese or milk when you’re dining out or as a “special treat” only. That’s how I began the transition from vegetarian to vegan and I found it was quite easy.

Also, there are so many vegan options available nowadays that anyone can replace common comfort foods like cheese or milk with a dairy-free substitute. I try not to eat a lot of processed foods, but the fake meat products are yummy substitutes for people in the transition phase.

As for those starting a vegan training regimen, try to ensure you’re getting 99% of your nutrition through whole, plant-based foods. Yams for instance, are a wonderful starchy, complex carbohydrate source that will help get you through those long, hard workouts. And watch the sugar & sodium contents of your foods. They can be very bloating! And lastly remember that it’s super easy to be an unhealthy, overweight vegan too. Everything in moderation. One bad meal isn’t going to make you fat just like one good meal isn’t going to make you fit.

Could you tell us a few fun facts about yourself that people might not know?

I’m the youngest of five and have a 13 year old cat named Katie who is the greatest cat in the world. I know we ALL say that but for real, my cat is waaayyyy cooler than yours 😉

I studied Journalism and currently pay the bills via my own little marketing company. I love working from home!

I am a huge Star Wars nerd, minor Trekkie and love to fantasize about how cool it would be to live in the future! I’ve also always wanted to be a vampire and plan to have a vampire/zombie themed wedding one day… after I meet my future Dracula! I love listening to death metal. Nothing is more exhilarating than being at a live metal show and getting in the mosh pit.

I have four tattoos and love all but one: the classic “tramp stamp” of the early 2000s. I have worked all kinds of crazy, random jobs from a server at Hooters (Dad loved that one) to a karaoke host onboard a cruise ship! I would love to have my own vegetable garden but guess what; I have a horrible green thumb! Some vegan eh? I’m getting better but have been known to kill many houseplants.

I’m pretty cocky and love challenging men to push up contests after a couple vodka, water & limes. Ever since birth, I’ve slept cross-legged with my upper body folded over my crossed legs. And lastly, I collect used insoles and enjoy sketching raccoon portraits in my spare time (okay kidding on the insole/raccoon painting part!) Would you love me more or less if it were true?

Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?

Just a huge thanks to everyone in the vegan community and/or fitness community who have supported me throughout this fun & crazy ride! Your constant praise and kind words motivate me more than you can possibly imagine. I am also so very thankful to my friends and family who have been there for me every step of the way.

Vegan Bodybuilder Samantha Shorkey

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today Samantha! From all our readers and the team at North Coast Naturals, best of luck at the BC Championships in June!

Connect with Samantha:
Facebook: Samantha Shorkey’s Jacked on the Beanstalk | The Vegan Project
Instagram: @samshorkey
Twitter: @samanthashorkey

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