Katya Gorbacheva

powerlifter  strong vegan 

Katya Gorbacheva is a USA 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.

  • US Nationals qualifier
  • 165 kg squat at 75 kg
  • Three wins at Mr America 2023

Katya was honoured to be invited to compete as part of the PlantBuilt team in 2022, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  This followed lifting at the USAPL Nationals.

“I went by myself and it completely blew my mind that after having competed less than two years I could get up to that level.” She’s also been invited to the USPA nationals. However, she wants to take her lifts to the next level first.

In 2023 she took the overall win and two personal bests in the Lionesses Arise powerlifting meet (more here).  She followed this with three wins with the Vegan Strong PlantBuilt team at the Mr America sports festival (more here).


“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?”

Katya started moving towards veganism in 2016, and is now committed and organized.

“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, truly – I tried to eat ‘clean’, cooked my own meals instead of going out most of the time, and ran and lifted weights regularly.

“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. It took me longer to go 100% vegan, however blood work and how my body felt made it clear – animal foods are not good for a human body.”

“My transition was slow, but I’m glad it was” she says. “My vegan cooking skills were subpar to say the least.  I’ve embraced the mentality that I wanted to add more plant based nutrient rich foods into my diet and vegan household / personal care products – instead of removing the animal products, and it worked. A restrictive mindset can be very stressful, and as a person who has history of body dysmorphia and eating disorders it can be truly harmful.

“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?”

At first, Katya was aware of some difficulties, but soon overcame them.

“When you know what to cook – it’s actually not as hard. When I used to bodybuild – I had to bring my own food with me everywhere, and so did my meat eating friends and peers. Now that I powerlift, I usually bring proteins with me (home made seitan, protein powder, vegan deli meats) and vitamins. Carbs and veggies are easier to find while traveling + local fresh produce is fun to explore.

“Thankfully there are options for vegan proteins in most places nowadays! What a time we live in! People who complain about the state of the world – go try to be vegan 50 years ago!”


Katya loves her food, and often starts with oatmeal with flax seeds, TVP, berries or baked apple.  She’s definitely not a fan of smoothies or salads and prefers rich food with plenty of flavour.

When I’m lazy I’ll just throw halved veggies on the tray (onions, zucchini, eggplant, squash) and bake with seitan. Boom! Easy. Buckwheat is another staple since childhood – since I’m Russian-Ukranian.”

For dinner she’ll often have “a big hot plate of veggies, fake meats / tofu for protein, some grain and vegan cheese or nooch on top.”  Katya also had some good words for So Delicious ice cream and puffed quinoa.

This fuels a routine which includes some cardio walking her husky and lifting 3-4 times per week.  Prior to the 2022 Nationals Katya was bench pressing four days per week.  Following that the routine was two bench sessions per week, three squat sessions and two deadlifts.  She doesn’t do a great deal of accessory work, preferring to build in variations to the compound lifts.

While she’s training few are aware that Katya is vegan.

For those who are curious – I share my seitan recipe, Youtube with EOD videos, protein infographics they can take to the grocery store and a totalbodylab.com vegan powerlifting equipment guide…teaching an omnivore to make seitan and cook tofu can go a long way!”

Success may have come more quickly than many might have expected, although there’s more to come from Katya.  A positive approach to training and nutrition is clearly part of her plans.

So far, Katya’s passion has led her to quit her engineering career to help other lifters with dysmorphia.  She now helps them learn how to use the gym and focus on performance instead of aesthetics.  She’s even brought out a powerlifting colouring book to help empower females and embrace positive concepts.

“Lead by example. The best thing we can do for the planet and ourselves – take care of ourselves, each other and things around us. Even haters have a place and can be used for the benefit of whatever you’re doing! Don’t stop. The train is heavy when you start pushing it… But when it’s rolling – you spend little energy to keep it going. Don’t stop pushing the train. Keep going – these are my words to my past self!”

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