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Beyond the Plate: A Deep Dive into the Vegan Fitness Biz with Coach K



In the latest episode of the Plant Based On Fire podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Karina Inkster, also known as Coach K, a pioneer in the plant-based fitness and nutrition coaching world. With 21 years of veganism under her belt, Karina has authored five books, contributes to magazines, and runs K.I. Health & Fitness, an award-winning coaching program designed to empower vegans to become the strongest versions of themselves.


Karina's approach to fitness is refreshingly unique. Unlike conventional metrics that often focus on weight or scale measurements, Karina emphasizes the importance of day-to-day experiences and improvements in strength and capability. She cultivates a culture of celebrating "wins" with her clients, encouraging them to share their weekly progress and challenges, fostering a community that thrives on positive reinforcement and mutual support.


One of the most compelling aspects of Karina's journey is her commitment to enjoying her work—a sentiment not everyone can claim about their jobs. For Karina, success isn't just about business growth but also about leading a fulfilling life outside of work. With a team to support her, she's managed to carve out time for her passions, like music, proving that achieving balance is possible even when running a thriving business.


Mentorship plays a crucial role in Karina's story. From her early days in 2011 to the present, she has always had a mentor or coach to guide her, underscoring the importance of continuous learning and collaboration in achieving personal and professional growth. This belief in mentorship extends to her clients, to whom she offers not just fitness coaching but also guidance on navigating the myriad of misinformation in the vegan and fitness world.


Karina's mission goes beyond promoting veganism; it's about combating pseudoscience within the movement and advocating for evidence-based practices in fitness and nutrition. Her advice for emerging entrepreneurs in the plant-based space is to find a niche within veganism, emphasizing the power of personal stories and connections in building a successful business.


For those interested in learning more about Karina's work or seeking mentorship in the vegan business space, she invites listeners to reach out through her website or tune into her No Bullshit Vegan podcast. It's clear that Karina Inkster is not just shaping bodies but also influencing minds, making her a true innovator in the plant-based community.


>Podcast Episode’s Transcript


Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions.


Bryan (00:00.746)

Hello everybody and welcome to the Plant Based on Fire podcast where we're talking about plant-based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in the industry. I'm your host, Bryan, business coach, and fractional CTO. And joining us today is Karina Inkster. She is a fitness coach, nutrition coach, author of I think at least five books, and my favorite thing, almost 21 years or more as a vegan, a magazine writer, and the founder of Karina Inkster, health and fitness. So welcome to the show, Karina.


Karina (00:33.462)

Thanks so much for having me, Bryan. Love what you're doing here with the show. It's fantastic.


Bryan (00:38.714)

Awesome. So I hope I did your intro some justice there, but you know, let's take it back a little bit. Like what sort of inspired you to establish Karina Inkster health and fitness and how has your journey sort of influenced that decision?


Karina (00:53.034)

Well, that's a great question. And I've had probably seven or eight different career paths. You know, if you go back to when I was 12, I wanted to be a naturalist, and then I wanted to be an artist. And you know, it goes back many years. But how it all started was doing my master's degree in gerontology. So I thought I was going in to get my PhD and then become an academic and be on the research side of things. But what I realized during the master's degree, which was specializing in health and aging, by the way. So the health piece has always been there in some capacity. What I realized is that I really missed working with folks one-on-one, having that connection with humans. And of course, I think the research side is super important and it's not like I regret doing a graduate degree because now I'm actually better at looking at research and critiquing studies and doing lit reviews. But I really wanted that one-on-one work. And so… would not recommend this, but I defended my thesis and did my fitness coach certification process and exams in the same month, which was a little intense. So wouldn't recommend that necessarily, but I kind of did a 180 and went right into fitness coaching. Started my business back in 2011 and just worked one-on-one with folks, which I loved. And so I did that for seven years.


Bryan (01:59.35)

Hahaha.


Karina (02:16.51)

And I'm already vegan at this point. I went vegan when I was 16. So it has been 21 years, a little bit more than 21 years. And the vegan piece wasn't really, oh, thank you. It wasn't really a part of my business at this point. I was focusing on the fitness aspect, right? Working with folks, increasing their quality of life, increasing their strength. And I did that for seven years in gym settings, running my own business with clients. At which point I realized the only way to scale


Bryan (02:33.107)

Yeah.


Karina (02:45.534)

your business if you're working hourly is charged more or work more hours. Or technically you could hire folks. I mean I had some friends who had coaches who were working under them, right? But even then it's only scalable to a certain point, right? And so I thought, you know what? What if I take this online where you're not working hourly, you're actually helping folks with more than just you know, their one or two workouts a week. It's a full coaching experience with nutrition and lifestyle habits and everything. And not only can you have a team, which I have now, and they're fantastic, also all vegan, super long-term, but you can work with people on a month-to-month basis and you can work with more clients, you can help more people. And so when I made this switch, that's when the vegan piece became more important because if you have an online business, you need a very specific niche.


People aren't gonna find me on Google by typing in personal trainer. I would never show up. But if you Google vegan fitness coaching, vegan personal trainer, plant-based nutrition coaching, we're on the first page of Google. So that's how people find us. So the vegan piece has always been there. The fitness piece has always been there. But they came together kind of in an interesting way, I guess, when I was thinking about how to scale the business.


Bryan (03:43.318)

That's right.


Bryan (04:08.606)

That is awesome. And it's so true. Like I want to encourage everybody out there that's trying to start their plant-based business or whatever, like your life and your career is going to go through multiple flavors. I know I've gone from corporate America to consulting, and now we're, we're launching the podcasts and things like that. It sounds like you've done that evolution too. So don't be afraid to pivot and change as you go. And those are some great tips and tricks for, for our community that are listening here. So you talked us through a couple of challenges and solutions and stuff, but how do you.


Like I think I saw on your website and stuff, like you're, you're in a small remote town. So you've got a ton of, a ton of stuff online now. And I think you've helped almost close to a thousand people through their vegan fitness journeys. I mean, talk to us a little bit about how it's scaled since you've pivoted through those first couple of challenges.


Karina (04:51.619)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (04:58.622)

Well, it definitely was a challenge pivoting from in-person to online. It honestly felt like starting a completely new business. So 2011 is when I started the business, 2017 is when it went fully online. And it really did feel like a whole different world. I think that as a coach, you need a number of years of experience of in-person coaching before going online. It's a lot more difficult. You gotta be comfortable with, you know, critiquing clients form videos and you're not there with them in person, that kind of thing. So it was definitely a challenge. It did feel like a new business. But one of the motivators was my husband and I wanted to move to Powell River, which is fairly remote. It's kind of the end of the highway on the Sunshine Coast of BC in Canada. Because the type of property we wanted with an outbuilding that's now my disco gym, you know, my own space for training and doing videos and stuff.


Bryan (05:52.982)

Nice.


Karina (05:55.126)

and the type of lifestyle we wanted. I'm an open water swimmer. We have like 32 lakes here within 20 minutes of our house and the ocean and the forests and everything. So, you know, that piece was a lifestyle decision, but we had to be completely online and I didn't want to restart, you know, building an in-person clientele from scratch essentially after moving. So that was a bit of a kick in the ass to get online. And yeah, I mean, the first couple of years I was just on my own.


Bryan (06:03.828)

awesome.


Karina (06:25.75)

SEO is how people find us. So Google is our thing. We don't do a ton of social media. The podcast is kind of second on the list for folks connecting with us, kind of figuring out what our deal is and how we coach. But SEO is it. So there's a lot of work that goes into that. The books that I've written help with that. Links from other websites, writing for magazines that then link to me. It's all people who are searching out.


Bryan (06:29.046)

That's right.


Karina (06:54.026)

what we already offer. So lucky for us, it's all warm leads. We don't have to do any of this weird creeping on people's DMs, you know? Like, that's not really my style.


Bryan (07:02.454)

That's right. Yeah. That's awesome. Well, talk to us a little bit into the program itself. For people that are listening and watching, want to know how you sort of unpack it. There's the common misconceptions about fitness in the vegan space, and then there's just the 20 different ways you can tackle nutrition and people's various needs. So how do you approach that with your clients and the community you're serving?


Karina (07:29.302)

That's a good question. So the nutrition piece is kind of, that's our differentiator, right? A lot of folks come to us who have had not so great experiences with previous coaches who just didn't get the vegan thing. They're like, well, I guess you're eating chunks of tofu and lettuce and that's it, which is obviously not sustainable. So there's a proportion of our clients who are coming to us specifically because they've had not great experiences in the coaching sphere already.


we are speaking to folks who are plant-based. So we're not working with people and bringing up the idea of veganism like, hey, wouldn't it be cool? We're speaking to people who are vegan, right? And so, yeah, of course, there's a lot of BS out there and lots of myths, which is why my podcast exists. Myths within the vegan world around nutrition and fitness and all these things. But I think it does help that we're speaking to an already vegan audience, if that makes sense. We're not trying to convert people.


Bryan (08:09.743)

Yeah, yeah.


Bryan (08:27.978)

Yeah.


Karina (08:29.106)

We do help folks who are currently not vegan make the transition. And that looks a lot of different ways. Some of our folks will track their nutrition and they're looking at macros and calories and nutrients. Other folks will just want a little bit of guidance like a menu roadmap, some meal prep ideas. But it's pretty ongoing communication. And we just work with each person based on where they're at.


Bryan (08:56.514)

And as a guy in the technology space, I guess I see, I see like the, the people that are trying to like scale to everybody on the planet and they're trying to use AI and stuff, like I think it sounds like you have a very hands on personal approach that you know, you'll scale it as the need arises. And I love that concept versus, you know, trying to, to have some of these technology tools, try and fill that gap when they fall flat on their face.


And it's funny you say that about the nutrition because like I had to do some physical therapy for my arm, uh, last year sometime. And the first I saw it went to the place. They did a great job, you know, on boarding me. And I told them, you know, like I'm vegan, like, you know, I don't worry about my protein and had to answer those silly questions that I get all the time. And then I get home and the, I got added to their email list. And the first email is here's the 10 ways to get more protein in your life. More red meat, more eggs.


Karina (09:28.906)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (09:41.872)

Yep.


Karina (09:51.19)

Course. Uh huh.


Bryan (09:51.222)

or like, I just like I wrote back to them and said, how disappointed I was in their very first email blast to me considering I told you in my first appointment, I was on the vegan bandwagon. So anyway, we'll see. So if you get into physical therapy, I love to get your help on that front too. Well, I'm curious, though, if you've brought some of your gerontology expertise into the fitness thing, how have you integrated longevity and aging into your fitness and nutrition programs?


Karina (10:00.066)

Brutal. There you go.


Karina (10:07.471)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (10:20.298)

Absolutely, yeah. So nowadays in the vegan world, you can have a niche within veganism, right? You know, 20 years ago, if you were a vegan coach, that was your niche. But now you can have the vegan running coach, the vegan bikini competitor coach, the vegan powerlifter coach. There's all sorts of niches within veganism, which is awesome. And it means that clients can have exactly the type of coach that they're looking for.


Bryan (10:46.227)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (10:50.314)

And so our niche within veganism is not the 30-day boot camp, the cleanse where you lose 12 pounds in three days. Our niche is strength training and nutrition so that you can kick ass when you're 103. And so the longevity and the healthy aging piece is built into A, our business, and B, our marketing.


the type of clients who then connect with our message. So look, not all of our clients are older adults. Many of them are. We have a 66 year old client, who's a fitness coach herself, by the way, who's been vegan for 43 years and she does 10 strict pull-ups in a row. I mean, she is amazing. So yeah, some of our clients are older, of course, but even when our clients are, you know, 29, 35,


Bryan (11:34.571)

Wow.


Karina (11:46.454)

The healthy aging piece is on their mind, and that is something that has drawn them to our service. And so we take an approach that is super long-term, right? If you feel like you can't maintain this particular habit we're working on for the next five years, it's probably not the right habit to work on. So we're not gonna do the short-term fix, the, oh, I have a wedding in two months, I gotta look awesome. You know, I mean, we're not anti-aesthetic goals, right? We're all human, we all wanna look great.


Bryan (12:06.89)

That's right.


Bryan (12:12.722)

Yeah.


Karina (12:15.606)

that's perfectly fine, but we're anti-aesthetic goals at the cost of health. And so the long-term approach and the BS busting, the bone health, especially for females, most of our clients are female, building muscle mass, all of these things that set us up for healthy aging. And also the research piece, you know, I mean, I conducted a research study as part of my thesis, knowing how to do lit reviews, helping clients make sense of new studies that are coming out.


So it definitely applies for sure.


Bryan (12:44.779)

That's awesome.


Bryan (12:48.574)

Good. So tell us, give us a sample of your success stories, how you measure the metrics and success for you as a business and as a client. And then I'm just curious, like how has mentorship played into your business as it's grown?


Karina (13:05.31)

Oh yeah, I like that question about mentorship. There's tons, probably like nine of them. So I'll get to that in a sec. Measuring progress. Let me talk about the clients first. So we don't use before and after photos. A lot of folks will think that the first thing a fitness coach will say about success for their clients is like transformations and oh my God, they look like a different person in three months. So we've actually made the decision to.


not use before and after and I use air quotes and before and after because they're never really before and after they're during and during but anyway we don't use those for many reasons including the fact that it normalizes weight loss as the


Bryan (14:06.483)

Yeah.


Bryan (14:41.262)

It says you ran out of storage. Do you see that message?


Bryan (14:49.29)

Restart the browser, free some hard drive space.


Bryan (14:55.222)

So I'm not sure, it says it stopped recording on your side. So.


Bryan (15:03.495)

Me neither.


Bryan (15:11.546)

Yeah, and the recording side. So we can pick up where we left off if you can. Do you want to drop out and drop back in? Or I don't know what the right way to fix it is.


Bryan (15:32.702)

Yeah, if you restart the browser, I think maybe it'll clear the cache or something and see if that frees up the space and we'll give it another try.


Cool. OK.



Bryan (00:01.41)

Let me just make sure it says it's recording on this side. Does it say it's recording? Cool. OK. You were talking about the client success metrics. Finish that thought for us.


Karina (00:06.904)

Yeah, looks like it on my side too.


Karina (00:17.836)

Yeah, so the client success metrics are very different for each person. And they're very, in some ways, hard to measure because they're not weight-based, they're not scale-based. They're more experiences of their day-to-day life, activities getting easier. Things like strength are pretty easy to measure because you look at what weight you lifted and how many reps you did. So we try to keep on top of different wins that clients have every week.


So they send us a check-in every Sunday with a win and a challenge. And so as we go along, a lot of these wins come to the forefront, which is super exciting. And then as a business, you were asking about like, what does it look like from a business perspective? You know, it's mostly being able to have something that I really enjoy doing, which I feel like a lot of people don't have, unfortunately. Their jobs are just a job. They're like dragging themselves to the office.


Bryan (01:12.258)

No.


Karina (01:16.508)

know, that's really unfortunate. And so being able to enjoy what I do and work with amazing people all around the world is a success, I would say, first of all. But then second, from a more lifestyle perspective, now that I have a team, I feel like part of what I feel is so-called success, which of course is different for everyone, is having more time to do things that aren't business. So music is a huge thing for me, you know, when I'm not


doing an insane number of chin ups or eating dark chocolate or working, I'm doing music. So I was actually able to take a day a week where I'm teaching now. So accordion and didgeridoo, I joined the faculty of our local music academy. And so that's kind of like the fun thing that I get to do because I have a team taking care of the clients on that day. So it's kind of a lifestyle piece more than anything else.


Bryan (02:10.914)

That's awesome.


Karina (02:12.048)

And yeah, it's worked out really well. So more time for things that aren't business and loving the business itself, I think are wins for me. And then you were also asking about mentorship, which has been huge. Yeah. I hear you. Yeah, and so like this whole time from 2011 up until now, there's always a coach in the mix. There's always, you know, conversations with colleagues and taking courses.


Bryan (02:22.094)

I, yeah, I'm jealous.


Karina (02:41.688)

I've done a lot of one-on-one work with business coaches. Back in the day, it was kind of like how to start a business and looking at getting into SEO and that kind of stuff. And then I did a mentorship program specifically for online fitness coaches. So then it got more and more niche towards my exact business model. So it's massive. I think it's super important. It's kind of like therapists need therapists. Fitness coaches need their own fitness coaches. I've got a swim coach. I think it's important that we...


Bryan (02:49.069)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (03:10.712)

walk the talk. We know that these things are useful and so we need to invest in them ourselves.


Bryan (03:16.398)

That's right. Got to eat our own dog food to a degree here, right? So, uh, well, I think that's a great pivot point, you know, from the mentorship side, like what advice would you give to someone who is starting into their plant-based business and or in the fitness or nutrition space like you and what helps keep you motivated day to day.


Karina (03:19.244)

That's right, exactly.


Karina (03:37.348)

The motivation piece, honestly, like I always tell my clients, you got to train yourself to operate without motivation. I mean, I understand your question. It's more about the why and what are kind of like the background reasons you do this thing that you do, right? But a lot of it comes down to daily habits and operating without motivation and just doing the thing that you know you need to do, kind of like fitness or learning a language or practicing music or any long-term pursuit. So there's definitely a part of it.


Bryan (03:54.7)

Yeah.


Karina (04:07.492)

that is creating systems and creating habits, checking things off a list if you need to, like, did I speak with five new people today? Did I post something useful on social media or whatever marketing channel you're using? So there's definitely the systems aspect and the habits and the daily action items that add up. But I think it's also important to keep in mind the why. I mean, a huge piece of what we do in our business.


is not just furthering the vegan message, of course, because as vegans, don't we want the whole world to go vegan? Of course we do. But right? But we also want to bust all the BS that's in the vegan movement. There's a lot of pseudoscience. There's a lot of BS just in general in fitness and in nutrition, but there's a lot that's specific to veganism. And so our whole MO is...


Bryan (04:43.246)

Absolutely.


Bryan (05:00.962)

That's right.


Karina (05:02.332)

talking with other experts, being on shows like yours, spreading the word that there is peer-reviewed, legitimate literature out there that supports a vegan diet and vegan strength training and vegan endurance training and all of these things. And so that's kind of our background motivation is like, yeah, of course the vegan piece, but also chipping away at the giant mountain of BS, one little step at a time. And for folks who are just starting out,


I would consider having a niche within veganism. You know, nowadays, we were a little bit lucky back in 2011, there were like two vegan coaches out there, right? But now, if you're starting a vegan business, especially in the fitness arena, you need a niche within veganism, whether it's the type of client you work with, whether it's the type of experience that you've had. I have a coach friend, for example, who lost...


Bryan (05:51.362)

Mm-hmm.


Karina (05:58.596)

three members of his family within like two years to health issues. And so his whole MO for his business is like, be there for your family, do this fitness thing so you don't croak before you're 50 basically, right? So whatever your story is and whatever your connection with similar audience members is, I think you can use that as your business piece.


Bryan (06:13.87)

That's right. Yep.


Bryan (06:25.834)

I agree completely. Yeah. And it's, it's so interesting. Like you've made me think of it. Like, I think it's the, you are what you eat documentary on Netflix with the twins, you know, where one's going vegan and one isn't. And they said something like, all the evidence is there. It's been published, but we need to publish 10,000 more articles of it. And it's going to take another 15 years, just like it did for smoking. When all the evidence was there, that smoking was bad for you.


Karina (06:34.99)

Right, yes.


Karina (06:41.007)

Hahaha


Karina (06:53.186)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (06:53.63)

Um, it's going to be another 10 or 15 years till we finally catch up as a mainstream society that, you know, uh, Delhi meats are not the best for you on that front. So go watch that show on Netflix and go check out Karina Inkster's programs. Cause she's going to whip you into shape. What can we do Karina to help you? All the, the people that are watching this show right now are going to start their plant-based business in some fashion are looking for tips and tricks, but what can they do to help support you?


Karina (07:05.625)

Absolutely.


Karina (07:10.302)

Yeah.


Bryan (07:23.102)

and what are the best ways to get in touch.


Karina (07:25.988)

Well, thank you for asking that. And I'm happy to chat vegan business at any point, by the way. So if anyone wants to get in touch, you can go to kareenainkster.com slash contact. Just send me a message. Happy to chat. Uh, we can connect on social media. I think the best way is to tune into the podcast. So more listeners to the no bullshit vegan podcast on whatever platform you prefer would be fantastic. So that's where we have guest speakers come in.


We do talk about vegan businesses quite often with folks who are running giant restaurant chains or coaching businesses, all sorts of different things. So tuning into the podcast would be fantastic and happy to chat at any time. So if you wanna get in touch, kareenainkster.com slash contact or social media is fantastic.


Bryan (08:13.966)

That's awesome. Well, we wish you the best of luck. Where do they get the no bullshit podcast? Is that the kareenaangster.com podcast or something? Or how do we find that one?


Karina (08:25.568)

You can go to nobullshitvegan.com. You can also, if you're in Powell River, which I'm sure there's no one listening to your shows in my town, but it's syndicated on radio in my tiny little town. But it's on Spotify and all the podcast apps, but you can go to nobullshitvegan.com.


Bryan (08:33.954)

Hehehehe


Bryan (08:39.106)

Very nice.


Bryan (08:45.554)

Awesome. So make sure we'll put those links in the show notes to spread, help you spread the word on that front and go check out Karina Inkster.com and help support that or get started on your fitness journey as well. I am sure that the team would be glad to help, uh, whip, whip some of the people listening here into shape as well. So that is all the time we have for this episode of the plant based on fire podcast. Thank you so much, Karina for joining us, sharing your insights and thoughts and experiences with our community.


Until next time everybody, keep that fire burning.


Karina (09:16.848)

Thanks so much for having me, Bryan.



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