Deni Kirkova took first place in the Beach Body category at Miss Galaxy Universe in July 2016. With a strict plant-based diet, she lost 20lb of body fat in just 20 weeks. We wanted to know how she did it and how being vegan helped her win.

Firstly, well done on winning first place in the beach body category of the Miss Galaxy Universe competition, how does it feel?
 
It feels so good! Mainly for representing the vegan way of life. For me, I just wanted to get through it, you know? You’d be surprised the amount of pressure you can put on yourself to do well when you know those images will be online forever. So yes, I was focused on looking good but NOT on winning – hence it was a major shock.
 
It’s quite a prestigious competition, how strict are the rules in MGU? 
 
Honestly, yes the judging criteria is there, but fitness shows, as opposed to bodybuilding shows, can be a little more subjective. It’s down to a lot of factors and a judge’s interpretation of those required attributes in the competitor.
 
When you first started the training for the competition what were your fitness goals and how did you go about achieving them?
 
I wanted to drop all that excess body fat to show off my current muscles and also build them up a little. Lee Constantinou (my personal trainer for the competition) devised my macro targets, food plans and workout programs, and I got all my protein powder, supplements and some gym kit from www.Bodybuilding.com
 
How did following a plant-based diet help with your training?
 
My energy levels were sky high even throughout depletion and super-low calories. Plant foods just keep that vitality going even in scarcity. Vegan diets are also way more alkaline, so they are healthier. And you know what? Meal prep. When meat goes off, you could die! But not so much with the majority of plant foods. So I never worried when doing meal preparation for like five days ahead.
 
You had a Personal Trainer to get you in shape, how did he feel about you training as a vegan? 
 
He was totally doubtful haha. He thought we had a steep task ahead because of my ‘limited’ diet, but took on the challenge. Lee is super awesome honestly. He is like so many other meat-eaters I have met that are open and decent people. By the end of it he said it must be the plant-based diet that has helped my transformation and energy levels. He now goes to Wild Food Café, in London, every weekend and he’s going vegetarian for 2 weeks to try it out for the first time ever. He said he would never, ever have even considered this before and he has decided to do this off his own back and for himself – man, when he told me that he lit up my world!
 
Were you the only vegan in the competition?
 
No ! My best friend Vicky Hadley with whom I run www.bikinigirlsdiary.com entered with me. She is vegan for health reasons and I adore her. She dropped her body fat by 9% and placed fifth which is so amazing and I’m so proud of us both.
 
What are the kind of foods that people should eat if they want that beach body this summer in your opinion?
 
Take some tips from my diet plan. Stock up on porridge oats, vegan protein powder, berries, flax oil, apples, corn cakes, peanut butter, tofu, quinoa, broccoli, avocado, kidney beans, lentils, sweet potato and spinach. You must eat everything in the correct proportions and portions (talking macros and calories here). Calorie surplus = gain weight. Calorie deficit = lose weight.
 
Do you graze and what on? Or are you a three meals a day person?
 
I eat the three meals a day for sure with a couple snacks, usually a vegan protein bar or piece of fruit and a soya latte.
 
How do you treat yourself after winning a competition as big as this? Are there any vegan junk foods you like?
 
Um, yeah!! Huge binge-out at Wild Food Café and planning to go to Patara in central London for vegan Thai set menu. It’s super fine-dining and the chefs are wizards when it comes to veganising things. Oh, also Yorica for the biggest free-from ice cream ever with Oreos and all that.
 
Where do you live and how is it for vegan food? 
 
I live in West Norwood and I love VegBar for Tofish and chips and Ms Cupcake for vegan sweet treats! Also Blackbird Bakery do a divine vegan chocolate ‘matilda’ cake.
 
You have now become a personal trainer yourself, can you help with vegans wanting to look like you?
 
I sure can, but I’m figuring out the best way to go into business with this. For now please follow me on social media and I will answer any questions as best I can.
 
Are you entering any more competitions?
 
I’d like to. Watch this space and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates.
 
Finally, what would you say to people that think that vegans are weak and malnutritioned?
 
Well, that’s an uneducated assumption of course, so I would just lead by example. If people are open to learning then sure, educate them. But if not then let them be and SHOW them just by being and that you’re absolutely fine and thriving.
 
To read the full story in the Daily Mail of Deni’s success please click here
Written by veggierated@gmail.com