I’m Rich Roll. In just 2 years I went from a 50 lbs. overweight couch potato to being named one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World” by Men’s Fitness. I just finished a new book about how others can implement what I did to change your life – AMA about my journey, plant-based nutrition, and fitness!
I did an AMA over a year ago and had a great time discussing how I transformed my life through fitness and plant-based (vegan) nutrition to become a globally recognized ultra-endurance athlete. In that AMA I answered a lot of people’s questions on how they could start down this path, and I’ve taken a lot of those answers, and a lot of recipes, and put them in my new book The Plantpower Way, which came out this week.
My first book, Finding Ultra, came out in 2012 and is about my journey mentioned in the title of this AMA. The book includes stories of some of the crazier things I’ve done as an ultra-endurance athlete, such as the EPIC 5 in Kona (five ironmans in five consecutive days on five different Hawaiian islands), and the Ultraman World Championships (6.2 mi swim, 261.4 mi bike ride, and 52.4 mi run), which I’ve done three times.
You can read a little bit longer bio here.
How did you first start experimenting with vegan/plant-based nutrition and what kind of impact did it have on you?
Great question. At 39 (about 8 years ago), I was 50lbs overweight, lazy, lethargic and sort of just depressed in general about my life. Then one night I had a bit of a health scare when I got KO’d by a simple flight of stairs — winded, out of breath, tightness in my chest. This made me realize that I really needed to change how I was living my life. I began exploring diet. I kicked things off with a 7-day vegetable juice cleanse which was horrible at first but by day 6-7 I felt amazing – I mean AMAZING. this led me to search for a way of eating that would allow me to feel that way all of the time. I experimented for 6 months on various ways but the thing that really did the trick was when I finally (begrudgingly) decided to try eating 100% plant-based. Within 7-10 days the shift was extraordinary. My vitality returned. My energy levels went through the roof. My mental acuity improved. Across the board it just really really agreed with me. My return to fitness simply began because I suddenly had so much extra energy I needed to go outside and burn it off.
What’s the best way to defend myself when I run by a flock of angry winged demons colloquially known as geese?
best question EVER. Depends. Are they Canadian geese? Don’t mess. Duck for cover (OK that is a really bad pun).
I’d like to better understand your motivation, how did you keep from giving up, never letting down? Were there people around that kept you running and didn’t desert you through your journey? What was the most difficult part of your former out-of-shape life to say goodbye to, and how bad did it hurt – did you ever cry? Honest answers appreciated, I know you’d never tell a lie and hurt me.
Hey There – great question. This is basically what my first book Finding Ultra is all about. Pain has always been the only thing that has motivated me to change my many errant ways — and I was in quite a bit of emotional pain when I decided to get sober and wen I decided to change my lifestyle. I also did have a lot of great support. My wife Julie has been amazing – none of this would have happened without her having my back and encouraging me to keep going. That said, I have felt alone quite often. Sometimes even like a crazy person. So I have had to really find a way to believe in myself and trust in something outside of myself to guide me. Not in a religious sense but in the sense that I had to believe there was some greater purpose to what I was trying to do and the questions I was trying to answer for myself. In retrospect it all seems like it fell into place very gracefully but in truth it has been messy and all over the place. two steps backwards for every step forward. All I can tell is that something deep inside me just kept telling me to pursue this path. Plenty of crying my friend. Plenty. The hardest thing to part ways with was this mythical idea of the American Dream that I had harbored my whole life — everything did was premised on this. Saying goodbye to that paradigm rocked the very foundation upon which I had formed my world view – so that was very scary. Trusting that there will be a net to catch you if you step outside “the system”. I bounded on the pavement many times before that net eventually hauled me up off the ground.
Pain: What helps you push through pain to reach a goal once it enters the equation? How do you fight off the urge of your brain telling you to stop; and not listening to all the rational excuses it gives you?
Great question. Once I set a huge goal, the fear inevitably creeps in, followed by that little voice that keeps telling you its impossible. the way I approach this is to backtrack from the big goal and set micro stepping stone goals along the way, each of which in context is totally doable. Then I simply focus on what has to be TODAY. Or in the next HOUR. And forget about the big goal. If I only have one workout to concenr myself with then I can say “hey I can do this workout” and then just get that done without worrying about what tomorrow’s workout entails. Same approach to work, diet, etc.
What’s the best way to start running when you’re old and overweight? I want to look like you in two years.
best way is to just begin. don’t overthink it. dont set some huge agenda. just go out and WALK if that’s all you can do. Be patient. Stop worrying about what kind of shoes you need, the best watch to buy or what kind of shorts you need. Just act. Then wake up the next day and do it again. Less thinking, more movement. Its actually quite simple. Stop telling youself you are old and overweight and start telling yourself you are a runner. The story you tell yourself about yourself is extremely powerful, so the more conscious and in control of that story you can be — understanding that you can redefine it at will — is a great place to begin. Most of all this is mental and emotional.
Fellow Ultra runner here and huge fan of your podcast and your new book, Plant Power Way, will be arriving tomorrow and I can’t wait! If you had to pick one recipe from the book as your favorite, what would it be? Also, what has been your favorite race in your career (could be running or Tri’s)?
Hey that’s that’s awesome. Thanks for checking out the new book! We worked super hard on it — over 2 years in production – so we are very proud and beyond elated that it hits stores tomorrow. My fave recipes — I love the “Untuna Wraps” – amazing how much this walnut based recipe tastes like actual tuna. Hits the spot. Also the lasagna is great, the chia seed pudding and of course all the smoothie recipes. Tons of stuff for athletes but also appealing for everyone — you dont have to be vegan to really get a lot of out if and enjoy the delicious healthy food and lifestyle guidance. Let me know which recipes you like when the book arrives tomorrow!
Your favorite race bro. Forgot that part. That’s what I was looking forward to the most from this question.
Whoops sorry. Hmm. I would have to say Ultraman World Championships 2009. Winning Stage 1 by 10 minutes and then struggling to just finish after my Day 2 bike crash was probably the coolest thing I experienced as a competitive athlete.
More than swimming for Stanford? Millions swim, but few qualify to swim for a team like Stanford. Only a handfull of obsessive disorder types attempt ultraman.
swimming at Stanford was extraordinary. I absolutely loved being part of that team — it was very special. However, I was a bit of a bench warmer and didn’t thrive athletically, mostly by my own undoing, and left swimming knowing I had nit reached my potential as an athlete. But that team and those guys mean everything to me.
I am a drummer, and my goal is to tour, teach, and record for a living. What’s your advice for someone looking to go down a non-traditional career path in the face of fear and society’s expectations that you do otherwise?
Hey Dylan – yes I would definitely check out my convo with Casey which I just posted late last night, as well as my first podcast with him a little over a year ago – we explore this very subject. Its very cavalier to just say go for it and throw caution to the wind irresponsbily. Life is trickier than that of course. Sometimes the right thing is to just up and quit the day job and throw yourself into the unknown on faith and drive. But not always. Only you can know the answer to that in your heart of hearts. But what I can say is that you can always start building more of your passion into your daily life without being overly dramatic about it. The more you do this, the more the right path will reveal itself to you. I will also say that the bold move takes tremendous courage and strength and faith — it is not for the weak of heart and can be extremely difficult. We definitely bled hard to be where we are and risked everything. I wasn’t sure at all it would work out and had many dark nights of the soul. You have to know its what you need, want and have to do with total conviction and have the willingness to endure what it will take to step into a new life. But as Casey said in our first podcast — his ultimate recipe for success — all you have to do is commit yourself to something with everything you have. you will either succeed or die trying, which in and of itself is success.
Is there generally too much emphasis on great and amazing and not enough emphasis on balance, wisdom and sustainability?
good point Jason. I think if someone is stuck in a life that leaves them unfulfilled (to the point of the questioner), a balanced approach to that life might not be the answer. The trajectory out doesn’t have to be on being “great” or “amazing” but should be focused inward to help identify and more fulfilling path and begin the process of accessing that – at least that is what I was trying to get at.
As a busy college student who loves to run and has been eating plant-based for the past year, I am having a hard time being able to maintain/increase my weight. Do you have any recommendations for quick, high calorie, plant-based foods?
I would suggest increasing caloric intake — avocados, nuts and some oil (coconut) on salads and in cooking perhaps. Complex carbs as well – brown rice, brown rice / bean-based pastas. Plus strength / power training in the gym — especially if you are running alot, which really pares you down.
I know that you didn’t become a vegan for ethical reasons. With contact to people like Gene Baur have you embraced a more ethical vision of veganism? And if not, why?
Definitely. I call it an evolution / revolution. I began this journey purely for health reasons — selfishly for myself and less selfishly for my family. But that has changed. Of course health is huge for me for obvious reasons, but I am definitely much more interested in the ethical and environmental impact of our consumer choices. People like Gene and Joshua Katcher and the guys behind the Cowspiracy documentary I am involved in and many others have broadened my perspective across the board. Very important to me now.
Similar to you, I had serious issues with drugs and alcohol in the past and got into legal trouble. I was basically a juvenile delinquent. I eventually turned it all around and became a lawyer. A few years ago I decided I didn’t want to practice – I wanted to help others and be of service. In fact, you’ve inspired me to get a few MBG articles published and to go vegan. My question to is how to share my story to the masses to help others?
Wow that is inspiring. Amazing how similar your story is to mine. Very cool. It sounds like you are already sharing your story, which is great. My best advice when it comes to telling your story is to be as honest as you can. It’s the transparency and conveying what makes you uniquely you that can allow people to emotionally connect on a very human level. Specificity is key — and from that you and readers can extract principles applicable to all of us. Keep going!
Rich, thanks for taking the time to do this. Because of your book I’ve seriously transitioned by lifestyle into a much more plant based/fitness focused lifestyle. I’ve recently implemented TM practice and am trying to modify the 3rd phase…work life balance. In your book and on other articles/podcasts you started your journey as a lawyer, then transitioned to your own practice and I’m assuming practicing law less and less. Can you walk us through the transition from 100% “big law” to whatever your current % of law to wellness work and what would you say that percentage is now? I know you’re a Tim Ferris fan, so do you implement many of his “life hacks” to manage your time?
That’s fantastic – congrats and great to hear. Love the TM approach. And I totally get the work-life balance challenge. It’s not easy. If you google me, it would appear that I made all these changes overnight but that’s not at all how it happened. For the first several years and through all 3 of my Ultraman races I was practicing law. It was a very gradual process of doing less and less law and more and more of the things I loved and felt called to do. To your question specifically, I left big corporate law firm life a few years prior to my journey into wellness. I started a small law firm with some friends and became my own boss, which allowed me more flexibility with my time. So when I began my transformation and started training, etc. I could make my own schedule which helped a ton. But I continued to practice until May 2012 when my first book Finding Ultra came out. After that it was like I was in the void, suddenly trying to figure out how I was going to make a living in the amorphous world of “wellness” and support four kids doing it. It has been a long hard road — we risked everything and very nearly lost everything, but finally things are starting to congeal and move in the right direction. It’s quite gratifying because I wasnt sure things were going to work out. But the fact that I now get to spend my time helping people and creating content for others to enjoy is truly a gift and I am extremely grateful.
Have you 100% transitioned out of law at this point?
yes – I hung up the law the day Finding Ultra came out in may 2012. Actually let my bar membership totally lapse so legally I cant practice law even if I wanted to:)
Are you currently training for any endurance events? If so, how do you balance all your podcast/book work with your training?
Right now I train almost every day but am not preparing for any races this year. It was a tough decision to make — not racing — but there are so many other interesting opportunities happening right now that I really want to be able to show up for 100%. At the same time, my motivation has shifted. It used to be very important to me how many watts I could push on my bike. Now what gets me out of bed excited is helping people and trying to put the best content I can through my books, podcast, and appearances to really truly help people transform their lives. That said, I still want to race and have things I would like to express in that arena. I know I have more in me. The question is now — “how can I best serve the message?” Right now its the content I am creating. But quite possibly when I turn 50 it will be doing an epic race or adventure. Thanks for the question!
Will you do an olympic distance tri? That way we will have your times on record so we can judge you. If you are slow will you lose credibility? haha
you can judge me now (you probably are already) — hahaha. I will say this – I would get creamed by the elite in an Olympic distance tri. I’m a good athlete but I am extremely slow twitch — the longer the better for me. I’m just not that fast. I would do fine and well in my age group but I dont think I would distinguish myself all that much.
Hi Rich, I know the China Study people are against any kind of moderation like adding a bit of fish back into the diet… What is your take on former president Clinton (presumably access to the world’s best medical advice) doing that? How often do you hear from long time vegans who did that and to which extend are you looking into that?
Hey great question. I don’t have judgment on other people and their experience and decisions. I don’t know Bill Clinton and thus cannot have an informed opinion on why he made the decision he did. I try to stick to my own experiences. I’ve been doing this coming up on 9 years now and it still agrees with me. All my blood work is fine and I still feel great. I never place demands on others or tell them they need to do things the way I did. All I can do is share what I have learned, try to provide people with helpful tools and empower them and encourage them to go out and have their own journey. Their version. If all you do is change one thing like starting your day with a green smoothie – great. That might lead that person to a new place and I’m great with that.
What are some tasty and cheap vegan protein options for a body builder?
I think Plant Fusion is pretty cheap as I recall. I would checkout the vegan bodybuilding website and forum — lots of good info there — as well as Robert Cheeke’s recent book – http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/
Curious question, do you still drink coffee? I know you’re big on tea, but I was always curious of that.
Coffee…….i’m on it, i’m off it, i’m on it, i’m off it. Done it both ways. I dont think coffee is really that bad and it is definitely a performance enhancing drug with legitimate benefits. My problem is I have a very addictive personality so it causes issues with me — hard for me to be moderate and then it impacts my sleep, etc. The main thing to understand is that it is a powerful stimulant. It will indeed give you energy, but you will have to repay that debt. So its a matter of how much you want to engage in that barter.
What was the one thought that got you off the couch the first time, and what kept you going thereafter?
FEAR AND PAIN. Honestly, I just didnt want to continue to live the way I was living. That was it. It was very much a line in te sand moment for me. What kept me going — seeing results, feeling great and the joy that came with simple things like just reconnecting with my body in a healthy way again after so many years abusing it
What are some characteristics of the people that you interview on your podcast that you believe give them the drive to live authentic lives, and to achieve what they have? Please include what drives you to be so awesome!
Great question. There are definitely themes and throughlines. I would say that most of the inspiring people I have had on the podcast: have conviction about who they are. they understand not only what they are doing and where they are going but also WHY they are doing what they are doing and are very conscious about HOW they do what they do. Passion fuels the mission, followed up with a strong wrk ethic. A sense of purpose. A comfort in their innate humanness. A sense that there is something beyond the self — in other words a commitment to service of others beyond the ego. Plus a perspective that allows them to see a problem and live in contrast to that problem. In other words — straying from the heard to blaze a unique, individualized path.
Who is the better dancer, you or John Joseph?
I definitely can’t dance. But I dont think JJ can either:)
Who was your favorite interview? I would like to suggest you and Neil Degrasse Tyson interview each other at the same time for each others podcasts.
I would love to interview Neil – don’t know him – anyone have a connection? Surprisingly hard to get in touch with a guy like that and convince him to do my little show:) Fave interview? Can’t make me choose amongst my babies:)
Hey Rich! Hugh fan, listen to every episode of the podcast and many of them have literally helped change my life. On that topic, out of all your guests, which one do you think you could do a full podcast with every single week? Anyone you could just talk and talk and talk with? Previous guests or dream/future guests
Hard to choose amongst my babies because I love them all. That said, I think some of the best conversations in terms of just being totally in synch with someone would be Mishka Shubaly, John Joseph, Robin Arzon and Josh LaJaunie — and of course my wife Julie.
Have you ever considered interviewing Noah Levine? He’s a great inspiration for me and I’d love to hear your thoughts on him and see a conversation between you two! Thanks!
cool – I will look into him — any good links you can share?
You’re generally a pretty chill guy who doesn’t like to impose your way on others but rather leads by example. If you could decree one (or two) universal laws that all humans would have to follow, what would it be?
- eat lots of plants (mostly if not entirely)
- tread lightly on the earth
- live in service
- be grateful
Kind of personal, but I’m interested in knowing more about you and Julie. You both seem like a harmonious couple now, but how did you first connect while you were in your unhealthy stage of life? It seems that you were such opposites back then, but now obviously are a good fit. How did she see thru the alcoholism and other unhealthy ways of the old Rich Roll? Has Julie been a plant powered, meditating yogi all along?
Interesting story that I go into in detail in Finding Ultra. I met Julie in a yoga class about 1 year into sobriety. At the time I was eating horribly but I was becoming open to spiritual ideas I was introduced to while in rehab, hence my interest then in first checking out yoga. So I think its a bit of a mischaracterization that Julie and I were miles apart when we met. Very different sure, but always sympatico. Julie talks at length on the podcast about how she navigated my challenges in the earlier days and wrote this piece which I think sort of goes to the heart of what you are asking: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5721/6-Ways-to-Experience-Deeper-Love-and-Intimacy-in-Your-Marriage-or-Relationship.html
You mentioned you were 50 pounds overweight, but managed to turn it around. I’m 30, about 330 and sit in an office from 8am to 5pm. What would you suggest I do to start off slowly?
My best advice? take an hour and listen to the podcast interview I did with Josh LaJaunie — who lost 200 pounds. Then explore my other podcast interviews with the doctors and nutrition experts. Time very well invested (totally free by the way): http://www.richroll.com/podcast/rrp-63-free-josh-lajaunie-lost-200-lbs-plantpower-diet/
Hey Rich, I’m a newbie vegan (~8 months), and there is A LOT of noise when trying to find the best nutrition advice. From raw vegan, high carb, high fat, starch-based, high-calorie, low-calorie, etc. etc. blah blah. The strangest part is, there are at least a few people apparently thriving on each of these diets and claiming their way is best (that is if they’re all telling the truth). My question is, did you have to go through a lot of trial and error to find what worked best for you? Also, is there any general advice you can give someone who is trying to make veganism work for them?
Great question. It is confusing, and the internet doesn’t always come to the rescue. Often it further confuses. For me it was trial and error. I suggest exploring what works for you, with the focus on making sure you are getting tons of vegetables and other plants in your diet close to their natural state. Every single healthy diet protocol on the planet agrees on this.
Which are the best vegan restaurants you’ve eaten at?
Candle 79 (NYC), Candle Cafe (NYC), Cafe Gratitude (LA), Gracias Madre (LA), Mesa Verde (Santa Barbara), Crossroads (LA), Angelica Kitchen (NYC), Pure Food & Wine (NYC), Real Food Daily (LA), Joi Cafe (LA — disclosure I am a partner!), Cafe Blossom (NYC)
So excited you’re doing a Q&A. You are the reason I switched from living the typical American diet to a more conscious, whole-plant food lifestyle. I can honestly say I have never felt more healthy and powerful. Thanks for your endless inspiration! My question for you is, what are some ways I can increase my running endurance? (I am trying to work my way up to running a half-marathon, but I seem to have plateaued) Also, what are your top plant-based snacks you typically run to after a hard workout?
Hard to know why you plateaued without knowing more about your training but I would venture to imagine that you might be spending too much training time in the dreaded grey zone as I describe in FInding Ultra. Have the discipline to slow down and really invest in creating that aerobic base, which takes time and isnt sexy. Pick one or maybe two days a week to hard / tempo / track work but most days should be focused on Z2 with building your base and volume very slowly over time. Invest in a lactate test to establish your zones — money well spent which will focus your training nd ultimately help you escape your plateau.
Would you ever consider doing a retreat (related to cooking, yoga, meditation, or fitness or really anything) out here in LA?
Yes definitely – working on some ideas on how to do something cool – will keep you posted on my podcast – thanks for the interest!
What was the key in the significant fat loss you achieved and how long did it take? Having hard time leaning out and getting to the desired weight after initial loss of about 15 lbs a couple of years ago. I am staying very active (50Ks, water sports,daily activity) and mostly clean vegan eating, lower fat with overall about 20% from fat (avocados my weakness)
It took me quite some time (8 or 9 months as I recall) but that period of time involved progressively more and more fitness. When I am idle, I will put weight on and I stay lean only through diet PLUS very active training that rotates disciplines — swimming, running, cycling, yoga, core, gym / strength. No one key thing — it is the comprehensive lifestyle. Everyone wants the “one thing” that will make the difference but I dont think its that simple. Also – when you say “mostly clean vegan eating” I dont know exactly what that is — often we think or convince ourselves that we are eating better than we are — doing a food journal helps with objectivity.
What training philosophy do you typically prescribe to Friel/MAF etc. Also any pointers to someone training for their first Ironman?
I am a firm believer in the Maffetone method. It requires a significant investment of time, but I truly think it is the best long term approach to endurance sports that will help you create an amazing foundation upon which to flourish athletically. It requires some discipline in the form of holding back, attention to HR / power zones, etc. and making sure every workout has a specific purpose. Its not a sexy method. It’s not a shortcut or the most time efficient method, but it works very very well for me. Pointers: train where you are, not where you want to be. show up every day and just put the work in, and do it again. Work out your fueling and nutrition early and often so you know exactly what suits you. Be patient. And trust in your program. Best of luck!
What do think of carboloading before a marathon? How do you “fuel” your body in the last two or three days before a competition?
I’m not a big fan of carbo lading. I like to eat on race week / day the same as I do regularly. Your fade most likely has more to do with training, race pacing and nutrition during the race than it does with pre-race meals. I would focus on more low intensity Z2 aerobic zone high volume training which will pay dividends at then end of long races. Ideally you want your splits to break down evenly and if you start trailing off in the last 30 or 20% of a long race I would look first to training protocols.
One of my favorite podcasts is when you interview Michael Arnstein (his enthusiasm is contagious!) You mentioned you were interested in attempting a fruitarian diet (or at least add more fruit, I assume). If you did, what were your thoughts? If not, what are your thoughts on a fruitarian diet?
I love Michael and have lots of fruitarian or at least 80/10/10 diet friends, many of which do very well athletically. So I know it works for lots of people and those that ascribe to it are extremely passionate about it, look super healthy and have great energy. So I have nothing negative to say about it, other than — as Michael points out in our podcast — it is extreme. I have never gone full fruitarian but I do eat tons of raw foods and fruit — generally eat raw all day most days and enjoy a cooked dinner — so I cant share from experience beyond that.
What’s your opinion on wheatgrass powder, Spirulina powder etc. all marketing or the real deal? And my second question: Is everything you buy organically produced food?
I like both and use them regularly. I think there can be quite a bit of hype and hyperbole around so-called “superfoods” which are basically just foods like other foods — no panacea. If your diet is poor, adding in some superfoods will do little to resolve what ails you. My opinion is that they constitute the final 1% — dial in your diet and then the superfoods can help take you over the top, but its like the cherry on top of the sundae — an extra touch.
What is the macronutrient breakdown of your diet? That is, % protein, fat, carbs.
I pay very little attention to this kind of thing. generally I graze on a wide variety of plant foods throughout each day and nature sorts out the rest. I’m just not that interested in getting into the minutae like that. However, I would say on average its likely around 75/10/15 (carbs / protein / fat)
Any chance of you getting back into racing – love to see you and Vinnie do an Ultra bike race?
hoping to of course. still many things I want to do as an athlete – right now life is crazy with other stuff but I will get back into it!
Rich, as a fellow ultra runner, I can’t help but to notice that there are a lot of similarities between ultra running addiction and substance addiction such as drugs/alcohol. A lot of us have been there. Should the day ever come that those of us who run insane distances ever be classified with a mental sickness, would you be willing to accept that?
How someone else decides to classify me or judge me or categorize me is none of my business.
Love your podcast. But I am worried you’re too nice. Are you too nice, too accommodating? I became vegan after finding Durianrider on Youtube. I was eating very healthy, but consuming meat and fish occasionally because my running coach said I needed it! I knew it was bad for the environment, bad for my heart, but I didn’t want to lose out on anything I might need to perform well. Then I found Durianrider and he said it like it is: here are my blood tests, here’s what I eat, I’m fitter and leaner than all of these “fitness gurus”, and I’ll prove it. Because you are so nice, so accommodating, so deferential, I wonder if you’re actually convincing people to go vegan. If I was someone that just stumbled on your podcast with Ben Greenfield, I might come away thinking Greenfield knows what he’s talking about, that his ketogenic diet and hacks are worth trying.
I am who I am. I am definitely not Durianrider. His approach really connects with lots of people and that’s great. I just have a different approach. All voices are important. I like that Durianrider does what he does, but I could never be him and don’t want to be him. My approach is a little more gentle. I feel that i can be the most effective voice for this movement but providing a inviting welcome mat for people — showing then that it can be cool, fun and modern and doable and awesome. Attraction rather than promotion I suppose. I know this has helped me connect with many people and — for me — drawing hard lines in the sand and placing demands on people, etc. just doesn’t suit me personally.
A lot is coming out recently on the importance of dha-epa omegas, and how it’s essential to supplement this on a vegan diet. Do you supplement with micro algae? do you not supplement at all? any reasons? I’ve recently switched from vegan to fish to ensure i’m getting everything, but now i’m not so sure.
I really don’t supplement. Too much on this to address in a forum but i would suggest checking out Dr. Michael Greger’s videos on nutritionfacts.org. My omegas are all fine and all i do and have ever done is use hemp seeds, chia seeds and ground flax seeds — on salads, in smoothies, etc. All high in Omega-3. I also use some chlorophyll and spirulina in my smoothies from time to time. Fish oil is of course a great source of these nutrients but not the only source — plus you have to be very wary of toxins in the fish oil — even when labeled toxin free there have been instances of issues (again see Greger — he has a video on this).
My husband is an avid runner. I’m not, but want to be. In the last six months I’ve been trying to run, but I’m already naturally thin and am having trouble gaining weight while getting in shape. Slightly worried that I’m getting too thin. Plus my husband has a different body type than me, so what’s working for him isn’t necessarily working for me. Any recommendations/recipes I should try?
I would say maybe do some strength training in the gym to balance out the miles and also to increase your food volume or calorie density a bit by eating heartier foods like potatos (sweet potatoes), lots of lentils, rice and beans and maybe increase your fat intake a bit (avos, nuts, maybe a little coconut oil). hard o say as I don’t know how you currently eat!
My fave foods BEFORE: green smoothie (kale, pineapple, berries, beet, beet greens, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, cordyceps) – DURING: dates, bananas, sweet potato, coconut water. AFTER: more green smoothie with maybe some plant-based protein powder; coconut water; lentils & beans
Thank you for all you do, and thank you for letting us pick your brain. I’ve read many times that “abs are made in the kitchen”. Can you tell us, as vegans, exactly how we can eat for maximum fat loss?
Volumetrics is a great approach. I would suggest checking out Chef AJ online – she speaks quite eloquently on this subject. But the basic idea is to try to eat the most amount of food that has the highest amount of fiber and micronutrients for the least amount of calories. In other words, a teaspoon of oil has 400 calories. It will hardly make you full and has no real nutrients in it. But a belly full of vegetables (raw or lightly cooked) will indeed make you full — same amount of calories but packed with fiber, micronutrients and phytonutrients and minerals and vitamins — feeding your body. In the most general terms — ditch oil, processed foods and (in my case) animal products. This will make you lose weight! You cannot out run a poor diet, but if you want the abs, you’re going to have to also venture out of the kitchen into exercise.
How do you get lots of ‘shit’ done throughout your day? aka your tips on being super productive/motivated and focused?
I make lots of lists. I prioritize what is most important. I don’t ever go out to lunch. I understand that not everything will get done and focus on top priorities. I work really really hard (in my office til 3am last night) and have little idle / social time. But I love what I do – it is who I am — and so I don’t think of anything I do as work — very different from how I felt when I was a lawyer and couldnt wait to leave the office. TIPS – set times for email and dont let it spill into everything else. Segment your day so you always know what you are doing — i.e., being proactive rather than reactive. Have a set routine in the morning that prioritizes some kind of mindfulness / meditation practice. learn how to create healthy boundaries and when to say no.
If you could go back and change one aspect about your training prior to your first Ultraman, what would it be?
Not sure there is anything I could have done differently – I trained as hard as I possibly could. I was balancing A LOT at the time. Money was very tight and I was practicing law, a ton of stress. If I could have found a way to alleviate some of that stress and worry and self-doubt about what and why I was doing what I was doing, maybe that would have been good.
As someone who has put in their fair share of 150+ mile weeks worth of running, I’d like to get your idea of what your sweet spot mileage would be to train with no planned race ahead. I guess, for an ultra runner, do you recommend keeping a certain base mileage for times between races?
Hey dude awesome. That’s a lot of miles! Way more than me right now. My life is nutty right now so my training is at a low boil — when life is hectic as it has been for me for some time, I try to keep it al between 10-15 hours per week which works for just maintaining base level — that would be long ride / run on Sat / Sun and shorter runs / swims / rides during weekdays. Average run for me during the week would be around 8-13 miles with maybe a 15 miler or so on Sundays…
So it’s safe to say that you’d rather train based on time spent active than counting actual mileage? Or does it vary?
I usually focus on hours rather than mileage. Also I swim / bike / run so milage not relevant to a pure runner
What is your view on protein requirement for athletes? I am a competitive swimmer and enjoy crossfit and I wanted to know what you think about protein intake and macro partitioning (carbs, fat, protein and micronutrients). Do you measure what you eat and what are your own macros like?
I wrote a piece on this subject here: http://www.richroll.com/blog/slaying-the-protein-myth/
How would you go about economizing but still getting high quality nutrients?
Go to your local grocery store and ask the about all the produce that they are going to throw out (they take stuff off the floor once it isnt perfectly fresh or stuff that doesnt look pretty but is still great) and cut a deal. They are going to throw it out and will usually sell it to you for pennies on the dollar. Also buy base items in bulk like rice and beans. Honestly, I could live on rice and beans and salsa every day — costs like 3 cents a meal.
What made you decide to do a podcast? And when you started, what was your first vision of what the podcast would be? How has that evolved to the awesome podcast it is today?
I fell in love with podcasts when training for my first Ultraman – they kept me company during many long hours alone. Then when Finding Ultra came out, I had the pleasure of being a guest on many shows and saw how powerful the medium could be up close. That inspired me. It took some time, but I finally got around to trying to figure out how I could set one up for myself and just began. I had no big agenda and no preconceived idea of what I could, would or should offer. It has just grown organically from there. But if you listen back on episode 1, it is remarkably similar to what I do today (just with slightly better mics and audio). I absolutely love everything about doing the show — it has enriched me tremendously and am excited about where it is heading, growing like crazy right now.
Obviously your message is about plant based eating causing transformation… how about triathlon contributing to your transformation? Do you think the plant eating was sustained by tri training and vice versa? i.e. could you do one without the other?
of course you can do one without the other. in my case, it was switching to a plant-based diet that began everything for me and gave me the vitality and energy and enthusiasm to even begin the triathlon journey. They are inextricably linked. However, the dietary shift did precede the competitive athletic adventure.
If you had some tips for someone trying to make a difference in this health and wellness movement, what would they be?
My advice: be authentic. Be you. Share freely. Be honest. Never look for the pay day. Be in service always. Work hard. Focus on the quality of the content you put out — not the marketing. In the long run, everything else will start to take care of itself.
So the verdict seems to be in on animal products, but what about wheat. The whole anti-gluten movement seems to be gaining momentum. Is there any validity to it?
wheat is a problem. the problem is more that today’s wheat isnt your grandmother’s wheat. it is highly hybridized and much higher in gluten and lower in nutrients than it ever has been. we eat too much of it, leading to allergic reactions, inflammation, etc. – a whole spectrum of problems that cause serious issues for many (celiac) and to general intolerance for others to less issues for others. We suggest heirloom varieties of wheat (non-hybridized, more ancient grain) if you can find them or alternatives like millet. Everyone is different so I always say clean up your diet first, THEN experiment with removing gluten from your diet to see how it impacts you. If you are eating a ton of processed foods nd then ditch gluten, of course you will feel better. So to truly gauge the impact more objectively you have to remove that stuff first. Some experience dramatic improvements, others not so much. It has big impact on me I know. So to your question — I think there is validity. I’m by no means a “no grains” person. I think grains are important in a healthy diet. The questions is which grains, when and why. Also if you are going to eat wheat, opt for the least processed variety available — sprouted grains are best, then whole grains. Anything white – forget it. It has no nutritional value.
Which podcasts do you listen to?
Invisibilia, Carolla, Radiolab, Start Up, This American Life, Hardcore History, WTF with Marc Maron, Nerdist, Tim Ferris, Serial, Rogan, Off Camera, Brett Easton Ellis, James Altucher
Hi, Rich. Love your message, and your podcast is amazing. I’m a big supporter of the whole foods plant based lifestyle, and I know you are too, but I’ve noticed through some videos etc. that you use tons of oils. Whether its canola or coconut or flax or Veganaise, in my opinion, oil (and protein powder and sugar) and so heavily refined and definitely not whole plant food. Do you have a certain reason as to why you use so much, to an extend that doesn’t seem like little amounts as condiments? Only when you’re training hard?
hey there thanks for the question. I do not characterize myself or my family as “No oil”. But I also think it is a mischaracterization to say that we use “tons of oils”. In our new book The Plantpower Way there are some recipes with oil (coconut and some olive) but never canola. And every recipe has a no oil alternative approach to preparation. Also – some of those videos are old and our approach has evolved since then to be cleaner. And I would add that when some of those videos were made I was training 25-30 hours a week (basically a full time job) and my caloric demands were gigantic. I’m not a strict Esselstyn approach person and do enjoy a bit of olive or coconut oil on some recipes but do agree wholeheartedly that someone who is in poor health, has some form of heart disease or is looking to lose weight should embrace a no oil or very low oil approach
Hey Rich! I am a plant powered triathlete and am training for some longer distance 70.3 events. Any Suggestions on how to increase endurance without giving up too much speed? I also am sometimes tight for time, so I would like to get the most out of my training. I have one other question also… Being plantbased, I consume a very large amount of fiber and have found that to give me bloating, many trips to the bathroom, and discomfort. Is there a better way to deal with this during training and in everyday life?
I would suggest being laser pinpointed on the exact purpose of each workout, and train on the polar opposite ends of the spectrum. By this I mean that on easy days, go very easy. On long days, go long. Then pick your days when you are going to go hard and go really hard. I don’t think any miles are junk miles if you are focused on what you are doing and why you are doing each workout. 70.3 is very tough because you have to have great endurance but you also have to be fast == not an easy equation to solve because you need to be adept at both which means training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems properly. I would definitely suggest hiring an experienced coach to help guide you — this will save you time by focusing your approach.
I’ve been trying to create structure through routine of exercise, but having some trouble getting motivated. How would you recommend making a lasting change?
MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION. If you sit around waiting until you have the proper motivation, you will never do anything. Tale the action first — the mood and motivation will follow. Do that enough times and you will create a momentum that has its own self-propelling velocity. Also – create community and accountability — get friends or colleagues involved for a little positive (and negative) pressure.
Do you think that for us average folks, becoming one of the “250,000,000 Fittest Men in the World” is a more reasonable goal? Also, do you ever get to stop eating?
I think that is more than reasonable:) I’ll stop eating when I transcend the mortal coil:)
Rich, How difficult was it to get your kids on-board with the same nutrition program? From what I see the entire family follows the same plan… Any tips or advice that helped them transition? (I say this assuming they weren’t fully engaged with the nutrition program from the start – perhaps I’m wrong?)
Yes this has been a journey, and a non-linear one at that — different for each of our 4 children. We have a ton of information on this in the new book The Plantpower Way and too much to relate in a forum post but in general: we never made rules around what they could / could not eat; we just kept feeding them healthy plant-based foods at home; we removed (slowly) processed foods, etc. from the house, replacing them with better options (nut milks for dairy, etc.); we involve them in every aspect of food — shopping, meal prep, table setting, recipe creation / development. the more involved, the more emotionally connected they become. By nit setting rules, there is nothing to rebel against. When they eat pizza or cake at a friend’s house, there is no judgment — only discussion. The idea is to empower and education to help set long term habits — it not about the cake at the b-day party
I have been trying to transition to a plant based lifestyle, but often succumb to temptations. I currently do not eat meat, but am having a hard time with dairy and eggs. Do you have any suggestions?
For me, dairy was by far the hardest habit and craving to kick so I get it. The only way it worked for me was to say enough is enough and just commit. these foods are HIGHLY ADDICTIVE so (for me) if were to eat it once in a while, I will continue to crave it and never be free. I had to weather about 10-14 days of low level discomfort to get past it, but now I rarely even think about it. You might be different — I run on extremes — this is just how I did it.
I am a moderate runner who began to exercise regularly for the first time in years a few months ago. I’m in ok shape, about 15lbs above my ideal weight. I want to race a triathlon and also run a marathon. How long should I train before tackling one of these?
Hard to say without knowing more but I would suggest signing up for a local 5K or sprint triathlon just to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be super competitive but will introduce you to the world in a very friendly way. Start with small stuff and work your way up to a marathon. DO some reading on training as well – Joe Friel’s book The Triathlon Training Bible is a good starting place — great info on how to train properly and not get injured. Be patient too. Its the long journey ahead so create sustainable lifestyle habits around the lifestyle and the goals and races will come in time.
Can we talk about family and relationships? How did you and Julie healthily work through you being a step-father to her two boys?
Cool question. I met Julie when she was recently divorced and the boys were 3 and 4. I dated Julie for about 6 months before I ever met the boys because it was important that we be stable before introducing them to someone else. It was a very responsible way to handle it I think. After that I became involved in their lives but very slowly at first and also very mindful of the fact that I was not trying to replace their dad, who was very much in the picture and very involved in their lives. We had joint custody and I would say the boys lived mostly with us but I was never trying to be their dad. However, the boys’ dad passed away a few years ago so that required getting much more involved. Now they are amazing young adults — extremely poised and mature and I am very very proud of them
How do I make exercising not boring? I understand to find something I enjoy. However what I enjoy is Golfing. Hardly a sport that would yield results and I don’t have the money to go golfing all the time. Do you suggest any exercises? Or routines?
I suggest finding something else a little more active that you also enjoy. Something that requires some exertion. But its not for me to say what that would be for you. That said, I know lots of people who always hated running but then started doing it for whatever reason and when you get past the initial part trying to get to a certain level of base fitness they suddenly find that they really really enjoy it.
Do you suggest any particular ingredients and/or recipes for maximizing muscle retention while cutting fat?
I think that is a bit of reductionist approach but in response I would say increase protein intake and reduce fat and simple sugars — so lots of lentils, green smoothies — and maybe exercise some portion control. Also depends on your training protocol. Maybe increase strength training or tempo work. Everyone’s metabolism is different so explore and experiment.
I know you are big on blending and green smoothies. especially to start your day. I have a juicer and love it. But been wondering if I’d be better off getting a blender and stop throwing away all the remains after juicing. What’s your quick recommendation on juicing vs blending, or a little of both?
Great question that I get a lot. We have a whole section on this in the new book The Plantpower Way. In general, they are both great, just different. The question is — for whom, why and when? Blending is more my go to — its a great way to pack a ton of nutrients into your day. The main difference of course is that blending retains all the plant fiber. And fiber is what you want. It’s more like a meal — sort of pre-digested and thus easily assimilated for net nutritional gain (your body doesnt have to exert much energy to digest). But you have to be careful about calories — make dark leafy greens and raw veggies the base. As for juicing — I use this more medicinally. Tumeric shots, wheatgrass, etc. Gotta watch the sugar content nd juicing extracts all the fiber. But it is a great way to get quite a bit of micro and phytonutrients into your system.
I ran a half marathon Listening to your Andy Puddicombe Podcast. What was your trick when training in lower heart rate zones to stay at the slow pace? My mind always wants to tell me to speed up when training slow and long. I find the toughest is zone 2
holding back requires discipline just like going hard does. Sometimes more. Who wants to let someone pass them when they know they can go harder? Who wants to ease up and feel like they didnt get everything they could out of a workout? It’s hard but if you want to break the glass ceiling on endurance performance, disciplined aerobic zone (Z2) training is absolutely critical in my opinion.
Passion/Money: At this point in your journey of chasing your passions has the financial side of things changed your outlook since you first began? Has it eroded any of the passion/excitement of what you’re doing?
It has changed in the sense that whe I began I really just couldn’t pay the bills at all and it was a very scary precarious time for me and my family – we went through a lot together and literally risked everything to do what we are now doing. Through an unbelievable amount of work, passion, effort and faith we are now in a position where we can pay our bills and we have a foundation upon which to continue to build which is incredibly gratifying — knowing that we can make a living helping people and doing what we are most passionate about. This has only made me MORE passionate about what I am doing!
Running makes me feel like I’m dying when I’m doing it. How do I get past the pain? I want to love it.
SLOW DOWN! Be patient. Take your time. Build up gradually. Once you get some base fitness you can start upping the intensity but keep it low grade for a while — running should be natural and fun. Its always hard at first and you have to get to a certain level of base fitness of course but it doesnt have to be a sufferfest.
When you lost 50+ lbs, did you have to deal with loose skin? And is there much you can do about skin issues when attempting to lose 50, 100, or more?
I didnt have this problem — at 50lbs overweight it wasnt severe enough. But I have friends who deal with this – hit up Josh Lajaunie on Facebook – lost 200 pounds — he posted a video of himself that is interesting