It makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a lawyer who conquered alcoholism, went vegan at age 40, and then become the first of two people to complete the EPIC5—five Ironman triathlons on five Hawaiian islands in under a week?
And while his accomplishments are intense, Roll describes his transition to veganism casually. “I wish that I could say that I got a bunch of books and studied it, but it was really almost accidental,” he says. “I just couldn’t believe how good I felt.”
Here’s what Roll eats to fuel his ultra-life:
Being vegan and an ultra-athlete blows people’s minds. What question do you get asked most often? Definitely “Where do you get your protein?” Suddenly everyone is a nutrition expert, and they’re very concerned. It’s really just an opportunity to have a conversation and create a dialogue. If you poke around and do a little research, you realize that there are a lot of plant-based foods that are high in protein. As long as I’m eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, I’ve never had a problem. There are a lot of misconceptions about how much protein we need to perform and be healthy.
As a vegan, is it hard to eat the number of calories your body needs? No, it’s not. I’ve never been one to count calories, and I just listen to my body and give it what it needs My experience has been that the more I pursue my athletic training, the more efficient my body becomes about absorbing the training. I actually eat less than you might imagine, because my body has sort of adapted to the stress that I’ve put it through. And of course, if all you ate all day was boiled spinach, you wouldn’t get enough calories, but there are plenty of nutrient dense foods to choose from.
What do you generally eat before a big race? I don’t eat differently right before a race than I would on a day-to-day basis, and it’s really basic stuff—brown rice with stir fried vegetables, lentils, lots of black beans and kidney beans. I obviously lots of dark, leafy greens. A lot of my nutrition is blended in the Vitamix, so it’s kale, beets, chia seeds and maca root, for example. I try not to eat too much soy.
You have maybe the most veggies I’ve ever seen in a fridge. Do you always eat them all before they go bad? Well, I’m one member in a family of six. I’m married and I have 4 children, so this is a family refrigerator. And a lot of the fruits and vegetables get juiced in the Vitamax, so I go through them fast.
What’s in the dropper bottles next to the apricot preserves? Those are plant-based probiotics. I usually just put a couple of drops under the tongue almost daily.
Wow. And are the kids vegan? They’re 95 percent vegan. When we eat at home it’s always vegan, but we try not to have rules about it, so there’s nothing for them to rebel against. We just focus on education and involving them in the shopping and the preparation of meals. The other morning I came downstairs and my 17-year-old was blending kale and berries in our Vitamix—he was just choosing to do that. —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information visit www.richroll.com or grab a copy of Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself