Myth busting: Ultra-athlete Rich Roll says you can get plenty of protein from plants

Vegan protein “It’s impossible to get enough protein from a vegan diet” is still a major misconception. But if anyone can bust the myth, it’s the guy who completed five Ironman-distance triathlons in under a week—running entirely on plants.

“I honestly believe that eating plant-based has made me a better athlete,” says veggie-fueled superstar athlete Rich Roll, who’s asked every single day where he gets his protein from. “It’s significantly enhanced my recovery time, which allows me to train harder and longer while simultaneously reducing my incidence of illness and injury,” he says.

Of course, eating meat-free isn’t just for those who want to complete crazy endurance feats. In his newest cookbook,  The Plantpower Way, Roll and his wife, chef Julie Piatt, break down the basics of living a modern plant-based lifestyle.

Getting enough protein is part of that, which is why, here, he shares three myth-busting reasons it’s totally possible to do that without ever grilling a steak.


1. Animals get their protein from plants, too. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, nine of which can’t be synthesized by our bodies, so we have to get them from food. “When we eat animal products, we are getting these amino acids secondhand from the foods the animals eat, which always goes back to plants,” Roll points out. “So eating plant-based is in many ways a simple end-run around the middle man (or more appropriately, the middle animal).”

plantpower-way 2. Lots of plants are more protein-rich than you think. Beans, greens, nuts, grains (especially whole wheat, spelt, and quinoa), and seeds all contain plenty of protein. “My favorites are lentils, black beans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, mung beans, almonds, spinach, and broccoli,” Roll says. Another amazing protein powerhouse? Spirulina. “It’s a form of blue-green algae and is 65 percent protein by weight, containing the highest amount of protein by weight of any food on Earth.” How hard is it to add a little to your morning smoothie?

3. Whey protein is not the only post-workout recovery option. Roll focuses on replenishing after a workout with these delicious meal ideas: a smoothie with dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and beet greens, with hemp and chia seeds, spirulina, blackberries, and turmeric root. “This will typically be followed by a small meal of quinoa with black beans, avocado, broccoli, and salsa,” he says.

Roll’s plant-based tips should be enough to power you through the toughest sweat session. The proof, after all, is in his pecs. —Amy Marturana

For more information, check out The Plantpower Way or visit

(Photos: Instagram/RichRoll; John Segesta; The Plantpower Way)

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