Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #14 - Rich Roll

Rich Roll

Know him from: In this case, you may not have heard his name - unless you are a constant watcher of CNN, or a follower of long-distance races - but Rich Roll is a world-class athlete. One of his biggest claims to fame was the completion of 5 ironman-distance triathlons (each one on a different island of Hawaii) in under one week. Rich has also been a top finisher in the Ultraman competition twice. Have you heard of the Ultraman World Championship? The 320 mile race is basically a double ironman-distance triathlon that takes place over the course of 3 DAYS. The last day of the competition involves a DOUBLE MARATHON, yes, if one weren't enough. The competition is so elite that only 35 participants (chosen by invitation only) are allowed to participate. And Rich did his first Ultraman competition at the age of 42, training for the competition for only 6 months, and having never competed in a triathlon before. Oh, and by the way, Rich did all of this on a vegan diet.

Website: (appropriately enough)

Why he's vegan: Like Isaiah Mustafa and Brendan Brazier, Rich decided to go animal-free because of what it could do for his sports performance and general health. At the age of 40, Rich decided to take back control of his life. Rich was (and, to the best of my knowledge, still is) an entertainment lawyer, he was 50 pounds overweight, and just not where he wanted to be in his life. Many of us can kind of relate, right? Rich had been a competitive swimmer in college, but left his athletic lifestyle behind after graduation. To celebrate his 40th year on earth and start living the way he wanted to, he became a vegetarian, then a strict vegan, started swimming and working out again, and dropped those pesky 50 pounds. He says that becoming vegan was not his original plan, but he started to feel energy that he hadn't felt in years due to his new clean eating style, and that energy is what really got him to start exercising and taking care of himself again.

Why he's awesome: Even when you read interviews with Rich, he just seems so energetic, but calm at the same time. I know that "calm" and "energetic" together kind of sound like an oxymoron, but allow me to clarify that a bit further. You get vicariously enthusiastic listening to Rich talk about his health routine and lifestyle, because he is excited about it. But, at the same time, since Rich is now living the kind of life he wants to, he doesn't seem anxious or like he would prefer to be anywhere else or doing anything else. He credits his health routine, including a dedicated practice of yoga in addition to his competitive workouts, for helping him be at peace with himself. He's a happy husband and father of 4, and he's worlds healthier than he was even at the age of 30.

In terms of the diet itself - sort of along the same lines as Rip Esselstyn - Rich and his family eat plant-based foods prepared as simply as possible, as close to their natural state as they can manage. According to an interview on, Rich says that his primary staples are:

"A ton of organic locally grown produce is the focus – we purchase most of this weekly at our local farmers market. Kale, beets, carrots, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, avocados, asparagus, artichokes & plenty of fruits. Almonds, almond butter, gluten free breads. Quinoa, brown rice and brown rice pastas; potatoes & yams. Flax seeds, flax, olive & hemp oil. Coconut milk, water & ice cream. Almond milk, maca, chia seeds, Veganaise..."

I dunno, that sounds pretty good to me. Rich says he hasn't even gotten a cold in the past 2 years. He believes that a vegan whole foods diet is his "secret weapon" - maybe not so secret now - but he considers it the key to optimal health. And, looking at him, I find it hard to disagree. If he actually still ate cheese, he could probably grate it on his abs...

So Rich, I admire you for living your optimal life, and for inspiring us all to do the same. I think we're going to send you on reconnaissance missions for the Hot Vegan Army. I might just be guessing, but I'm pretty sure you can get basically anywhere faster than the rest of us...

For those interested in learning more about Rich's incredible transformation story and diet, his "memoir" and book of recipes is set to be published this summer.


richroll said...

Thanks for enlisting me in your army! For those that are interested, my book FINDING ULTRA (Crown / Random House) comes out in May 2012 - you can pre-order here:

I also have a great digital cookbook you might want to check out - perfect for the iPad w/ 77 pages of plantpower recipes:

Worldly Vegetarian said...

Oh my goodness!!!! I'm so excited you found this blog!!!!!! It's amazing to hear from you!! The e-cookbook looks great, and I'm sure Finding Ultra will be inspirational too! Thank you for posting those links!!! I'll definitely keep following your progress on your website. Congratulations on your impending publication! I'll be telling lots of people about it :-)

I can 100% say you made my day. Thanks for reading!