Man Drops 50 Pounds and Becomes Ultra-Endurance Athlete With Vegan Diet

Rich Roll is no stranger to addiction and poor food choices. Entering middle age, he was fat, tired and sedentary. Then, the night before he turned 40, a moment of clarity struck. While walking up the stairs of his Southern California home, he had to stop and catch his breath, fearing he was close to a heart attack. Realizing something had to give, Roll decided then and there to get his health back on track.

Roll began his transformation with a fruit and vegetable juice cleanse. A vegetarian diet followed. He discovered, however, that his low energy and weight remained stubbornly the same. Tempted to throw in the towel and return to his old, health destroying ways, he realized the type of vegetarian food he was eating -- pizza, cheese, dairy and processed foods -- was the problem. Taking a chance on a completely plant-based, vegan diet, Roll's energy and health soon took a dramatic upswing -- and he hasn't looked back since.

The journey

Roll admits that, "[a]t the time, I had no grand designs on overhauling my life -- it was almost to prove that it wouldn't work. But much to my amazement, within the next 7-10 days I experienced a tremendous surge in my energy levels." He started to exercise again, mainly because he needed to burn off all his new found energy. Next came the search for a goal.

In an interview with MindBodyGreen, Roll explains:

"I have always been very goal oriented and was looking for a challenge. Like many, I thought about attempting an Ironman. But I was quite ignorant about triathlon and didn't realize that these races sell out a year in advance. ... It was then that I came across an article about Ultraman Hawaii. Ultraman is a 3 day double Ironman distance triathlon that circumnavigates the entire Big Island of Hawaii. On Day 1 you swim 6.2 miles followed by a 90 mile bike. On Day 2, you bike 170 miles. Day 3 is a 52.4 mile run. Of course it sounded impossible. But there was just something about it that fascinated me and captured my imagination."

Against all odds, Roll finished the race and placed an incredible 11th overall. He has since competed in several endurance events, including EPIC5 -- a grueling series of five iron distance triathlons over the course of 5 days. Roll's accomplishments have sparked international attention, earning him the 2009 title as one of the fittest men in the world by Men's Fitness magazine. He also made PETA's list of "Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities."

Plant-based fuel for an ultra-endurance athlete

So what does a typical shopping list look like for Roll? Filled with a profusion of organic and locally grown produce, favorites include: kale, beets, carrots, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocados, asparagus, artichokes and an abundance of fruits. Other staples consist of grain products such as quinoa, brown rice and brown rice pastas. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams are winners too. He also stocks up on flaxseed, along with coconut based milk, water and ice cream -- plus almond milk, maca and chia seeds. For oil, he uses flax, olive, coconut and hemp. Meals tend to be rather simple with dishes that keep whole foods closest to their natural state.

Watch the full interview, "Rich Roll: Story of Redemption, Personal Triumph and Ultra-Fitness" by the Good Life Project here.

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