Rich Roll Went Plant-Based in his 40s and Never Looked Back

Rich Roll didn’t really figure out his life’s purpose until his 40s. On the eve of his 40th birthday, the former collegiate swimmer-turned-corporate lawyer was ascending a flight of stairs when heart pain took over. With a history of heart disease in his family, he knew he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle ASAP. Changes that wouldn’t just shift his health for the better, but the trajectory of his entire life.

The day immediately following his staircase moment, Roll overhauled his diet, eventually becoming a strict vegan. Within weeks, he was running, biking, and swimming. Within two years? Roll completed his first Ultraman, a 3-day, 320 mile double-Ironman distance triathlon in Hawaii. 

Today, the father of four inspires millions with his bestselling books and self-titled show, The Rich Roll Podcast. We caught up with the 55-year-old in the wake of his new collection launch with Ten Thousand to hear about a typical day of eating, his best advice for anyone looking to implement healthier habits into their regular routine, and the somewhat surprising spot he frequents for burritos when he’s on the road.

GQ: I’ve heard you talk about intermittent fasting before on the podcast. Is this something you do regularly?

Rich Roll: Every day isn’t the same with me. A lot of my day-to-day is contingent upon how hard I’m training or what’s going on that day. I’ll do some fasting, and those days look quite a bit different than a typical day in food. On an intermittent fasting day, which is something I do a couple of times a week, I’ll basically have a cup of coffee in the morning, drink a bunch of water, and then I’m out the door to train. I’m a morning person. I get up and get it done right away. Otherwise it becomes infinitely more challenging to squeeze it in.

And what kind of training happens in the morning?

I’ll go to the pool for a swim, trail run, or get on my bike for a couple hours. I try not to schedule work stuff before 12 p.m., so that the first part of the day is just for doing my stuff, including training, journaling, writing, all that kind of stuff. No phone calls, no podcast.

So on the intermittent fasting days, when would you eat?

Sometimes I would go all the way to dinner without eating anything, just hydrating. But, obviously that’s not really what you really want to know about. You’re asking about what a typical day of food looks like. So, let’s talk about that.

You’re doing my job for me. Let’s begin with breakfast.

I still have a cup of coffee. Generally, I head out and train without eating anything first, unless I’m in heavy training in which case I would typically have a green smoothie. That smoothie always begins with a base of dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, or a combination of both. Then, a mix of berries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, water, coconut water, some beets, and beet greens are always great. That’s the ideal, but all of this is contingent upon what I find in my fridge. I’ve got four kids, so I honestly never know what’s going to be in there. Typically that smoothie’s good enough to get me out the door. If I’m starving, I’ll have some oatmeal or some granola or some gluten-free toast with almond butter on it.

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