The Daily Beet

28 Mar Interview with Rich Roll: Part 3

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We are continuing our interview with Ultraman, Rich Roll and author of the upcoming book: Finding Ultra. To read part 1 & 2 of our interview with Rich, please see our post on  Monday and Tuesday.

Today, Rich is answering some of the questions you had for him!

*We just want to address briefly that when Rich is talking about his personal nutrition, please keep in mind that he is a super-high endurance athlete who pushes and stresses his body in ways that most people are not currently doing.

Steve asks: I am interested in learning more about his MENTAL ATTITUDE….in particular, how he mentally coaches himself prior to events, and what he literally says to himself during an event, particularly as he fatigues.

They say that ultra-endurance sport is 90% mental.  And I believe it.

Beyond the physical acclimations of training, a huge aspect of my regimen involves retooling my mind to turn off the chatter and anchor in the present moment and find power in the “now” (to coin an Eckhart Tolle phrase).  During Ultraman, or EPIC5 (an event in which I completed 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 Hawaiian Islands in under a week), if I start thinking about the enormity of completing the entire distance, I will inevitably begin to panic, thoughts of failure attacking me like a virus.  So I try focus on what is right in front of me to do and blocking out everything else – whether it’s getting to the next landmark, mile marker or even just making it to the next lamp-post as the fatigue becomes almost unbearable.  The more I can embrace the present moment, the more relaxed and powerful I feel and the better I perform.

During training as I ramp up for an event, I will repeatedly log some very long sessions (130 mile rides, or 40-plus mile runs), which of course prepare my body for the vast race distances involved, but more importantly they train my mind to become comfortable with prolonged discomfort.  For me, the long sessions are like extended active meditations, periods in which I become so focused on rooting myself in the present moment that I lose thought altogether, and time literally begins to vanish, the hours passing like moments.

And when not training, I find a consistent active mediation practice absolutely essential.  As I have learned the hard way, the mind is not always your friend.  And in ultras, it can bury you, attacking you with fierce negative impulses.  So mastering the messages your brain sends you – rewiring it to reinforce positive outcomes rather than negative failure impulses – is a tool I cannot emphasize enough as a staple in my program.

Susan Asks: Eating a vegan diet is very filling, when I am training I feel tired but not overly hungry. I wonder if I am eating enough calories or it’s something else. How can I stop feeling so tired? I’m training for my first Century ride.


It’s difficult to answer this question without knowing much more about what it is you are eating specifically, the status of your fitness and the details of your training regimen.  For example, your fatigue may be more related to riding too hard, or too much rather than your diet.  Alternatively, you may be eating the wrong kids of vegan foods.  That said, I always make sure I eat a very nutrient dense Vitamix blend of fruits and vegetables (with an emphasis on greens) for breakfast.  And when riding, I make sure I am taking in about 200 calories per hour (maltodextrin liquid, yams, rice balls or almond butter), plus a minimum of 16 ounces of water and electrolyte tablets – even when I’m not hungry.  Those calories will help you avoid fatigue later that day and the next.  Post-ride, always quickly replenish your glycogen stores with some good Plant-Strong carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes, with some high protein foods like quinoa.

It’s worth mentioning that because I place such a severe toll on my body, training upwards of 25 hours per week at times, I incorporate certain fats into my diet that would not be advisable for the more sedentary person – things like almonds, walnuts, oils (coconut & olive) and avocados — a good source of dense clean burning energy that works for me but not recommended unless you are already very fit and active.

Camille asks: I’d like to know how many times a day he hears “Let’s roll”


Not as often as I hear “Rock ‘N Roll” or the number of times I’m sent the Rick Astley “Rick Roll” video meme.  Hilariously, there is a popular hip hop song called “Rich Roll” by rapper Nipsey Hussle, so I get a lot of grief for that.  I’m thinking of going after Nipsey for copyright infringement.

Gabrielle asks: What does he fuel with during races? Normally super processed goos and energy drinks are encouraged but those have always seemed empty to me and have failed to give me a sufficient boost…..

I agree with you!  Sugary gels, artificially colored drinks (Gatorade, Cytomax, etc.) and bars (like Powerbar) are all the rage with endurance athletes.  But I shun them in favor of real foods.  And because my training and races are so long, I prefer foods with a lower glycemic index to maintain a more stable blood sugar level.  During training, I prefer complex carbohydrate fuel sources like yams, rice balls and non-GMO maltodextrin – a complex carbohydrate supplement that tastes like pancake batter but gets the job done while out on long rides or runs.

In the context of a race, or in the event I miscalculate my caloric intake during a training session and begin to “bonk” or run out of gas, I will indulge myself with a gel for a quick sugar burst in emergency cases.  But I do my best to avoid them as a general rule.  As for alternatives, check out the athletic line of products from Vega Sport – natural gel, bar and supplement alternatives for pre, during and post-workout that work quite well for me.


Thanks Rich! Please check back tomorrow for the last part of our interview with Rich!

Let’s hear from you! How do you mentally ‘coach’ yourself when preparing for something that might be tough?

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Natala Constantine
  • Kate
    Posted at 08:55h, 28 March

    This is an area I need to work on more. I’m still healing adrenal failure. The plant-perfect diet is helping but is a slow go. Stress is poison to me right now, so my exercise is gentle with lots of rest. I flee situations of contention or strife. I try to produce within myself a state of being, a state of heart, a state of feeling that engenders loving actions–you know, I breathe. Along with this frame of mind, I eat my greens, beans, brown rice, and fruit with gratitude.

  • Frederick Harris
    Posted at 23:07h, 19 May

    I think Rich is awesomeand I would like to speak with him.I am 65 pounds overweight and I am 59 years old as of June 27th. I was in accident and been in the hospital and nursing home. All 2gether 7yrs.Now am ready 2 make a change in my Lifestyle. An, Rich is inspirational.
    Frederickharris56@gmail.com 267-444-3247
    I just would like to talk with him an follow In his footsteps. I was a pretty good athlete once upon a time!
    Please, drop me a call or a text it would mean the world 2 ME….. 😉

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