How To Be Extremely Active And Eat A Plant-Based Diet Without Destroying Your Body.

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Rich Roll

Rich Roll is a top endurance athlete – who eats a plant-based diet.

I write for LAVA Magazine, and the following is an adaptation of an article which I wrote for triathletes – but it is highly applicable to anyone who wants to be extremely active and eat a plant-based diet – without destroying your body.

As we move iron in the weight room, thrash through the ocean chop, hammer our cranks for hours on end, and then repeatedly pound our flesh on hot pavement, do we need the meat, milk and eggs of animals to maintain and restore our amino acids, vitamins and minerals – or can we get all our performance and recovery needs from plants alone?

There are certainly two opposing and highly opinionated viewpoints in the charged discussion of whether veganism or vegetarianism can fully sustain a weekly regimen of training, swimming, cycling, running, weight lifting and sports.

If a plant-based diet doesn’t give the body everything it needs, could it actually be dangerous for a highly active individual's brain and body? But if a plant-based diet is actually enough, then could meat-eaters be engaging in unnecessary or unethical consumption of excessive and metabolically damaging proteins?

In this post, we’ll consider the advantages and disadvantages of veganism or vegetarianism, and the biggest mistakes made by those who adopt a primarily plant-based diet, since there a multiple variations of this type of diet, let’s define a few terms:

Ovo-lacto vegetarians are vegetarians who do not consume meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, but do consume eggs and milk.

Ovo-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume eggs.

Lacto-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume milk.

Vegan is the strictest category of plant-based diets. Vegans do not consume any animal products or by-products, and in some cases do not consume honey and yeast.


There are a multitude of successful vegan or vegeterian athletes, including ultra-runner Scott Jurek, pro triathlete and ultra-runner Brendan Brazier, pro triathlete Hilary Biscay, US Master’s Running Champion Tim Van Orden, and top ultraman finisher Rich Roll.

One of the primary advantages cited by the plant-based diet community is the acid-forming properties of meat and dairy products, compared to the relatively non-acidic, or “alkaline” forming whole plant-based foods. The logic is that an excessively acidic blood pH could result in inflammation, and thus impair recovery.

The reason for the increased acidity of a meat-based diet is that animal protein is rich in sulfur-containing amino acids that increase production and excretion of sulfuric acid during their metabolism. There are many who claim that this acidity can be so high that the body actually leaches calcium from the bones to neutralize the acids.

Interestingly, studies of prehistoric hunter-gatherer diets show that only about half were net acid-producing, while the other half were actually non-acidic, and the more non-acidic diets were achieved by populations who consumed fattier portions of meat, such as marrow, brains and tongue. So while it could certainly be possible that a meat based diet could potentially increase acidity, this effect could be balanced through consumption of proper amounts of fats – and the relatively healthy Inuit population is a perfect example.

And the calcium leaching risk?

Multiple studies have revealed that people who eat the most protein have the slowest rates of bone loss, and also the lowest fracture rate. One study found that consuming more protein actually increased calcium absorption from food!

So if you are eating meat regularly, and concerned about the acidic effect of it’s metabolism, ensure that you are also consuming rich fat sources such as fattier cuts of meat, avocados, coconut milk, coconut oil, or macadamia nuts. But there is not enough evidence to suggest that to balance pH you should remove meat entirely from your diet.

Many vegan and vegetarian diets include large amounts of juicing and blending, primarily due to the nutritional density and ease of digestion of a blended slurry of vegetables, fruits or nuts. Since these foods are easily digested and absorbed, they consume less energy to produce more energy, and this may allow for a healthier gastrointestinal state in the exercising athlete. Indeed, many athletes who switch to a plant-based diet feel an immediate surge in energy.

But Tim Monaco, director of client education at Bioletics medical testing, and former pro triathlete, says this initial increase in energy may be dangerous, “Athletes may feel great for a period – maybe days to years depending on how “good” a vegetarian they are. I attribute this period to a general improvement of diet – better overall food choices and nutrient density. Also there is the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, i.e. stress response from eating the “wrong” foods or macronutrient ratios. Like a lot of potential stressors this will get you jacked up, but ultimately will deplete hormonal resources.”

Bill Misner a Ph.D. nutritionist, alternative medicine practitioner, and top Master’s runner, including National Trail race course record holder in the age 70-up category, has been on a plant-based diet for the past 20 months, and says that it allows for accommodation of higher training work loads and more strength/speed workouts due to elevated recovery rate.

Dr. Misner explains his plant-based diet experience, “I undertook trial application for 90-days. During that 90-days, I experienced hunger cravings for the former animal protein-rich dairy byproducts which I had reason to use in order to impact athletic performance. I have been consuming only whole plant foods for 18-months and counting. My cholesterol is under 160 and my weight is around 128. In the past 18-months I have won 2 silver medals and 1 gold medal in USA National Championship races in my age group. On Sunday morning I will be on the starting line to race some of the best trail runners in all the USA National Half Marathon Championships in Bend, Oregon. Of course, my race is with runners in my age group. In my view, nutrition is a very important part of effecting energy metabolism peak performance.”

That morning, Dr. Misner ran over 25 minutes under the age-group National Half-Marathon Trail Championship record. It’s tough to argue with that kind of success (I interviewed Dr. Misner in this podcast interview if you want to hear more about his dietary approach)


The most cited disadvantage of a vegan or vegetarian diet is the potential for deficits, and Dr. Misner is quick to point out common mistakes found in athletes who make the switch, such as not eating a wide variety of colors in whole plant food, not eating enough calories when initiating a whole plant food lifestyle, not supplementing deficient nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Zinc, and not finding adequate sources of iodine, riboflavin, or omega-3 fatty acids.

Rich Roll affirms these mistakes, “It is very easy to continue to eat poorly, particularly as most foods found at the grocery store these days are highly processed. In other words, you can eat ice cream, Twinkies, Taco Bell, Domino's Pizza and McDonald's milk shakes all day long and call yourself a vegetarian. Vegans can gorge on fast food french fries, potato chips and processed “fake meat” products like veggie sausages, bacon & burgers, but these chemical-laden processed foods tend to be very low in nutritional content, not to mention very high in gluten, which causes inflammation and a variety of other health issues for certain people. For obvious reasons neither of these regimes would be healthy for anyone, let alone an endurance athlete.”

I asked a couple successful athletes who tried a vegan diet, then switched back to allowing animal based products in their diet. Kerry Sullivan, coach at Rock Star Triathlete Academy and top age grouper triathlete, tried vegan for several years before undergong medical tests to identify deficiencies, “Testing revealed I was low in iron, amino acids, and B-vitamins. I was missing a lot of vital nutrients. You can get lots of protein but not always all the amino acids you need, if you aren’t supplementing, no B12, and it can be hard to get iron. I got super anemic.”

Tim Monaco also experienced the manifestation of deficits, “Long term vegetarianism creates imbalance and depletion. This may manifest a lot of different ways. For me it was anemia, poor body composition, poor performance, poor recovery, and even though I changed my ways, I believe it contributed to long term hormonal depletion and adrenal fatigue.”

But the more successful endurance athletes can potentially balance these deficiencies. Ultra-man Richard Roll is well aware of these potential risks, “With respect to endurance athletics specifically, it does require a modicum of awareness to ensure that you are meeting your protein needs as well as nutrients that are more difficult to come by on a plant-based diet, such as Vitamin B12.”

Too Much Carbohydrate?

Most endurance events and lower intensity training protocols are relatively aerobic activities, and many such sessions (or longer races like an Ironman) do not necessarily utilize sugar and starch as primary fuels, but rather rely heavily on fatty acids. From a biological perspective, this makes sense, since carbohydrates can be rapidly depleted, and the body can only store a few thousand calories from carbohydrates, but tens of thousands of calories from fat, which is primarily burnt in the form of ketones.

If an athlete in aerobic sports is eating primarily pasta, bread, white rice, soy, processed meat substitutes, conventional, non-organic eggs and dairy, and drinking a high amount of fruit juice, not only could they be consuming excessive and unnecessary carbohydrate that they are not actually burning for their sport, but they may also be increasing risk for deficiencies in essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin D, iron, B12 and minerals.

Nora Gedgaudos, a certified nutritional therapist and author of “Primal Body, Primal Mind”, explains it this way, “Fat, in the form of ketones and free fatty acids, is the preferred aerobic fuel for the heart and other muscles, and ketogenic adaptation provides a more steady release of even-burning and sustainable fuel. It can take a good 3 or 4 weeks to adapt to a ketone-based metabolism following which performance has been shown to be superior.”

Nora explains that you get good at burning fat by depending on fat in the absence of carbohydrates, not by constantly depending on and burning sugar for fuel, which you’re much more likely to do on a plant-based diet (I interviewed Nora in this podcast about reducing carbohydrate cravings).

Doing It Right

Obviously, based on the great success of plant-based diet athletes, it seems to be possible to do it right and avoid many of the deficiencies and risks cited earlier in this article. So what does “doing it right” actually look like?

Here are a couple examples from successful athletes.

Rich Roll's Sample Diet:

Pre-Workout Morning Smoothie: Kale, Beet, Chia seeds, Hemp seeds, Maca, Orange, Flax Seeds, Vega Whole Food Optimizer

Post-Workout: Coconut water, and cold quinoa w/ coconut or almond milk, berries & Udo's Oil & Hemp seeds

Lunch: Salad with mixed veggies & vinaigrette or brown rice, beans & greens, hemp seeds

Snacks: Vitamix with brown rice / pea / hemp protein, almond milk, cacao, almonds, walnuts.

Dinner: Lentils over brown rice w/ beet greens & avocado, arugala salad, sweet potatoes

Dessert: Coconut milk ice cream, Chia seed pudding

During workout: on bike – coconut water, vega sport, perpetum. On run – coconut water, Vega Sport, Heed.

Bill Misner:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, ground flax, psyllium

Lunch/post-workout: spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, and fruit (Bill eats a total of 200-300 grams whole plant foods a day)

Dinner: Kale, black beans, asparagus, more fruit (Bill allows approximately 3 hours of “grazing” to eat evening meal)

So while a plant-based diet may certainly be dangerous, it appears that you can pull it off successfully if you cover your basic nutrient needs, supplement wisely, and avoid the highly processed “health” foods that are commonly consumed on such a diet.

What do you think? Is it possible to be extremely active and eat a plant-based diet – without destroying your body.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

70 thoughts on “How To Be Extremely Active And Eat A Plant-Based Diet Without Destroying Your Body.

  1. HelloMyNameIs says:

    To be clear, following a 100% Plant-Based Diet is not veganism, and this distinction must be pointed out as it causes much confusion and unnecessary conflict.

    Veganism is not simply a definition of a diet, but a way of living. “The word ‘veganism’ denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – Vegan Society of the UK definition of veganism. It’s their word.

    While anyone living a vegan way of life will avoid consuming any animal products in diet, it needn’t be health-focused. Somebody following a healthy animal-free diet isn’t necessarily ‘vegan’.

    1. Taylor Michael Holt says:

      If you use less words, this point gets across better. 100% plant based diet is a vegan diet. The vegan lifestyle means no products that come from animal abuse.

      1. Mike says:

        Incorrect. Billions of field animals are killed through monocropping. Death is inevitable. Less deaths would occur from sourcing as many products as possible from a single cow or a non monocropped sustainable farm.

  2. I am truly happy to read this website posts which consists

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  3. Ash says:

    Hey! I’m an OCR competitor and I’ve decided to take on becoming a vegan athlete and was just wondering what a typical day could go like. I started today and my fitness pal shows have eaten a lot of carbs. What can I do?


    1. Your question is a good one! This is the type of question people ask (and answer) within my Inner Circle.

      My Inner Circle is a collective of people who are dealing with the same issues you are- trying to live a fulfilled, healthy life in a modern world. They help each other with questions, ideas, motivation, suggestions and more

      Of course, I always jump in there and answer questions too!

      Here is where you access my community:

      If you prefer a more direct, customized approach I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60-minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that. Additionally, I have an army of trained coaches that can also help you here:…

      I look forward to helping you!

  4. Andrea coral says:

    Hi, I’m 24 (woman) and I’m training for the next triathlon that I’ll do in April.. I started the plant-based diet (complete vegan) one month ago… but I’m pretty confused about what supplements I should take.. I workout everyday around 3 hours… including cycling (everyday) running and swimming once per week! And lifting weights everyday ! Can you help me with some advices please?

    Thank you very much

    1. This would TOTALLY require me to look at your exercise, diet and health history. I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  5. Devon Keyt says:

    What are the effects of anaerobic workouts on the body and how would a plant-based diet fill an athlete conducting these workouts with the vitamins and minerals and other essentials that they need? Also, it was explained how a vegan diet helps a cardio based runner, but what about a sprinter?

    1. I would suggest you start by reading my book Beyond Training as we cover both of these questions in detail there. It's at

  6. Gin Sling says:

    Ben, have passed by your site a few times. Good to see you acknowledging the vegan/vegetarian successes and variations on eating strategies.

    I’m a 50 year old female middle distance (average 80km a week) vegetarian runner, 3 eggs a day (but not every day – sometimes I just go off eggs), yoghurt, lots of a variety of fruit (no bananas) & veg, nuts and seeds, pulses (beans, lentils, etc) no grains, no starchy carbs e.g. potatoes, no supplements, no caffeine, no alcohol, lots of water. Not for everyone but suits me (165cm, 53kg, 18% body fat). Train with husband almost every day, and twice a year for a month on trails in the European Alps (otherwise flat roads compliments of current location). Usually run on an empty stomach. Run for fun and health.

    The idea of a marathon or ultra marathon is appealing but have no idea about how to fuel for distances above a half marathon (for which I never fuel). The whole fat-burning-not-carb-loading credo is interesting because not having to eat while running feels normal (and my RER while doing a VO2 Max test recently suggests I remain fat-burning at a high HR), but apart from knowing that about Km16 I need to drink water, also unsure about electrolytes etc intake. Which implies I’ll probably keep to my comfort zone and not go for these highly technical (in terms of food and drink intake) long distance runs (unless I’m carrying a credit card or cash) :)

    1. Maggie says:

      Hi Gin Sling – Wondering why no bananas?? My friend eats a ton of these and he is chronically fatigued. I tried to suggest he cut them out for a bit but he won’t hear of it.

      1. Georgina says:

        Hi Maggie,

        Maybe your friend has mold allergies? They are often misdiagnosed and cause a multitude of energy draining symptoms (and can lead to Candida imbalances as well, which feeds on sugar! The cravings can be intense as sugar are cut out of the diet.) I battled symptoms for 10 years, finally moving from the Pacific northwest to the high desert where I finally feel great again. I hope your friend finds vibrancy again soon!

  7. There are no magic foods. Some foods may help you suppress your appetite a little. Some other foods may slightly increase your metabolic rate. Unfortunately, the effect is miniscule. The only way to really lose fat is to consume fewer calories than you burn. This way your body will tap into the fat stores to get the energy it needs.

  8. Deanna says:

    I’ve studied a few plant-based athletes, including the completely unsupplemented ultra-distance Tarahumara runners, and it appears that including chia, hemp, flax and some nuts along with high protein plant choices like beans, lentils, quinoa, amaranth and starchy tubers or fruits with B-12 supplement provide a well-balanced, calorie sufficient diet for athletes.

    Personally, I like to add a little nutritional yeast to bean dips to add some extra B-vitamins and supplement with a safe level of zinc (40 mg of total zinc from food and supplements is upper tolerable limit for adults, much less for kids) but pumpkin seeds are a great addition, for zinc, too.

    Calcium-fortified soy milk, tempeh, or calcium set tofu, chia seeds and white beans up the calcium intake. A little molasses with beans is a great source of calcium and iron, too!

  9. James Shealy says:

    I am 51 years old and I am an age grouper triathlete. I have completed a few sprints, an olympic distance, and a half and full Ironman. I also have low testosterone and II am constantly dealing with the battle of the bulge. Most of the information I read recommends weight training and shorter runs for hypogonadism. I have been a fan of Rich Roll, Brendan Brazier, and Scott Jurek for sometime. My question is twofold: Should men with low testosterone be involved in endurance sports and should they adopt vegan diets? Many studies seem to point out that both are harmful for testosterone levels in men.

    1. If you really, truly wanted to maximize your testosterone levels beyond anything else, then you wouldn't do endurance or a vegan diet. You'd lift heavy weights and eat steak. Up to you.

      1. Dante says:

        It’s been shown vegans have higher testosterone than non vegans and that meat and especially dairy lower testosterone because of mammalian estrogen and phalate contamination.

  10. Elissa says:

    Vegan since August 2011

    Not a single complaint.

    High fruit / highcarb

    V 4 L

    1. Kat says:

      Ah me too, but not losing weight. . .? Low fat high carb vegan, im not active enough ?

      1. Yep, that could quite possibly be the case!

  11. Matthew says:

    I’ve been going on a plant based diet for over a year now (making the change to cut out eggs a month ago) and all the deficiencies that are stated in this article can be met with very little to no supplementation. Vitamin D needs can be met adequately with 15-30 minutes of sunshine every other day. All of the B vitamins except b12 can be found in hemp seeds along with a complete protein profile that is ideal for repairing muscle tissue, PLUS an ideal ratio of omega 3, 6, and 9 for heart health and inflammation control (3:1:1), and a whopping serving of zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Something that is rare to say for any food! You will also find much more omega 3’s in plant foods then you can with any animal food. Flax, chia, nuts, red palm oil, and several whole grains all contain these nutrients with a variety of other beneficial biochemical. It seems these “nutritionists” didn’t do their homework passed what they were taught in school and are speaking on something they truly don’t know very much about.

  12. walarbird says:

    I love the sports branch of the ran, however I often have respiratory issues. Often I feel a tightness in your chest while doing the running activities. Is this a sign I had shortness of breath? If Yes, what actions do I need to do to fix the problem?

    1. Highly, highly recommend you check this out:… – applicable to adults too!

  13. Bed says:

    Ben, In your opinion, what macronutrient ratios do u recommendfor mmuscle building? What macros do u and do rich follow?

  14. Arshad says:

    Ben – you should state boldly that for you it was a taste preference and not a scientific study whether plant-based is better or not .. and thats totally fine .. but please dont make a "taste preference" be a reason for knocking the virtues of plant-based diet.

    1. I actually listed 3 reasons: 1) I like meat; 2) I exercise a lot and it's easier for me to get high calorie meals when I include meat, eggs and diary; 3) I lost a lot of muscle when I went vegan, even with amino acid and fatty acid supplementation.

  15. samualhealthxpert says:

    I’ve had ankylosing spondylitis arthritis for several years, going thru many RX regimens which help some, but none of them curing my problem. I’ve discovered nasal spray helps, good dental hygiene helps, maybe because less bacteria, although not curing my problem. Now I’m trying diet being an approach, leaning more to fruits and vegetables, but to date not curing – helping although not curing my problem. When i first heard or discover the alkaline diet recently and that i really am convinced this really is definiterly a step within the right direction for arthritis and perhaps numerous health issues! I say this because just consuming more fruits/veggies has helped, however i need more direction about this.

  16. P2 says:

    Couple more quick facts -,
    meat eaters also have b12, vit D and iron deficiencies. These are not definciencies of a vegan diet more of an incomplete diet. Enough vitamins and nutrients including fatty acids and amino acids can be sourced from plant based diet and what’s better they are in easily assimilated forms, see dr Doug’s book can’t recommend it enough

    1. mike ehredt says:

      Interesting discussions and all valuable information. I am 51 years old and eat a diet high in veggies, so-so in fruit and meat once or twice a week. Very little grains. Love the eggs. 2 years ago at age 49 ran 4424 miles across the country. Suffered no injuries or sickness and averaged 30 miles a day. Last year ran across Spain (520 miles) in 17 days and this coming August will run 2100 miles from Canada to Mexico. To share my thoughts…each body is so unique and the level of activity so varied. How we respond nutritionally is very fascinating. I feel that there is no right way when it comes to fueling our bodies. Nutrition has no ground zero, no point of beginning that we can point to and say thats how it should be. I feel that whatever works for you and whatever you believe in is THE most important thing. Educating yourself, experimenting etc.
      Thanks for the great post.

      1. leonardogarcia02 says:

        do you include legumes? what are your dense carb sources? potatoes? thanks.

        1. Definitely, have a read through the post for examples.

    2. leo says:

      do you include legumes? sweet potatoes? what are your carb sources for the long runs?

  17. P2 says:

    plant based diet dangerous? Wow that is a bold statement. I don’t have a lot of time to write detailed points so I am rushing out answers, sorry.
    Fact – vegetables have a higher nutrient content per calory than anything else, closely followed by fruits, meat virtually zero.
    Amino acids in meat u say? Unless u eat it raw, you have denatured the proteins anyway making them not only useless but damaging as the body has an immunoreaction after every cooked meal.
    How much protein do we actually need? Not as much as everyone thinks… Around 10% of total calories consumed, see reference below.
    How much fat do we need? Less than 10% total calories consumed, more than this clogges the blood with excess fat and slows down digestion leading to diseases such as diabetes, etc oh and non lean weight gain ie getting fat.
    So ideal calonutrient ration 80/10/10 carbs:protein:fat, don’t freak out…..hehe 80% carbs!!!!
    Fact – Ethiopian marathon runners diets match this ratio!
    References – 80/10/10 diet dr Doug graham (best plant based performance nutrition book in history), general health info ‘the china study’.
    Thanks for the article Ben, always gonna bring out some good discussions from some passionate people.
    I recently went to 80/10/10 diet From a high fat vegan diet. Training for IM australia and found outstanding results!! Tempted to not tell the world as it reduces he chances of me placing better haha!
    Don’t fear the fruits and veges people! It’s what humans evolved on!

    1. Auggiedoggy says:

      Venus Williams seems to be doing well on her raw vegan diet. Having a great 2017!

  18. KevenMN says:

    Do you have a vegan version of your Shape21 plan or something you'd recommend for a complete nutrition and exercise that is vegan? My wife and I no longer compete in endurance events, but still attempt to do comparable cardio/strength training and a whole foods diet. We thought you may have something that would change up our current routine. Thanks!

    1. I'd look into Brendan Brazier's Thrive diet, or anything from Rich Roll…you can pair that with the workout plan from

  19. Jeff says:

    So, after 3 weeks of eating mostly vegan/ vegetarian, I noticed a few positive changes that happened. I did eat meat once to see if I would notice differences. I follow Ben's Triathlon Dominator Plan and have been for the last two seasons. I was able to go 11:20 at Ironman Louisville on this plan. I'm shooting for 4:35-4:45 for Florida 70.3 this year and started to look more at recovery. My diet before was based off of his book Holistic Feuling for Ironman Triathletes and the Low Carb Triathlete. The type of HIT training in the the Triathlon Dominator plan can be very demanding on the body. Great importance must be given to recovery. Something I didn't pay much attention to last season. My Nutriton last season was good and I know how my recovery was from the same workouts. When I switched to this the vegan/ vegetarian diet I noticed my recovery time was much faster. My workouts have all been great quality workouts. I feel like every time I'm out on the road, treadmill or in the pool I'm making some good progress. I'm able to wake up in the a.m feeling recovered and ready to go. I really think this is because of the high amounts of fruit and veggies that I have been taking in. I'm also taking these supplements to round out my diet. Plant based Protein Powder, Vitamin D3, Magnesium Oil, and a Greens supplement. My Fat intake is still high with foods such as olives, avacodo's, nuts, seeds and ground flax. When I added in meat for a day I noticed I didn't recover as quick and that I it was screwing with my digestive track. I cut it out again and things got better. So my question for you Ben, are some people just better suited to eat this type of diet than others? I guess we will see if this sticks over time as I continue to train.

    1. Jeff, thanks for the great feedback. Good on you for keeping fat intake high – that is the biggest issue in terms of health risks of a vegan/vegetarian diet.

      The enzymes in your body responsible for digesting meat can become downregulated after a period of time eating no meat, so that is why you experienced the digestive tract issues. That's why vegans switching to meat really need to have a high quality enzyme before a meat containing meal.

      And yes, based on genetics, some people do better with vegan/vegetarian than others…

      1. Jeff says:

        How do I increase testosterone on a vegetarian/vegan diet? Do I eat good fats, saturated fats like coconut oils, avacodo etc.?

  20. vegpedlr says:

    At first I reacted negatively thanks to the title. I thought that it implied a vegan diet will "wreck your body". Then I calmed down (thanks Brock) and remembered that while vegan diets are associated with all sorts of health benefits, the label "vegan" does not always mean healthy. All it means is what you DON"T eat, not what you DO eat. Then I liked the article better. But I wondered why the featured veg athletes were all endurance athletes, why not some strength and power athletes like Robert Cheeke, Derek Tresize, or Kenneth Williams? In the meantime, leave the dead animals on the side of the road, consume lactation only from your own species, and eat yer greens.

    1. I understand what you're saying about the strength athletes, and you make good points, but this is an adaptation of a piece I did for an endurance magazine…hence the endurance sports bent…

  21. tribuddha says:

    Thanks for the response, Rich. You are a beast (and a vegetarian one at that) regardless of how good the photographer is! If veggies can get a body like that, more people should go vegan.

  22. tribuddha says:

    Is that picture of Rich Roll air brushed?

    1. richroll says:

      haha great question tribuddha! no airbrushing, but i'll freely admit it's all about good lighting! john segesta took that picture. i was quite fit for sure, but no shame in saying john is very good at what he does and always makes me look better than I actually do

  23. Tyler says:


    Great article. I’ve been Paleo for almost a year and have enjoyed the results. I’m going to try vegan for a year and wirte about the journey and final results. Rich is doing it the right way and understands potential deficiencies. I love meat, fish, eggs, whey protein and cheese but want to give it a shot, utilizing Vega shakes and omga-3 oil, as well as Sunwarrior protein. Thanks for all of the great information. -Tyler

    1. Billy says:

      Tyler- wow! Hold your horses! a year? Baby sets bud. Do it for a month and see the results. A year of no meat, eggs, etc would be torture!

    2. Charryse Johnson says:

      So Tyler, update. How is it going. Did you stick to it?

  24. Kyle Kranz says:

    I am primarily a raw vegan. Often for the last meal of my day I will eat rice and veggies, a stir fry, mexican, chinese, etc. I also have done an IM Triathlon and multiple ultra distance races and runs on the diet.
    Generally I do not recommend a vegan diet to people, but plant based. If you want to eat very low amounts, or no animal flesh, that's cool. In my opinion, if you added 2 servings of quality meat to my diet, there probably would be zero difference in health, I just choose not to.
    The largest difference in how I feel did not occur when I went vegetarian or vegan. It was when I stopped eating bread and drastically increased my fruit and vegetable intake to make up for the loss of calories.

  25. Matthew Ruscigno says:

    Oops, no offense Kerry! That probably happens to him often…
    Ben: I love your honesty about liking meat and I think that's what it comes down to for a number of people! What's different for most of the vegan athletes I know is that they are vegan for animals first and foremost (talk about a niche of a niche!) so they have more motivation to dig harder in making their veganism work.
    Thanks again for covering this; has made me think about a few tangential ideas related to vegan nutrition.

  26. Matthew Ruscigno says:

    Thanks for covering this topic. I find it especially interesting that you interviewed ex-vegans; I'm always curious about people who try new diets and why they decided it wasn't for them. Though some of the evidence they use to justify stopping is questionable. Kerry Sullivan mentions she tested 'low in amino acids.' Did she have Kwashiorkor? Seems unlikely right? It's a misconception that plant foods 'don't have all of the amino acids' because they do. It's just that not all plant foods have enough of them all in order to survive on that food alone-which no one tries to do.
    And for Tim Monaco if he was anemic why didn't he just eat high iron plant foods? There are plenty of them from grains to beans to greens and ways to boost bioavailability.
    Like any new behavior change it takes time and effort to get it right. Like the newbie cyclists who says he hates riding- then you find out his bike is too small and his tire pressure is 60 pounds. Easily corrected without being fatalist about cycling altogether.
    Matt Ruscigno, Registered Dietitian

    1. Kerry (a guy) actually may have not been consuming adequate proteins…so that is certainly a possibility…

      Not sure why Tim did not eat high iron plant foods…

      I personally am not vegan/vegetarian for three reasons: 1) I like meat; 2) I exercise a lot and it's easier for me to get high calorie meals when I include meat, eggs and diary; 3) I lost a lot of muscle when I went vegan, even with amino acid and fatty acid supplementation.

  27. jeff says:

    I'm in the process of converting…..slowly. I'm still going to eat eggs and maybe some dairy, it depends. I'm a triathlete at the 1/2 and full ironman distance and have already been eating alot of whole foods that are plant based. I don't eat much dairy as it is. I'm a little worried about missing out on some nutrients but I've been educating myself on this matter and hopefully can make a healthy transition.

  28. I am a marathon runner at the age of 61 operating on a strict vegan diet. I encourage all athletes to consider plant based nutrition intake as their sole source of food intake.
    Yes, it is imperative to insure all nutrients are complete. A colorful plate that is well balanced between 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 carbohydrates, and 1/4 protein is the optimum for me.
    The usual concern is about protein intake. Human milk has 1.030 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. Raw carrots have 1.030 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. Raw bananas have 1.030 grams of protein per 100 gram serving.
    The analysis of raw soybeans yields the following per 110 gram serving; 36.49 grams of protein, 0 cholesterol, 277 mg of calcium, 19.9 grams of fat (2.884 grams are saturated). 280 mg of magnesium, 15.7 grams of iron, 9.30 grams of fiber, and 416 calories. Whatever your nutrition plan includes, be totally aware of what you are consuming, check your biometrics regularly, and make your choices with the advise of a physician.

    1. What about some of the nutrient and mineral inhibiting properties of soybeans, Marvin?

    2. Doug Smith says:


      What's your nutrition strategy *during* the marathon? I've become vegan since my last marathon, so I'm trying to figure out a plant-based nutrition strategy. Is it even possible? Technically, Gu is vegan (no animal by-products) but it's very processed.

      There are a lot of articles about vegan pre- and post-training/marathons, but I haven't seen anything about a nutrition strategy during the event. Vega's gel is good, but it isn't practical to carry enough gels for 26.2 miles.

  29. Meghan says:

    About how many calories does this add up to? I've been trying to put on the lbs and eating 3500 a day (I think) which is a lot for a 5'3" 100lb girl and while I do workout about 3-4 hours a day (2+cardio, 1+ strength) I don't know how these guys get enough calories to not lose weight…l haven't been able to put on a lb in months! I like the idea of a plant based diet but wouldn't know how to get the calories in….especially Scott who is running 100s of miles a week!

    1. I think eating very nutrient dense foods would certainly help, Meghan: quinoa, amaranth, millet, seeds, nuts, etc.

      1. Lara says:

        Also, nut butters – cashew butter, almond butter, peanut butter, may help with weight gain. More grains, nuts, and seeds would helps as well.

  30. FYI, there's no "y" in Jurek. :-)

  31. Leonard says:

    I don't see any supplements in Bill Misner and Rich Roll’s Diet.

    Ben, could you please answer these burning questions:
    Do they consume the supplements in form of tablet or pill?
    Do they trust these supplements?
    What is your personal take on these supplements ?

    1. Listen to my podcast interview with Dr. Bill. He takes a bunch of stuff from Hammer Nutrition. Rich Roll has a nutrition supplement company called Jai Elixirs. I imagine he takes quite a few of those products…but not sure. You should ask him…leave a comment on his site at

    2. Jimmy says:

      That's because you didn't read/understand Rich's diet properly. Read the part where he mentions "Vega Whole Food Optimizer" then Google things you don't understand before you post.

      1. mcdonagh says:

        he meant no supplements in the meal samples

      2. mcdonagh says:

        ok i see u r right they are there sorry

      3. OlWill says:

        I Googled “Vega Whole Food Optimizer” and couldn’t find it. So I settled on “Vega One All in One Shake”. The can contained 22 servings at $2.75+ per serving. It only provides 45% of the daily requirement for B12, 10% for calcium and 6% for iron.

        So even this “All in One” product doesn’t solve the deficiency problems of the vegan diet.

        And where did this non-specific term, “plant based diet” come from? Was it from vegan propagandists trying to hide the fact that they are talking about veganism? We have perfectly good, specific, words that describe various diets: vegan, vegetarian, omnivorous, carnivorous.

        Aren’t all diets “plant based”? If I eat part of an animal, didn’t that animal eat plants? [Rant over]

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