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Triathlete Rich Roll: Vegan diet helped me lose 50 pounds & beat drug addiction

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Ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll follows a strict vegan diet, but has nothing against the Paleo diet.

"[There are] many great things about [the Paleo diet]," Roll told the Denver Post. "But I do not subscribe to the idea that animal protein is necessary for athletic performance."

Rich has repeatedly said that he likes that the Paleo diet's emphasis on eating lots of fresh vegetables and avoiding processed foods.

The major difference from his plant-based diet, obviously, is the Paleo diet includes animal proteins and fats and avoids gluten, sugar, dairy, legumes, starches and alcohol.

While most people think endurance athletes need to eat meat for stamina, Roll said he gets all the protein he needs from plants, seeds and nuts.

Roll is ripped-to-shreds now, but it was less than eight years ago that he was 50 pounds overweight and struggling with a crippling alcohol and drug addiction. He credits the vegan diet for his stunning 50-pound weight loss and for helping him kick his substance-abuse problems.

Rich, a Stanford-educated entertainment attorney, made the switch to a vegan diet in 2006 after getting concerned that he could die of a heart attack. After switching to a plant-based diet, the father of four has never felt better.

"After day three, I had so much energy," Roll, 47, told the Miami New Times. "I was bouncing off the walls. I said to myself, 'How is this possible?' Especially after the way I had abused myself with drugs and alcohol for so long."

Within two years of adopting a vegan eating plan, Rich shed 50 pounds, became clean and sober and participated in the Epic5 endurance race, which involves completing five back-to-back Ironman competitions in five days on five different Hawaiian islands. One Ironman competition requires running 26.2 miles, swimming 2.4 miles, and cycling another 112 miles.

In 2009, Roll was named of one of “25 Fittest Guys in the World” by Men's Fitness magazine. In 2012, Roll released his best-selling fitness book, Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, to encourage others to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Rich, who's now a sought-after speaker and public-health advocate, said there's nothing more rewarding than helping someone improve their health.

"I want to help inspire people through the book or get them to make healthier choices about their eating," he said. "Being able to have a positive impact on somebody's health, there's nothing better than that. It's extremely gratifying."

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