Plant-based health coach, endurance athlete and our September cover model Gary te Roller is passionate about helping people nourish their bodies and move toward their maximum potential. The picture of health, he certainly walks the talk. We uncover the secrets behind his success.
WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL MOTIVATION FOR SWITCHING TO A PLANT-BASED DIET?
This was double-sided. I entered recovery a year before going plant-based, and I wanted to fully turn my life around, making up for all the time I'd lost to addiction. I started studying wholefood, plant-based nutrition and realised there was no better way for me. I couldn't believe the havoc that animal-based products could cause in the body. I was slightly worried at the beginning, as I hadn't yet learnt all the facts and I didn't want to lose my competitive edge as an endurance sportsman. I ended up turning to ten-time Western State champion ultra marathoner Scott Jurek and his book Eat & Run (Mariner Books), which reinforced the potential for athletic success on a plant-based diet. Between studying nutrition and devouring his book, I gave a plant-based diet a go for two weeks, and never looked back.
HOW HAS YOUR PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE AFFECTED YOUR PERFORMANCE AS AN ATHLETE?
Both my performance and recovery have improved drastically. After going plant-based I set personal bests in all my distances in running, cycling and swimming. I felt I could push myself at the same speeds, and for much longer. The real miracle came through the increased recovery times. Instead of hitting the post-race pain two days after, I would feel sluggish the next day but then be back on the trails by day two ' even after big races like Ironman and Comrades. Being on a plant-based diet lessens the acidity in the body dramatically, allowing one to get rid of lactic acid much faster.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO DAILY WORKOUT REGIME FOR MAINTAINING PEAK ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE?
I'm currently running on the trails for two hours a day, followed by 30-minute Crossfit-based high intensity strength sessions and 45-minute yoga classes in the evenings. Twice a week I replace the strength and yoga for a double run, and on the weekends I do my longer four- to six-hour runs.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP PRE- AND POST-WORKOUT FOODS?
If I train for fewer than 90 minutes, I do so on an empty stomach. Otherwise, I drink a superfood smoothie similar to my post-workout shake. This can sustain me for three to four hours. Shakes are packed with nutrients, and the fact that they're blended makes it easier for the body to process and use the nutrients to nourish the body to its maximum capability.
WHAT OTHER WELLNESS GUIDELINES DO YOU LIVE BY?
One of my most powerful tools is meditation. It keeps me grounded and conscious of everything I do. It helps me to be fully present in the moment, and able to concentrate on the task at hand so I can give it my all.
WHAT FIVE TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WHO LIVES AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE AND IS CONSIDERING GOING PLANT-BASED?
Go easy on yourself - change just one thing at a time. Be sure to include a nutrient-dense breakfast (like a fruit or veg smoothie), as this will kick-start your day more than cereal and milk ever could.
Stay away from sugary supplements laced with caffeine. These spike your blood sugar levels and make you crash hard afterwards. My natural race food is cacao beans in dates, spirulina tablets and lightly salted baby potatoes.
Stay away from refined foods. Manmade (versus whole) foods can lead to a range of diseases.
Don't just eat kale. It's great for you, but you will burn more fuel than that if you're training every day. Eat a starchy plant-based food like sweet potato, beans or lentils for longer lasting fuel.
What you eat directly after a hard training session or race determines your recovery. Replenish your stores with a fresh fruit and veg shake. I like to blend kale, dates, banana, berries, almonds, spirulina and the Superfood green smoothie mix with water.
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