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James “Lightning” Wilks: From Ultimate Fighter To Plant-Based Crusader

By February 7, 2013May 24th, 201916 Comments

UFC / MMA / BAMF James “Lightning” Wilks joins the podcast to talk PlantPower nutrition, what it’s like to grapple in the UFC, his experience winning Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter”, his thoughts on “low carb” and Paleo-style diets, updates on the development of his documentary on plant-based athletes and how he fuels for performance.  Not only is James quite intelligent & extremely articulate, his knowledge and passion when it comes to plant-based nutrition is palpable.  I hope you enjoy the interview.

Also, thanks Ed Gutentag— cinematographer extraordinaire — David Kitay and team for dropping by the garage to film today’s episode.  At the moment, this is a rather low fi version of the HD film.  Given that it is a video in excess of 90 minutes it was the only way to get it up without a 48 hour upload time.  However, I’m a luddite when it comes to properly configuring HD video for YouTube, so I’ll try to get this figured out and swap it out for a better resolution version.  Apologies for a few audio tweaks in the video – a humming noise for a few minutes in the middle — this is our first attempt at video and we’ll get better as we go.

And if you have a moment, we’d love it if you could toss a quick review up on the  iTunes page.  It’s most appreciated!

Thanks for the support and hope you enjoy the show!


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  • Matty in Baltimore says:

    Fantastic guests !! I will have to go back and check out all the first few podcasts I didnt listen to. I prefer the podcasts without Julie. Its cool to hear from so many diverse and open minded plant athletes who dont force it on anyone else or only think someone is awesome if you home school or think they way they do.

  • Scott Ormond says:

    Another great podcast with “Lightning”. Made my run fly by. So intrigued and interested in the paleo vs. vegan theories on diet. In my opinion, it’s a heavyweight fight. A little feedback Rich, and don’t be mad at me. Please stop saying “or whatever”. It doesn’t add anything to the conversation and cheapens the item you are talking about. We can make that leap in our minds if needs be. Now if you’re interviewing a 7th grade class of girls from Del Mar- make my day. (Maybe it’s a so Cal thing.) But other than that, it’s simply not necessary. Thank you and keep running hard. scottyO-Aspen

  • Ned says:

    Rich roll podcast is like a Joe Rogan podcast for adults. Love it. Thanks for doing this Rich

  • richroll66 says:

    Hey Scotty – yeah nothing like listening to myself on a podcast to realize how much work I need to do on my diction – it’s totally subconscious – not even aware how much I say “or whatever”, “you know” and “stuff like that” over and over again. Ugh, apologies. This is a skill and I’m working on it!

  • Just a Guy says:

    Just to add the opposite point of view! I very much enjoy the “or whatever”s and the like. What I love about this podcast is that it is normal and accessible. Keep it up Rich, love the podcast, love your style and love the occasional randomness of it all.

  • Angela says:

    I listened to this episode in its entirety on the treadmill (which is way too long on a treadmill), and it made the time just fly by. Last week on a roadtrip, we listened to back-to-back episodes, which sparked great conversations between me and my husband.Thank you for such stellar content and guests!

  • Paul in Phoenix says:

    I agree, Julie adds a totally different vibe and content that I don’t listen to the podcast for. She has valid thoughts and opinions but they seem like totally different content that would be better in her own discussion. The podcasts have been awesome and they keep improving! Can’t wait to go hike just so I can listen to the next one. Thanks Rich.

  • Graham says:

    This was a fascinating podcast. I loved listening to James and Rich get into the details of their diet and what they eat and how it had helped James in his career. I listened to it when I went on a long run the other day, and it had so much information I had to listen to it twice so I could give it the attention it deserved. Keep up the excellent work, Rich! Every new podcast is cause for excitement.

  • Jennifer in Pennsylvania says:

    Thank you for this great interview! I wanted to add a bit more information about wild caught salmon and fish oil capsules. I don’t know if you read James McWilliams’s blog but in this post he tackles this and Mr. Maher addresses the fish oil capsules.

  • mrdykes says:

    Stop the hate, Julie is sweet. I enjoy the dynamic of her free spirit against Rich’s type ‘A’, it is a great balance and I can relate is many ways with my wife (although she is the type ‘A’ in our relationship).

    When you started the podcast I made a deal with myself that I would listen with an open mind, I would say i am successful 90%, the other 10% I catch myself going off on a tangent in my mind about how something is wrong or misinformed and blah, blah, so I have a little mantra along the lines of “what am I trying to protect? just listen.” Like I said it works about 90%.

    That being said allow me to rant a bit 😉

    Isn’t it interesting that the folks in the plant based community are sure that saturated fat and cholesterol are a primary cause of disease in humans. And that folks the paleo community are sure they are not. Both paths are informed by research and studies and anecdotal evidence that show that their conclusions are correct. Do you suppose the problem of disease is more complicated than that?

    Not to be a dick but I had to remind myself last night when troubling over the things you guys talked about (and tearing up some googlin). That what is upsetting is two jocks pontificating about what they think they know about biochemistry and ecology and the causes of human disease.

    What is really interesting is yours and your guests experience and truth. How have you moved through the world and where have you found success and failure. What lessons have you learned along the way. Basically I think you (and james and julie too) are fascinating people and one thing I am interested in is hearing about how you use a plant based diet in your life. I am not interested in hearing flawed arguments about how certain you are about something outside of your experience. I know that is not your intention and again, I am not trying to be a dick, just sharing and hopefully this is useful in some small way.

    I can tell you from my experience that I held dear so many of the “truths” that you and James threw around. In my mid 30’s after 14 years on a low fat vegan diet I was faced with depression (likely from crashed hormone levels), periodontal disease, and autoimmune hypothyroid. Well, let me tell you that is not what I signed up for when John Robbins, McDougall, Campbell and all the rest convinced me in my early 20’s that I could have a long life free of disease and that I would save the planet and the animals to boot.

    I have adopted a paleo diet over the past 4 years and am slowly recovering my health, periodontal disease has not advanced since adopting paleo, thyroid is recovering, and my hormone levels recovered almost immediately. So many little health issues disappeared from my family as well, acne and dry skin, mood swings, joint pain, hypoglycemia, cold sores, seriously so many things. Anyway I just have to ask, would you take it on yourself to tell me that what i am doing is wrong? Are you sure that paleo foods are unhealthy? Are you certain that a plant based diet is better for the planet and the best choice for health?

    I suspect the answer is no, that what you are certain of is what you know for yourself from your own experience. Everything else is divisive and largely rooted in dogma and emotion. Are we getting closer to finding the answers? I think so. Hope so. Thanks for sharing. Peace.

  • NateM says:

    Highly enjoying all of your podcast, Rich. But this one was a home run. The variety if athletes is always particularly fascinating.

  • Elizabeth in San Jose says:

    Rich, totally enjoying your podcasts. Please keep them going! Love hearing about life and nutrition from you and your guests.

  • Chris in Springfield, GA says:

    Loved this interview. James is very well spoken and informed…if he is still looking for subjects for his documentary, I’ve love to participate!

  • Chinoiseries says:

    Love the podcast, every single episode has been fun to listen to and informative too (my HIIT bubble’s been burst). As a fellow yogini, I <3 Julie. Loads of wisdom coming from her 🙂 I'd just like to add that B12 is not included in the nutritional yeast that is sold in The Netherlands (not sure about other European countries), so it may be a good source for B vitamins, but not B12.
    Kale in Europe is also not as diverse as in the US, there's only one type and usually not freshly available outside of the winter months. Same goes for chard, it's becoming better available, but usually only limited to 1 or 2 types.

    Finally: I'd love to support you through Amazon, do you automatically have an affiliate account with the Amazon UK/DE/etc.?

  • bijoubaby says:

    I love all these podcasts, but the interview with James Wilks is by far my favorite one so far.

  • Tommy F says:

    Great discussion revolving around the two major stumbling blocks to optimum nutrition.. Convenience and Stigma. The more tuff guys like James who come out being ultra accomplished at what they do, will create the necessary identities for debunking the unhealthful cloud of confusion our culture is currently caught-up in.

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