The Game Changers is a new film executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan that documents the explosive rise of plant-based eating in professional sports, mixing real-time, ground-breaking science with cinematic stories of struggle and triumph. The documentary follows the story of James Wilks - elite Special Forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter - as he travels the world on a quest for the truth about meat, protein, and strength. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, and visionary scientists, Wilks' journey exposes outdated myths about food that not only affect human performance, but the health of the entire global population (IMDB).
In this article we will just talk about the health benefits ‘The Game Changers’ shows that vegan diet has over other diets and not the other points such as how a plants-based diet can solve the world’s food crisis or about our ancestors’ and gladiator’s diet.
Vegan diet is not healthier than vegetarian or a meat diet. Unless done properly.
Think about what a stereotypical vegan diet is. If going on a plant based diet for you is just substituting the butter in your fridge with vegan butter then maybe it’s not for you. That’s one of the things the movie very conveniently skips over. It shows athletes eating plant based meats and then it says that that is going to give them a competitive advantage. One thing you have to know is that eating junk food and eating vegan junk food is pretty much the same. It is still going to be unhealthy. If you do want to go vegan, follow a well-balanced healthy diet and get that edge over your opponents then you need to consult to a sports dietitian and make a plan that will meet your needs and requirements.
A lot of the athletes the movie talks about (eg. Virat Kohli) do the same thing. If you look at some of the interviews of Virat Kohli he talks about how he tried to go on a vegan diet but that made him perform worse on the field. He started seeing good results when he had a diet planned tailored to him by a sports dietitian.
And on the other side of the spectrum there are people to whom vegan diets means a lot of leafy vegetables and salads and fruits only. That again could not be further away from the truth. If you go to the gym and perform bicep curls every day, you can’t expect your calf muscles to get stronger. Just like that eating a tofu salad is healthy but eating it every day is not going to get you all the nutrients you need. The movie does mention that carbs are the main source of energy which is true, and you can get carbs from vegetables and fruits but you need to have a good balanced diet in order to be healthy. A certain portion of the calories you consume need to be in form of carbs, a smaller percent in form of proteins and fats (The percentage is different depending on your individual requirements). The movie says that a vegan diet can provide an athlete with more than the required amount of protein from plants. While that is absolutely true, you do need to keep a track of what you are eating. Just eating salads and fruits might not get you the required amount of proteins. You need to eat protein rich foods like legumes (eg. beans, lentils etc), soy foods, nuts, quinoa etc, If you want to get the best out of your body, you need to start thinking about where your calories are coming from and making sure you balance nutrients.
Vegan diet might not give you a competitive advantage in sports.
First of all everybody is a little bit different and everyone is not created the same. Just because a few athletes are able to extremely well after going vegan does not mean that the same diet is going to work for you. Every athlete is different and requires a different nutritional plan. It is not recommended that any ''specific diet" be followed as an athlete. Athletes should be consulting a sports dietitian if they wish to follow a diet that has some kind of eating plan that may have restrictions or food groups eliminated (i.e vegan, vegetarian, etc).
B12 and supplements
Another thing the movie talks about is B12 deficiencies. The way the movie says B12 is made in animals is a bit debatable but we are not going to get into that because it doesn’t really matter. The problem is that the movie just recommends taking supplements for B12. The truth is vegans are more prone to B12 deficiencies than vegetarians and meat eaters, but vegans can include consuming B12 fortified foods like marmite, nutritional yeast, soymilk etc. Vegans should also be monitored by a GP through blood tests to monitor deficiencies - if deficiencies are detected in blood tests then the GP will advise if supplement is required and the dosage amount. It is recommended that individuals should not take vitamin or mineral supplements unless advised by health professional who will determine if a supplement is required.
Here’s a fact sheet you can refer to in order to get examples of what nutrients you need to be aware your body needs and where you can get it from if you are a vegan – A Guide to Vegan Eating
Factsheet content should be considered general advice only and may not suit your circumstances. Before modifying your diet, consult an Accredited Sports Dietitian.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie or that it is completely untrue. One good thing the movie does is that it busts the myth that you need to eat meat to perform at the highest level. Another thing the movie does good is make the public aware about the health risks associated with meats. The one thing that the movie does badly is that it portrays the facts in a way that make the audience believe that a vegan diet is the pinnacle of all diets. One thing you should remember, as Lewis Hamilton put it in the movie, is about feeling great in your body. When I went vegan it made me feel tired so maybe it’s not for me so I might go back to being a vegetarian. That does not mean it is not for you too. One thing you should do for sure is look at food in terms of nutrients it provides (or doesn’t provide) and one thing you should not do for sure is get on a diet because it works for someone else. Another thing we do know is that going vegan is a big dietary change and it is going to affect every aspect of your life not just you performance on the pitch. The least you can do before making such a huge change is consult a health professional.
"An Accreditation Sports Dietitian was consulted for the content in this article but should be considered general advice only and may not suit your circumstances. Before modifying your diet, consult an Accredited Sports Dietitian"