Back in September of 2019, Netflix released a Beast that has since haunted the world of fitness and nutrition. That Beast came in the form of a radical, pro-vegan documentary directed by Louie Psihoyos: The Game Changers…
The film illustrates a journey across the planet undertaken by UFC star James Wilks during 6 months out of professional sport due to an injury. Wilks’ travels the world interviewing famous athletes who are in favour a plant-based way of life, all of whom credit their meatless diets for their continued success in their respective fields. These athletes include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Novak Djokovic, an d Strongman competitor Patrik Baboumian.
In his quest for plant-based evidence, Wilks also interviews a host of well-renowned minds from the worlds of nutrition, physiology, and sport science.
These are guys who have conducted scientific studies and written peer-reviewed journal articles demonstrating the correlation between meat and dairy consumption and various health risks, including inflammation and development of various types of cancer.
All of this congregates to form an 88-minute argument attacking the standard Western diet. It seems legit on the surface which has led to the film convincing a load of people to go meatless, and a growing army of radical vegan keyboard-warriors taking to social media to berate the meat-eaters among us.
However, when you dig deeper into the figures and studies cited in the film, things become a bit clearer as to what the truth really is…
“Fuelled by Truth”….
This was the film’s tagline that drew the masses into believing its every word; one which becomes all the more ironic when considering the inaccuracies and misleading statements that make up the bulk of the footage.
The “science” cited throughout the film is completely cherry-picked, meaning that Wilks only chooses to draw on studies that prove the effectiveness of plant-based diets for performance. This utterly one-sided perspective refuses to consider the wealth of evidence in favour of moderate consumption of animal products. As Dr Anthony Gustin put it:
“Any balanced film on nutrition for athletic performance would interview an array of nutrition experts, not just the ones making money off a vegan agenda.”
Gustin references 4 of the experts interviewed in the film, all 4 of whom sell vegan or vegetarian products for their own personal businesses, whether it’d be books or supplements.
Just to add the icing on the cake, one of the executive producers (award-winning James Cameron) is the founder of Verdiant Foods; a vegan protein supplement company that “has the goal to become the largest organic pea protein fractionation facility in North America”.
A more accurate tagline for the film would be “fuelled by trade”…..
Vegan > Omnivorous : What About The Quality?
It is commonly thought that being vegan/vegetarian automatically makes you healthy; indeed, this is indirectly one of the assumptions made by Wilks in the film as he reproaches the consumption of every animal product going.
Vegans/vegetarians often think that their lifestyle becomes healthy when meat and dairy has been omitted; when in actual fact, they continue to binge on heavily processed, nutritionally void junk. Its okay, though; it’s plant-based…
The truth? Meat and dairy has the potential to be a key part of any healthy diet for athletic performance, and indeed general health and wellbeing. What Wilks, and many of the studies he cites, fail to take into account is that the quality and the preparation methods of meat plays a massive role in nutritional quality.
Compare, say, the nutritional quality of a pan-fried or roasted chicken breast, to one that has been heavily battered in god-knows-what and dee p-fried in sizzling vegetable oil; Wilks’ perspective on meat groups these two foods under the same bracket. Same can be said for a McDonald’s Patty to a grass-fed, organic piece of beef. This shows how there are such fundamental flaws in the film’s ideology.
Oh, and that stuff about peanut butter having a higher amount of bioavailable protein than eggs? That, my friend, is bulls**t with a cherry on top…
Twitter’s Raging Vegan Brigade
Not just Twitter, either…
It seemed that Cameron and Wilks’ film caused the World and His Wife to turn vegan, with a tidal wave of posts on social media proclaiming that, after watching this eye-opening documentary on Netflix, they weren’t going to touch a burger ever again. I gather though that, for most of them, it didn’t last long…
What made this all the more fickle was how the ‘raging looney vegan brigade’ publicly criticised and condemned all those who choose to eat meat on the reg. Many of these biased, ridiculous tweets have come about thanks to the documentary, so cheers for that James…
Diet is a lifestyle choice that is completely and utterly personal. I myself am a proud vegetarian on grounds of sustainability, but does that mean I go around hating on everyone who doesn’t eat like me? God no.
Choosing what you eat and how you eat it should be an individual journey of trial and error in order to find out what works best for you and you only. A documentary shouldn’t dictate such drastic changes to your lifetyle, particularly when the information in it is, at best, dubious!
I don’t tell you what clothes you should wear, so why should the same apply to food?!
Looking for Positives
Although the film is a gross misrepresentation of cherry-picked studies and inaccurate statements, there are some truths that The Game Changers sheds light on.
As a vegetarian myself, I can testify to the benefits of a plant-based diet from an athletic performance perspective. Since making the switch about a year ago, my performance both on the roads and in the gym has improved significantly.
However, I should mention that I do not attribute all of this to my diet!
There are significant benefits of reducing NOT stopping consumption of animal products. The primary reason for this is that, due to the fact you are adopting a specific dietary approach, you automatically become healthier in other aspects of your lifestyle. In other words, studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians are more likely to develop healthy habits such as walking, yoga, or even quitting smoking.
Furthermore, the myth that “you have to eat meat to be strong” , one which the film was originally intended to quash, is rubbish. Probably about the only thing myself and Messrs Wilks, Cameron and Psihoyos would agree on…
For more information about plant-based nutrition for performance, check out the infographic at the foot of this article.
The Final Word
The Game Changers has sparked widespread debate in the worlds of fitness, health and nutrition with regards to vegetarian and vegan diets for sports performance. In this respect, it is a good thing that people have become more aware of their dietary habits, alongside the benefits of eating plant-based.
However, the inaccuracies and deceptive representation of hand-picked scientific studies proves that the film is more Pro-Vegan propaganda than informative documentary. The opinions portrayed by the filmmakers and starring parties fails to give a more balanced argument that accurately represents the wealth of peer-reviewed articles and studies that document the benefits of different types of diet.
I am a big believer in the power of plants when it comes to performance, and I think it is important to raise awareness about the benefits of reducing meat and dairy consumption in favour of healthy, whole plant foods. But animal products, if sourced and prepared appropriately, can definitely be included in a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.
Always read between the lines, because things are not always as they seem…
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