On September 16, 2019, Netflix debuted The Game Changers, a documentary that changed the way viewers examined their eating habits. This documentary, which promotes a plant-based diet, was directed by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul. The documentary follows James Wilks, a combative expert and professional mixed martial artist, on his journey to optimize recovery and performance through a plant-based diet.
While plant-based diets seem to be the new trend, it is not a new concept for elite athletes. The documentary describes Olympic athletes as early as 1908 following plant-based diets. Carl Lewis, nine-time gold medalist, is shown in an interview with Oprah stating, “I changed my diet to a vegan diet, and I set all my personal bests at 30 years old.”
The documentary also highlights current Olympic athletes following a plant-based diet and improving their performance; Morgan Mitchell, a two-time Australian 400-meter champion, and Dotsie Bausch, an eight-time USA National Cycling Champion and two-time Pan-American gold medalist, compete and win following this diet. Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris claimed this diet helped him break two American records, qualify for his third Olympic weightlifting team, and win the Pan-American games.
Then there is world record-holding strong man Patrick Baboumian, one of the strongest men on the planet. In the documentary he told Wilks, “Someone asked me, how could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat?” And my answer was, “Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?” After he stopped eating meat, he claimed he got stronger, bigger, and set four world records with the help of his plant-based diet.
It is known that to be an elite athlete and maintain that kind of strength you need more protein than the average person, which is a main concern for those debating on transitioning to a plant-based diet. However, Dr. James Loomis, a former team physician for the St. Louis Rams and Cardinals, said that, “one of the biggest misconceptions in sports nutrition is that you have to have animal protein, in particular meat, to get big and strong and perform at a high level. With proper knowledge you can get enough protein on a plant-based diet, you just have to eat mindfully.”
For firefighters, whose profession pushes their bodies further than elite athletes, it is crucial to be mindful of how their diets affect their health and performance. In western civilization coronary artery heart disease is extremely common because of the foods we eat every day, and to add to that, the number one killer of firefighters in the line-of-duty is heart attacks. In the documentary Wilks visited a firehouse in Brooklyn where Rip Esselstyn, former firefighter and professional triathlete, ran a “seven-day rescue challenge” to see how a plant-based diet could improve the firefighters’ health in just seven days.
After the seven days the firefighters’ average cholesterol dropped 21 points and weight loss was 6.12 pounds. In more extreme cases one of the firefighter’s cholesterol was at 262 at the beginning of the challenge and 169 by the end, and another firefighter dropped his blood pressure 16 on his systolic and 2 on his diastolic.
According to the documentary, this is what the science says:
- The same biological mechanisms that affect performance also affect our health, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelium function.
- Protein from vegetables and fruits is packaged with antioxidants, phytochemical, minerals, and vitamins that are not found in animal products and will reduce inflammation and optimize performance.
- When it comes to gaining strength and muscle mass, as long as the proper amount of amino acids are consumed, the source is irrelevant.
- Studies comparing men who eat animal products vs plant-based products have consistently shown no difference in testosterone levels.
- Research shows that those who replace animal foods with high carb plant foods experience a average drop of 27 percent in cortisol, a hormone linked to reduced muscle mass and increased body fat.
- High processed carbs like white flour and sugar can lead to weight gain, but unprocessed carbs can lead to decreased body fat.
So now what? You don’t have to make drastic changes overnight. Just one plant-based meal or plant-based day could be the change you need to improve your health and performance. We now know that we can get adequate amounts of protein and improve performance with a well-thought-out plant-based diet. Sometimes we simply don’t consume enough vegetables and fruit and over-consume the foods that diminish our health.
This film is not the end-all-be-all for all your health concerns, and you have to find the diet plan that works best for you. What this film does, is highlight how dysfunctional our Western diets are and hopefully promotes mindful eating to maximize your health and performance.
Source: GameChangersMovie.com, Netflix The Game Changers