Busting the myth that you have to eat huge amounts of animal protein to be an elite athlete
We switched to a plant-based diet a couple of years back after watching a couple of documentaries that led us to read more on the subject, which convinced us to make the switch. I have always had an issue with my cholesterol which I had tried to control through diet and exercise, to no avail. So, when my doctor suggested I start taking statins, which I would be on for the rest of my life, I decided to look for some other options. It was about this time I discovered the plant-based diet movement and today I don’t take statins and my cholesterol is well under control!
As we’re now well into our middle age and like to exercise to keep fit and healthy. One area of a plant-based diet that concerned me was protein, which I believed we needed if we were to exercise to the level we like. After some research, I grew more comfortable with idea we’d be getting more than enough protein from what our body manufactures and making sure we ate enough protein-rich food, such as beans, legumes etc.
About a year ago I read about an upcoming documentary called Game Changers which followed several elite athletes who follow a totally plant-based diet. These athletes were not in low energy sports (well what I consider low energy) but were leading endurance athletes, such as ultra-long distance runners, and power sports such as American Football, boxing and weight lifting.
It took them quite a while to finish the documentary but finally, in September this year, it was released. I was not disappointed.
The film has an impressive line-up of executive producers, including James Cameron (producer of Avatar the highest-grossing film of all time), Arnold Schwarzenegger, formula one driver Lewis Hamilton, martial arts actor and director Jackie Chan, tennis great Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul a nine-time NBA All-Star. Impressive eh!
The movie is skilled narrated by mixed martial arts star James Wilks, who as well as interviewing the athletes also tells his own personal journey when he switched to a plant-based diet to help him recover from a serious injury and also meeting a serious health condition that befalls his dad.
Wilks journey takes him around the world to discover the truth about protein, meat and diet. He meets many athletes who have excelled after switching to a plant-based diet. Scattered in among the interview with athletes are some sections that discuss how the meat industry (they compare it to the cigarette industry) used marketing to convince us that meat was necessary for athletes to get big, strong and fast, how meat has a negative impact on male sexual performance (this was an amusing section) and the biology that debunks that we need to eat animal protein to be athletes – in fact, the opposite is true. Supported by swift, nifty graphics, the science part is bright and well-presented. The science is support by brief interviews with some leading scientists and dietary specialists.
There is also a short section that discusses how the animal agricultural industry impacts the environment in terms of greenhouse gases and the consumption of valuable water resources – which will become a bigger issue as global temperatures rise.
It is the athletes themselves that are the true stars of this documentary, from record-holding strongman Patrik Baboumian, cyclist and Olympic medalist Dotsie Bausch to several members of the Tennessee Titans NFL team. The producers cleverly chose this cast of athletes not only for their athletic prowess but also their engaging personalities.
We really enjoyed this movie and if you are interested in the health benefits of following a plant-based diet it is worth checking out. Especially if you are into sports and are worried about not getting enough protein.