Soon all athletes will eat this way?
Yesterday, Julie and I watched the long awaited movie Game Changers – a documentary about the benefits of a wholefood plant-based diet (WFPB) for athletic performance. Produced by James Cameron (he of Terminator, Titanic and Avatar fame) and featuring such plant-based luminaries as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lewis Hamilton, the film outlines the scientifically supported WFPB health advantages in a simple but never simplistic manner.
It weaves its story through James Wilks, a retired mixed martial arts fighter who is seeking to regain fitness following an injury. James gradually learns of the power of WFPB in accelerating recovery from injury, improving endurance and providing protein in the perfect quality and quantity. During his journey, he meets cutting-edge scientists and strength and endurance athletes who have gone plant-based and reaped the benefits. Most poignantly, James convinces his father to go plant-based following a heart attack. No mean feat for somebody from Melton Mowbray, world famous for its artery-clogging pork pies.
As a former athlete, and somebody who has gone fully plant-based after many years of oscillating between omnivore, vegetarian and pescatarian diets, this is a film I wish my 11 year old self had seen back in the 1970s when I was starting out in sports. The information was out there even then, but never packaged in such an accessible form. The biggest revelation to me was that my idol Ed Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medallist who was unbeaten in the 400m hurdles for eight years, had been a vegan. As a junior runner on the ‘undercard’, I used to marvel at Moses as he began his meticulous preparation for a race that was to take place in three hours – the meditation, the bewildering series of stretches and the rehearsal of every hurdle. Now I know that his quest for perfection extended to what he put in his mouth. It was a goose-bump moment for me.
I represent the converted, having read the peer-reviewed literature, and having seen and experienced the benefits of going plant-based. But there will be sceptics out there who will defend the status quo. Below are a few of the possible criticisms and my responses:
Some may also say that the movie was only about athletes, so its message does not apply to the 99.9% of people who are not athletes. That is not an argument worth responding to. It’s also not true. I already referred to James Wilks's father. The film also looked at New York fire fighters and anti-poaching patrollers in Zimbabwe.
Another criticism that could be levelled at the movie is that it did not cover other lifestyle areas of importance to athletic performance such as sleep and psycho-social health. Simply stated, you cannot cover everything in 84 minutes.
Without giving too much away, my second most memorable part of the movie (after the Ed Moses revelation) was the anti-poaching guy who went vegan when he realised his hypocrisy in saving animals in his work while contributing to their destruction the rest of the time.
My most memorable part? – the erection section. I will say no more; watch the movie to get the full flavour.
My one criticism of the movie was that it did not sufficiently emphasise the importance of whole plant foods, with the risk that some people might simply exchange an animal-based junk food diet for a plant-based junk food diet.
Will the Game Changers be a game changer? Not by itself, but it may help to convince people, both athletes and non-athletes, who were thinking of going plant-based but have had understandable concerns. But there is a tide and this movie makes a mighty contribution to this tide. Watch it with an open mind.