Our over-reliance on meat and dairy in our daily diets is mired in a great deal of misinformation and corporate interests. The Game Changers, a smash-hit documentary film about the benefits of plant-based eating for athletic performance, is an eye opening journey into how much we actually don’t know about why we eat meat, and its effect on our physical health.
The film, presented by Oscar-winner James Cameron and other star-studded celebs including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novak Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton, follows the journey of former UFC fighter and combative trainer James Wilks. Since its release, the movie has became an instant smash-hit: it became the bestselling documentary of all-time on iTunes, calling attention to “plant-based” all over the globe and prompting a large spike in Google searches for the term, as shown on Google Trends.
Over the course of 112 minutes, the movie dives deep into the truth about meat, protein, performance. Yes, there is an impressive showcase of testimonies from elite-level athletes and special operations soldiers about all the advantages they’ve reaped from going plant-based, breaking down the common misconceptions, gendered social constructs and stereotypes around vegan and vegetarian diets.
But what really stands out is all the science-based research that demonstrates the marketing myths that we have been sold by the animal meat and dairy industry – and the money behind all these myths – which has had important repercussions on our bodily performance and overall health.
Marketing 101: Unique Selling Point aka USP
The Game Changers introduces the average viewer to the marketing term “unique selling point” (USP), essentially a strategy used by brands to convince consumers to purchase products by equating a product with a single quality or feature. According to the movie, this very technique has been employed ad nauseam for decades by the animal foods & byproducts industry to persuade consumers that these foods are linked to superior nutrients, especially protein content, iron and calcium.
Underlying this sinister strategy is massive amounts of federal funding– in the US particularly, the meat and dairy industry is bolstered by government subsidies, dollars which are then spent on marketing and lobbying to further push the USP surrounding animal products. The fruit and vegetable industry do not get the same funding love and the stats back this: the US government spends a whopping US$ 38 billion annually on meat & dairy subsidies versus a mere US$ 17 billion for plant foods.
Debunking The Protein Myth
The film also seeks to debunk the widespread protein myth, or more specifically, the idea that plant protein is inferior to meat protein, does not contain all the essential amino acids, and that a plant-based diet would not provide a sufficient source. To defy this, narrator Wilks – armed with a caseload of scientific evidence and medical testaments – runs through the logical breakdown of the origins of animal protein in the first place. “All that protein that you get when you eat a steak…where did it come from? It came from the plants that the cow ate,” said Dr James Loomis.
While this seems like a statement of the bleedingly obvious, it is nonetheless an oft neglected point – huge muscular animals like rhinos, horses, gorillas and of course, cows grow large thanks to a largely herbivorous plant diet, and the film does not shy away from insisting that plant protein is what fuels this growth.
The Game Changers makes the further case that animal protein is inefficient for performance: by consuming fibre-less animal flesh for protein, we are wasting 20-30% of per one calorie as heat and consuming fat instead of energy-healthy carbohydrates.
The Calcium Fallacy
USP isn’t just at work in the meat industry, it’s used by the dairy industry to promote the fallacious belief that cow’s milk is an ideal source of calcium. And yet again, the film underlines that “animal is the middleman” for a nutrient that already exists in nature: plants.
Far from being the most efficient source of calcium in the food system, the calcium from milk comes from the plants that cows eat, meaning that you can simply eat calcium rich-veggies such as broccoli, kale and bok choy to get our nutrition’s worth, not to mention that you can skip the saturated fat that has been associated with cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even ovarian and prostate cancers.
Not to mention that according to recent data, around 70% of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant (in Asia it’s 90%), a medical condition associated with adverse symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea and cramping, so it’s hard not to wonder how we all got tricked into drinking milk every day.
The Problem With Animal Flesh
Beyond the protein myth and the calcium fallacy, The Game Changers spotlights the negative and impairing impacts of animal flesh on our health. While this point is substantiated by a number of studies, the film presents this claim most starkly by following an experiment conducted on three NFL players, which reveals that a single animal-based meal can thicken blood, slow down oxygen flow and block nutrient transportation – as quickly as overnight.
The powerful visual on the screen is not one to be forgotten. The physical appearance of the three test tubes, obtained from the three NFL players who ate different meals, show how one animal-based meal thickens the blood sample – which can restrict the flow of oxygen that we need in our bloodstreams to transport key nutrients to those muscles that need it the most. The player who consumed the plant-based meal, on the other hand, experiences the opposite effect: his blood remains clear and fluid, ideal for rapid blood flow to key destinations. Arguably, if there is one part of the movie that defines The Game Changer, this is it.
The Power Of Plants
There’s a fair amount of screen time devoted to the health benefits – especially from an athletic performance perspective – associated with consuming whole plant ingredients. Rich in nitrates, plant foods help muscles contract more efficiently, translating to superior physical performance, as opposed to the restricting effect that animal meals have on our bodies, as the blood samples indicated.
Plants also contain anti-inflammatory compounds and powerful antioxidants, which explains the long list of testimonies from top-level athletes featured in the movie who found that a plant-based switch led to quicker recovery times, reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), faster injury healing, less joint pain and increased career longevity.
Masculinity & Meat
Finally, it is worth noting the film’s power when it comes to breaking down the longstanding and dangerous misconception that vegetarianism and veganism are exclusively a “feminine” lifestyle or that following such a diet connotes weakness.
While the movie does acknowledge the environmental advantages and ethical reasons to choose a plant-based diet, it really shines when showcasing the physical boost that plant-based diets offer adherents, from demonstrating the improvements in stamina and strength thanks to reduced muscle recovery time, to featuring world class athletes whose entire careers are centred on peak performance endorsing plant-based. The Game Changers undoubtedly has the potential to capture even the most skeptical of audiences, making the film a true game changer.
All images courtesy of The Game Changers (Netflix).