Updated: Mar 3, 2020
The Game Changers documentary is on Netflix now. If you are looking to elevate your athleticism and performance, stop everything you are doing and go watch this. Then go talk to a Dietitian.
The film starts by pointing out that our energy comes mostly from carbohydrates in our diet, and by replacing carbohydrates with proteins or eating a high protein diet can lead to glycogen and energy depletion. Low energy is not something that athletes or soldiers aim for. More specifically, the "energy" we get from protein is originally from plants, the animals are just the middle man. When someone eats a piece of steak, they are getting the energy from that cows diet. It is much more efficient to be eating the plants directly.
The film showed off many great vegan and vegetarian athletes like Patrik Baboumian, Dotsie Bausch, James Walks, Nimai Delgado, Kendrick Farris, Lewis Hamilton, Bryant Jennings, Scott Jurek, Damien Mander, Morgan Mitchell, and Derrick Morgan.
But where were the Registered Dietitians? Or the Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics?
I liked that they emphasized that essential amino acids have to come from food, we can't create these, and as long as we get these essential amino acids in our diet at some point during the day, the source is irrelevant. The meat industry and marketing has the public believing that we all need to be eating these complete animal protein sources that contain all of the amino acids, and that is just not necessary. Eating a variety of plant protein sources every day can give you all of the essential amino acids.
What you eat before and after workout has a huge impact. In the documentary they ran several test to show the impact that even one plant based meal has on the body. The endothelial lining of the blood vessels opens when body is working out or in motion. When that lining is impaired it cannot dilate and function, it impairs performance and blood flow. After eating just one plant based meal, three NFL players saw the plasma in their blood test was clear, compared to the very cloudy and fatty blood plasma after their meat meal. This cloudy and fatty blood plasma impairs the function and blood flow, hindering athletic performance. One player stated that the NFL injury rate is 100%. While this was not a clinical study on a large sample group, it still brings up the point that what we eat directly effects functions in our body.
"Food is your secret weapon."
I was most excited to hear one of the scientist explain that humans are closely related to gorillas, not lions, because this is exactly what I explain to people! Pound for pound gorillas are one of the strongest animals in the kingdom. The human digestive track is really long and designed to breakdown and absorb a fibers carbohydrate diet, like a gorilla. The human teeth are mostly flat and designed for grinding and chewing plants, like a gorilla. A lions digestive tract is short and highly acidic for breaking down meat, and its teeth are designed for tearing meat. Bottom line is that humans are not designed to consume animal products int he high amounts that the standard American diet includes.
I do have to make note of an incorrect fact that was reported and that is about vitamin B12. They explained that we can only get B12 from the microbes in soil that produce it, but our high use of pesticides have killed off the microbes. Even cattle are supplemented with B12 because it is no longer found in the soil in sufficient amounts. Even meat eaters do not get enough B12. This is all correct but we can get more than enough vitamin B12 from just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast too!
This is just a few interesting pieces that I picked out from the documentary. The take away message is that there is overwhelming research linking animal products to chronic disease, injury, inflammation, and sub optimal athletic performance. In an effort to spread good science, I will recommend this documentary to all of my athletes and soldiers. Documentaries are a great way to get people interested in their health and to start asking the right questions. Dietitians are still the experts and should be consulted when making changes to your diet.