As a dietitian who promotes a plant-forward consuming sample, I’m the primary to confess I’m enthusiastic about present the plant-based motion for well being, efficiency, and sustainability. However, I additionally root my observe in science and it’s essential that I don’t let diet documentaries be a primary supply of data for anybody trying to enhance their consuming sample. So, who higher than me with each my dietitian and plant-based hats on, to put in writing up The Game Changers overview?

I spent (too) many hours on this overview and labored to take away my private bias towards plant-based patterns. It’s essential for me to encourage my athletes and viewers to eat extra crops with out pushing my very own weight-reduction plan on them. I select to not eat meat for moral and environmental causes and if another person desires to make the change for these causes, too, I’m right here to assist them try this in a healthful approach! But, on the subject of direct well being and efficiency advantages, I’m reviewing based mostly on sound science. Please be at liberty to go away feedback and questions!

The Quick Review

First and foremost, I need to acknowledge that always whenever you’re listening to about advantages of vegan diets, they’re being in comparison with the usual American weight-reduction plan (SAD). Is an enough vegan weight-reduction plan extra nourishing and higher for the atmosphere than SAD? When you take away heavy meat consumption and largely ultra-processed meals and add in fruits, greens, complete grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, the reply is a simple sure. However, there’s loads of room to be wholesome and gasoline efficiency alongside the spectrum, with out bouncing from one finish to the opposite.

In case you aren’t right here for the entire very in depth particulars under, I’ve put collectively my primary professionals and cons in bullet kind.

The Game Changers Review

The All or Nothing Mentality

Unfortunately, that’s what most individuals stroll away from documentaries with. I don’t imagine that The Game Changers advocated everybody drop meat from their weight-reduction plan instantly and go vegan in a single day, however I can actually see that being the impression some athletes and well being professionals have. There’s been some buzz on my CPSDA (Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians) list-serv concerning athletes desirous to go vegan out of nowhere after watching this and I obtained a name from a pal who’s a university swim coach about his athletes desirous to do the identical.

Before leaping additional into my detailed overview, I need to share this from The Game Changers official web site, in an effort to assist everybody take a deep breath and method plant-based in a extra balanced and real looking approach. Despite what you could have taken from the documentary, even they don’t need you to do one thing that isn’t sensible! This ought to have been conveyed higher within the movie, however I’m sharing in hopes that anybody on a journey to plant-based chills out, does it steadily, and finds a dietitian to assist.

Credibility of the Narrator

The documentary is narrated by former UFC champion James Wilks, who at the moment trains army MMA strategies for self protection. He goes on to elucidate how an damage stored him from coaching or educating for six months. In that point he says he spent “over 1,000 hours studying peer-reviewed science on recovery and nutrition” as if this makes him a diet professional.

As a registered dietitian, my internship alone included 1200+ supervised observe hours. This was after finding out diet and train science in undergrad and truly matching to an internship program. On high of this was graduate degree coursework and analysis in the identical disciplines. 

What’s humorous (however not likely) is that they didn’t interview a single registered dietitian. There are over 1,000 of us within the US who’re board licensed in sports activities dietetics (that’s the CSSD behind my identify). This implies that on high of the coursework, internship work, passing of the registration examination to grow to be a dietitian, and persevering with schooling to stay a dietitian, we log 2,000 hours of labor particularly associated to sports activities and health diet earlier than taking an excellent more durable board examination. We should take an up to date examination each 5 years to make sure we’re on high of the most recent analysis.

“History Lessons”

Several occasions within the documentary, Wilks references historical people or the perceived roots of some myths. Here’s an summary.

References on Ancient Humans
The documentary goes on to focus on how archaeologists have investigated the stays of Roman gladiators. Their outcomes present a excessive bone mineral density, indicative of a excessive coaching load in addition to a “high quality diet”. Referred to as “hordearii”, which interprets to “the barley men”, they ate beans and barley as a primary supply of diet, and their weight-reduction plan is believed to have been very low in meats. This is the primary of many examples of how it’s attainable to keep up power, endurance and muscle mass on a plant-based weight-reduction plan. 

The Myth That Meat Gives You Energy
First issues first, this actually isn’t a fable. Meat DOES provide you with power as that’s what energy are. I’ve already coated the capabilities of our three power vitamins, so overview that for a greater understanding and also you’ll see you’re actually getting power within the type of fats and protein from meats.

Still, protein is finest as a structural and metabolic nutrient, not an power supply. Protein can convert to useable power if you happen to aren’t consuming enough carbohydrate and fats – it’ll provide power methods and may retailer as fats, too. However, it’s a much less environment friendly power supply and higher depth and length are capable of be reached when carbohydrate is offered as gasoline. 

Diet of Ancient Humans
I’m thrilled that they interviewed anthropologists to touch upon the truth that what a contemporary “Paleo” weight-reduction plan is just not truly what people ate in that period. However, they doubtless didn’t eat simply crops both. Plants have been dependable and extensively accessible, and a Paleolithic weight-reduction plan was plentiful in crops… however not solely crops.

The Athletes

UFC and Boxing

Former UFC Champion Conor McGregor’s interviews have been highlighted the place he bragged about his grass-fed beef weight-reduction plan (consuming beef for breakfast, lunch, dinner), and made feedback to Nate Diaz in press conferences about how he’d get eaten alive as a consequence of being a vegetarian. 

As you could have imagined, this was featured within the movie as a result of Diaz, the underdog, defeated McGregor in an enormous upset. McGregor was proven saying “it was a battle of energy and he got the better of that… I was eating two steaks a day and it came to bite me in the ass.” This absolutely reveals that a carnivorous weight-reduction plan is just not going to provide the power you want for train, however is arguably an excessive comparability.

Bryant Jennings, a heavyweight boxer featured within the movie, was quoted saying “I grew up not even knowing about half of these other vegetables…asparagus to me just came out like 5 years ago!”. This really reveals how any improve in vegetable and plant meals consumption will improve the number of vitamins consumed and supply advantages.


It could appear extra doubtless for an endurance athlete to succeed on a vegan weight-reduction plan than athletes in different sports activities. The documentary options Scott Jurek, a 7 time consecutive winner of the celebrated Western States 100 Miler. He’s additionally the 24 hour American document holder, and the one American to ever win the 153 mile Greece Spartathlon. The documentary follows him as he breaks the Appalachian Trail pace document (it’s a 2,189 mile feat) regardless of a quad damage within the first month.

Not adopted within the documentary, which was filmed earlier than his feat, was Robbie Balenger. I had the chance to listen to him converse again in June in New York CIty on the Plant Based World Conference and Expo. He had simply accomplished a 75 day Three,175 mile trek from LA, all within the identify of elevating consciousness of veganism for environmental advantages. He simply needed to indicate what is feasible on a vegan weight-reduction plan. 

Runner’s do have small frames, so I’m certain this doesn’t impress anybody trying to construct or preserve muscle mass, however it does present that the best degree of endurance success is feasible with out animal merchandise. The common endurance athlete requires round 1.7g/kg of protein per day, so in a 46 day (Jurek) or 75 day (Balenger), wants are actually larger, and clearly capable of be met.


Carl Lewis, a 9 time gold medalist who competed within the 100m, 200m and lengthy leap occasions was featured briefly. He set all of his PRs at 30 years outdated after adopting a vegan weight-reduction plan. Morgan Mitchell, who used to compete within the 400m and now within the 800m, is a two-time Australian champion and 2016 Olympian (and I’ll get to a few of her feedback later).

As is the theme of this Game Changers overview submit, there was doubtless a big improve in power and vitamins from a extra different consumption of plant meals, which might be achieved on a weight-reduction plan that also consists of some animal merchandise.


Dotsie Bausch, who was standing subsequent to me whereas Balenger spoke in NYC again in June, is an eight time nationwide champion in indoor monitor biking and the oldest individual in her sport to go to the Olympics (the place her workforce received gold). In the documentary, she speaks about her spectacular coaching routine and the way at practically 40, her teammates had a tough time maintaining together with her. She spoke to success with endurance in addition to power and energy beneficial properties within the weight room. 

She makes a fantastic level that the higher and faster you get well, the extra you may practice; and weight-reduction plan is a key to quick restoration. Her vegan weight-reduction plan little question gives her with compounds that may support in restoration by lowering irritation and oxidative stress, whereas additionally bettering vascular perform. I’m certain you’ve heard by now that beets might improve athletic efficiency, however along with the entire nutritional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in produce, you’ll additionally get larger ranges of nitrates, the important thing to beet’s results on dilating blood vessels, to boost oxygen and nutrient supply throughout train. 

Vegan or not, including quite a lot of plant meals to 1’s weight-reduction plan will present these compounds. Inclusion of quite a lot of plant meals is probably going the principle purpose that vegetarian diets are related to higher long run well being outcomes, fairly than whole elimination of meats.

Strength Athletes

These are the tales show that plant meals can assist not solely endurance efficiency, but in addition the best ranges of power and energy.

Kendrick Farris had already made two Olympic groups up to now, however after switching to a vegan weight-reduction plan, he certified for his third Olympic workforce and broke two American information as the one Olympic lifter for workforce USA in 2016. Again, we now have a case displaying that it’s attainable to proceed success with out animal merchandise, however we do know he was additionally profitable earlier than his vegan weight-reduction plan. He does say he wished he went vegan sooner.

Patrik Baboumian holds a number of world information in power-lifting and set the document for highest quantity of weight ever carried whereas following a vegan weight-reduction plan. He mentions how he acquired larger and stronger when he stopped consuming meat. If he isn’t proof you may construct and preserve muscle on a vegan weight-reduction plan, I don’t know who’s. 

I form of need to simply skip Arnold Schwarzenegger, however received’t as a result of he truly provided the recommendation to begin simply with meatless Monday, a extra balanced method. However, after consuming straight uncooked eggs, approach an excessive amount of meat and taking steroids for years, I’m certain that he can profit from the entire further antioxidants he can get.


Derrick Morgan describes how when he turned to a plant-based weight-reduction plan after studying about restoration advantages, he felt much less sore, drained and swollen. His blood stress, ldl cholesterol and inflammatory markers have been considerably decrease after 6 months, which is a typical theme seen with these consuming patterns. What we don’t know is his consuming sample earlier than, the place he might have been consuming a meat heavy, low plant weight-reduction plan earlier than making a dramatic change.

They cowl how 14 of the Titans wound up consuming plant based mostly of their finest season in over a decade. What made this fashion simpler than it could be for another athletes studying this? Derrick’s spouse began cooking scrumptious plant-based meals for him and the workforce, in order that they didn’t even have to consider what to eat!

Physician’s Perspectives

Whether vegan or not, any athlete must be educated on what vitamins truly do for the physique.

Dr. James Loomis
The workforce internist for the Rams and Cardinals and director of prevention and wellness at St. Luke’s hospital. Dr. Loomis was interviewed since he had adopted a plant-based weight-reduction plan after a knee damage and surgical procedure. He defined how the groups had outdated concepts about protein sustaining power for train and that he’d see giant unfold of meat at pregame meals.

Whether vegan or not, any athlete must be educated on what vitamins truly do for the physique and construct an understanding of the function of carbohydrates as an power supply for train. I see it typically, too, whether or not it’s with my function within the Philadelphia Phillies group, grading weight-reduction plan evaluation tasks for my nursing and train science college students, or simply getting questions from my social media viewers.

There are too many misconceptions about carbs, and whereas a vegan weight-reduction plan simply gives you with extra of them, anybody can incorporate extra high quality carbohydrates. It’s essential to eat them all through the day and particularly earlier than train to boost power ranges for athletic efficiency. So lengthy as enough power continues to be eaten, much less meat naturally equals larger high quality carb consumption, which is why my message is at all times about including extra crops!

Dr. Robert Vogel
Vogel is the co-chair of the NFL subcommittee on cardiovascular well being. A reputable supply, he sadly in contrast a blood sampling of three NFL athletes after consuming burritos with beef or rooster sooner or later to bean burritos the following, fairly than discussing printed peer reviewed analysis. Why? Cause it makes for higher viewing! He did evaluate blood samples of the identical athletes with the completely different meals, however this was not a managed examine. They additionally equate the results of poultry with beef consumption, and don’t focus on that each of these burritos additionally had cheese; the saturated fats from the dairy might have been a consider variations fairly than the rooster.

He does start by protecting how a single meal can impression endothelial perform (the endothelium strains the center and blood vessels). If the endothelium constricts, it limits blood movement and thereby limits oxygen and nutrient supply to muscle cells to boost efficiency. This would have been a fantastic alternative to dive into the dietary nitrate data I discussed above, indicating how not solely beets, however quite a lot of greens can dilate blood vessels and have a profit. 

Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.
Dr. Ornish is world famend for his vegan program for reversing coronary heart illness and Esselstyn is the director of coronary heart illness reversal on the Cleveland Clinic. When treating sufferers post-emergency coronary heart surgical procedure or who’ve dramatically excessive blood lipids and severe danger for a coronary heart assault, it could make extra sense to comply with their proof based mostly packages for coronary heart illness reversal. A drastic in a single day change means a extra dramatic improve in antioxidants and fiber with a extra dramatic lower in compounds present in meats. This could also be warranted in these dire medical conditions, however to construct a nourishing, enough and sustainable weight-reduction plan for an athlete, a extra gradual and sensible method is at all times my suggestion. I even have an enormous submit on omega-Three’s within the works, which can be a priority whereas switching to a vegan weight-reduction plan with out correct schooling.

They additionally present outcomes from a one week vegan weight-reduction plan for firefighters. Dramatic enhancements in lipid ranges have been proven, whereas it typically can take months to see outcomes from different interventions. Ornish goes on to showcase how genes might be turned on and off by weight-reduction plan and way of life selections – however we don’t check sufferers genes, so it’s laborious to say going plant based mostly alone will save their life and nobody wants medicine.

Dr. Aaron Spitz
They included this urologist to show the purpose that you simply don’t have to eat meat to “be a man”. And to pique viewer curiosity did a sleep erection examine on three NCAA athletes. In brief, they’d extra erections once they ate plant-based burritos earlier than sleep than once they ate meat burritos. I in all probability simply satisfied you to look at this documentary based mostly on this ridiculous inclusion alone. Either approach, they go on to reference research displaying no distinction in testosterone after which fortunately deal with the truth that soy does NOT improve estrogen within the physique and truly has well being advantages. I at all times reference this video by RD Whitney English once I get soy questions.

Dr. David Katz
He was solely briefly featured, however is a physician who I comply with. Katz perhaps was solely featured for a number of sentences as a result of his stance wasn’t as polarizing. He reiterated that world broad, regardless of if the consuming sample is larger or decrease in fats or carbs, an consuming sample that’s predominantly crops is finest for well being. Again, he didn’t say solely crops.

The Drawbacks of Meat Intake?

A examine confirmed that a single burger can impair blood movement and improve irritation. This means you could have a discount in blood movement impacting coronary heart well being, joint well being and extra. Plant meals do have extra antioxidant content material than animal meals, however that doesn’t in any respect imply one burger goes to trigger poor efficiency, coronary heart illness or most cancers. I hate to sound like a cliche dietitian, however it’s all about steadiness and inclusion of the opposite vitamins, too. What if the burger was eaten on a sprouted complete grain bun with a spinach salad?

There have been a number of compounds that made an look on the display with no clarification as to what they’re or why they’re “bad”. One instance is heterocyclic amines – they’re these compounds that kind whenever you grill meat (particularly overcook it) and have carcinogenic results. These shouldn’t be current when meat is cooked appropriately (not charred and with a marinade). They additionally rapidly evaluate amines created by regular digestion of animal protein to those who end result from charred and cured meat, with out offering proof. While this actually could also be an space we discover to be true with extra analysis, for now, we don’t have enough proof. 

Heme Iron is the kind of iron that comes from animal merchandise (extra on this under). The documentary references a meta-analysis that confirmed individuals with larger heme iron consumption had a 31% higher probability of creating coronary coronary heart illness. A examine additionally confirmed heme iron to be related to colon most cancers. This data is value noting and persevering with to concentrate to; word although that an affiliation is just not at all times indicative of a trigger and impact relationship.

Studies have been talked about displaying larger dangers of prostate most cancers related to larger dairy consumption and better charges of colon most cancers related to poultry consumption. You can click on to view the prostate most cancers examine, however I didn’t discover the one on colon most cancers simply. Drop it within the feedback when you have it!

Finally, they took time to deal with financial energy of the meat, pork and dairy industries to fund research and pay RDs and medical doctors to advertise these meals. As a lot as I agree that this creates a battle, because the plant trade doesn’t have as a lot cash to fund research, a portion of my very own revenue is from meals corporations and commodity boards, who sponsor posts on my weblog and instagram, in addition to TV segments. I do really feel I’ve larger moral requirements than another folks and have turned down some huge cash from corporations who don’t align with my values and who I imagine stretch the reality with their messaging. It’s essential for you as a client to find out what your moral requirements are and dive into analysis and media tales a bit extra by yourself if you’re involved with these ties. 

Environmental Concerns
I’m glad this wasn’t unnoticed, as a result of it’s the principle purpose I encourage folks to eat much less meat and extra crops. Beef promoters state how carbon emissions instantly from cattle aren’t that top, and which may be true, however the land and water use in addition to the deforestation from overproduction of cattle is immense. It largely drove the fires within the amazon and is one thing we must always all think about as scientists proceed frequently to reiterate the local weather emergency many individuals proceed to disregard.

Nutrient Concerns

I encourage any vital dietary modifications be made within the low season.

From power must B12, iron, and omega-Three, there’s a handful of vitamins you must take note of, and it’ll be laborious with out some hand holding from a dietitian to start with!

My first concern when somebody desires to drop all the things and change to a vegan weight-reduction plan is their power consumption (not their protein). It is clearly attainable to eat an enough vegan weight-reduction plan, however if you happen to watch this documentary and simply resolve you’re going to chop out animal merchandise, what are you going to eat?! 

As a supporter of plant-based diets, I imagine you need to transition to them responsibly (if you happen to select to maneuver in that route). I’ll by no means advocate for big dietary modifications throughout a aggressive season for an athlete. Additionally, I encourage vital dietary modifications be made within the low season, except in fact you could have entry to a dietitian and chef who can work collectively to make this attainable for you. For most athletes that isn’t actuality.

Eliminating animal merchandise might sound straightforward, however you must have replacements for not solely single meals sources, but in addition sources of power that will have come together with the animal meals. For instance, it’s straightforward to swap dairy milk for soy milk. But, what in regards to the pizza you used to eat on a Friday? Removing the cheese and pepperoni and including veggies and cashew parm sounds just like the wholesome alternative, however now your whole power and fats consumption is quite a bit decrease. One meal might not make an enormous distinction, however when these situations proceed so as to add up, you may wind up in a big power deficit that impairs efficiency, immune system perform, bone well being, and extra. You’ll need to be strategic to suit extra fats and power in at that meal or different factors all through the day (trace: discover a sports activities dietitian). 

Protein Quality
They incorrectly state that the supply of protein is irrelevant. It’s true that it’s a fable that crops don’t comprise the entire important amino acids. But, as I discussed in my latest submit on plant protein, athletes might have to be extra aware about selecting extra digestible plant proteins and pairing plant proteins collectively to extend their bioavailability. 

Evidence reveals that the amino acid leucine is a vital set off for muscle protein synthesis and it’s in truth more durable to get really useful quantities from single plant sources, apart from soy. However, some newer proof has proven that regardless of decrease leucine ranges, pea protein could also be equal to whey protein for muscle restoration. We nonetheless want extra knowledge, however you may learn extra on this intensive article I wrote for Clif Bar.

While interviewing Morgan Mitchell, she alludes to not having any points with B12 as is commonly a worry when going plant-based. Unfortunately, this can be a dangerous assertion that may make athletes who’re going plant-based really feel as in the event that they don’t want to seek out different sources. In our trendy meals system, B12 is just not current in plant meals. It is a nutrient fashioned by micro organism, and since we not eat meals with dust residue or drink water instantly from rivers, we don’t get B12 from crops. 

B12 is a singular water soluble nutrient – in contrast to different water soluble nutritional vitamins, it’s saved within the liver. Once consumption ceases, it could take Three-5 years earlier than signs of a deficiency present up, which can be why folks don’t discover points immediately. Take a good B12 complement (if you happen to’re an athlete, one that’s NSF licensed for sport or Informed Choice certiified). 

Since heme-iron is absorbed extra effectively than non-heme (plant) iron in omnivores, it’s a frequent concern that vegan diets don’t present enough iron for athletes. Athletes do have larger iron necessities, so the priority is comprehensible. However, many plant meals comprise excessive ranges of iron and inclusion of vitamin C with plant iron can improve it’s absorption by Four occasions. Adaptation to soak up extra iron additionally happens when meat is just not included in a single’s weight-reduction plan. I’ll have a few intensive posts on iron for health up subsequent week!

Key Takeaways

  1. Veganism isn’t a weight-reduction plan, it’s a life-style. It’s one thing chances are you’ll select to work in direction of for animal welfare and/or environmental causes, and it could additionally enhance your well being. But, it isn’t one thing to attain in a single day and it doesn’t assure miraculous efficiency advantages.
  2. Swapping extra animal merchandise in your weight-reduction plan for complete plant meals might produce each brief and long run well being advantages by growing consumption of carbohydrate, fiber, nutritional vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and different compounds (like dietary nitrates). It may also scale back saturated fats and ldl cholesterol intakes, which might be helpful to some folks (however the diploma to these advantages could also be based mostly on genetics and different way of life components).
  3. A correct portion of meat is simply Three-Four ounces – Three ounces of lean beef or rooster breast gives 23-25 grams of protein, which is greater than sufficient contemplating you additionally get protein from complete grains, greens, nuts and seeds which may be at that very same meal. Improve your weight-reduction plan by lowering portion sizes to make extra room for nutrient wealthy carbs and wholesome fat in your plate. If you scale back meat consumption, once more, you must exchange these energy some place else at meals and snacks all through the day.
  4. If you’re involved with animal welfare and local weather change, you can begin by deciding on extra humanely raised meats and fish which have a extra sustainable foot print. Eat Lancet – the dietary suggestions for sustainability – recommend consuming not more than about 100 grams of beef (Three.5 oz) , 200 grams of poultry (7 oz), and 200 grams of fish (7 oz) per week.
  5. If you’re in danger for coronary heart illness, take note of what analysis is launched on TMAO and heme-iron sooner or later (since we don’t have sufficient now), whereas placing most of your effort into growing complete plant meals consumption.
  6. If you continue to need to make modifications quick, please don’t do it alone… and don’t flip to a random well being coach or meal plan. Whether it’s my workforce or somebody I don’t even know, meet with a sports activities dietitian!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here