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The Game Changers – Is it really changing the way we look at nutrition?

As a plant-based vegan who happens to also be into yoga and fitness, I’ve been asked for my opinion about The Game Changers.

What is The Game Changers?

If you haven’t already heard about it, The Game Changers is a movie that centres around retired UFC professional MMA fighter James Wilks’ discovery of a vegan diet when researching for ways to quickly recover from a serious injury.

In the movie, Wilks speaks with several elite professional athletes about their decision to adopt a vegan diet and how this has helped in their training as well as recovery.

Some of these include:

  • Olympic silver medallist (women’s track cycling) Dotsie Bausch
  • Strongman and German log lifting champion Patrik Baboumian
  • Bodybuilder and Mr Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton
  • Triathlete Rip Esselstyn
  • Professional bodybuilders Nimai Delgado and Mischa Janiec
  • Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek
  • The Tennessee Titans
  • Former NFL cornerback Lou Smith (<< I’m particularly impressed with him!)

The executive producers of the film are luminaries in their own right: James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) , Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Hamilton, Novak Djokovik (current world No. 1 in men’s singles tennis).

Why Watch It

The movie’s main focus is on “significant performance advantages, providing optimal fuel, increasing blood flow, making muscles more efficient, and speeding recovery by lowering inflammation” (taken from the website, which is an accurate synopsis of the movie).

So you’ll get to see the above mentioned professionals relate their personal experiences of how a vegan diet has helped in their training, performance, and recovery.

Of course there’s other areas that were lightly touched on, including the number of and duration of erections following a vegan dinner, as compared to a non-vegan dinner. This alone is worth watching the movie for, even if you decry it as pseudo-science – which the website debunks with references to many research and papers.

There’s also a segment on a group of New York firefighters, who were challenged to go vegan for seven days. The group had various health challenges including high cholesterol and blood pressure markers, and being overweight. Just switching up only what they eat while keeping everything else the same, they individually saw improvements in their health conditions.

The reactions from all these people are worth watching the movie, whether you are considering going vegan or not.

Vegan vs Plant-Based Vegan

One of the debates surrounding going vegan is about health. There are many news articles exclaiming that going vegan is bad for health, or that it may make your health worse. Well, it depends on the definition of ‘vegan’ that you are looking at.

There is a huge difference between being ‘vegan‘, and being ‘plant-based vegan‘.

The basis of both is not eating animal products including meat, poultry, seafood, honey, eggs, dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream), bee pollen, butter, ghee, etc.

However, a plant-based vegan will eat plant food (grains, vegetables, fruit) that are whole foods, and minimally processed while a vegan has wider options as processed food such as refined sugar (processed from sugarcane) and bleached flour (processed from grains, nuts, etc.) is allowed in their diet.

Thus, a plant-based vegan will eat the whole potato but not potato chips/crisps, which a vegan can eat. Similarly, vegan versions of cookies, gummy, candies, cakes, and ice cream will not be touched by a plant based vegan as these food items are not whole but are processed.

My Thoughts About The Game Changers

As my friends know that I am vegan, I have been asked my thoughts about what has been presented in the movie. Some even asked me if going vegan is the healthiest option available.

On a professional level—I’m a certified Sports & Exercise Nutrition Coach—my studies & work with clients have led me to one conclusion: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet. This is because:

  • Each person’s lifestyle is different;
  • Each person’s training regime & frequency is different;
  • Each person’s biochemistry is different – we have to take into account autoimmune disease, intolerances / allergies, gut health.

In regards to the last point, I have a friend who has an autoimmune disease that is triggered by chlorophyll. She can’t eat any vegetables, and even chives sprinkled atop a dish can cause her to have a rash & have slight respiratory problems. Telling her to go vegan could probably kill her.

On a personal level, my reasons for becoming plant-based vegan is based on how I feel about my performance levels on a daily basis.

  • Since 2002, I discovered that I have a slow digestive system—my bowel movements were not regular, and I dislike the feeling of being ‘stuck’. Through elimination, I realised that red meat added more stress on my digestive system.
  • Dairy makes me have diarrhoea. Unfortunately, having dairy with red meat doesn’t help.
  • Wheat makes me bloat in my belly region and I feel sluggish throughout the day. So I’ve cut out cakes, cookies, pasta, pizza, beer (sigh…), and anything with wheat.
  • I’m allergic to shellfish. Just a bit of crab, prawn, scallops etc. will cause itchiness in my throat, and sometimes lead to me looking like a puffer fish—I’ll develop a rash and swelling around my mouth and on my lips.
  • I’m a lazy cook. Prepping & marinating meat and seafood takes too much time; vegetables are easy to prep and cook.
  • White rice has no nutritional value as it has been processed. For someone who does a workout every day, I need my carbohydrates to give me as much clean energy with a small serving. Thus, where possible, I choose better quality carbs such as quinoa, sweet potato, pumpkin, and squash.

As you can tell, my decision to go plant-based vegan wasn’t because of a whim, or because I wanted to lose weight. It was due to very practical reasons.

I didn’t wish to deal with all the discomfort that comes with eating food that doesn’t agree with my digestive system.

I’m also asked, “If there are not vegetables, what are you going to eat?”

Since I’m a practical person, my response is: I’ll eat whatever is available, if I’m very hungry & I can’t find other food nearby. Because between starving and digestive discomfort, I’ll think of survival first, comfort level second.

As already stated by the many elite athletes in The Game Changers movie, going vegan has given them many advantages, several of which I echo:

  • having more energy
  • faster recover
  • feeling lighter
  • overall improvement in health markers.

So comes to the question that everyone is asking…

Should You Become Vegan?

The answer is: Up to you.

As long as it makes you become healthier and feel better, I would say to do it. We all only have one body and one life to live. So why not live it well, right?

No one has the right to tell you how to live or eat.

It is all up to you, and how you feel. No matter your choice, you don’t have to justify it to anyone.

And if someone comes along to throw shade on your diet choices, who needs friends like these? Make new friends, and they don’t even have to be vegans as long as they understand why different people choose different lifestyles.

After all, we all live in different parts of the island, we drive different types of cars/motorbikes, we use different brands of toothpaste, and wear different brands of clothes. If we don’t debate so heatedly about these things, why debate so heatedly about our personal choices of food?