A revolutionary new documentary about meat, protein, and strength.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where do you get your protein?
When most people think of a plant-based meal, “protein” isn’t the first nutrient that comes to mind. In fact it’s probably the last. And this isn’t by accident.
A Unique Selling Point, or Unique Selling Proposition (USP), is a marketing strategy used by companies to convince consumers to buy their product or service by focusing on a single feature they think differentiates them from the competition. The next step is to repeat this “unique” selling point so often that it becomes virtually synonymous with their product/service.
Nowhere has the USP strategy been more effectively employed than by the animal foods industry, who recognized well over a century ago that their products (meat, eggs and dairy) contain more of certain nutrients, like protein, iron, and calcium, and less of others, like carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Since then, these massive food conglomerates have spent literally billions of dollars successfully selling the public on the idea that their products are the best and only reliable source of protein, iron, and calcium, reminding us over and over again that the very building blocks of our bodies — muscles, blood, and bones — are made from them.
At the same time, the animal food conglomerates have also effectively convinced the majority of the population that plant-based foods are low in, or devoid of, these “building block” nutrients, with plants merely playing a supporting role: fiber to help keep us “regular”, with a few vitamins and minerals thrown in for good measure.
Taking all of this into account, it makes perfect sense that animal foods are the centerpiece of most meals, with plant foods reduced to side dishes and garnishes. This is USP marketing strategy at its very best, and plant foods like fruits and vegetables — which receive only a tiny fraction of the government subsidies and marketing/lobbying dollars that the animal foods industry receives — have had no real way to compete.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers, public health organizations, and consumer advocates across the globe, the truth about nutrition is finally starting to reach the public. Including the truth about protein.
The biggest secret that the meat, dairy and egg industries have done their best to keep hidden from the public is one simple concept: animals are just the middlemen, and an ineffective and inefficient one at that. As Dr. James Loomis points out in The Game Changers, “All that protein that you get when you eat a steak or a hamburger, where did it come from? It came from the plants that the cow ate.”
In fact, all protein originates from plants, which also contain all nine essential amino acids we have to get from food. If this wasn’t the case, how would the largest and strongest animals on the planet, including elephants, rhinos, horses, and gorillas — all of which are herbivores — build and maintain such huge amounts of muscle?
Of course humans have different digestive tracts than elephants, but the fact that there is enough protein in the plant kingdom to sustain these massive animals comes as a surprise for most people. As does the fact that, according to the largest study comparing the nutrient intake of people who eat animal products with people who eat only plants, the average plant-eater not only gets enough protein, but 70% more than they need. Even meat-eaters get roughly half of their protein from plants (1).
And yet, if you ask the average person “Where does protein come from?”, their automatic response will almost always be “meat” or some other animal food, even though one big peanut butter sandwich has about as much protein as three ounces of beef, three large eggs, or two large glasses of milk (2).
Despite the animal foods industry’s “unique selling point” (USP) strategy to make us believe that their products are the best and only reliable source of protein (as well as calcium, iron, and other nutrients that also originate in plants), a plant-based diet has its own USP, based not in strategy, but in science: the protein package.
How many other vegan men out there hear the ‘but how do you build muscles?’ question on a regular basis?
As a doctor, a man, and a person who likes to work out, I have been acutely aware for a long time of how many dietary myths and mistaken cultural beliefs persist about veganism, health, athleticism and masculinity.
The Game Changers
When I first heard about The Game Changers, a documentary covering all these topics with some big-name producers behind it (including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarznegger, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton and Jackie Chan) I was excited but also nervous about whether it would do the justice the issues deserved.
It turns out my fears were unfounded: when I finally saw the film at the cinema last month, I was blown away by how good it is. The Game Changers is a fantastic achievement, and I believe it will actually live up to its name.
The film starts with James Wilks – elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner – recovering from an injury and researching the best ways to speed up recovery. To his surprise, he discovers that the Roman gladiators were vegetarian, which challenges his deeply held beliefs about masculinity, athletic ability and virility.
He then goes on to meet several inspirational world-class athletes, including Olympic cycling medallist Dotsie Bausch, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, UFC fighter Nate Diaz, and American footballer Derrick Morgan, who have all had astonishing achievements after adopting a plant-based diet.
The footage of their achievements is beautifully filmed and awe-inspiring, and their enthusiasm is so infectious that everyone I went to the cinema with felt motivated to take on a new physical challenge afterwards (although unlike Baboumian it’s doubtful we’ll be turning any cars over in the near future).
The plant-based advantage
Wilks explores the reasons behind the ‘plant-based advantage’ in some detail; this includes the fact that meat and other animal products produce inflammation in the body, whereas plant foods are anti-inflammatory and therefore lead to a quicker recovery time after workouts.
There is a powerful scene in the film where firefighters in New York City learn that the biggest risk to their life is the same as the general population – death from heart disease. They agree to try a seven-day vegan challenge, and the results are similar as what my patients achieve when they agree to try going plant-based – more energy, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, healthy weight loss, and improved blood sugar control.
My patients are always astonished – as was Wilks’ father who also adopts a plant-based diet for heart disease – that merely changing the way they eat can transform their health, and are delighted that they are put back in control of their health. It is estimated that if everyone went vegan, the worldwide economy would save $1.6 trillion by 2050 through health and social savings.
There is an important section on the attempts of the meat industry to try and create confusion about the health effects of their products, comparing their tactics to those of the tobacco industry, who paid athletes and doctors to advertize their products and tried to present their own dubious research demonstrating the ‘safety’ of smoking. Now, we have athletes selling us Big Macs, and undeclared lobbyists for the meat industry writing for prestigious medical journals.
For example, there was recently a flurry of media headlines about ‘vegans being at risk of brain damage’ due to a lack of choline. This stemmed from an opinion piece by a nutritionist in the British Medical Journal, who had failed to declare she worked for the Meat Advisory Panel, a meat industry lobby group.
The BMJ amended the article to declare this conflict of interest after I wrote to inform them of this, but unfortunately, this important amendment was not reported by the media outlets who had already spread the unfounded scare story. Doctors and dieticians who are not funded by the meat industry are clear that choline deficiency is not a concern for vegans.
Another example is the very small number of scientists who deny that cholesterol is related to heart disease. This has been debunked by the vast majority of experts, and there are suggestions to treat ‘cholesterol-deniers’ in the same way as ‘climate change deniers’ in order to prevent dangerous public confusion.
As long as there is money to be made from an industry, however, there will be people claiming that it is safe, and the media will always enthusiastically report on any story that suggests people can carry on with habits they enjoy.
This is where I believe the film will really be a Game Changer. By showcasing elite plant-based bodybuilders, UFC fighters, weightlifters and American footballers, winning in their respective fields, it robustly proves that not only are vegan diets not holding athletes back in these traditionally masculine sports, they are in fact excelling.
Exploring the issue of virility further, an amusing scene showed volunteers being hooked up to a penis sensor, which showed that plant-based meals actually improved the quality and frequency of their erections. Responding to these results, the urologist Dr Spitz states: ‘it’s going to wake up people who have penises, and it’s going to wake up people who like people who have penises’. (I love how inclusive this is!)
As a GP, I measure blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels in patients presenting with erectile dysfunction, as these are known contributing factors, and the evidence is clear that a dietary change towards fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes improves blood flow and therefore erections.
These foods are processed so not as healthy as eating some unprocessed tofu, but still much healthier than their meat versions. They are also healthier for the planet. Towards the end of the film there is a good summary of the environmental devastation that meat and other animal products are wreaking on the planet.
A few criticisms of the film I’ve heard include disappointment that high profile sports stars like Novak Djokovic or Venus Williams did not feature more heavily, that there wasn’t enough detail on how to go plant-based, that the differences between ‘junk food’ vegan food and healthy plant-based food was not described in more detail, and that the animal rights aspect of veganism did not feature more.
After the screening I attended at the cinema, they showed some cut footage, which addressed some of these points, and although I understand the need for editing to keep people’s attention it would be great if the producers could also release an extended cut version.
In the meantime, their website also has a lot of useful information on the ‘how’ part of going plant-based. The documentary Forks Over Knives presents the data about chronic disease and processed foods in more detail.
In terms of animal rights, there is a small nod to this towards the end of the film, and I would argue that this isn’t the film to explore this issue in more detail, and could lead people to switch off. Once people are ready, there are already several documentaries on this topic (Earthlings, Dominion, Land of Hope and Glory), that people may be more receptive to when they have already changed their behaviour for the health and fitness benefits.
‘An enormous punch’
Ultimately, however, this documentary packs an enormous punch in its 80-minute running time.
Academic research papers have limited ability to motivate people to change their lifestyles. Watching people performing incredible acts elicits much more visceral and emotional reactions that go a long way to counteracting negative stereotypes.
I’ve already had my first patient report back to me they have gone plant-based after watching it, and I am sure they are only the first of many. For our health and the planet, this film couldn’t have come at a better time.
Reminder: Dr. Maryelle Vonlanthen, pediatric gastroenterologist, returns
with an excellent presentation of information she learned during her many hours
on the road in recent months. “As you know I love to listen to podcasts and
this will summarize some exciting and interesting information I learned as I
was crisscrossing the country!” I was fortunate to be present a couple of
months ago as she shared some of this, and have no doubt you will find it to be
an enriching experience. Here is a link to the handout she gave us from a presentation by the Drs. Sherzai, authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution – another game-changer if you haven’t already read it!
Kudos to Stephanie Spencer!
Great job, Stephanie! Stephanie recently received her Plant
Based Nutrition Certification from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional
Studies, and dazzled us with a wealth of info regarding the outstanding research
data gained from her studies in her presentation at our meeting last Monday
night. My apologies for failing to produce an award winning video of same, but
my newly developing filmmaking skills have a way to go before being ready for
prime time. That said, you may view and listen to what I did manage to record
at this YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng8XLmJ7rx8
. Professional grade recordings will be uploaded as they become available, and
notices regarding upcoming presentations will be published on our website. Be
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up for our emails. We hope to see you again soon. Please let me know how we may
be of service to you in your journey toward greater health and well-being.
Executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, The Game Changers follows James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter — whose world is turned upside down when he discovers a group of world-renowned athletes and scientists who prove that everything he had been taught about protein was a lie. Directed by Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos, The Game Changers mixes real-time, groundbreaking science with cinematic stories of struggle and triumph. The film features some of the strongest, fastest and toughest athletes on the planet — and it’s backed by them too — with additional EPs including Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul. Wilks’ journey exposes outdated myths about food that not only affect human performance, but the health of the entire global population.