by Coach Chris
If you don’t live under a rock, you probably have heard of a movie on Netflix called “Game Changers.” It makes the case for a plant-based (read: vegan) diet. It takes several high performers in sports and talks about how they went to a plant-based diet. I’m not here to bash plant-based diets, but I do want to point out the misleading information that Cameron puts out there.
It describes itself as a documentary, but ironically the web address is gameschangersmovie.com and I would agree that “movie” is a better way to describe it.
I’m not going to go into a full fact check because there are many articles out there that do it better justice than I will, but I’ve gotten enough questions about my thoughts so here they are in no particular order:
1. The movie is produced by James Cameron. You might recognize the name from such things as “Titanic,” “Avatar,” and “Terminator.” So you can definitely expect production value of “Game Changers” to be up there. But more importantly, he’s also got a $140 million dollar stake in a pea protein company. If there’s a reason to get people on a plant-based diet, Cameron has 140 million of them!
2. The movie is narrated by a retired MMA fighter, James Wilks who says he got injured and then read “1,000 hours” of research over the course of 6 months. I’m not saying this is impossible, but that’s 6 hours of reading research per day or 8 hours per day if he takes weekends off. Seems a bit exaggerated for a guy that had no apparent history of reading research before. Not saying it can’t be done though.
3. The great thing about movies is that you can just say whatever you want and make it fit your agenda. For instance, at one point they say you can get the same amount of protein from a peanut butter sandwich as a piece of steak. I definitely agree with this! Except if you want to eat the same 21-25 grams of protein in a 3 oz. piece of steak (150-180 calories, 4g fat) then you’ll need to eat 6 tablespoons of peanut butter (570 calories, 48g fat) plus the 120 or so calories from whole grain bread. Ouch.
4. There’s a very compelling part where a scientist takes blood samples from professional football players and shows how cloudy the meat eater’s blood is vs the plant-based player’s. Except the two meat eaters admit they have way too much Popeye’s chicken so basically all this part of the movie tells me is that not eating fast food is better for you.
5. It’s compelling when you have high performers testify that they are now vegan – but then I wonder what their diets were to get them to be top performers in the first place and also how many tens or hundreds of thousands of athletes are out there that are NOT vegan. To look at high performers and then say everyone should eat like them is misleading.
6. There’s a part where they use Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor to highlight Diaz’s plant-based diet as superior because he agreed to the fight with short notice and beat McGregor. What the movie conveniently doesn’t tell you is that McGregor was cutting weight to fight in a lower weight class against Rafael dos Anjos, but dos Anjos had to pull out due to a broken foot eleven days before the fight. Diaz stepped in so the fight got moved to a heavier weight class and McGregor needed to put on weight last minute, but it wasn’t enough. They also forget to mention that McGregor beat Diaz in a rematch later on.
There’s a lot more of these examples of funny numbers and cherry picking data or using anecdotes as objective truth.
This is not to say the meat industry can’t be drastically improved. CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are a tragedy both for the animals and also the quality of food getting to your plate. As the saying goes, you are what you eat eats. So if there’s one area that I agree with Cameron, it’s this.
Overall, I think this could have been a much less controversial and much more valid piece if Cameron had talked about all of the benefits of eating plants (mainly micronutrients like vitamins and minerals) rather than bashing meat and exaggerating his claims in blockbuster movie fashion.