The Game Changers is a new documentary starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others, who makes powerful claims about the health and performance-enhancing effects of a vegan diet. And although the film very cleverly shows the benefits of veganism and also strongly refutes the counter-arguments, I often found it a one-sided story where many aspects of a healthy lifestyle are strategically omitted.
First of all I would like to say that I hope the film is an eye opener for many people. There is no falsehood in the fact that we slowly eat ourselves to death. Whether going completely vegan is the answer? Probably not..
For example, is it possible that genetic predisposition, sleep deprivation, training and stress have an impact on our health and fitness? The answer to this is simply – yes. The picture that diet alone has an impact on our health is therefore distorted and shortsighted.
The documentary makes the claim that vegetable proteins contain the same spectrum of amino acids as animal proteins. Red meat, chicken, fish all contain all essential amino acids. Essential means that our body cannot produce the protein itself and that we must therefore obtain it through nutrition. Quinoa is the only vegetable protein source that contains a complete protein spectrum and this is also a very low amount. As a vegan you will therefore have to combine multiple protein sources to get a full spectrum. The athletes in the movie live to eat and train. If you happen to have a job, maintain a family and social life, this will prove to be more difficult.
However, the documentary does have a point to state that as a Western society we have become a bit crazy in our meat consumption and that as a result we do not get enough vegetables. A typical restaurant meal usually contains a large piece of meat, with a small pile of lettuce on the side, which you may eat if you are still hungry after your 300g ribeye. Fruit and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals for our health. So we all do well to eat more of this.
Meat is said to increase the inflammatory levels in the body. Red meat does this too, but what about the anti-inflammatory effect of Omega 3 fats in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel? Meat also contains carnitine, an amino acid that ensures that fat can be absorbed in the mitochondria, where it can be converted into energy.
The effects of agriculture on the climate are disturbing, but this is beyond my expertise, so I will not judge this.
Conclusion: Should we all eat less meat and more vegetables, fruit and legumes? – Probably. Is veganism a solution for everyone? Probably not. Choosing the right food style is different for everyone and, in addition to genetic factors, it mainly comes down to how well you can stick to it in the long term!
“The best diet is a vegan diet, with some meat on top of it” – Luke Leaman