The Game Changers Effect: One Year On
by Laura Barns
It’s officially one year since one of the most talked-about Netflix shows hit UK screens. No, we’re not talking about Stranger Things, (seriously, let it go, it wasn’t that good), we’re of course talking about health, fitness and diet documentary The Game Changers.
If you were living under a rock this time last year, The Game Changers, presented by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul is a revolutionary film about meat, protein and strength. Mixing science with cinematic stories of failure and triumph, the documentary was credited for changing the way viewers thought about meat consumption. It challenged the way that vegan documentaries have addressed plant-based diets in the past, and focused on sharing facts in an eye-opening, non-preachy way. Which is possibly one of the biggest factors in its popularity. Well, that and Arnie.
What is The Game Changers about?
So, what were the main things covered in the documentary that got people talking, thinking and eating differently?
All protein originates in plants
‘One of the biggest misconceptions in sports nutrition is that we have to have animal protein in a particular meat to get big and strong and perform at a high level. That's just clearly not true,’ shared Dr. James Loomis, former team physician for the St. Louis Rams football and Cardinals baseball teams in the US. ‘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.’ AKA a massive ‘mic drop moment’ for the ‘where do you get your protein from?’ crowd.
There are performance benefits from following a plant-based diet
The documentary highlights that whether on the field, at the gym, at work, or at home, plant-based eating can elevate your game at every level, hence the inclusion of some of the world’s most important athletes.
The performance benefits aren’t just in sports. So watch out if you’re planning on watching The Game Changers with your mum, maybe… don’t. There’s a whole section on the link between veganism and male performance in the bedroom, including an erection-timing experiment that we won’t go into just now, because hey, this is a family mag.
Humans are more similar to herbivores than carnivores in the animal kingdom
‘Our long digestive tracts are more in line with herbivores in the animal kingdom, than the short digestive tracts of carnivores. Also, humans don’t have the ability to make their own vitamin C, leaving us reliant upon plants to get it. Even our eyesight — where we see in multiple colours — could point to us being better suited to a plant-based diet, a critical element in identifying fresh, ripe fruit and vegetables.’ – Dr Richard Wrangham, Chair of Biological Anthropology, at Harvard University.
So, are humans best labelled as carnivores, herbivores or omnivores? The documentary covers all three, leaving you with the info you need to make up your own mind.
Eating a plant-based diet can improve your heart health
Animal foods are commonly connected to some of the most prevalent human diseases, like heart disease and cancer, according to The Game Changers. In particular, it highlights the fact that by not eating meat, plant-based eaters reduce their risk of heart disease by 55%. It’s here r that the documentary gets pretty science-y, so pull out your GCSE textbook and strap in.
It’s not just our bodies that benefit from a plant-based diet
The Game Changers largely focuses on health and physical performance in regards to a vegan diet, but it also touches on the impact that switching to a plant-based way of eating can have on our world. It addresses issues such as water usage (and waste), land use and air emissions in a segment all about ‘the bigger picture’.
How did the documentary change plant-based perceptions?
Now we have a refresh, let’s take a look at some of the lasting effects the film has had on the way society views food.
It approached the topic of veganism in a totally new way, reframing it as ‘plant-based’
As mentioned above, this documentary didn’t use shock tactics about animal cruelty or distressing footage or stats. It didn’t even use the words ‘vegan’ or ‘veganism’. Why? Because that wasn’t the point. People go plant-based for a plethora of reasons, and this film focused on health and physical performance, with a nod towards planetary health as a secondary message.
By focusing on health-oriented messages and using health-oriented language, the conversations and stories revolve around what the dietary shift is ‘for’ rather than what it is ‘against’ in a never-before-seen way. In fact, ‘plant-based’ was the second most-searched diet on Google in 2018 (behind ‘intermittent fasting’) not ‘vegan diet’ which was a huge shift from search terms in 2018.
It unveils the biased way that meat products are marketed
It even went as far as comparing this process to the way that cigarettes are marketed. The film reveals that when cigarettes were banned in sports advertising, Big Meat stepped in with its marketing dollars. ‘[It’s] playing the same game,’ James Wilks, narrator of the doc says, ‘with a different product.’ Chicken McNuggets became the Camels of the modern era, and athletes began to believe they had to consume animal protein in order to be strong and gain muscle.
It opened minds (and cupboards) to new ways of cooking
‘Plant-based recipes’ was also one of the biggest Google searches of 2019, highlighting The Game Changers effect in kitchens across the globe. The official website now has a dedicated recipe section which is regularly updated with tasty, diverse vegan recipes from treats to protein-packed punches.
It showed indifference to critics
As with most vegan documentaries, the film received a huge backlash from meat-eaters, brands and medical practitioners. Instead of playing defence and getting into debates, the majority of the film’s producers, cast and medical professionals let the science and stats do the talking.
‘The debunking I’ve seen hasn’t been very concerning, nor has it led me to believe the movie missed the mark,’ says Dr. Spitz (yep, the penis experiment guy). Likewise, eight-time US national cycling champion Dotsie Bausch’s story of rocketing to an Olympic silver medal on a plant-based diet is a highlight of the film. ‘I’m really interested to ask some of the critics why they’re so angry about it,’ she adds. ‘No one is trying to take away your meat. The police aren’t breaking down the door to steal the steak off your plate, so why don’t you just ignore it?’
So, did The Game Changers change the game?
Whilst the documentary certainly changed a lot of opinions, stereotypes and myths surrounding plant-based eating, it’s fair to say that it didn’t turn the world vegan. But again, this wasn’t necessarily the point.
‘We encourage people to move at whatever speed feels comfortable and sustainable for you. As the saying goes, “perfect is the enemy of good”, and nowhere is this clearer than with changing how you eat. Contrary to what most diet books and programs suggest, each positive step you take counts, and there is no single approach to changing your diet that works for everyone. This means that you, and only you, should decide what speed you want to move at, and how far you want to go.’ – The Game Changers producers.
Have you seen the documentary? Did it impact the way you think about what you eat? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
By Laura Barns
Laura is our Copywriter, who is obsessed with the Hearty Roots Stew (and has been known to eat a double serve for lunch on more than one occasion). On her day off you’ll find her walking her puppy Ralph, stopping off at bookshops and cocktail bars along the way.