A week ago, a friend who I evidently didn’t know as well as I thought urged me to watch a documentary about “plant-based” eating. That’s right: She was cajoling me to watch a documentary about veganism.
“Just watch it no judgement just watch it,” she exhorted me via WhatsApp.
The ‘documentary’ that had her so mesmerized was called The Game Changers, starring a former UFC contestant by the name of James Wilks. After watching this film, I now fully understand why I’d need to watch it with “no judgement.” For any intelligent person to accept the abundant bullshit in this so-called ‘documentary’, they would indeed need to completely abandon their rational, analytical faculties. The Game Changers is a textbook classic case of using one-sided hogwash to push a highly dubious ideology.
The Game Changers is False Advertising
The Game Changers is marketed as a documentary, but documentaries are supposed to deal with facts, not fantasy. The Game Changers is not a documentary – it is a propaganda piece. The film is an 85-minute promo campaign for so-called “plant-based” nutrition. While anyone who gets the majority of their calories from plant sources could rightly claim to eat a “plant-based” diet, the term has been expropriated by vegan activists for PR purposes. That’s because the term “vegan” conjures up stereotypes of angry, militant zealots with poor hygiene, while “plant-based diet” sounds much more innocuous. Heck, plants are natural and give us sweet colourful fruits and beautiful flowers and stuff!
In order to pimp the vegan ideology of its creators and backers, The Game Changers also relies heavily on dodgy anecdotes, misrepresented science and cherry-picked evidence. The film is notable not only for what it includes, but the wealth of conflicting information that it conveniently excludes. As such, throughout the rest of this article I will refer to The Game Changers as a movie, not a documentary. It is about as reliable a source of nutrition ‘facts’ as any other fantasy-based Hollywood production. It is fitting that Hollywood figures feature heavily among the movie’s list of producers; executive producers include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan and Pamela Anderson.
Before I continue, let’s get something out the way: I don’t hate vegans. Yes, I think veganism is pseudoscientific nonsense, but it doesn’t follow that because I dislike the ideology I automatically dislike anyone who has succumbed to it. As an atheist, I think religion is also a load of fantasmagorical codswallop, but that doesn’t mean I do a Richard Dawkins and hate on everyone who’s ever stepped inside a place of worship. Heck, some of the people dearest to me throughout my life were and are religious. I also know for a fact there are some nice, decent vegans out there.
So just because you’ve succumbed to veganism does not mean I hate you. However, if you start pushing your ideology on me, then rest assured I’m going to get my back up, the same way I would if some born-again Bible thumper started getting in my ear. If you think avoiding a perfectly healthy and nutrient-dense food like meat is somehow going to give you robust health and save the world from the piddling 0.12% of greenhouse gases that are comprised of anthropogenic C02, then good for you. Just leave me in peace to enjoy my beef ribs, for crying out loud.
Let the Farce Begin
As the opening credits roll, the movie kicks off with the obligatory hard-edged rap song as athletes with gritty, determined expressions on their faces shadow box, punch a bag and sprint down a running track. There’s even footage of guys running through the bush with guns. I’m not sure what they’re running after (or from), but hey, running along with a gun and a mean look on your face is manly. The rap song is also very mean and manly and contains the mandatory mentions of “west side” and braggadocio about killer instinct (“I’m a killer, I’m a savage” … “Got that cold blood in my veins”).
No doubt this is all meant to impress upon viewers that veganism is “tough” and “edgy.”
Me? I yawn. And the movie is barely 60 seconds in.
The song continues: "I'm a keep runnin', I'm a champion. Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, I'm a champion ..."
I suppose the subliminal message here is that if viewers follow a “plant-based” (read: vegan) diet, they will be winners. Not just in the gym, but in life.
It’s at this point the realization begins to dawn upon me that this movie is probably going to be even worse than I thought – and there’s still another 1 hour and 24 minutes of this carry on to go.
Once the opening credits are done and the rap guy finally finishes banging on about what a champion he is (“Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh”), the camera pans to the entrance of Camp Pendleton, a large Marine Corps base in California. We meet the star of the movie, James Wilks, as he teaches soldiers a variety of combat moves. We then see footage of Wilks competing in The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC. Wilks, originally from the UK, was a competitor on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter 9: United States vs. United Kingdom, and emerged as the TUF 9 welterweight champion. Having thus scored a ticket to compete in the UFC, he went on to compete in three UFC fights during 2009 and 2010, clocking 2 wins and a loss.*
Wilks’ UFC career came to an unceremonious end after suffering serious injuries, including a neck injury with the potential to cripple him if he kept fighting. Still, winning on TUF 9 and securing the right to compete in the famed Octagon was no mean feat - a feat, by Wilks’ own admission, that was achieved while eating meat. Lots of meat.
You see, Wilks’ conversion to veganism apparently occurred after his last professional fight. It was while he was recovering from injury that he found himself with lots of free time on his hands. Wilks claims that during this time he “spent more than a thousand hours studying peer reviewed science on recovery and nutrition.”
This, claims Wilks, is when he stumbled upon a study about the Roman Gladiators.
Oh sweet Jesus - not the Roman Gladiators! Please tell me this Anglo-Saxon man with the British accent is not going to use the Roman Gladiators to push his vegan ideology?
Oh no … he is.
Can Someone Please Ban Anglos From Pontificating About Mediterranean Nutrition? (With the Exception of John Dickie)
Okay, before I continue, I need to get something else out the way: I don’t hate Anglo-Saxons, or the other assortment of fair-skinned folks that Mediterraneans tend to slot into the broad grouping of “Anglo.” I mean, the Ramones are my favourite band. Shit, I even named my dog after them. Stu Thomsen was my teenage hero. Three of my best friends are of Anglo descent (one recently died under tragic circumstances, but his memory still burns strong and I think about him daily). I’ve met enough wonderful folks of Anglo descent to know not all of them think they belong to the master race by virtue of having skin that is more prone to sunburn.
With that out of the way, I have to say this: Being a person of Italian descent and reading all the bullshit that clueless Anglo commentators write about Mediterranean nutrition can be a very, very trying experience.
True, there are guys like John Dickie who have treated the subject with the respect it deserves and published some great work about Italians and their food. But then there’s the rest of the dietary Anglosphere with its penchant for writing intelligence-insulting crap about the diets of Southern Europe. Proud Italians are supposed to sit idly by and listen to Anglos proclaim to the world that a ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is low in meat, low in fat, rich in whole grains, and even contains soy (!)
We’re supposed to idly stand by as people like the loathsome Gary Taubes quote his mother as stating “Italians tended toward corpulence because they ate so much pasta.” In fact, Taubes thinks Italians are such a bunch of corpulent fatties he even took time out from heavily criticizing Ancel Keys, to instead cite the Minnesota researcher as observing “Italians were among the heaviest populations he had studied.”
What utter bullshit. The people of Italy have never been an unusually fat population. Even after the alleviation of the abject poverty that plagued Italy during the pre- and post-war eras, Italians refused to go on the same calorie binge that the excess-loving Anglo cultures did. To this day, far fewer Italians qualify as obese than Americans, New Zealanders, Australians or Britons, who rank #12, #22, #27 and #33, respectively, on the World Health Organization’s list of the world’s fattest populations. Italians, meanwhile, don’t even feature in the top 100; of the 191 countries on the WHO list, Italy ranks way down at #106. What’s more, a 2011 study found that Italian females are the second slimmest in all of Europe.
A video of yet another “fat” and “corpulent” person of Italian descent. Geez, what is it with these Italians? Big, fat and soft, always eating and drinking too much, sitting on their asses talking about sports yet ranking among the fattest nations in the world … no wait … that’s the Anglo countries!
Then there’s the bombastic Robert Lustig, the anti-sugar zealot who claimed Americans invented pasta, and then introduced it to the Italians after World War Two!
Never mind that the first documented mention of pasta was in Sicily in the 1100s - a long way from America and a long, long time before WWII kicked off!
Now along comes James Wilks, a British guy living in the US, doing his utmost to portray the legendary Roman Gladiators as a bunch of vegans.
Oh boy, this is going to be painful. Can someone pass me the grappa?
The pivotal Roman Gladiator study that constituted Wilks’ monumental “aha!” moment allegedly analysed “more than 5,000 bones” from “at least 68 gladiators.” The samples evinced “very high bone mineral density,” which was ascribed to “intense training and high-quality diet.”
The movie gives a very simplistic portrayal of the isotope analysis the scientists used to analyse the bones. High bone concentrations of strontium are seen in vegetarians, claims researcher Fabian Kanz, while low strontium levels are seen in carnivores.
The reality is that isotope analyses give an indication of what ancient subjects likely ate – these analyses cannot and do not tell us with any certainty what portion of calories came from terrestrial animals, aquatic creatures and plant foods.
But, for now, let’s play along. The movie recreates the process of subjecting the bone samples to intense heat. “If there is low strontium in the sample, the flame will stay blue,” says Kanz. “If there is high strontium levels, it will change from blue to red.”
Those of you familiar with the way propagandists operate have probably already guessed what happens next. That’s right: The entire screen fills with an exploding bright red flame!
Yep, the Gladiators were red-hot vegans!
And if you want to be a big, strong, lean, mean fighting machine, you should be too!
Well, that’s what the movie would have us believe. But, in case you haven’t figured out yet, I don’t take my cues on nutrition from Hollywood movies. I’d much sooner defer to credible research.
So when Wilks mentions the so-called isotope “study” and briefly flashes a glimpse of the title on his laptop screen, I immediately hit the “pause” and then “rewind” buttons. I then promptly search for “the gladiator diet by andrew curry” on my own laptop. Thanks to DuckDuckGo, I instantly retrieve the same “study” shown on Wilks’ laptop.
Except that it wasn’t a study. It was a brief editorial-style article by Curry in Archaeology discussing the unpublished findings of Kanz and his colleague Karl Grossschmidt, a paleo-pathologist at the Medical University of Vienna. Grossschmidt also claimed the isotope analyses indicated that, compared to non-gladiators, the gladiators “ate more plants and very little animal protein.” But, as the article made clear, this alleged low-animal protein diet had nothing to do with animal rights or getting shredded:
“Gladiators, it seems, were fat. Consuming a lot of simple carbohydrates, such as barley, and legumes, like beans, was designed for survival in the arena. Packing in the carbs also packed on the pounds.”
Gladiators weren’t worried about sporting a six-pack or avoiding cancer or heart attacks or living to be 100; they were lucky if they lived to see their 30th birthday. As such, they were more concerned with the far more immediate threat posed by sharp-edged objects. "Gladiators needed subcutaneous fat," Grossschmidt explained to Curry. "A fat cushion protects you from cut wounds and shields nerves and blood vessels in a fight." Not only would a lean gladiator have been “dead meat,” he would have made for a bad show. Surface wounds "look more spectacular," says Grossschmidt. "If I get wounded but just in the fatty layer, I can fight on," he added. "It doesn't hurt much, and it looks great for the spectators."
It seems the Gladiators would’ve rather looked like Butterbean than Georges St Pierre. The diet of these ancient fighters was all about exploiting an abundance of readily available, easily consumed calories in order to fatten up for fights involving daggers and swords. That’s a galaxy away from cutting weight and reaching single digit body fat levels so that you can make the weight limit at your next MMA fight!
Wilks, of course, mentions none of this in his movie.
He also fails to mention that a diet of barley and vegetables would have left the fighters with a serious calcium deficit, as Curry noted. To keep their bones strong, the Gladiators reportedly downed “vile brews of charred wood or bone ash” to get the calcium they needed. Grossschmidt says calcium levels in the gladiator bones were "exorbitant" compared to the general population. It would seem a combination of intense activity and primitive “supplementation” gave these Gladiators their strong bones – not legumes and barley.
But Wait … There’s More!
Wilks claims to have spent over a thousand hours reviewing peer-reviewed research. Strange then, that he flashes the 2008 editorial about the Kanz and Grossschmidt research, yet completely ignores the peer-reviewed 2014 paper in which they finally published their findings.
He’s even met one of the researchers (Kanz) in person, but still no mention of the paper? After years of requesting studies and information from researchers, I can tell you most are proud to have their names in print and will often send, not just the requested study, but a bunch of their related papers. Yet we are supposed to believe Kanz never even mentioned his 2014 paper to Wilks?
I’m starting to smell a big, steaming, strontium-rich pile of shit here, folks.
You see, it is generally much easier to make incorrect claims in a documentary or to someone writing up an editorial, than it is to sneak them through the peer-review process. And guess what? When we read the peer-reviewed 2014 paper, we do indeed see a different picture to that presented in The Game Changers and the Archaeology article.
In The Game Changers, Kanz lets slip with a comment that somehow made it through the editing process. After the masterful propaganda moment when the screen fills with the big, scorching red flame, Kanz remarks the Gladiators were “predominantly vegetarian.”
“Predominantly” vegetarian? You’re either vegetarian, or you’re not. You either eat meat, or you don’t. If you have sex with men and women, you are not “predominantly heterosexual” - you are bisexual. If you are six-months’ pregnant, you are not “predominantly pregnant” - you are simply pregnant. If you are … okay, I think you get my point.
So let’s see what the published paper showed.
That peer-reviewed 2014 paper presented the isotope analyses for a total of 53 individuals, only 22 of which were Gladiators. Each individual contributed a single bone sample towards the analysis. Needless to say, 22 gladiator bone samples is a far cry from the “more than 5,000 bones” from “at least 68 gladiators” claimed by the movie.
It is also a rather dubious endeavour to make bold, sweeping conclusions about the diets of Roman Gladiators, who likely would have numbered in the thousands and possibly tens of thousands, based on 22 samples from a single site in what is now Turkey.
Yep, the samples were obtained from a gladiator cemetery discovered in Ephesus in 1993, believed to date back to around 200-300 AD. Ephesus is situated on the coast, so there is every reason to assume the inhabitants ate seafood. “An ancient cookbook written by Apicius,” notes the 2014 paper, “suggests that seafood was probably consumed in Ephesus. Fish was most likely eaten as fish sauce (garum), but also cooked and salted.” So the people of Ephesus probably ate fish. Last time I checked, fish were not plants.
And there’s another critical tidbit from that paper that Wilks did not see fit to share with viewers: The Gladiators and their sedentary contemporaries ate similar omnivorous diets. “In this study,” wrote Kanz, Grossschmidt and three other colleagues, “the isotopic data suggest a mixed diet with a high share of vegetables.” (Bold emphasis added)
That’s right: A mixed diet.
I eat a “mixed diet with a high share of vegetables,” and I sure as heck ain’t no vegan. Nor am I “predominantly vegetarian.”
“The stable isotope data means,” the researchers added, “do not differ significantly between gladiators and contemporary females and males, suggesting that there were no major differences in their overall diet.”
So now we learn that, based on isotope analyses, the Gladiators of Ephesus ate pretty much the same “mixed” (i.e. non-vegan and non-vegetarian) diet as their less athletic civilian peers.
So what explains the difference in strontium levels that The Game Changers makes such a big hoo-ha about? The researchers suspect it was the aforementioned ash “supplement,” which was frequently mentioned in Roman texts. In his Naturalis historia, for example, Pliny the Elder described a beverage made of stove ashes consumed by Gladiators after fights and “maybe also after training to remedy body pain.”
Again, The Game Changers mentions none of this. For a so-called ‘documentary’ that Wilks et al promote as being “fueled by the truth,” that’s pretty poor.
Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor a.k.a. the Vegan vs the Steak Eater!
This is where the movie became so intelligence-insulting, I could literally feel my IQ starting to drop. We are subjected to footage of UFC fighters Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz making their way from their change rooms to the Octagon right before their first fight.
I will repeat: Their first fight.
“McGregor was a big meat eater,” points out Wilks. Diaz, meanwhile, was eating a vegan, oh, excuse me, a “plant-based” diet.
“Okay,” I thought to myself, “I see where this is going.”
But Wilks not only goes where I thought he was going, but somewhere even worse.
But before he arrives there, his narrative suddenly becomes jumbled and starts bouncing about like a meth addict on a pogo stick. We go from watching Conor McGregor eating steak, to Sylvester Stallone punching Arnold Schwarzenegger in a movie, to watching former Ultrathon runner and vegan Scott Jurek running and howling in the forest, to listening to a guy called Dr James Loomis dish up a bunch of red herrings.
Fake “plant-based” red herrings, of course.
Loomis, a vegan doctor who is simply introduced as a former team physician for the St Louis Rams/Cardinals, complains about “outdated ideas” about nutrition among footballers, such as their alleged perception that “protein is what sustains their energy.”
C’mon, doc … you and I both know pretty much no-one really believes that anymore. Protein and its constituent amino acids have long been regarded as the “building blocks” of muscles, while carbohydrates have long been recognized as the primary fuel source for intensely exercising muscles. Only low-carb and ketogenic cultists still dispute carbohydrate’s status as the ultimate athletic fuel source.
“The actual energy for exercise comes mainly from carbohydrates in the form of glycogen that we store in our muscles,” says Loomis, telling those of us with a clue what we already know.
Then Loomis really gets his politician on when he makes the absurd statement:
“When we sacrifice those carbohydrate calories for protein calories in our diet, what ends up happening is you will develop really chronic carbohydrate or glycogen depletion.”
What a truly stupid and false dichotomy. In Loomis’ world, you either eat a high-carbohydrate/low-protein diet which boosts your performance, or a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet that decimates your performance.
How about this revolutionary idea:
Eat a diet high in carbohydrate and high in protein.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you!
Bless you, thank you!
Aw, c’mon, really, you’re too kind!
[Raucous applause finally dies down]
Serious athletes have very high calorie intakes compared to sedentary people, so why the need to claim they must choose between protein or carbohydrates? This is patently absurd.
I’m not even a professional athlete, but I average 150-200 grams of protein a day, and between 400-600 grams of carbohydrate per day. I suspect much of the plant-based crowd would have a pumpkin-sized hernia over such a “huge” protein intake, while my carb intake probably has the low-carb zealots reaching for their metformin.
Meanwhile, I yawn in the face of all their extremist bullshit and simply enjoy the best of both worlds. And there is no reason other highly active individuals cannot do the same.
So please, stop insulting us with this disingenuous “either-or” nonsense.
Again, I hate to berate my Anglo brethren, but the fact remains that this stupid “either-or” approach to diet is a distinctly Anglo phenomenon. I call it the Blame-Vilify-Avoid (BVA) phenomenon, and I’ll give you a quick breakdown of how this idiocy works.
How to Become Clueless and Neurotic About Food and Health in Three Easy Steps!
Anglo diet and health commentators revel in isolating a single aspect of nutrition, such as meat, sugar, fat, cholesterol, protein, or carbohydrates, and then blaming it for all the world’s health problems. They then conduct decades’ long campaigns to vilify the shit out of that single thing. This then leads to widespread neuroticism as the gullible believers of this bullshit then avoid the crap out of that thing. When they fail to avoid or succumb to ‘temptation,’ they suffer guilt and shame. All this tomfoolery leads to the creation of entire new industries, devoted solely to facilitating this neurotic avoidance: Low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, cholesterol-lowering, vegan-friendly and so on.
We have people discarding nutritious egg yolks, we have people shunning butter in favour of highly industrialized margarines and damaging vegetable oils, and we have doctors that have been reduced to legalized drug pushers, pressuring patients to take highly unnatural and toxic drugs in order to reduce their perfectly natural cholesterol levels.
We have people who earnestly believe the utterly ridiculous claim that by avoiding meat – a nutrient-rich food that contains important nutrients often absent in plants and found in low amounts in eggs and dairy – they will not only improve their health but save the planet!
They then become sick, lethargic, anaemic … but can’t understand why.
We have people who are so paranoid about their carbohydrate intake, they write chat forum posts fretting about the glycogen content of liver! They avoid perfectly healthy foods like rice, sweet potato and carrots, then wonder why they feel lethargic, why their breath stinks and why taking a shit feels like passing a brick.
It’s an absolute parody, but in today’s emperor-has-no-clothes world, this polarizing idiocy has now become the widely accepted and unquestioned norm.
This idiotic Blame-Vilify-Avoid approach arose in the United Kingdom in the 1700s. It really kicked off in the UK and United States with the rise of the Temperance movement starting around 1820, and the Health Reform movement in the 1830s.
Rather than encourage moderate drinking habits, the Temperance movement vigorously denounced alcohol as the devil’s poison and preached complete abstinence. This evangelical attitude was soon extended to food and other beverages. Among the numerous tenets of the Health Reformers was the avoidance of meat, tea, coffee and spices; they believed consumption of these items – especially meat - caused “animalism”, excessive sexual desire, and ill health.
These foods, claimed the Health Reformers, also caused masturbation. Seriously, this was a huge obsession with the ‘pioneering’ health reformers. They feared the youth of England and America were going to wank themselves into insanity, so they ranted and raved against “animalistic” foods and encouraged the consumption of bland vegetarian diets rich in grains. This kind of absurdity was vigorously preached by the likes of Ellen G. White, the so-called prophet revered by Seventh-day Adventists, who are now responsible for much of the ‘research’ claiming vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier than omnivorous diets.
Imagine, for a moment, if a group of Muslim researchers published a study claiming pork was unhealthy! Everyone would write it off as a consequence of their religious beliefs. But when white Anglo-American 7DA researchers from that hotbed of pro-vegetarian codswallop, Loma Linda University, pump out study after study claiming vegetarian diets are healthier than omnivorous diets, no-one bats an eyelid.
When it comes to getting people to listen to your diet and health ‘wisdom,’ it’s definitely an Anglo’s world.
Meanwhile, Back in the Land of the Non-Neurotic…
While the Anglos embraced the art of extremism, Mediterraneans simply kept eating their traditional diets, in moderate amounts and without guilt. They drank moderate amounts of wine with meals and shunned the binge-drinking and debauchery that many English and American drinkers seemed unable to resist. The Mediterraneans enjoyed their food and drink, and developed rich culinary traditions designed to maximize taste and enjoyment.
As the centuries passed, countries like Spain and Italy not only boasted some of the world’s most delicious foods and wines, but they rose up the longevity ladder to rank among the top ten most longevous nations in the world (currently #5 and #6, respectively). In fact, before all this Covid-19 chaos kicked off, Spain was on track to become the most longevous nation on Earth by 2040.
Meanwhile, the UK and US – the same countries that gave us dietary paranoia – floundered way down the ladder (currently at #27 and #37, respectively).
Despite their poor showing in the health and longevity stakes, the Anglo countries have come to dominate global discourse on diet – especially the United States. Despite spending more on healthcare per person than any other country, the US is among the fattest and most diabetic countries in the world. Yet American ‘experts’ see fit to lecture the rest of the world about how they should eat. They create idiotic food pyramids, they write idiotic diet books, and they go to places like Harvard where they receive millions in taxpayer funds to publish idiotic epidemiological studies that make ridiculous claims readily refuted by controlled clinical trial data. Oh, and they make idiotic 'documentaries.'
What a sick joke.
Track Cyclists and a Runner With an Australian Accent
After Loomis, there is some footage of track cyclists (anecdote) and some footage of a runner with an Australian accent (more anecdote). I don’t get her name, because as soon as I hear the Australian accent, I hit the fast forward button. Sorry folks, but after 52 years of living in Australia, Australians are the last people I’d go to for advice on living a healthy, athletic lifestyle. In fact, they are among the last people on the planet I’d go to for advice on just about anything. Australia is a highly dysfunctional, highly-strung country that ranks #1 in the world alongside the US for per capita illicit recreational drug use, #2 for household debt, #3 for antidepressant use, and #11 for reported rape.
The education system here is also a complete joke. Sure, in terms of the average number of years spent at school and the number of people with university degrees, Australia is a highly educated country. That doesn’t mean it is a smart country. Forty-seven per cent of the Australian population are functionally illiterate, and a recent UNICEF analysis ranked Australia #39 out of 41 high- and middle-income countries in achieving quality education. Only Romania and Turkey ranked below Australia.
Australia is the country where ‘activewear’ (a.k.a. “the clothes you wear to the gym”) is considered high fashion, where people talk incessantly about sport, spend hours watching sport, and even watch TV shows where other people talk about sports. Yet for all this obsession with sport, the country is the 27th fattest nation on Earth! As a result, Australians are every bit as prone as their American and UK peers to get sucked in by all manner of idiotic diet and health fads. So when I hear some Australian girl banging on about her wonderful new vegan diet, my eyes promptly glaze over and I steer the cursor towards the “forward” button.
It’s worth mentioning here that, in 2016, the top 5 countries for doping violations were:
- United States
For a country of its size, Italy tends to do quite well when it comes to Olympic medal counts. Now you know why. Oh, and to all those ignorant journalists around the world who earnestly seem to think Lance Armstrong introduced EPO to cycling – it was the Italians.
As for Australia, in 2017 the world’s biggest island somehow magically dropped from the top 10 list of doping violators. The number of reported violations among Australian athletes miraculously plummeted from 75 to 29. Given Australia’s continuing and uninterrupted cultural decline (we’re talking a country where the nauseating sleazefest Married at First Sight is the #1 TV show, and where people are now pulling knives in supermarkets over toilet paper), I find it extremely hard to believe Australian athletes underwent some kind of collective moral renaissance between 2016 and 2017. Knowing full well how incredibly corrupt Australia really is, I personally suspect the detection and/or testing process is being ‘tweaked’ to make Australian athletics look much cleaner than what it really is. If you think I’m being a conspiracy theorist, go ahead and take a look at the individual doping violations for 2016 and 2017. For example, in 2016, 479 samples were taken from Australian Rules Footballers, yielding only one doping violation. In 2017, only 401 samples were submitted, yielding no positive doping violations.
I’m sorry, but if you earnestly believe no Australian Rules Footballer is taking a drug on the WADA banned list, then you are unquestionably the one who needs to start parading around in a tin-foil hat.
Just to be clear, I’m not accusing the Australian runner in The Game Changers of using banned drugs. I don’t know her and have no idea what she does or does not take. But that’s the problem. Throughout the movie, we are introduced to other athletes who may or may not be taking performance-enhancing drugs, but again we have no way of knowing. These athletes all compete in sports notorious for PED use, such as athletics, cycling, strength and combat sports. Yet we are supposed to uncritically accept it is their vegan diet that led to their athletic success.
Look, I try to keep an open mind, but not so open my brain falls out of my head and on to my keyboard.
As I fast forward, I notice at around 12:00 of the movie Wilks mentions Carl Lewis. Some of you young whippersnappers may not be familiar with the name, but during the 1980s Lewis was one of the world’s most famous and successful track athletes.
But then he changed to a vegan diet. In an introduction he penned for the book Very Vegetarian by Jannequin Bennett, Lewis claims to have commenced his vegan diet in July of 1990.
The initial changes were hardly positive. By early 1991, Lewis was feeling listless and wondering if he should add meat back to his diet. After consulting with vegan author Dr John McDougall, Lewis instead decided to increase his caloric intake and says he felt much better. "And I had my best year as an athlete!", exclaimed the multiple gold medal winner.
Enter that last quote into your favourite Internet search engine and you’ll see, not surprisingly, it has been repeated ad nauseum by vegetarian and vegan devotees. But it doesn’t even begin to tell the full story. Lewis did indeed have an outstanding year in 1991, breaking the 100 metre record in Tokyo and triumphing over rival Mike Powell in an epic long jump showdown.
What is not mentioned by those who eagerly repeat the aforementioned Lewis quote is that after 1991, his dominance in the sport promptly began to wane. After setting a 100m world record the previous year, he failed to even qualify for the 1992 Olympic team in the 100m and 200m events. He did qualify for the long jump and 4 x 100m relay, winning the first and setting a record-breaking pace in his leg of the latter.
At the World Championships in 1993, he finished fourth in the 100m, and did not compete in the long jump. He took bronze in the 200m, which would prove to be his last ever Olympic or World Championship medal in a running event.
Lewis was then sidelined with injuries for the next few years. He made a comeback in 1996, qualifying for the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics. While he couldn’t match his past performances, he managed to take gold ahead of his main rivals Mike Powell and Iván Pedroso, both of whom were nursing injuries.
Lewis retired from competition in 1997.
Was a vegan diet responsible for Lewis’ rapid fall from grace in his trademark event, the 100 metre sprint? Was it responsible for the overall decline in his athletic performance? The honest answer is we’ll never know for sure. One certainty, though, is that it reeks of pro-vegan bias to attribute his sterling 1991 season to his vegan diet, but to insist that same diet had nothing to do with the performance decline that promptly followed.
Defenders of veganism would no doubt remind us Lewis wasn’t getting any younger. That’s a fair point: Age eventually slows down even the most gifted of athletes. Interestingly though, when asked about the stark contrast in his performances in Tokyo and at the selection trials for the Barcelona Olympics, Lewis himself replied: "Everyone's saying, 'Oh, he's old now. But I ran my personal best 10 months ago. The likelihood of me diminishing that much in 10 months from age is ridiculous."
Hey, he said it, not me.
Vegan Diets Make You Hyoooj!
Wilks assures us there is an abundance of evidence to show vegan diets are the schnizzle for strength, muscle and athletic improvement, but all we see are brief screenshots of journal papers. Instead of discussing their results, Wilks continually resorts back to his favourite strategy: Anecdote.
He trots out Kendrick Farris, “the only male weightlifter to represent the United States at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.”
I don’t want to take anything away from Ferris - he is unquestionably a dedicated lifter and hell strong. But the fact he was the only US male weightlifter at two consecutive and recent Olympic Games tells us little about the alleged athletic advantages of veganism and far more about the terribly sad state of Olympic Weightlifting in the United States. Everyone from Louie Simmons to Lyle McDonald has proffered an opinion on why the US has lost the plot when it comes to Olympic lifting, so I won’t bang on about it here. Suffice to say that when an affluent, racially diverse nation of over 300 million people can only muster up one male weightlifter for the world’s biggest sporting event, something is seriously amiss.
We then meet Patrik Baboumian, an accomplished Iranian-born strongman competitor. Baboumian claims that when he went vegan, someone asked him “How can you get strong as an ox without eating any meat?”
To which Baboumian replied, “Have you ever seen ox eating meat?”
No, but I’ve also never seen a human with four legs, hooves and a massive stomach divided into four compartments to digest ungodly amounts of grass.
Seriously, why do people say things like this? Using this logic, I could say that if you want to be as fearsome and agile as a lion, you should eat 10 kilograms of raw, freshly killed meat per day!
I mean, have you ever seen a lion eating lentil soup?
Baboumian claims that when he stopped eating meat, he weighed 105 kilograms. Now, he is 130 kilograms. I think it’s only fair to point out that not all of that 130kg is muscle - like a lot of strongman competitors, Baboumian sports a prodigious belly.
As he packed on this extra 25 kilograms, he also set four world records. “So when I stopped eating meat, I got bigger and stronger,” says Baboumian.
At this point, it behoves me to point out an unassailable scientific truth:
There is no credible scientific evidence showing that eliminating meat from your diet produces an increase in strength or muscle mass. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss the science on this in Part II.
So if dropping meat wasn’t responsible for Baboumian’s increased strength and weight gain, what was?
Well, it’s no secret that anabolic steroid use is rife among strongman competitors. The events that Baboumian competes in are sanctioned by the German Federation of Strength Athletes, so I went to the GFSA website to see what their drug testing policy was. While their “Doping” statement sternly warns "The GFSA is against any use of unauthorized, performance-enhancing substances (doping)," it doesn’t actually discuss drug-testing protocols. Powerlifter Layne Norton – who has posted a series of excellent critical articles and videos on Wilks and The Game Changers – says it is a "fact that the Strongman organization that Patrick competes in does not drug test."
At any rate, drug testing is no guarantee of detection. Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, the man known to "Game of Thrones" fans as "The Mountain" and the reigning World's Strongest Man, admitted in a recent interview that he has taken steroids. "When you want to be the best," he told the interviewer, "you do whatever it takes." Bjornsson also noted he has never failed a drug test during competition.
I can’t say for sure whether Baboumian is using steroids, but I think I know where any intelligent person would be placing their bets.
I also need to credit Layne for directing me, via one of his critiques, to an article depicting Baboumian’s daily eating regimen. Turns out he ingests a monumental 410 grams of protein daily by repeatedly drinking protein smoothies throughout the day. So one minute The Game Changers is featuring footage of vegan doctor Loomis warning people against high protein intakes, the next it is proudly parading a guy who consumes huge amounts of protein!
So when I eat 150 grams of natural, minimally processed animal protein per day, these guys would have me believe I am being “unhealthy.” But when Baboumian ingests almost triple this amount by way of highly processed protein powders, it is an example of eating in healthy harmony with nature!
Interestingly, in the closing scene of the movie, we once again see Baboumian, this time waxing philosophical and hinting at social responsibility. “It's not about being the strongest and the biggest,” he tells us. “It's really about ‘what are you going to do with your strength?’ and ‘what are you going to do with the power you have?’” In 2016, Baboumian made it clear he was willing to use his strength and power to assault Joe Rogan into agreeing with him. He threatened Rogan after learning the UFC colour commentator hunts, kills, butchers, cooks, and eats his own meat - you know, as humans did for millions of years before they became sedentary and started dreaming up polarizing dietary ideologies.
“I’m calling out Joe Rogan on his bullshit! I promise not to rip your legs off as long as you behave like the nice boy I assume you are. #EatingJoeRogan”
When Rogan failed to dignify Baboumian's outburst with a response, the strongman upped the ante:
“Still waiting for Joe Rogan’s response. I have to clarify though that I did not call him out for his hunting but his claims that vegan athletes do not reach their full potential due to a lack of nutrients. I’m willing to educate him on that matter either with words or physically. It’s totally up to him.”
Oh joy – another vegan sociopath who taunts and threatens those who disagree with him with physical harm. Gee, where have I seen that shit before?
One other thing regarding Baboumian. If I was creating a ‘documentary’ pimping a certain dietary ideology as healthy, I’d feel distinctly uncomfortable using strongman athletes to get my point across. After all, these guys don’t exactly have the greatest life expectancy outcomes. Carrying around huge amounts of bodyweight, then placing your heart under even further strain by hoisting ungodly heavy objects on a daily basis is not a good strategy for living to a ripe old age, no matter how healthy you think your diet is. Perhaps the best-known recent example of this is Jesse Marunde, who placed second in the 2005 World's Strongest Man competition. He died in 2007 aged only 27 from cardiac death - way too young. More recently, famed strongman Mike Jenkins passed away in his sleep at only 31 years of age. A subsequent autopsy found he had an “immensely” enlarged heart.
In 2011, Baboumian was recruited by the animal rights organization PETA to appear in advertisements advocating a vegan diet.
The biggest celebrity – literally – to feature in PETA’s celebrity campaigns was massive Green Mile star Michael Clarke Duncan. The 290-pound bodybuilder’s performance alongside Tom Hanks earned him a string of accolades, including Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actor. In 2009, Duncan began eating a vegan diet. His inspiration for this radical dietary change included PETA videos and the diet books Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard.
In May 2012, Duncan showed off his huge physique in a new PETA ad campaign featuring the slogan, “I Am Michael Clarke Duncan, and I Am a Vegetarian.”
Four months later, he died of a massive heart attack.
For some strange reason, Wilks never mentions Duncan in his movie.
Duncan’s demise is eerily reminiscent to that of Linda McCartney. A long-time vegetarian, she wrote several vegetarian cookbooks and started the vegetarian-oriented Linda McCartney Foods company with husband Paul. After narrating some anti-fishing TV spots for PETA in 1998, she died shortly afterwards from breast cancer aged only 56.
While she’s never appeared in a PETA campaign, musician and actress Bif Naked has expressed her empathy for the organization on numerous occasions. Health-conscious Naked was a vegan for twenty years and a raw food vegan for 7 – before being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. She subsequently underwent chemotherapy and a lumpectomy.
Instead of threatening Rogan, perhaps Baboumian should direct his attention to PETA and ask exactly what they’ve gotten him into?
Finally, Back to Diaz and McGregor
Finally, we get back to Diaz and McGregor. UFC fans already know that Diaz won that fight. Wilks describes the Diaz victory as “the greatest upset in UFC history,” and paints McGregor’s meat consumption as the reason. We are treated to footage of McGregor at the post-fight conference saying, “nine days out from the fight, I started eating two steaks a day and it just came back to bite me in the ass, you know.”
McGregor doesn’t elaborate on what else he was eating, but this sounds suspiciously like he was following some hare-brained low-carb regimen, perhaps to cut weight for the fight. If so, that would help explain his deteriorating energy levels as the fight progressed.
Nonetheless, after the fight, McGregor kept eating meat. And fish. And eggs. And dairy.
And on 20 August 2016, at UFC 202, he once again fought Nate Diaz.
And this is the part of the movie where I safely conclude beyond all doubt that The Game Changers is a complete farce.
Because the movie pretends Diaz vs. McGregor 2 never happened! Instead, after a shot of Nate Diaz flexing in victory, the story quickly shifts to vegan boxer Bryant Jennings.
Whoa, wait a minute!
Why don’t you tell people about Diaz vs. McGregor 2, James?
Is it because the meat-eating McGregor won that fight?
Yep, as the video below shows, McGregor defeated a battered and bruised Diaz to take back his title.
So if Diaz beating McGregor means vegan diets are better for fighters, doesn’t the same process of logic dictate that McGregor beating Diaz means omnivorous diets are better for fighters?
I guess the answer to that question was so uncomfortable, Wilks et al decided to completely ignore it.
There was absolutely no excuse for them to do this. Unless of course, you think sidestepping conflicting facts for the good of the vegan cause is an acceptable excuse.
Considering The Game Changers is advertised as “Fueled by the Truth,” I don’t think this is an acceptable excuse at all.
Wilks might be able to feign ignorance on the science, seeing he is a relative newcomer to the world of research and relies heavily on the opinions of ‘expert’ doctors and scientists. But Wilks is a former UFC fighter and knows full well that McGregor and Diaz had a rematch.
He would also know full well that Georges St Pierre, one of the most popular UFC fighters of all time, is an omnivore and eats a high protein diet. He would also know full well that Nate Diaz’s brother Nick is also a vegan, as is Jake Shields. He would also know full well that GSP fought both Nick Diaz and Jake Shields, and beat them both.
But again, there is absolutely no mention of this in The Game Changers.
Wilks would also know full well who Frank Mir is. Mir is one of the most victorious and longevous heavyweights in UFC history and he spent a full year on a meatless diet. First it was vegetarian, then vegan. “And it kept my weight down", he acknowledges. "But honestly, my body fat wasn't as low – I got a little bit softer. I was getting injured a lot more. I felt a lack of 'umph.'" And so he went back to the drawing board, this time focusing on foods "like lean meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds," and cutting out "the processed foods common in the Western diet". As a result, he quickly gained muscle and felt much stronger.
For some reason, Wilks never featured Mir in his movie.
MMA fighting is a complex activity, and a whole host of factors aside from diet can play a role in determining who emerges victorious. In the original Diaz vs McGregor bout, for example, did the notoriously cocky “Notorious” take the fight too lightly? Did he assume a quick victory and skimp on his conditioning work?
Wilks completely ignores these possibilities, even though he himself is a former fighter and is therefore intimately familiar with the intricacies of fight preparation. He also ignores the rematch, instead presenting only the original fight and hailing it as some sort of definitive proof that vegan diets are superior for combat athletes.
When I’m presented with this kind of blatant bias, I quickly switch off. And that’s exactly what I feel like doing with The Game Changers. We’re only 21 minutes in, and my intelligence has already been insulted and assaulted beyond belief. In only 21 minutes, this movie has exposed me to so much nonsense that I’ve already penned some 8,000 words.
The rest of the movie contains so much mierda I could spend the next 3 months trying to document it all (if you think I’m exaggerating, you either haven’t seen the movie or you’re one of the gullible masses who watched it and allowed yourself to be mesmerized by the glitzy Hollywood-style production and the mucho macho edgy rap music).
“Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh”
Because I have a life, and because no-one pays me to do this stuff, I’ll switch into summary mode before critiquing the rest of this abomination. In Part II, I’ll address in point form what seem to be the key take-home points throughout the rest of the movie:
- A vegan diet gives you greater energy, muscle and strength
- Eating meat and animal fat turns your blood into thick, clot-prone sludge and causes heart attacks
- A vegan diet makes your dick harder (seriously, The Game Changers says this, and Wilks has said it elsewhere too)
- Research in favour of meat is funded by the meat industry and therefore hopelessly biased
- However, conflicts of interest are perfectly fine when held by vegan doctors, researchers and the people behind The Game Changers (they don’t explicitly say this, but actions speak louder than words).
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Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher, physical conditioning specialist, and author of The Fat Loss Bible, The Great Cholesterol Con and Whole Grains, Empty Promises. For more information on Anthony's books, click here.
- Taubes G. Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, New York, NY: 24-25.
- Bennett J. Very Vegetarian. Thomas Nelson, Nov 8, 2001.
Conflict of Interest Declaration: The author has never received a single cent from the meat, dairy, egg industries. He is, however, open to bribes from the cannoli industry. Just kidding! Maybe.
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