Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT is registered dietitian and personal trainer. To learn more about Nicole, click here.
…and by finest, I mean worst. As a registered dietitian and personal trainer who encourages clients, followers, and her own family to embrace an “all foods fit” approach to eating, sitting through nearly two hours of James Wilks disseminating one false statement about animal products after another was downright painful. Conflicts of interest aside (by now you’ve probably heard that executive producer James Cameron of Titanic-directing fame is at the helm of a plant-based protein company, while Pamela Anderson has partnered with PETA for the past 22 years), the content of the film borders on unethical: preying on both the fears and dreams of young athletes by serving up restrictive eating patterns as the golden ticket to the Olympics. Here are some of the myths perpetuated by the latest Netflix documentary.
Myth: Plant-based = vegan.
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: “plant-based” does not mean vegan. And among the filmmakers’ many egregious errors, conflating these two terms stands out as the most unforgivable. Yes, there is one very vocal cardiologist who defines it as such in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, but otherwise the term is up for debate. Seeking a more reasonable guide to adopting a plant-based eating pattern that can benefit athletes and the general population alike? Look no further than our government’s very own MyPlate. Do the quick math – fill half your plate with fruit and non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with starch, and round out the remaining quarter with high-quality protein – and enjoy a meal that’s 75% derived from plants. No crazy eliminations necessary, just a bit of common sense.
Myth: Dairy causes inflammation.
We know that dairy foods offer high-quality protein, calcium, satiety, and a heavy dose of Vitamin J (for joy, of course). But the goodness of dairy doesn’t end there: one study found milk to be more hydrating than water, making it a great choice for athletes looking to replenish electrolytes and recover from bouts of intense training. Contrary to the information presented in The Game Changers, there is no significant evidence that dairy foods cause inflammation. In fact, dairy foods can have an anti-inflammatory effect in healthy individuals. If you’re allergic, avoid dairy. Otherwise, even lactose-intolerant athletes can reap the benefits of the wholesomeness of dairy by choosing lactose-free options such as ultra-filtered milk, cottage cheese, and hard cheeses.
Myth: The RDA for Protein is Appropriate for Athletes
Wilks presents graphics that would lead one to believe that not only can you get enough protein from plants, but that these proteins a) possess the same biological value as animal products, and b) the RDA is enough to meet an athlete’s needs. Wrong again. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) stands at 0.8g/kg of body weight. If that sounds low to you, you’re on the right track: it’s the amount meant to prevent loss of nitrogen, not build and repair muscle tissue. A more appropriate guideline for active individuals falls somewhere in the upper end of the AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range), which uses 10-35% as a guideline for total calories coming from protein. The International Society for Sports Nutrition offers more insight on protein intake for athletes (spoiler alert: they’re well above the RDA).
Quick note while we’re on the subject of protein: another major fallacy promoted in the film is that animals are simply the “middle man” between plants and humans. Animals aren’t tunnels through which plants pass, but rather expert up-cyclers that possess the ability to convert food waste, forage, and other items inedible or unpalatable to humans into wholesome, delicious, COMPLETE proteins (providing all amino acids, including the nine that can’t be synthesized by the human body).
Myths: Meat-eating Athletes Have Weak Erections
As the film wears on, Wilks continues to hit men where it hurts (pun intended), threatening to steal their enjoyment of a steak and ability to satisfy their partners. The very intimate “test” conducted on three athletes by urologist Aaron Spitz spawned plenty of headlines and prompted a number of vegan websites to claim…well, I’ll let you go Google that yourself. First, it’s important to note that at the commencement of his experiment, Spitz himself states “this is not a scientifically validated study.” Since there’s no data supporting the strong vegan erection hypothesis aside from a test in a poorly made documentary, the details and variables surrounding which remain unknown, let the boys eat steak.
In closing, it’s also worth mentioning that the film doesn’t show any of these athletes eating any actual FRUITS and VEGETABLES, aside from the bean burritos used in the various “experiments.” Instead they seem to make a point to showcase substitutes for chicken wings, meatballs, burgers, and cheesy pasta. Collectively, let’s encourage our young athletes to consume a variety of foods that fit their budgets, preferences, and individual needs – because moderation and balance are the REAL game changers.
All posts are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of the Animal Ag Alliance.