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Behavior Change
In ‘Game Changers,’ Veggie Athletes Prove Everything We’ve Been Taught About Protein Was a Lie

New documentary follows world-class, high-performance athletes who’ve gone veggie and are beating their meat-eating counterparts at their own game — while also improving the health of the planet.

More and more studies continue to emerge that extol the superiority of plant-based diets, not only for ourselves but for the sustainability of the planet — along with corresponding recent campaigns from Hubbub, WRI and WWF, to name a few. Now, a new documentary is looking to drive that point home by telling the story from a new point of view: that of world-class, high-performance athletes who can demonstrate those benefits themselves.

From acclaimed National Geographic photographer, Academy Award-winning director (The Cove) and vocal vegan Louie Psihoyos comes The Game Changers — a feature-length documentary that investigates the rising prevalence of plant-based eating that’s powering world-renowned athletes across the globe.

Executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, the film follows Ultimate Fighting champion and combatives trainer James Wilks as he connects with experts and dozens of other athletes — including Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton (who just launched his own plant-based burger chain), heavyweight boxing champ Bryant Jennings, top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic, two-time Australian 400-meter sprinting champion Morgan Mitchell, and nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul — whose success and continued performance are debunking the decades-old myth that athletes need animal protein to perform at peak levels. None of them started out veggie, but they all report enhanced performance since they’ve made the switch.

The film is coming to theaters on September 16th for a special, one-night-only screening at 1,000+ theaters around the world — including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The special event will feature exclusive pre-show content and never-before-seen bonus footage; plus an after-show with deleted scenes, extended interviews and surprise appearances.

"The Game Changers follows my personal journey as I learned how much of what I had been led to believe about food, health and athletic performance was simply untrue,” James Wilks said in a statement. "We investigate the explosive rise of plant-based eating in the world of professional sports, and how these benefits extend far beyond just being faster, tougher and stronger. We’ve worked on this for more than half a decade, and can’t wait to share it with the world."

Wilks was forced to retire from Ultimate Fighting in 2012 at the age of 34, after doctors warned him of a “significantly high risk of paralysis” if he continued fighting. During his keynote at SB’18 Vancouver to promote the film, Wilks explained how his road to recovery led him to rethink his diet:

“I wouldn’t have eaten a single meal that didn’t include animal products or meat, because I thought that I needed animal food for protein,” he said. “So, [getting injured] was really a journey for me, looking into the research for optimal nutrition and recovery … after you realize you don’t need these foods — and then after you realize the damage it’s doing to the planet, as well — it was really a simple decision for me to just eat plant-based.”

Many people don’t feel their actions can make a difference to help impact the environment or mitigate climate change, but during his talk, Wilks asserted the opposite: “What we eat is the biggest environmental and health issue of today — we have the opportunity to have a huge impact immediately by what we do three times a day. So, I think companies can align their food programs with their sustainability strategies — linking climate and food choices is an obvious way to make a big change. That’s really the main thing — recognizing the [impacts we can make] with a plant-based diet.