BIG Nutrition: Is a vegan diet a game changer?


BIG Nutrition: Is a vegan diet a game changer?

Netflix has debuted a new documentary Game Changers that lays out the case for a vegan diet for athletes. Featured are several athletes from a variety of sports detailing their athletic training and performance experiences while consuming a vegan (all plant based) diet. Those of you who know me, know the first thing I advocate for is more vegetables in everyone’s intake. However, that is very closely followed by no one diet is right or doable for everyone. Doable is important because what we eat, our diet, is a lifelong endeavor. Here are some pros and cons to consider if you watch this film.


  • Presented in this documentary and offered on the website are the studies referenced in the movie.
  • Several pieces of research accurately describe how athletic performance is compromised when carbohydrate intake is insufficient.
  • The mechanisms of the impact of plant eating on endothelial function are described.
  • Research noting intake of antioxidant containing deep red or purple vegetable juices is associated with reduced muscle soreness.


  • Evidence analyses—comprehensive scientific review of multiple studies to establish the strength of the evidence—is lacking.
  • Scientific studies supporting a vegan pattern of intake over an omnivore (meat inclusive diet) is lacking.
  • Other explanations for performance improvements, such as consistency of intake, sleep, training approaches are not explored.
  • Individual testimony regarding the impact of a diet on his/her performance is the weakest form of scientific evidence.

Most people are on the continuum between omnivore and vegan. I stand by an earlier blog that it is a false choice that individuals have to choose to be one or the other—a plant eater or a meat eater. There is room for a wide range of eating approaches. Science currently supports overall eating patterns for health and athletic goals including those that have a variety of plant foods and are vegetarian, omnivore, and a Mediterranean approach.

Happy and healthful eating,

Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN

If you are trying to include more plants in your intake, contact me [email protected]