The recent documentary film, The Game Changers, makes a case for vegan nutrition. It joins other documentary films that treaded that same pathway, such as Knives Over Forks, What the Health and others that purport to show evidence that much of the often stated critiques against vegan nutrition are just plain wrong and are based on faulty science. The Game Changers is currently the subject of intense controversy because it seemingly produces convincing evidence that even athletes and bodybuilders can build plenty of muscle and strength while exclusively consuming a vegan diet with no animal proteins included. The film even features a few athletes who all extol the virtues of the vegan lifestyle. None of them, however, are in the upper echelon of their chosen athletic activities. What's missing in the film are the testimonials of more celebrated and successful athletes who are vegans. Why is that? Surely there must be some highly successful vegan athletes?
This brings up two pertinent questions: 1) Is it possible to be a successful, world-class athlete while being a vegan? and 2) What is it about vegan diets that might preclude the development of superlative muscle mass and strength? As to the first question, there is no scientific reason why anyone could not be an elite athlete while consuming a vegan diet. But there are many pitfalls involved with vegan nutrition that could interfere with such goals. This only applies to vegans, defined as those who only consume fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but no animal foods at all. Another type of vegetarian is Lacto-ovo vegetarians. Strict vegans bristle when their lacto-ov0-eating brethren are called "vegetarians," and consider them false vegetarians with whom the label should not be applied. That relates to the fact that lacto-ovo vegetarians consume milk and eggs, but do not consume other animal protein foods. But milk and eggs also contain the highest grade of biological activity proteins because the essential amino acid content of those foods is the highest you can find. Indeed, that is the sole reason why omnivores, who consume both plant and animal protein foods, tend to build muscle easier compared to strict vegans. Animal protein foods contain a greater amount and balance of essential amino acids compared to plant foods. While plant foods do contain the same amino acids that are found in animal protein foods, they contain less of them and are often lacking in one or more of essential amino acids.
This lack of what scientists call "limiting amino acids," led to the concept of complementary proteins. Some plants lack certain amino acids that are found in other plant foods. As such, the idea of complementary proteins involves combining foods that lack amino acids so that when the foods are consumed together, the missing amino acids are supplied, thus making the meal comparable to eating a meal based on animal proteins, such . . .