Nutrition can be quite a complex science. In order to understand it, you need to do a lot of research which, unfortunately, a lot of athletes just don’t have the time for.
Once you start looking into physiology, it usually raises more questions than it answers, which is why it can make people feel more and more frustrated. Luckily, nutritional documentaries can come in handy to help you get started.
A lot of athletes become more focused on the physical side of their training, rather than the nutritional. Even if you’re working hard on the physical aspect, if you’re putting bad things into your body, they can still have some drastic effects. That’s why it is important to also consider your diet.
Eating or drinking unhealthily can cause illnesses that can put an unnecessary stop to your training. These not only have a huge effect on your health, but can also affect your athletic ability.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best nutrition documentaries that will completely change the way that you live and eat as an athlete.
The Game Changers (2018)
This 2018 documentary was produced by some of the world’s most famous athletes, including Arnold Schwarznegger, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, and Jackie Chan. The focus of this documentary is to break down the myth that athletes need meat (and animal products) in order to be strong, fast, and have endurance.
The movie follows the story of ex-MMA fighter James Wilks during his recovery following a leg injury. Wilks travels the world and discovers the benefits of a plant-based diet, and how athletes can use it as an advantage.
Wilks, who is vegan himself, shows how athletes can still build muscle if they choose to only consume plant-powered protein.
One of the strong points of this documentary is that they feature athletes from a wide range of disciplines and sports. For example, one of the athletes included is ultra endurance athlete Rich Roll, who is one of the biggest athletic advocates for a plant-based lifestyle.
The focus of this movie is primarily about the environmental effect that the animal agricultural industry has on the planet. However, it does also show that dairy is an unhealthy and inefficient way to nourish our bodies, despite the fact that consumption continues to increase year upon year.
The documentary looks into how marketing and government lobbying is so strong that we don’t even have an idea of how our meat products are grown and produced.
It also shows that marketing manipulates us into buying and consuming more of it because of the notion that it is “good for us.”
The film was originally directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, but it caught the attention of Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio is known for his commitment to helping solve climate change, and he is also the UN’s Messenger of Peace.
The actor has worked hard to make sure that more and more people watch this documentary.
What The Health (2018)
This is a provocative follow-up to Cowspiracy, which looks at the relationship between the consumption of animal protein and chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
As well as investigating the terrifying truth that animal proteins can put a lot of stress on our bodies via inflammation and toxins, the documentary also uncovers corruption within the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and food industries.
How this documentary can benefit athletes is learning about how animal protein increases stress levels in the body. Even if you just reduce your meat consumption, you will notice a difference in your energy levels and recovery time.
Forks Over Knives (2011)
This is another documentary which investigates the negative effects that consuming animal proteins has on the human body. Through a dependence on animal protein, we can actually stimulate the growth of various chronic diseases.
Forks Over Knives looks at how chronic diseases are typically treated with pills and medication, but how they can actually be prevented by changing your diet.
The documentary also looks at how animal products and processed food can cause addiction and overeating as a result of high sugar, salt, and fat levels, and their lack of nutrition.
It also follows real patient stories as they try to transition to a plant based diet. The people included in the documentary succeed in improving their health, and eliminate their dependence on pills.
One of the biggest eye openers in the film is how the “Western diet” of processed food has changed whole nations’ diets in a matter of decades, and subsequently led to a rise of chronic health conditions.
As a result of this, the film places an importance on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as part of your daily diet. It’s also great at focusing on what our body needs in terms of nutrients, rather than calories.
Eat, Fast and Live Longer (2012)
Fasting has a reputation for being unpleasant, and in a lot of cases, unhealthy. However, if it’s done properly (and safely), this nutrition documentary actually shows how fasting can be good for the body.
The documentary looks in particular at how fasting allows our bodies to take a break from having to process the food that we put into our bodies daily.
During fasting, our bodies also maximize the production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which can benefit athletes by speeding up the adaptation process.
What’s interesting is that a lot of elite endurance athletes use intermittent fasting or fasted training in order to improve their endurance.
Supersize Me (2004)
This documentary looks at how much of a destructive effect and power that fast food has on the human body. Supersize Me follows the story of Morgan Spurlock who eats nothing but McDonald’s for an entire month straight.
During the experiment, he visits a doctor regularly to keep track of his physical health. At the end of the month, the results are as expected – not great.
This is important as a lot of athletes focus on the calories in food, rather than their nutrition. This is why some athletes turn to fast food as a way to refuel. Supersize Me is an interesting experiment which shows that fast food is a bad option for anyone.
One of the more fascinating things about the documentary is that after a few weeks on his fast food diet, Spurlock’s body begins to demand fast food. He starts to wake up with these hangover-like symptoms that can only be curbed by eating McDonald’s once again.
Rotten is a documentary which wants you to think twice about your next meal. It explores the supply and demand of food and agriculture in the United States, by looking into the way that food is grown, produced, manufactured, and eaten.
However, it shows that this is clearly not a sustainable process.
The documentary focuses on the point that many Americans aren’t aware of where their food is coming from, and what it can be contaminated with. Also, a lot of farmers are unable to keep up with the demands of the American consumer industry.
By thinking about where your food is coming, particularly from the meat industry, it encourages viewers to eat more consciously and make better consumption choices.
This is the work of author, culinary enthusiast, and Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism Michael Pollan. He is on a personal mission to change the way that people eat. Instead of taking an hysterical approach, he takes a more balanced approach to the subject.
Pollan warns viewers against factory farming as he makes a case for eating ethically sourced meat. It also looks at modern day bread production, and how there is currently a widespread gluten free movement. Pollen also makes a dig at the misdirected government farm subsidies.
Despite these varying topics, the overarching theme of this four-part series is that we need to form greater connections with our food in order to sustain both the environment and our health.
Hungry For Change (2012)
Diet culture plays a pretty big part in the modern health and food industries. There are always new products emerging on the market which emptily promise to “help you lose weight.”
The diet industry is so domineering and overwhelming that it leaves many feeling confused and disillusioned by the products.
The filmmakers of Hungry for Change help to uncover the secrets and the deceptive marketing strategies which are used by health and food industries to help push their products, and trick you into buying more and more.
Once you’re aware of these schemes and lies used in these industries, it can help you make more informed decisions about what is best for your health.
That Sugar Film (2018)
This is an Australian documentary which takes a deep dive into the harmful effects that “hidden sugar” can have on the human body.
The film follows Damon Gameau who consumes a relatively low-fat, healthy diet for 60 days straight. As well as eating healthily, Gameau regularly exercises, and follows what most would consider a healthy lifestyle.
However, on top of his low-fat diet, Gameau consumes around 40 teaspoons of “hidden sugar” per day, which – if you haven’t already guessed – has a detrimental effect on his overall health.
One of the more shocking results is that within the first 18 days, Gameau developed a fatty liver disease, which shows just how quickly excess sugar can take effect.
All in all, That Sugar Film helped to increase global awareness of the dangers that added sugars (which are found in a lot of common foods) can have on the human body, and why we should avoid them.
The stories that are included in these documentaries are all a little different. However, they all share a common goal, which is to inspire and influence others when it comes to looking after their bodies and making healthier eating habits and choices.
It is worth being cautious about some of the topics mentioned, like fasting, and we recommend that you do some more research or speak to a doctor or nutritionist before drastically changing your diet.
It’s worth remembering that there is not one singular approach to health and fitness; what worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you.
The best way to approach your diet is to listen to your body, and remember to replenish it with a nutrient-rich and well balanced eating pattern. For a personalized dietary plan it’s best to seek advice with a doctor, nutritionist, or a registered dietician, so you can find the best plan for you.
With that being said, we hope that the documentaries on this list make you consider what you consume, and learn more about how to feed your body in a healthy way by feeding it the nutrients it needs to function at its best.