FROM THE GROUND UP: Review and main takeaways
FROM THE GROUND UP, a new paradigm-shifting documentary created, edited and directed by Santino Panico, ex-professional football player, showing the benefits of the plant-based diet on athletic performance. The plant-based diet is loosely used in the documentary but the majority of the interviewees admitted vegetarian and vegan food preferences when talking about whole foods, plant-based diet. The documentary dwells into the always relevant meat and protein debate for athletic performance, talks about meat and masculinity relationship, highlights the importance of the morals in the debate for plant-based eating and, obviously, refers to the health impact of the plant-based diet.
“Where do you get your protein?”
Every veggie or vegan can relate to the protein question and athletes perhaps even more so. We know, crudely speaking, protein builds muscle - the more muscle you have, the stronger you are. Except that athletic performance relies on energy systems of which the most potent source of fuel come from the carbohydrate-rich foods and that’s just school level biochemistry. That’s not to say that fat cannot provide the fuel for performance but it simply requires physiological adaptations and can be more beneficial to endurance sports such as running. Using protein to meet energy needs is catabolic and unsustainable and not something anyone would want.
The protein dilemma is a common misconception because we tend to associate meat as the primary protein source of omnivorous diets and, so, by excluding meat from the diet one apparently is restricting food sources. Therefore, being a vegan is perceived to be restrictive while reframing it as plant-based diet softens the precognitions of such dietary regime. It could be seen in the documentary as well - interestingly, the athletes did not label themselves vegan.
Meat and masculinity relationship
The idea of a strong, masculine man supposedly comes from the Greeks. The Milo of Croton, a famous wrestler was known for his unbelievable strength that allowed him to lift a four-year-old bull on his shoulders which was attributed to “eating 20 pounds of meat and as many bread as possible while gobbling down three pitchers of wine”. The truth is that the ancient Greek Olympian-like physique still remains a standard of masculinity in the mainstream media. And our brain makes us want to associate things that can be merely a cause and effect. Cognitive bias, and confirmation bias, in particular, is at play in this example – we interpret information that confirms our prior beliefs.
“Your dollar is your vote”
The idea of being a conscious consumer was reiterated several times by many athletes that were interviewed. The ethical and moral grounds of going plant-based are important to consider and the choices we make cannot only make a difference to our life but to the lives of others. Being ignorant about the current animal farming practices and ecological ramifications it has is one thing, understanding the choices you have is another. We, living in the Western world, have the luxury of choices of spending money. As consumers, we have the responsibility for our actions. The “reduce, reuse, recycle” axiom can be stretched one step further – “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle”. There is always something that can be done on the individual level if the top-down approach is failing. Feeling empowered and taking responsibility for your actions is perhaps what the documentary meant to achieve, anyway.
Health benefits of the plant-based diet
All the athletes mentioned the better recovery times which can be explained by the anti-inflammatory properties of plant-based whole foods diet. The health benefits of plant-based eating extend to disease prevention, treatment and reversal of several modern killers such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Taken everything into account (the environmental sustainability, the ethical and moral reasons for choosing plant-based diet), the health benefits are “the icing of the cake”, excuse the cliché. Inarguably, one cannot pour from an empty glass, so taking care of oneself first makes total sense. However, if plant-based eating can help create a kinder, more empathic and compassionate planet on top of the other benefits, the weight of counterarguments against plant-based diets seems quite insignificant.
You have to build yourself from the ground up and building yourself from the ground up is a discipline all of your life. When it comes to training when it comes to the things you do, think and especially through the things you eat, diet and nutrition play a very important role. - Alex Caceres, mixed martial artist
FROM THE GROUND UP confirms that plant-based diets do not make you weak. Yes, eating plant-based is a trial and error process and yes, the support through the transition to the plant-based diet is necessary but that is not an excuse to stick to the old paradigm that is only self-centred. My personal takeaway - if you wish to dip your feet or immerse yourself fully into plant-based eating - you should and not because anyone tells you so but because you have educated yourself about the plant-based diet and developed a good understanding of it. Once you know you can’t unknow. The rest is history.