Released in 2019, The Game Changers movie is now cited by many new vegans as the reason they game up meat.
We caught up with The Game Changers star Patrik Baboumian on a recent episode of The Simply Vegan Podcast.
A real life Hulk
Inspired by superhero comics at a young age following the death of his sister and dad in a car accident, The Game Changers star Patrik Baboumian has always had a passion for bodybuilding.
“I would escape into these fantasy worlds where there were creatures who were insanely strong, and who had the ability to withstand military forces and fight against them. And that was something that I connected very strongly to,” he tells us, referring to comic book heroes like the Hulk.
Becoming a vegan bodybuilder
“Strength training was one pretty big part of my life. Another thing that is rooted in my childhood is my fascination and love for animals.
Patrik explains how he rescued a baby raven with his then-girlfriend, which was the trigger for him to consider his dietary choices.
“So we had this baby bird, and we’re trying to get him on his feet because when we found him he was injured. So we took him home and had him for a few weeks to try to get him in better shape to then release him again.
“I really started to reflect on my meat consumption. I realised that on the one hand, I love animals and when I would see them in distress, I would have the immediate response to try to help and try to do something about it. And then, on the other hand, I would go and buy meat and eat it and I knew an animal had to die for that.”
Patrik made the connection between the animals he loved and cared for, and the animals he deemed OK to eat. Credit: Instagram/patrikbaboumian
The effect of giving up meat
“I was pretty convinced at that time that stopping meat would hurt my performances. But I didn’t really care. Because obviously, you know, your values are more important.”
Vegan bodybuilder Patrik first became vegetarian and was amazed that his performance and strength improved.
“My performances exploded. I got heavier, I got stronger. I was doing really well in training. And that was very unexpected. So that was really the reason that I was motivated to start competing in strongman competitions.”
Patrik won the lightweight category in Germany and was lightweight champion two times. He then I decided to go to the heavyweight category.
It was this that led him to become Germany’s Strongest Man – but this was before making the switch from vegetarian to vegan.
“I’ve been Germany’s Strongest Man as a vegetarian. And that was, for a lot of people, basically a sensational surprise.
“There would be a lot of headlines in big newspapers, and I would be invited to all kinds of TV shows, because I was basically a freak for most people.
“I was never intending to be someone who is going to change the world. I would always mention that I’m vegetarian because I knew I was the only one.”
Previously a big meat eater, strongman Patrik Baboumian went vegetarian first and then vegan. Credit: Instagram/patrikbaboumian
“When I won the title, I had all this media coverage. I was getting a lot of feedback from people telling me they saw me on TV, speaking about being compassionate for the animals and being the strongest guy in the country.
“It kind of liberated them, because most of the young guys were afraid of talking, being compassionate, or saying that they’re compassionate. Because at least at that time, that would make them look soft and less manly.”
But Patrik wasn’t feeling well on his vegetarian diet and decided to try switching back to his old, meat-heavy eating plan.
However, this didn’t help his health improve.
“Later on, when I went vegan, I actually found out those problems were because of the massive amounts of dairy that I was consuming. But at that time, I didn’t really understand that.”
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Starring in The Game Changers
So how did he come to star in The Game Changers film?
“James Wilks, the producer and narrator of the whole thing, had the idea to make this film back in 2012. He basically went vegan at the same time that I went vegan.
“He connected with me pretty early on. And that was the time where he did all this research. And he just basically, you know, couldn’t believe that everything that he had believed in for his whole life all of a sudden seems to be flawed.
“So he contacted me and he had this idea to make this film, centred on the idea of giving a different view of masculinity.
“Basically, the idea was to take athletes who are in stereotypically masculine sports, like fighting and weightlifting. The idea was to debunk the notion that ‘vegans are basically not very manly’.
“And then it developed into something way bigger and way more broad. He contacted me and asked me if I would want to be part of it. And I immediately said yes, because the idea of the film was exactly what I was trying to do in public.
“I was trying to achieve the same goal, but I was just doing it with interviews and competitions.”
The Game Changers film features a host of vegan athletes. Credit: Instagram/patrikbaboumian
How to build muscle on a plant-based diet
For anyone new to veganism, making the switch can feel like a minefield – especially when you factor in maintaining or building muscle. But Patrik advises it’s not necessarily about what you add to your diet, more about what you cut out.
“You give your body everything that you are giving it before going vegan. So you make sure you get enough protein and you make sure you get all your vitamins – you just use plant sources to do all that.
“You’ve still got everything that your body needs to work, all the good stuff is still there, but you’re cutting out stuff like dairy and eggs that cause problems.
“Meat stays in the stomach for way too long and causes inflammation and so you’re basically just taking out all the bad stuff.
“If you do it right, it’s going to always be better than with animal products, because that diet includes so much stuff that hurts the body.”
Maintaining your calorie intake
“Plant foods come with a lot of fibre, or with a lot of water, so that makes it hard to get enough actual calories into your body to be able to perform, train and build muscle.
“You just have to choose the right sources. Basically, legumes for protein, grains (for protein, but also for good carbs) and then one crucial thing is a lot of variety.
“If people fail, it’s because they’re not eating enough. Look for things that are more calorie dense like peanuts. A quarter of the weight of a peanut is protein – that’s actually more than a steak.”
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