Should You Follow Tom Brady’s Nutrition Advice?

a football in the shape of a heart with measuring tape

NFL star Tom Brady’s book just hit the shelves accompanied by massive fanfare. The book outlines his TB12 Method, a holistic approach to training, nutrition, and lifestyle that promises to help you achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance.

That Tom Brady has had a long career as an elite athlete is beyond question. How much his approach to nutrition has to do with that is debatable. Although there is some good advice, most of the nutrition information in this book is just nonsensestuff that’s been circulating around the mythosphere for decades, if not longer. Brady and his team (because, let’s be clear: Brady did not write this book) recycle it all here, accompanied by the usual quasi-scientific mumbo jumbo.

“Some of these principles have been around for thousands of years,” he points out. Yup. That doesn’t make them true. Just old.

Tom Brady Reaches Peak Myth

For example, Brady advises us not to drink too much water with our meals because it interferes with digestion and “washes away the body’s natural enzymes which break down your food.” As I’ve pointed out before, this doesn’t really make sense. Some of the healthiest foods we eat, such as raw vegetables, are up to 90% water. No one worries about vegetables diluting your stomach acid or your enzymes. The body is clearly designed to digest food in the presence of water.

Although he doesn’t want you drinking water with your meals, Brady is passionate about hydration. The amount of water he suggests drinking (four to six liters a day) is far in excess of the amount of water you would need to stay hydratedunless, of course, you are currently serving on a chain gang in Death Valley.

Brady also adds an electrolyte concentrate to every glass of water he drinks. (Don’t worry, you can buy it on his website!) Given the nutrient density of Brady’s diet, he probably gets more than enough electrolytes from his diet. However, I suppose some extra electrolytes could at least reduce the risks of over-hydration from drinking all that water.

Brady also takes issue with pale or white foods but obviously evaluating foods by color has its limitations. Onions, garlic, cauliflower, white beans, and halibut are all foods it would be a shame to avoid based on their lack of pigmentation. In fact, the humble white button mushroom contains more antioxidants than tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, zucchini, carrots, or green beans.

Speaking of white foods, the TB12 method also advises that dairy products be consumed in limited quantities because they “are high in calories and lower in nutritional value than other foods.” Really? That depends on which dairy products and which nutrients you’re talking about, not to mention which other foods you’re comparing them to.

Triple cream brie is pretty low in vitamin C and pretty high in calories, I’ll grant you. But if you’re looking for a source of highly absorbable calcium, you really can’t do much better than milk or yogurt, which will give you a third of your daily requirement for about 100 calories. A serving of low-fat cottage cheese will give you as much protein as a serving of chicken breast for about the same calories.

Brady is careful not to eat protein and carbohydrates together, an old food-combining myth I’ve debunked in the past. And he strictly avoids nightshade vegetables on the mistaken belief that these are inherently inflammatory. As I’ve noted before, nightshades may be a problem for the small percentage of the population with solanine sensitivity but for the rest of the population they are both nutritious and, if anything, anti-inflammatory. And no woo-based regimen would be complete without the belief that certain foods alkalize the body. Sure enough, Brady suggests that 80% of your diet should be made up of alkalizing foods.

Brady also advocates frequent snacking throughout the dayand just to make it easier for you to follow this advice, you can buy TB12-branded snacks for just $50 a box. Unfortunately, for those who do not exercise for a living, frequent snacking often results in excessive calorie intake and weight gain. And, as you’ve heard me say before, the idea that eating frequently keeps your metabolism stoked is an oft-repeated but completely unfounded myth.

Brady could be getting the same results from a less restrictive or complicated regimen.

But Just Look at the Guy!

But wait: Don’t the results speak for themselves? Aren’t Brady’s physique, performance, and longevity all the evidence we need that this approach works?

Something’s obviously working for Bradyin addition to great genes, talent, focus, discipline, a great work ethic, a job that involves working out for several hours a day, a support staff. and virtually unlimited resources, he’s also got a very nutritious diet. But, given what he’s got to work with, I bet he could be getting the same results from a less restrictive or complicated regimen.

The Bottom Line on TB12

Read the book, if you like, for the entertainment value and, perhaps the inspiration. Bookmark the recipes that look tasty you. But when it comes to implementing the nutrition program, let me save you some time, effort, and money.

Brady’s best advice about nutrition can be summed up in a few simple principles, ones that you’ll recognize if you’ve been following my podcast for any length of time.

  1. Eat whole foods most of the time.

  2. Eat tons of fresh vegetables.

  3. Have some protein with every meal and snack.

  4. Choose healthy sources of fat, such as avocado and nuts.

  5. Limit added sugars and refined flour.

As for Brady’s training advice, that’s a question better handled by my QDT colleague Brock Armstrong, who hosts the Get-Fit Guy Podcast.

Have you read Brady’s book yet or tried his nutrition regimen? I’d love to hear what you thought. Post your comments below.

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