Ever heard of the TB 12 diet?
It’s a diet made famous by NFL player Tom Brady. In fact, it’s also called the “Tom Brady diet”.
There’s a reason it’s famous. I mean, he’s 43 and still playing at his best. Surely there must be something unique about what he does.
In Brady’s book, The TB 12 Method, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback outlined what an average day of eating and working out is like in his shoes. Or cleats.
I’m in the middle of a fitness shake-up, so I thought I’d try it and see what happens.
So below I’ll explain what the intense diet involves, and reveal what my results were from each facet. I’ll then talk about the actual science of the Tom Brady diet.
Prepare to be surprised!
Before we start, a 2021 update
There has been an incredible amount of interest in Tom Brady’s diet.
After all, he is 43, and he has just won his 7th Superbowl. It really is astounding.
What is even more astounding is that he is incredibly transparent about how he maintains his level of performance.
It’s almost like he is divulging his secret to health and fitness to date his opponents to try and match his level.
I followed this diet in 2019, and I’ve kept a few parts of his diet for 2 years now.
I can definitely say that it has helped me become a healthier and more natural version of myself.
And look, his approach to eating might be what some people call strict, but I’ve personally found it highly rewarding and effective.
Adopting Tom’s fluid habits has changed my life in more ways than one.
According to Tom Brady:
“The regimen I follow is a mix of Eastern and Western philosophies…Some of these principles have been around for thousands of years. My nutritional regimen may seem restrictive to some people, but to me it feels unnatural to eat any other way.”
“Many people have conditioned their bodies to a nutritional regiment made up of lots of white or pale-looking foods—french fries, potato chips, white bread, chicken nuggets—that don’t exist in nature.”
So when you’re reading through Tom Brady’s diet, it would be a shame to judge it quickly because it seems different or controversial.
The truth is, these principles have been around for thousands of years, and it’s more natural than what a lot of us eat in the west.
Alright, so now you’re wearing your bias-free glasses, let’s get to the diet of the never-aging Tom Brady.
Here is how the Tom Brady diet begins the day. Brady says he usually wakes up around 6 a.m and immediately drinks 20 ounces of water with electrolytes (about 2.5 cups).
Brady’s a big advocate for staying hydrated to an almost ridiculous extreme. He says he drinks 12 to 25 glasses of water a day, with his self-branded TB12 electrolytes added.
Yes, he’s promoting dietary products along with his book. Surprised?
After his 20-ounce glass of water, he then makes a smoothie containing “blueberries, bananas, seeds, and nuts”.
According to Brady, it is “nutrient-dense, high in fat, high in protein, and high in calories.”
He then works out at 8 am.
During his workout, Brady says he drinks more water with electrolytes.
Once he’s finished his workout, Brady devours a protein shake with one scoop of his self-branded protein powder. With more electrolytes, of course.
And he always makes sure to have the shake within 20 minutes of finishing his workout.
“Wait any longer and your body will begin seeking its own protein sources and start tearing down muscle you’ve just been building up.”
Summary: 20 ounces of water with electrolytes, a smoothie containing blueberries, bananas, and nuts. And a protein shake after a workout.
What I found
This part of the day worked well for me. I usually wake up at 6 am anyway. Having 20 ounces of water was easy to do, and it felt great.
8 hours is a long time to go without water, so it was an awesome way to immediately rehydrate the body. I also made sure to put some ice in the water, which boosted my alertness and low energy levels.
The smoothie tasted awesome! I’m allergic to nuts, so I had to bypass them, but besides that, it felt energizing and made my stomach surprisingly full.
Making sure to have water with electrolytes kept my energy up and I was firing for most of the workout (a 5 KM run with a 30-minute weight session).
The protein shake after the workout was necessary. I was quite hungry after the workout, especially for the first 5 days of trying this diet. The protein shake was quite filling, but I think you’ll find you’ll be hungry within a couple of hours.
What does the Tom Brady diet entail at lunchtime?
Around noon, Brady has lunch, which is “often a piece of fish, but always with lots of vegetables.”
Brady says he sticks to 4 principles when it comes to food.
First, never eat protein with carbohydrates like bread or potatoes.
The second is that combing protein or carbs with vegetables is great for digestion.
Brady says he follows a mostly “alkaline diet”, which means to limit “acidifying” foods like white rice and bread to only 20 percent of his diet. The other 80 percent should be made of alkalizing foods, like sweet potatoes.
Brady is a big advocate for snacking and he says that if he needs to snack between 2-5 PM, he’ll have fruit (banana or apple) or a protein shake, with electrolytes.
His third principle is that eating fruit with other food is bad for digestion, and his fourth is that you shouldn’t have water while eating as it interferes with digestion.
Summary: A piece of fish (or other meat) and lots of vegetables. Afternoon snacking of bananas, apples, or protein shake (can do both).
What I found
I was pretty hungry when 12 pm arrived as I had only had a smoothie and protein drink for the day. I’ll admit, this was probably the hardest part of the diet: being incredibly hungry from about 9 am to 12 pm. However, after about 5 days I got used to it and the hunger pains didn’t worry me anymore.
For lunch, I made sure to have some form of meat (like chicken, pork, or fish) with a heap of vegetables.
It felt like a healthy meal and I usually had a protein shake (or bar) and a banana in the afternoon. Definitely a lot healthier than what I would usually eat.
I also made sure to have at least a few glasses of water with electrolytes throughout the afternoon. Plenty of bathroom stops, but my energy levels remained pretty stable.
Usually, I’m prone to afternoon slumps, but after about 10 days I was having far less.
The Tom Brady diet at dinner. Brady usually has dinner around 6 p.m.
According to Brady: “Dinner is another nutrient-dense meal that includes a lot of vegetables.”
He doesn’t go into detail about what that exactly involves.
Brady says he doesn’t drink alcohol or have dessert either, but he does usually have a “protein shake”.
However, the book includes a recipe for his famous avocado ice cream. Unfortunately, I didn’t give that a try, but it could be a nice handy addition to the diet if you feel it’s a bit boring.
Summary: Meat and lots of vegetables. If you need to snack after, have bananas, apples, or a protein shake.
What I found
This was, again, pretty easy. I simply ate what I had for lunch – meat and vegetables. A nice well-rounded meal.
I found that it wasn’t enough food for me in the first few days, so I upped it to several pieces of meat and a big load of vegetables.
Every single night I had a protein shake, which was great. Protein shakes are really filling, so I didn’t feel hungry at all throughout the night.
One small issue I had was that I like to have a beer or 2 at night. I had to forgo this. But in the future, I personally don’t think there’s a lot wrong with having one or two beers at night, but I believe the key is to have at least one cup of water with each beer.
Here are my results
The Tom Brady diet works because it’s a well-rounded diet. Brady, himself, says that “it’s always about balance”.
I felt energized in the morning, thanks to the smoothie and protein shake, and as long as I made sure I had enough meat and vegetables for lunch and dinner, I wasn’t ever really hungry (besides the first 5 days).
The excessive amount of water also felt like I was getting rid of toxins out of my body and I was never in danger of being dehydrated.
However, I am currently living in a humid and hot climate, so perhaps that’s why it worked so well for me.
In the process of one week, I managed to shed 1 kg and I felt like I was getting stronger in the gym thanks to the huge amount of protein intake.
Be warned, though. Those protein shakes really make you fart. That didn’t bother me but it did bother my girlfriend.
These results could also be thanks to the fact that my diet was pretty awful before trying this. But it works in maintaining my energy levels, helping me lose weight, and building my muscle, so I’m going to keep going with it!
But perhaps not as religiously as Tom Brady does. Read the science behind the diet below to find out why that is.
What the science says about Tom Brady’s diet: 5 things to keep in mind
It’s important to realize that Tom’s diet isn’t that different from other diets out there.
In fact, it’s really a combination of anti-inflammatory eating and an alkaline diet, with a focus on eating primarily organic foods.
According to Tom Brady, to reach peak performance, you must be adequately fueled for efficient workouts.
The diet is “plant-heavy” but meat, poultry, and fish are included – just in small amounts.
So, just to recap, this is what is completely off-limits in the TB 12 diet:
– Gluten and refined carbs like bread, snack foods, cereals, pasta
– Trans and saturated fats
– Dairy like milk, cheese, and yogurt
– Too much salt
– Vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and bell peppers
– Excessive alcohol and caffeine
– Processed foods and added sugars
Also, Tom Brady makes sure to eat a diet that is 80% alkaline and 20% acidic.
Why? Because by choosing lower-acid produce, the body’s pH gets closer to neutral – reducing inflammation (and disease risk).
Here is a sample of what foods are alkaline or acidic:
Alkaline foods: Broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini
Acidic foods: Strawberries, pineapple, oranges, salmon, beef, walnuts, yogurt, soybeans.
Now I’m not a dietitian or a scientist, but I decided to look up the science of what the Tom Brady diet really does. Here’s what I found:
1) Anti-inflammatory eating could be really good for you
So, cutting out processed foods, added sugars, refined carbs, and trans fat is good, and replacing them with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats and oil is great for inflammation.
Adopting these changes seem like it would benefit most people.
2) You don’t have to avoid dairy to the extreme that Brady does
Brady avoids dairy products because of their inflammatory effect. This really depends on what dairy products Brady is talking about.
Ice cream is definitely inflammatory, however, some low-fat milks and yogurts have actually been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Intake should be kept moderate, but it’s certainly fine to have healthy yogurts with good bacteria. It’s also a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
So in this case, most people don’t need to go as extreme as Tom Brady.
3) You don’t necessarily need to avoid all nightshade vegetables like Brady
This includes vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes.
People often mention that these are the cause of arthritis inflammation because of the compound solanine.
But there’s no evidence that suggests this. In general, these vegetables are actually anti-inflammatory.
So for most people, you should be eating these vegetables.
4) Following an alkaline diet isn’t as important as Tom Brady thinks
Brady makes sure to eat foods that have an alkalizing effect on the body to reduce acidity and inflammation. People have said that alkaline diets reduce cancer risk or growth.
However, there are no actual studies that directly link foods with an acidic effect with cancer. And there isn’t any evidence that suggests that the alkaline diet has much impact on inflammation at all.
So again, you probably don’t need to follow this as religiously as Tom Brady does.
5) And do you really need to drink 1-gallon of water a day?
Tom Brady suggests that everyone should “drink at least one-half of your body weight in ounces of water every day…ideally, you’ll drink more than that, with added electrolytes, too.”
There’s no doubt that we all need water. But does the Brady one-half-body-weight-in-ounces rule stack up scientifically?
He’s not the first person to advocate this. It’s a popular hydration myth, according to Live Science.
According to research, you don’t need to go to that extreme, even if you’re a very active person.
It might actually be a little dangerous, too. People who consume more fluids than they flush out are prone to a condition called hyponatremia, a body water imbalance that occurs when excess fluid flushes too much sodium out of a person’s blood.
So, what is actually advised? The safest strategy is to drink palatable fluids when thirsty.
There’s no universal formula for daily water intake. Every person has different hydration needs based on their age, weight, level of physical activity and overall health.
Drinking when you are thirsty and a little extra when you are exercising – is the only rule for healthy hydration.
Tom Brady’s diet certainly does push the body to the extremes. It worked for me, but that might be because I didn’t go to some extremes like Tom Brady does.
Tom Brady himself says that he goes to extremes to limit inflammation in the body. I did find it rather limiting, particularly when I don’t have my own chef to cook my food as Tom Brady does.
So in the end, I think there are many benefits to Tom Brady’s diet and it obviously works for him.
Namely, eating anti-inflammatory foods and decreasing inflammatory ones seems to be a great practice for most people to undertake.
However, I don’t think you or I need to go to the extremes that Tom Brady does.
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