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 41 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 Patriots 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!
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.
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 8am.
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.”
What I found
This part of the day worked well for me. I usually wake up at 6 am anyway. Having 24 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).
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 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.
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) 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 of 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 bit boring.
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 on 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.
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
It’s important to realize that Tom’s diet isn’t really that different from other ones out there.
In fact, it’s really a combination of anti-inflammatory eating and an alkaline diet, with 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, here’s what’s completely off limits in the TB 12 diet:
– Gluten and refined carbs like bread, snack foods, cereals, pastas
– Trans and saturated fats
– Dairly 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 dietian 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 the 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 hyponateremia, 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. 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 like 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.
For more inspirational articles on mindfulness and self-improvement, like Hack Spirit on Facebook.
New eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life
If you want to learn more about eastern philosophy and how it can help you reduce anxiety and stress, check out my new eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy For a Better Life.
By unwrapping iconic Buddhist teachings, this eBook focuses on specific actions you can take to alleviate stress, cultivate healthier relationships, and live a more satisfying life.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.