The oldest player ever in a Super Bowl accredits much of his success to his diet.
So, the million-dollar question is: what does Tom Brady eat? Read on for the answer, and to know if you, too, can follow such a diet.
When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field in Tampa on Sunday, Tom Brady — the NFL’s record holder in regular season touchdown passes and career touchdowns and a slew of other categories — will rack up another record. At 43, the quarterback will be the oldest player to participate in a Super Bowl.
Brady — whose 2000 NFL debut predates the iPhone, Facebook, American Idol, the War on Terror and the breakup of NSYNC — attributes much of his success and longevity to a specialty diet, which he has dubbed as the TB12 Method and outlined in a 2017 book of the same name.
The Cliff Notes version: Brady’s diet is 80 percent organically grown fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. The other 20 is grass-fed, organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free lean meats and wild-caught seafood. There is a long list of no’s in the plan: dairy, soy, gluten, most oils, iodized salt, nightshade vegetables, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, monosodium glutamate, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Most of these categories are off-limits due to acidifying or pro-inflammatory properties.
The TB12 was no doubt influenced by Alex Guerrero, an alternative medicine practitioner whose place in Brady’s life reportedly combines the roles of personal chef, trainer, business partner, therapist and close friend. Outside the Brady camp, Guerrero’s reputation is questionable; he rose to fame selling nutrient drinks on late-night infomercials in the early ’00s and paid fines for making fantastical and scientifically unverified claims (it turns out his products don’t treat cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s) and for falsely presenting himself as a doctor.
But as for Brady’s health habits: he must be doing something smart, right? He is committing feats of Olympic-level athleticism at the age most men begin hearing their knees crack and ask their doctor about Lipitor.
Shena Jaramillo, a Washington State-based registered dietician, told Athletech News that Brady’s diet is rich in plant proteins, fiber, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, making it a great source of athletic fuel.
“This diet can be effective as it is rich in fruits [and] veggies as well as low in highly processed foods, which often contain excess sodium and sugar,” said Jaramillo. “All of these variables are critical for inflammation reduction, which coincides with Tom Brady’s sport. Chronic inflammation can lead to both reduced performance and injury.”
Heather Hanks, a licensed nutritionist and health writer, also said what Brady eats is tailored to keep the body in top athletic shape and ease recovery from injuries.
“The idea behind his diet is that reducing inflammation helps with recovery, weight control, performance, and heart, brain and immune health,” Hanks told us.
She did quibble with the inclusion of peas, legumes, nuts, grains and other starchy components that may be tough on the guts of people with digestive ailments, impairing the digestion of certain minerals. If one needs to and has the time, they can soften some of these foods by soaking them overnight, said Hanks.
And time would be an issue for any normal person trying to emulate Brady’s eating patterns.
“There is no doubt that this is a great way to eat — if you can afford a personal chef and nutritionist,” said Hanks. “The problem is that most people can’t.”
The sheer amount of organic fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the Brady diet would sentence a person to spending half their free time in line at Whole Foods. Hanks suggests the Mediterranean diet as a doable alternative with many of the benefits of Brady’s diet for someone who has to cook for themselves.
Nick Keppler is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. He enjoys writing the difficult stories, the ones that make him pore over studies, talk about subjects that make people uncomfortable, and explain concepts that have taken years to develop. Nick has written extensively about psychology, healthcare, and public policy for national publications and for those locally- based in Pittsburgh. In addition to Athletech News, Nick has written for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Vice, Slate, Reuters, CityLab, Men’s Health, The Gizmodo Media Group, The Financial Times, Mental Floss, The Village Voice and AlterNet. His journalistic heroes include Jon Ronson, Jon Krakauer and Norah Vincent.