- Adam Glanzman/Getty
- Tom Brady has lots to say about diet and fitness – he published a book detailing what he calls “The TB12 Method” and sells products online.
- But there’s very little scientific evidence for many of the claims that Brady makes.
- Following the basics principles of Brady’s diet would help most people be healthy, but many of his specific instructions are too restrictive.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is in many ways a paradigm of health. After all, he’s still playing professional football at age 40.
But that doesn’t mean you should follow his health advice.
In general, Brady’s food choices seem very healthy. He reportedly eats mostly plants and lean proteins, while avoiding processed food and alcohol, which makes for an extremely responsible diet.
But some of the claims Brady makes about eating, nutrition, and even some aspects of fitness get into sketchy and misleading territory. There’s no scientific evidence whatsoever to support many of the things he’s talked about in the book and in interviews. And certain rules Brady follows could be considered harmful for some people.
Here are some of the silliest claims about diet and fitness that Brady makes.
Brady advocates for drinking an unnecessary and potentially dangerous amount of water — which he claims helps him avoid sunburns.
- Marianna Massey/Getty Images
Brady advises that people drink “at least one-half of your body weight in ounces of water every day” – and that’s at minimum.
But most research simply suggests that most people only need to drink enough water so they aren’t thirsty.
If you’re trying to follow arbitrary guidelines or chug as much water as possible, you can actually drink too much water. That puts you at risk for hyponatremia, which is a rare but potentially fatal condition that occurs when you don’t have enough sodium in your blood. (Athletes trying to maintain hydration levels during endurance sports have the greatest risk for this condition.)
As for sunburns, hydration won’t prevent you from getting burned by ultraviolet radiation in any way. Only sunscreen or clothing will do that.
Brady has said he avoids caffeine and has never tried coffee.
- Dunkin’ Donuts
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding coffee if you don’t like it. But that’s certainly not a requirement for being healthy.
Most research on coffee consumption indicates that coffee is not bad for us, and is actually associated with some pretty impressive health benefits. Coffee drinking is connected to reduced risk for a number of diseases, including liver conditions, various cancers, and Alzheimer’s.
Many of Brady’s dietary choices are based on the idea of an “alkaline” diet.
Brady subscribes to the belief that you can control your body’s pH (acidity) based on what you eat. So part of his diet rationale is to avoid “acidifying foods.” In his book, Brady argues that doing this improves bone health, boosts energy, and fights inflammation.
But studies indicate that this isn’t the case. As one review of research on “alkaline diets” points out, most experiments conducted so far have found that you can’t alter blood pH in a significant way with diet. In fact, As Mayo Clinic sports performance expert Michael Joyner told Vox, “If you actually eat a bunch of baking soda – even if you do that – you don’t change [the pH level] that much.”
The review also notes that “there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove” the idea that controlling your body’s pH will fight off disease and improve bone health.
Brady avoids “nightshade” vegetables (and throws additional foods under that umbrella as well).
- Sean Gallup/Getty
Brady’s personal chef Allen Campbell has reported that the quarterback avoids “nightshade” vegetables, a category that includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Brady seems to steer clear of these items either because he thinks they cause inflammation, or because they supposedly aren’t anti-inflammatory.
Brady also reportedly includes mushrooms on his don’t-eat list, but those aren’t nightshades – they are fungi and not from the Solanaceae plant family.
The vegetables Brady won’t eat are in reality extremely healthy and do have anti-inflammatory properties. A food allergy or other sensitivity is, of course, a reason to avoid a certain vegetable. But most people should not cut these foods out of their diets.
Brady also avoids fruit.
- Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Aside from the occasional banana, Brady reportedly avoids fruit.
People sometimes decide to stop eating fruit because they’re wary of the sugar in it. While most nutritionists and dietitians would recommend avoiding foods with added sugar (which Brady also does), they don’t think you should stay away from natural fruit sugars.
Fruit – when consumed whole, not in juice – is a great source of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that help fight inflammation.
The only salt Brady eats is Himalayan pink salt.
- Flickr/Pabs D
Brady’s strict salt preference is one of his practices that “register as full out kook,” Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, wrote for the Canadian publication Policy Options.
Salt is salt, for better or worse. Putting iodine in salt has done wonderful things to reduce rates of iodine deficiency, which can cause goiters, mental disability, and other serious medical conditions. Most people in the US with balanced diets now get enough iodine without the supplemental component in table salt, but it’s certainly not harmful.
Brady is a big believer in a concept he calls “pliability.”
“Pliability” is the nonscientific physical principle that Brady espouses as key to his peak physical performance.
The idea was largely developed by Brady’s body coach Alex Guerrero, and involves stretches and deep tissue massage that Brady says leaves muscles “long” and “soft.”
But Guerrero has been banned from treating other Patriots players in the locker room and has tried to sell supplements that he said could cure cancer and prevent concussions(claims that are both false and dangerous).
“Pliability” it’s not a real concept, according to exercise scientists. Stretching and massage can be great, but they aren’t magic. And they certainly don’t require a $200 foam roller or special “pliability” coach.
The electrolyte products sold on the TB12 website are absolutely unnecessary.
- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Brady’s TB12 website sells expensive electrolytes, which are salts and minerals that almost no one needs as a supplement.
Even ultra-marathoners usually don’t need to add extra electrolytes to their beverages. The vast majority of people – athletes included – get plenty of electrolytes from the food they eat.
Plenty of what Brady does is healthy, though.
- Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com
With his book and website, Brady is selling unnecessary products and spreading ideas that may be harmful for some people. (Most people should not be encouraged to avoid fruits or vegetables!)
That said, eating a largely plant-based diet; avoiding processed food, added sugar, and alcohol; and consuming lean protein are all healthy choices.
Anyone who follows that advice will do well for themselves. Just skip the rest of it.