Tom Brady’s diet book makes some strange claims about body chemistry

Tom Brady, No. 12 of the New England Patriots, on January 29, 2019.
 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, winner of five Super Bowls, is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He’s also a peddler of baseless health claims, including in his 2017 exercise and diet book, The TB12 Method.

The book details Brady’s 12 principles for “sustained peak performance,” which he says will keep him on the field at least until the ancient-for-football age of 45.

These principles, developed with his controversial friend, “body coach,” and business partner Alex Guerrero, include doing exercises and massages that supposedly increase “muscle pliability” (a concept exercise scientists say is bogus).

But it’s Brady’s diet — and the TB12-branded nutritional bars and dietary supplements prominently featured throughout the book — that he believes truly underpins his success as an athlete.

“It really doesn’t matter how much exercise you do,” Brady writes, “if you’re not eating the right food and providing your body the right nutrients.”

For Brady, the “right foods” are “alkalizing” and “anti-inflammatory.” Alkaline foods lower his pH level, he writes, which can help with a range of ailments, from boosting low energy to preventing bone fractures. (He’s wrong here.) Anti-inflammatory foods, meanwhile, supposedly enhance athletic performance and help speed recovery.

Simon & Schuster

Unfortunately, with this book, Brady joins the club of diet gurus selling pseudoscience and woo about the body and nutrition. There’s no evidence that following Brady’s diet will turn his readers into “sustained peak performers” or do the specific things he claims — like rebalance the body’s pH level. (Your lungs and kidneys do that.) And while it may be true that the diet and “muscle pliability” routine help Brady stay strong and healthy, it’s probably not working for the reasons he suggests.

What Tom Brady eats and what he claims it does for him

Brady eats a mostly organic, local, and plant-based diet with no highly processed foods. In the morning, he starts with 20 ounces of “water with electrolytes,” then a fruit smoothie, and after working out, more water and a protein shake. Lunch is typically fish and vegetables. Afternoon snacks consist of fruits, protein bars, and more protein shakes; dinners include more vegetables and sometimes soup broth.

Even more notable than what Brady eats is what he doesn’t. He avoids alcohol, as well as gluten-containing bread and pasta, breakfast cereal, corn, dairy, foods that contain GMOs, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners, soy, fruit juice, grain-based foods, jams and jellies, most cooking oils, frozen dinners, salty snacks, sugary snacks, sweetened drinks, white potatoes, and prepackaged condiments like ketchup and soy sauce.

The list of restrictions and preferences doesn’t end there. Here’s Brady’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, describing the football star’s list of very specific food preferences and no-nos to the Boston Globe in 2016:

No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt. … What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy.

Even certain vegetables and fruits are off limits. Brady doesn’t eat nightshade vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants.

The reason he has all these food restrictions — and even vilifies tomatoes — is because he follows an anti-inflammatory diet, and one made up of mostly “alkaline” foods.

An anti-inflammatory diet, Brady suggests, explains his success as an athlete:

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