Super Bowl 2022 is just around the corner, and while Tom Brady might not be in the big game this year, it’s hard to overstate the impact that he’s had on the NFL. During his 22-year football career, Brady set all sorts of records on the road to 7 Super Bowls wins — and he played in 10 of them.
Brady attributes much of his longevity to a very specific — and peculiar — diet. Concocted by Tom Brady (obviously) and business partner Alex Guerrero in 2017, the Tom Brady Diet is part of their now-infamous TB12 Method (opens in new tab), a specialized regimen designed to maintain muscle pliability and encourage peak performance for both top-tier athletes and mere mortals with a little initiative. (Like me.)
Before the prospect of Tom Brady’s retirement (opens in new tab) was on every sportscaster’s gasping lips, Tom’s Guide had already assigned me to test-drive his diet for a week. Why not? My nutrition could probably use an overhaul anyway, and since I share a name with the QB, the triple-threat of Tom Fink trying out Tom Brady’s Diet for Tom’s Guide was just too coincidental to pass up.
Note: Before starting any diet, please consult your physician.
What is the Tom Brady diet?
What is the Tom Brady diet?
The Tom Brady Diet has a paleo vibe, combining elements of the Alkaline Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and anti-inflammatory diets into a complex list of do’s and don’ts. 80% of your caloric intake consists of (organically grown) fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. That leaves a 20% protein margin for lean chicken, red meat, and seafood; at mealtimes, you should eat until you’re roughly 75% full.
I consider my fitness journey to have been pretty dynamic so far, but I’m not a dietician or certified personal trainer, so I tapped Pratik Patel, RD, CSCS, for some additional insight on the Tom Brady Diet. Patel is Director of Outer Energy and Nutrition at Own It (opens in new tab), a personalized coaching service that transforms athlete performance data into actionable insights and sustainable habit change. He also used to be the Director of Performance Nutrition for the NY Giants. So yeah, he’s heard of the Tom Brady Diet.
“[I’m] pretty familiar with it,” he shared. “It seems like the basis of it is a highly plant-forward organic diet that excludes or limits gluten, dairy, corn, soy, MSG, coffee, alcohol, GMOs, white sugar, white flour, trans fats, ultra-processed food, vegetable oils, certain fruits, nightshade vegetables, and fungi.”
If that list is already starting to look intimidating, don’t worry. Experimenting with the minutiae of your own nutrition is hardly a one-size-fits-all process, from my experience. And Patel agrees. “I’m pretty open minded when it comes to what can be recommended for specific people,” he says. “As there is no one singular diet or way of eating that is ideal or optimal for everyone (given genetic predispositions, epigenetics, nutritional deficiencies, etcetera).”
It might sound great on paper to eat like a professional athlete for a week or two, but between shopping and cooking, adhering to the Tom Brady Diet is a tedious endeavor if you follow it to the letter. Not all of us can afford private chef like Brady can.
That being said, the Tom Brady Diet is purported to boost energy levels, mitigate inflammation, decrease risk of injury, and enhance performance and recovery. No matter where you are in your fitness journey, those are four rock-solid reasons to mix up your nutrition every now and again. Be warned, though: you might need Tom Brady’s salary to afford eating like a 43-year-old NFL player.
Tom Brady diet: The do's
Drink electrolyte-infused water as soon as you wake up: Add some electrolytes to that first 8-ounce glass of H20. This is a fundamental part of the Tom Brady Diet that sets the pace for your day.
Next, drink even more water: The Tom Brady Diet says to halve your body weight in pounds and drink that many ounces of water every day. In my case (I weigh 180 pounds), that math works out to 90 ounces. Uniquely, Tom recommends minimal liquids at meal time. (Note: coffee and tea are not a substitute for this daily allotment.) As it happens, I’ve got one of the best water bottles for this little project.
Limit your caffeine intake: Up to two cups of coffee per day is fine, but no caffeine after 12pm. (According to Tom, he doesn’t touch coffee at all.) It’s a good thing I work from home, so the world can’t see what I’m like for a full week without mid-afternoon caffeine. Thankfully, Patel condones my coffee drinking habits: “Coffee has been studied thoroughly and there are many studies backing up its consumption (as long as it isn’t overdone).” Everything in moderation, folks.
Keep alkalizing foods top-of-mind: Prioritizing such foods in your diet can limit or counteract the amount of acid in your body to help you fight disease, according to the Tom Brady Diet. A variety of health professionals have mixed opinions on the matter (opens in new tab), and so does Patel.
“It’s not only about eating foods that are more alkaline and not acidic, but it’s also about consuming foods that have micronutrients in them that help act as a buffer (for pH) even if they happen to be acidic,” he said. “Many fruits are acidic but contain plenty of micronutrients that have buffering capabilities in the body. Even if acidic foods that have limited buffering ability are consumed, the effects are negated as long as a wide variety of foods are consumed to assist with maintaining pH in the body (both acidic and alkaline).”
I’ll just nod my head and eat my broccoli.
Go organic (and local, if you can): To avoid the chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives found in non-organic foodstuffs. This is easier said than done, but since I live in New York City, where organic food has been trendy for years, I was able to make it happen for at least 75% of my shopping list.
Cook with coconut oil: Tom’s chef uses raw olive oil on uncooked veggies, but sticks to coconut oil for cooking. I already use coconut oil for stovetop stuff on occasion, so I guess I’m ahead of the game.
Use himalayan pink sea salt for seasoning: As opposed to regular ol’ iodized table salt. Done and done.
Whey is A-OK: Even though it’s a dairy by-product. Awesome, because I usually follow up my workouts with a whey-based protein shake within 90 minutes or so.
No dairy: Except that tasty, tasty whey, of course. I can barely remember the last time I’ve gone a whole week without ice cream, milk, cheese, or butter. This is another sticking point for Patel: “People without any genetic predisposition or allergies/aversions to dairy or gluten do not need to completely abstain from them, and the same goes for nightshade vegetables and fungi.”
No alcohol: Another inflammatory substance, no surprise. Once again, the “everything in moderation” principle comes into play here.
No white sugar, white flour, trans fats, or MSG: Seems pretty obvious, I guess. I’m not really a baker, but I do have a sweet tooth, and it’ll definitely take some willpower to lay off the sugary late-night snacks.
No food three hours before bed: To slow your metabolism down at night. This might be the biggest challenge for me, since I’m a night owl who’s partial to late-night nibbles. My goal is to stop all snacking by 9 p.m., but I’m not going to beat myself up if that gets pushed to 9:30 p.m. 10 p.m. at the latest, I swear. I’m generally in bed before 2 a.m. and up by 9 a.m., so this math feels right to me.
No processed foods: Another no-brainer: fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts are far healthier snacks than, say, Fritos or deep-fried Oreos (opens in new tab).
No nightshade veggies: Tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggplant are a no-no, since they’re not anti-inflammatory foods. According to Tom. This is one of those rules that you can take with a huge grain of salt. (As long as it’s Himalayan and pink.)
No inappropriate food combos: Here’s where things get a little confusing (read: contradictory). According to the Tom Brady Diet, you should avoid eating meat, poultry, fish, or dairy in combination with carbohydrates. You should always mix vegetables with proteins or carbs. Eat fruits by themselves. Drink water 30 minutes before your meal and 60 minutes after instead of during your meal. Just remember, these particular guidelines aren’t backed by science in any meaningful way. “There’s no evidence that food-combining rules pose any benefit or hold any merit,” says Patel.
What you can eat
The Tom Brady diet: What you can eat
After going through Tom’s relatively exhaustive list of things I’m allowed to munch on, I took a trip to my local produce stand, and then the grocery store. A good chunk of the foodstuffs below were already in my kitchen (many of these ingredients are actually part of my regular diet), but I spent about $130 total filling in the gaps with other TB12-friendly items. That’s a pretty high budget for one week of sustenance for one singular human, even if some of those ingredients last longer than a week. Still, if I’m going to invest in something short-term, decent nutrition isn’t the worst horse to bet on.
Fruits : Apples, Bananas, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Avocados
Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Mixed greens, Fresh spinach, White onions, Red onions, Garlic
Herbs: Rosemary, Basil, Mint
Nuts and Seeds: Unsalted cashews, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, Unsalted sunflower seeds, Flaxseed
Whole Grains: Quinoa, Brown rice, Old fashioned oats
Protein: Chicken, Turkey, bacon, Salmon, Eggs
Oils: Coconut oil, Extra virgin olive oil
Condiments: Hummus, Tabasco sauce, Salsa
Milk: Almond milk, Coconut milk
Sweeteners: Raw unfiltered honey, Pure maple syrup
The Tom Brady diet: supplements
Though you should ideally get most of your nutrition from the food you eat, filling in the gaps with the proper supplements is all part of the journey. The Tom Brady Diet, incidentally, is paired with a plethora of TB12-branded nutrients that aren’t that easy on the wallet, but here are the supplements I’m using right now, listed in the general order I take them in throughout the day. (Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., usually.)
Key Nutrient Electrolyte Recovery Plus (opens in new tab)- Tom starts every morning with electrolytes in his water, and now so do I. From improving sleep quality to enhancing athletic performance to reducing stress (and a whole lot of other benefits), there are myriad reasons to add extra electrolytes to your daily hydration. Having an electrolyte imbalance is no joke, especially if you’re a highly active human.
Toniq Ultra High Strength Glutathione (opens in new tab) – Glutathione is allegedly good for reducing oxidative stress, fighting free radicals, and contributing to a more balanced internal ecosystem, but that’s a topic for another day.
MegaFood Multi for Men (opens in new tab) – I take this for all the reasons a dude in his mid-30s takes a multivitamin. It’s all about that balance.
Nature’s Bounty B-12 (opens in new tab) – There are lots of reasons to add B12 supplements to your diet, but I do it to promote good bone health, proper sleeping habits, and an overall peppy mood over Zoom.
Arazo Nutrition Joint Support (opens in new tab) (Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM) – I’ve had a couple of knee surgeries, and try to be vigilant about joint health in my day-to-day life. This stuff is supposed to help repair cartilage, boost joint mobility, and increase joint flexibility.
Nature’s Base Turmeric & Ginger (opens in new tab)– Promotes anti-inflammation and good digestion; supports healthy joints/muscles; helps stimulate the immune system.
Nature Made Fish Oil (opens in new tab)– For overall heart health; I don’t eat tons of fish on the regular.
MP Essentials BCAA Optimized Branched-Chain Amino Acids (opens in new tab)– Promotes muscle development and maintenance while supporting lean muscle mass; I usually put this in my water during workout days.
Syntha-6 Ultra Premium Protein Matrix (opens in new tab) – It’s a pretty fancy name, but this stuff is popular for a reason: 22 delicious grams of whey protein per serving.
Amazing Grass Greens Blend Superfood (opens in new tab) – To balance out my daily dose of fresh fruits and veggies; this stuff usually goes into my shakes, too.
What works for my specific physiology and internal chemistry might work for yours, and it might not. (Either way, bio-hacking (opens in new tab) sure is fun, and my supplements are always in flux.) Keep reading to see how my week-long experiment shaped up.
I tried the Tom Brady diet for a week — here's my daily diary
Day 1: Monday
I started off the first day of the Tom Brady Diet by drinking 8 ounces of electrolyte water followed by a 16-ounce fruit smoothie (coconut milk + water + ice + mixed berries + ¼ banana + greens mix) and took a B12 and multivitamin supplement once there was something in my belly. At 11 a.m., I did a 20-minute workout on the rowing machine I’m simultaneously testing, followed by 40 minutes of upper-body work (chest/arms/shoulders).
Time for my next nutrition: a 16-ounce protein shake (almond milk + coconut milk + water + ice + whey protein + flaxseed), along with 12 ounces of water mixed with BCAA. Between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. that afternoon, my snacks consisted of an apple, boiled egg, avocado (with salt + pepper), and some mixed nuts; I also took my Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplement around 4pm.
At 8 p.m., I cooked myself a dinner of pan-seared salmon with sauteed greens, onions, and garlic; steamed Brussels sprouts and broccoli; and a dollop of salsa. I took a couple more supplements afterward (turmeric/ginger + fish oil) and had a few more handfuls of mixed nuts around 10pm. Before heading off to bed, I had a cup of Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea (with 1 tsp honey) at 11 p.m.
So far so good! It’s a lot of prep work for dinner, but I don’t usually eat much before 2 p.m. anyway, so easing into my day with a small smoothie was just my speed. And I’m pretty handy with stovetop cooking, so dinner wasn’t exactly barren in the flavor department.
Day 2: Tuesday
After a decent night’s sleep, I was ready to rock for round two. I got up around 9 a.m. and, as before, started my day with 8 ounces of electrolyte water followed by a 16-ounce fruit smoothie (coconut milk + water + ice + mixed berries + ¼ banana + greens mix), plus my B12 and multivitamin supplements. Around 11:30 a.m., I made myself a double espresso just in time to beat the clock — score!
Tom tends to work out pretty darn early (read: before 7 a.m.), but I got a treadmill workout in around 12 p.m. (35 minutes; 2.56 miles; 370 calories burned). I followed up my run with another protein shake (almond milk + coconut milk + water + ice + whey protein + flaxseed) along with 12 ounces of water mixed with BCAA. My afternoon chores involved manual labor, too, so those extra calories were definitely necessary.
Today’s afternoon snacks: 1 banana, 2 boiled eggs (with Tabasco sauce), a couple of handfuls of mixed nuts, and my Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplements. For dinner (around 9 p.m.), I made pan-seared tilapia with sauteed spinach, onions, and garlic along with steamed Brussels sprouts, topped with hot sauce and coconut flakes — paired with my turmeric/ginger and fish oil supplements. To curb those late-night hunger pangs, I had another handful of mixed nuts around 10 p.m.
I wrapped up my evening with another mug of caffeine-free tea before bed. My body seems to be adjusting pretty well so far; according to my Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, I slept slightly better on Monday night in comparison to Sunday night. Which sure wasn’t easy, since I kept waking up to pee every few hours. If you’re going to follow the Tom Brady Diet’s hydration rule, be prepared to do the same.
Day 3: Wednesday
By day three, I had a bit of a groove going. Once again I got up around 9 a.m. and got moving with 8 ounces of electrolyte water, a small Redeye (12-ounce coffee, a shot of espresso, 1 tsp maple syrup, splash of almond milk), and a banana, followed by my B12 and multivitamin supplements.
I’ve been dipping my toes into sambo wrestling over the past year, and I followed up my 90-minute Wednesday class with a 16-ounce post-workout shake (whey protein, almond milk, water, ice), along with 16 ounces of BCAA-infused water and my Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplements. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I had a banana, two boiled eggs, and a few handfuls of mixed nuts to hold me off until dinner.
Around 8 p.m., it’s suppertime: pan-seared chicken with steamed green beans, baby greens, and turkey bacon, followed by turmeric/ginger and fish oil supplements. After I finished my water allotment for the day, I had a mug of Numi Sweet Slumber tea (opens in new tab) (with 1 tsp honey) to help wind down for the evening.
I’ve noticed that it makes a difference in my sleeping/peeing habits to have all primary liquids and foodstuffs in my body by 9 p.m., but otherwise, my energy levels feel pretty solid for the first half of this diet.
Day 4: Thursday
Day four and I’m ready for more. This was a post-sambo rest day, though, so I slept in to give my muscles an extra breather. Once I finally rolled out of bed, I got myself moving with the usual glass of electrolyte water, a double espresso, a banana, and my B12/multivitamin supplements. Overall, Wednesday night was my most restful night’s sleep — according to my watch, anyway — and I felt peppy enough as I breezed through the afternoon’s admin chores.
Around 2 p.m. I had a 16-ounce smoothie (coconut milk, almond milk, berries, ¼ banana, green mix, mint, ice, and water), an RX protein bar (opens in new tab), and my Glucosamine/Chondroitin/ MSM supplements.
For my 8 p.m. dinner, I kept it pretty simple: a three-egg omelet with garlic, onions, broccoli, and leftover chicken; turkey bacon; and a dollop of salsa. In a brief lapse of willpower, I had a few spoonfuls of Haagen Dazs ice cream before dinner. (What do you want from me? I said I was mortal.) I managed to finish my water allotment by 9 p.m. and had a handful of mixed nuts around 9:30 p.m. with my turmeric/ginger and fish oil supplements. I headed to bed after my usual tea.
I’m spending almost as much time in the kitchen as I am in the bathroom. My life is devolving to a steady regimen of peeing and eating, peeing and eating. Lovely.
Day 5: Friday
I got up at 9 a.m. to rev my engines with yet another electrolyte-banana combo, plus my B12 and multivitamins. By 11 a.m. I was ready for my mid-morning 16-ounce smoothie (mixed berries, ¼ banana, green mix, water, and ice) and a large drip coffee (with oat milk and maple syrup). For my afternoon workout, I went on a trail run in the park (1 hour, 43 minutes; 7.76 miles; 1,212 calories), and followed it up with a 20-ounce post-workout protein shake (almond milk, water, ice, whey protein and flaxseed).
On the way home from that run (around 6 p.m.), I decided this was going to be my cheat day; after torching through all those cardio calories, a chicken cutlet sandwich from my favorite deli was easy enough to justify, topped with lettuce, onions, tomato (!), pepper jack cheese, turkey bacon, and honey mustard. I finished off dinner with the usual supplements: Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM, tumeric/ginger, and fish oil. I even managed to finish my water allotment by 8 p.m.
As I sipped my usual nighttime tea and snacked on another smattering of mixed nuts, I sat down for a 10-minute end-of-the-week meditation/check-in. I finished each day with energy to spare, and it was getting easier and easier to get out of bed around the same time every morning. But would it last…?
Day 6: Saturday
The endzone is in sight! I’m starting to get bored of electrolyte water and bananas, but that’s what I’m working with this week. I spike my double espresso with maple syrup again, down my usual B12 and multi supplements, and spend most of the afternoon testing out fitness equipment while simultaneously cleaning my apartment; I took a break around 11 a.m. for my first 16-ounce smoothie of the day (almond milk, water, ice, berries, ¼ banana, and green mix).
Around 2 p.m. I decided to stretch my legs on the treadmill for a 25-minute recovery walk (1.1 miles; 225 calories), followed by another 16-ounce protein shake (almond milk, water, ice, and whey protein). I also had some afternoon snacks (hummus, broccoli, and mixed nuts) to go with my usual supplements (Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM).
For dinner, I had plenty of leftover chicken, beans, turkey bacon, and mixed greens; I also had a few handfuls of mixed nuts and raisins around 9 p.m. with my turmeric/ginger and fish oil pills.
Night time tea continues to be a staple of my wind down routine, but that’s something I do anyway. To be honest, though, it feels like I’m starting to lose steam a bit.
Day 7: Sunday
Made it! Thank Madden this is the last day for my little experiment because I’ve had just about enough of the Tom Brady Diet. But I planned to finish strong, so I had one final 16-ounce green smoothie (almond milk, berries, ¼ banana, green mix, ice, and water) and electrolyte water, plus another banana for good measure. In honor of Tom’s aversion to coffee, I started my last morning with green tea and honey instead of the usual java. Oh, and those B12 and multivitamin supplements, of course.
Should I rest or should I burn a few calories? I settled on a 20-minute rowing machine workout around 12 p.m., followed by the usual post-workout shake (almond milk, water, ice, whey protein, and flaxseed). I got the munchies again around 2 p.m., so I had a snack of broccoli and hummus, along with my Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM dose.
After a week of all this meticulous food prep, it was a relief to wrap everything up with a plate full of leftovers: chicken, beans, and Brussels sprouts (with a side of turmeric/ginger and fish oil supplements). I had a few more handfuls of mixed nuts before bed to go with my tea, and that’s a wrap!
What I learned
How I felt — and what I learned — after being on the Tom Brady diet for a week
I survived a whole week eating like a full-grown Tom Brady — at least to the best of my abilities — and I feel pretty damn fantastic. (Which I kind of did already, but still.) Here are my main takeaways from the Tom Brady Diet:
My weight stayed exactly the same: Which is what I was hoping for, if I may be honest. For my height (6-foot-3-inches) and body type (lanky), I usually weigh within 5 pounds of what I would consider my ideal stasis: 180 pounds. When I started the Tom Brady Diet on Monday, I weighed in at 183.4 pounds; on Sunday, I clocked in at 183.2 pounds. And that 90 liquid ounces of aqua I've been guzzling every day weighs roughly 6 pounds on its own, which a) lines up with my body's usual math, more or less, and b) turned my bladder into a water factory. Which reminds me...
Boy oh boy did I pee a lot: Let’s get this out of the way. I thought I lived a pretty well-hydrated lifestyle before TB12 came along, but sticking that full 90 ounces of water per day sure did a number on my bladder. No matter how I regulated my water intake, I was peeing like Austin Powers all week. I literally had dreams about being in situations where I had to pee like crazy, dreams that woke me out of REM sleep because good God I was about to wet the bed. If regular access to a urine receptacle isn’t part of your day-to-day, this diet might not be for you.
Cooking all those healthy meals is expensive as hell: As mentioned above, I spent about $130 on foodstuffs this past week. That's still cheaper than three or four Seamless splurges, I guess. Either way, cooking for one is a tricky business; that's where proper planning and food prep come in.
Smoothies are a super-efficient way to get my early nutrition: I don’t usually eat much before 2 p.m., so this worked out great, and I’m happy to put my Nutri-Ninja to work first thing.
Cutting down on caffeine isn’t so bad: At least, it wasn’t as excruciating as I thought it would be to cut coffee out of my afternoons. But I still didn’t eliminate java entirely from my diet, did I? It’s a low-key vice, but most health experts would probably be fine with how much I consume on the regular. It's good to dry out every now and then, though.
Curbing those late-night snacks was the worst: As mentioned above, I’m a man who loves his ice cream and cutting out all snacks after 10 p.m. was, in a word, awful. Not a bad exercise in discipline, but still. I hated it.
I definitely sleep better if I stop eating late: I couldn’t help but notice better sleeping patterns over the past week, and slowing down my metabolism after 9 p.m. definitely had something to do with it.
Will I stick with the Tom Brady diet?
Heck no. I just don’t have the time, resources, or willpower to keep it up for much more than a week.
Patel’s final assessment? “There are parts of the method that have some merit to it but as a standalone, this is not a diet that I would recommend regularly or if at all…[T]he kind of people who would benefit the most from [the Tom Brady Diet] are those with allergies or issues with the specific foods/groups that are eliminated or limited.”
Nevertheless, this little experiment forced me to reevaluate my regular dietary habits, which can only be useful moving forward with my regular nutrition. There are definitely aspects of the Tom Brady Diet I’ll be cherry-picking for my own routine, like adding electrolytes to the mix more often. Now, which NFL team needs a quarterback?