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Legendary quarterback Tom Brady recently announced he’ll be leaving the New England Patriots after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl championships with the team. Even at 42, Brady remains one of the best active football players and will go down as one of the best to ever step foot on the gridiron.
It’s hard to fathom how Brady has been able to remain at the top of his game —though the future Hall of Famer will certainly point to his clean diet as part of the reason why. Eighty percent of Brady’s diet has him consuming vegetables; the other 20 percent consists of lean meats. Plus, an outrageous amount of water, as in anywhere from 12 to 25 glasses per day. (How many trips to the bathroom is that?) And that’s only the beginning of how shrewd Brady is when it comes to his meal plans and overall intake.
Brady outlined some of the keys to his career longevity in his 2017 book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. Even the quarterback’s chef diet went on record to explain his offbeat diet.
We wanted to take it a step further, so we consulted Marie Spano, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks, to break down several facets of Brady’s diet to learn if there’s anything really to it or if it’s all in his head. Here’s what she said.
For an athlete, he’s within the range. One thing athletes do is they’ll consume enough water, but don’t consume enough electrolytes, so they dilute their blood-sodium and either cramp or feel fatigued. The average man needs 15.5 cups per day—typically 80 percent of that comes from fluid and the rest comes from food—so for the average guy, 12 to 20 is on the mark, especially if they exercise.
There’s no scientific benefit for doing that—at all. They do digest quickly, but it’s also the amount of food, like if you’re having just an apple, not five or six apples, which will slow digestion. Some people don’t like to feel a lot of food in their gut, or they feel they’ll consume small amounts of foods at a time and they’ll stick to these foods. He could be one of these people.
He’s staying away from nightshades. For most people, they’re not going to cause any issues; however, for someone with certain autoimmune diseases, nightshades could be problematic. Also, for those people who have food sensitivities to certain components of nightshades, they could have adverse reactions. Bottom line: for most people, they’re fine. For some people with autoimmune diseases, they can cause gut issues, gut inflammation, etc.
There’s no science to support this. Maybe he notices he feels better, or maybe it’s a placebo effect, but there’s no science that supports not mixing carbohydrates and protein together. When it comes to being an athlete, consuming both after exercise is a great idea. You replace your carbohydrate intake and you also provide the building blocks to build and repair new tissue in muscle.
There’s no known difference as far as athletic performance from eating organic vs. conventional food.
Some people are caffeine sensitive. If the people are slow metabolizers of caffeine, research of endurance athletes show that they may actually have worse performances if they have caffeine ahead of time before exercise. People who are fast metabolizers of caffeine benefit from it. In my experience, athletes just basically feel it. They intuitively know that ‘caffeine works for me’ or ‘I don’t like caffeine.’
Unless you’re lactose intolerant or you have a sensitivity to dairy, there’s no reason to stay away from dairy. There’s a lot of myths about staying away from dairy. People like elimination diets because they feel better like, ‘OK, I got rid of this and this.’ It’s conceptually easy. What’s harder is paying attention to general calorie intake or looking at your macronutrient diet. That involves more steps.
Some people who stay away from salt can have thyroid problems, because they don’t have enough iodine in their diet. I don’t know why he’d stay away from that.
I’d say he has a healthier diet than the majority of people. He eats a heck of a lot of vegetables, he eats lean meats and fish, he drinks plenty of water. He has an overall healthy diet. Despite the fact that some of the things he does aren’t based on science, his diet is healthy. One thing I’ve seen, athletes who are in the game—whatever game it is—for a longer period of time, eat a healthier diet. From what I’ve seen, to stay in the game — and football is a very tough game, so it’s hard on the body — you’ve got to eat a healthy diet for that career longevity.