Jan312018

Posted in Diet Reviews.

From the world where Hollywood celebrities and sport stars are taken seriously for their nutrition ‘expertise’, there comes the latest fad diet: The TB12 Method by Tom Brady.

Tom Brady checks all the boxes for someone who many people would look up to:

He can throw footballs better than most humans; he’s married to ‘supermodel’ Giselle Bundchen (who once stated that women should be forced by law to breastfeed their children, but I digress); he looks chiseled ; he’s 40 years old, which is positively elderly by NFL standards, but still extremely high performing. By all these standards, the time was ripe for him to write a crazy diet book! He has certainly fulfilled that, too.

People really seem interested in what TB12 is all about. I can’t really comment about the workouts/muscle pliability stuff, because that’s not really my jam.

I can, however, comment A LOT about the TB12 diet, because it’s predictably brutal, as are many (or all, maybe) diet plans like this one, written by people who have zero clues. I’m well aware of the fact that Tom Brady didn’t write the nutrition portion of TB12 (it was likely written by his chef, Allen Campbell), but Tom B. does preach it and follow it and he approved it for his book, and that’s good enough for me. Plus, he says that he doesn’t get sunburned because he drinks a lot of water, so if he’s making claims like that, I knew the rest of the ‘method’ was going to be good.

Let’s get started!

TB12 is a diet that eliminates many things, like gluten, white sugar, white flour, alcohol, non-organic fruits and vegetables, caffeine, dairy, MSG, nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, and iodized salt (he only eats Himalayan pink salt). A lot of the foods he eliminates are forbidden because he’s trying to ‘alkalize’ his body. It also seems like there’s a certain cache in diets: The more you eliminate, the more people think it’s legit.

Brady’s Yoko Ono, Alex Guerrero, who co-wrote TB12, has a checkered past with a few pretty serious charges against him, including one of practicing medicine without a license. His ‘nutrition supplement’, meant to prevent sport-related head injuries, caught the attention of federal regulators who figured out that it was total hooey and ordered him to stop making bogus claims.  He was also investigated for claiming that another one of his nutrition products could cure cancer.

As if that’s not enough, he was then accused of practicing physical therapy without a license with Patriots players and others.

$ounds like a legit guy who really ha$ your per$onal health and well-being in mind!

The TB12 ‘nutrition manual’ is obnoxiously described on the TB12 website like this: “The manual is printed and hand assembled in the United States, and is printed on thick 100 pound text paper. The covers are made from natural wood with a laser-etched TB12 logo and title. (Note: because of the natural materials used, some variation in covers is normal.)”

You know, just in case you were afraid that TB12 was going to send you a really cheap manual that wasn’t worth the $200 you paid for it! Sigh. Elitist, much? But it gets so much worse. SO MUCH. How about a $200 vibrating foam roller so your muscles can be super-pliable? Tom Brady uses it! I swear!

There’s not much of a ‘process’ to the TB12 Method diet. Basically, you eat according to the ‘rules’ and the recipes in the TB12 ‘nutrition manual’, or you order expensive prepared meals and snacks that are delivered to you. You can also supplement your TB12 experience with all sorts of product$$ that are – surprise! – available from the TB12 website. How convenient!

Let’s cut the crap right now and get to the bottom of the ‘forbidden foods’ on this diet, why TB12 rules them out, and if that’s legit:

Nightshades

This one has been around for a while. I read somewhere where Tom’s chef said that nightshades aren’t allowed because they’re ‘not anti-inflammatory’. Um. Neither is ice cream, but I’m not about to give that up either. Is everything in your diet meant to be anti-inflammatory? That’s not very normal, people.

Nightshades are believed by some people to be inflammatory or even ‘toxic’ because of the alkaloids they contain, but there’s no research that proves that this is the case. You can live without these yummy vegetables, but why would you unless you were sure that you react to them in some way?

Sure, some people react to nightshades, just like some people react to kiwi or to chocolate. But most of us are fine with them, and think about it this way: if nightshades are really ‘toxic’ and not meant to be eaten by anyone, wouldn’t most of the people in Italy be sick by now? I mean, there’s a LOT of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant going on there.

Iodized Table Salt

Pink salt is definitely prettier and lot more expensive than white salt, but is it any healthier? Can one salt actually be ‘healthier’ than another?

All salt is essentially sodium chloride, and the iodine in table salt helps keep our thyroid glands healthy. Had a goiter lately? Didn’t think so…that’s probably because you’ve been consuming iodine, some of which was undoubtedly in the form of iodized salt.

Himalayan sea salt does have more trace minerals than regular salt, but we use the word ‘trace’ for a reason: you need very minuscule amounts of them to be healthy. If you’re eating anything besides pink salt, you’re likely getting every trace mineral you need.

If you’re choosing your salt based on the trace minerals it contains, maybe it’s time to reconsider the amount of salt you’re actually eating. Don’t eat salt for the minerals, silly.

‘Acid’ foods

Please make it stop. Why do people still think they can alkalize their bodies! AHHHHHHHHHH STOP IT!! How many times do I have to write about how useless the acid/alkaline theory is!?

No one is disputing that a diet with tons of plants – like the alkaline diet has – is undoubtedly healthy. But choosing certain foods, and cutting others out (these are usually healthy, or at least harmless), in order to ‘alkalize’ your body is complete and utter BS.

Nothing you eat will change the pH of your blood. Trust me: if your kidneys and lungs are working, then your blood pH is between 7.35 and 7.45. Eating a lot of salad isn’t going to change that. Eating meat, and drinking coffee doesn’t affect it either.

Just another little tip: while you can raise or lower your urine pH with diet, the pH of your urine isn’t at all an indicator of health, or anything at all…unless you’re prone to kidney stones.

Dairy

This again? Despite getting spammed with tons of emails containing vile anti-dairy sentiment any time I write something saying that dairy isn’t harmful, I’m going to do it again:

If you like dairy, eat it. It’s probably not inflammatory, and it’s not toxic. If you’re concerned about the contents of milk, choose organic, or don’t consume it. You can live just fine without dairy altogether, but avoiding dairy because it’s ‘acid’ or because it’s ‘inflammatory’? Not necessary. A 2017 review of studies showed that dairy may actually be anti-inflammatory, another one shows dairy may be inversely related to cardiovascular risk. And again, dairy doesn’t affect the acidity of your blood or your body.

I don’t care if you eat dairy or not, but all I’m saying is that when you eliminate an entire food group from your diet, at least do some research and ask questions about whether the reason you’re doing it for is actually legit. In this case, it’s not.

In addition to the TB12 diet, you can purchase a 12-pack of ‘snacks’ for $50. Each bag is over $4 and a whopping 1.4-1.75oz, or around the weight of a KIND Bar. Totally worth it, right?

TB12 protein bars go for $40 for a box of 12, and are up to 370 calories apiece. Their ingredient list is sort of reminiscent of a fancy Larabar, with more protein. Oh! They’re also raw, vegan, gluten and dairy-free. Eh. Or how about a pound of whey protein powder for $54?

You know what? This diet screams ‘rich people’. Just saying.

It’s also pretty much one big anecdote: In the absence of any science both on the diet itself and on each ‘rule’ of the diet, Tom Brady is betting that you’ll believe that just because the diet ‘works’ for him, it’s going to work for you…except not. Which brings me to my next point.

I think celebrity diet and exercise books sell because people believe, in some small way, that if they follow the same steps, they’ll resemble a celebrity. I know it sounds crazy, and intellectually we all know it’s not true. But emotionally (and remember that ‘emotional’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘rational’), I think some of these books and plans hit that right emotional note in people, and that’s why they sell so well.

So let’s shift the focus off of the ‘forbidden’ foods in TB12 for a minute, and focus on something more important: You are not Tom Brady. 

TB12 uses Tom Brady’s brand, body, and success as an NFL player to convince people that they too can share in Tom Brady’s lovely bubble of vitality and health and sunburn-free hydration if they follow the steps (and drink the kool-aid..errr water). The cold hard truth isn’t nearly as fun, though, because as I said, you are not Tom Brady. In addition to many more, Tom Brady has three important things that you probably don’t have:

Genetics

Tom Brady didn’t get to be a 40 year old NFL quarterback because he follows the TB12 Method. He got that way because he has good genetics. Yes, he is very active and he watches what he eats, and this of course does help. But his genetics, which you can’t have, play a huge role in how he got to where he is now, and diet and exercise for most people won’t bring them any closer to resembling Tom Brady. Is it worth it for you to buy into what he’s selling, over and above a less-expensive, more reasonable plan?

Circumstances

Tom Brady has a full time cook and a trainer and lots of money. He has access to pretty much everything he needs to easily keep him in this ‘zone’ that he’s in. I’m betting you don’t. You probably have a normal job and a normal life like the rest of us. Diets like these are expensive and hard to sustain for the long term without a lot of support, financial and otherwise.

A Lot Of Motivation

Tom Brady’s livelihood depends on how he looks and how he performs, and he makes a ton of money as a result of those things.

Tom Brady MUST follow a certain diet and activity regimen because that’s basically his LIFE, and without it he won’t have a job. Having no choice about this is a very motivating situation: A lot more motivating than a normal person’s circumstances. Again, I’m looking long-term here. Do you really want to cut all of those foods out of your diet forever, just because Tom Brady says so?

All that being said, there’s nothing wrong with a mostly plant-based diet. It’s just that I find this particular one (and TB12 in general), to be obnoxious, elitist, and full of gross branding and pseudoscientific nonsense that’s designed to make you believe that what Tom Brady is saying actually means something. Nah, it doesn’t. Please don’t be fooled.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to involve a $200 wooden-bound nutrition manual, over-hyped nutrition myths, and the n=1 anecdotes of a celebrity NFL player.  Take a page from Tom Brady’s playbook, if you will, and adapt the TB12 diet to be less onerous: eat a ton of plants – organic or not; eat as high-quality as you can reasonably afford; be active; limit ultra-processed crap and restaurant/takeout meals. Drink your coffee. Eat your tomatoes. Be happy.

2 Responses to “(Diet Review) Tom Brady’s TB12 Diet Majorly Drops The Ball.”

  1. Cate

    Love your reviews so much. They are hilarious! Especially this one because I live in New England and everyone idolizes Tom Brady and thinks he is Jesus. Also wanted to tell you that when I walked into work one day and saw my co-worker drinking alkaline water, I sat right down at my computer and forwarded her one of your reviews. Needless to say, she agreed to stop buying alkaline water after that. As a dietetic intern- you give me so much hope for the field! Keep em’ coming!

    Reply

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