As a runner, triathlete, or weekend athlete, what can you learn from Tom Brady? Tom Brady is a world-famous athlete, many believe him to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He is also playing at perhaps the highest level of his career at the age of 40.
He is one of only two players to ever win five Super Bowl championships, and the only player to do so with just one team, the New England Patriots. In a 17-year long career that is not yet finished, he has consistently played at the highest level, and so when he talks about fitness plans, and especially his diet that enables him to maintain such levels, you really have to take notice.
The TB12 Diet
Brady has packaged all that experience and approach into a new book, the TB12 Diet, where he explains his approach to diet and provides examples of the food he eats daily so that others can either follow along with every recommendation, or find influence in the approach that can be adapted to personal situations. Written in partnership with Brady’s own body coach, Alex Guerrero, who is credited with helping Brady beat tendinitis and extending his career, so in theory he is someone worth listening to as well.
Follow his advice is not going to magically turn us all into professional athletes of course, but for those of us who want to stay fit enough to enjoy our weekend sports or train for a marathon, then learning the principals of his approach can only be of help. With that in mind, what does the TB12 diet really say, and how can we benefit from it ourselves?
More importantly, can we adopt some of his practices to help our own performance?
What is the TB12 Diet?
The essence of Brady’s diet is straightforward, it is an all organic, dairy free, plant based, high protein, gluten free approach that is free of any highly processed ingredients and features very limited refined sugars. No one could question the healthiness of this approach, and the overall idea has attracted a lot of praise. It features:
- High levels of vegetables
- Plenty of protein
- Keeps your daily calorie intake in check without sacrificing the protein and nutrients we need to produce the energy and performance required for sports activity
- Pays attention to which foods are eaten in combinations – to best allow for digestion
- Emphasizes alkalinity in food consumption
- Pays attention to inflammation caused by foods
Being a dairy free diet can make a difference as well, avoiding problems with lactose intolerance and the heavy feeling you can get after eating a meal. That can keep you feeling energetic and avoid any feelings of lethargy that can be a real problem after a hard week at work.
Perhaps the biggest recommendation for following the diet is the low sugar content, with his diet only including the sugars found in natural ingredients, and no added sugars of any kind, whether that be white sugar, brown sugar or even honey or maple syrup. This is excellent advice for anyone, but because high sugar levels can cause heart problems, for those who enjoy sporting activity that pushes the heart hard anyway, the low sugar advice can be a real benefit long term.
There are some quirks with the diet too, Brady recommends avoiding all members of the nightshade family, this includes tomatoes, eggplants and others, however there is no scientific evidence that they are inflammatory or have any detrimental effects, and as a good source of nutrients that many people love, are perhaps an area where compromise on the diet is not a bad idea. In fact, cooked tomatoes provide fantastic cardiovascular health benefits themselves.
The other area of contention is the gluten-free aspect of the recommendations, while this is essential for the 1% of the population who are allergic to gluten, and even the 6% of us who have mild intolerance, for the rest, there are no tangible benefits for using gluten free ingredients if there are alternatives. Gluten-free actively excludes some great sources of protein, and simply adds cost to your diet. Here again, for those who have no gluten allergy, this could be an area of compromise with the diet that does not have any downside.
How Can TB12 Help You in Your Running or Fitness?
There is no question that this diet and lifestyle has worked for Tom Brady, the results are right there in the record books, and for the rest of us mere mortals, there is plenty to gain as well. Among other things, we think that having a diet resembling TB12 will help you prevent some injuries and recover faster, especially if you are in your 30s and 40s. A few specific things include:
- Reduced inflammation will likely cut the tendonitis and other inflammatory injuries
- Overall weight loss will create a better weight-muscle ratio, and be easier on your joints
- Reducing animal fats, especially from red meats, will give you more energy for your workouts
- Reducing dairy and red meats will move energy from your digestion to your physical and mental activities
- Improved diets typically result in better sleep, which has many positive benefits
Our Recommendation for Runners and Fitness Enthusiasts
Consider adopting aspects of the TB12 diet as they may help you aid in recovery, reduce fatigue, and keep your weight down. Running at 5-10 lbs lighter could, by itself, help you prevent some overuse injuries. Here are a few ways to start:
- Limit dairy and sugars
- Start your day with lots of water, and a healthy fruit or nut-based breakfast
- Focus on smaller meals. Snacking is OK.
- Stay hydrated.
- Where you can, substitute red meats with fish.
- Eats tons of veggies.
Don’t forget, Brady has a chef who plans his meals, shops for him and cooks it all, chances are you do not, so a little compromise to fit the essence of his advice into your life is no bad thing. In fact, it could even help you stick to the diet better.