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Tom Brady is known for two things: football and his extremely strict diet. The New England Patriots quarterback has had an unprecedented football career that he frequently attributes to his diet and fitness regimen, a combo he coined as the TB12 Method.

The diet, in particular, has many of us intrigued. It’s intimidating, it’s strict, it’s intense, and it’s a bit confusing. But — could a superhuman physique operating at peak performance be your reward for all that restriction?

Honestly, probably not… but that doesn’t mean it won’t have any benefit at all. Let’s learn more about Brady’s lifestyle together, shall we?

The diet was created by Tom Brady and his former Patriots teammate Alex Guerrero in 2017. Together, with a fitness routine and lifestyle guidelines, the diet is part of Brady’s book The TB12 Method.

The TB12 Method was created with the goal of developing and maintaining muscle pliability and encouraging sustained peak performance.

In case you’re unfamiliar, muscle pliability is targeted deep muscle work that lengthens and softens muscles while contracting and relaxing them at the same time.

The method is meant to boost energy levels, reduce the risk of injury, increase vitality, and promote a more natural, holistic lifestyle.

While it was originally developed with elite athletes in mind, anyone can do it. And it may be worth trying: Brady says that the TB12 Method has boosted his confidence and his ability to perform more than any other diet or fitness lifestyle.

Essentially, he says that the method has changed his life for the better — and when you look at his track record, it’s kind of hard to argue with.

The diet portion of the TB12 Method is strict and comes with quite a few rules. The nutritional component is meant to support muscle pliability training, reduce inflammation, and ensure your body’s getting the optimal amount of nutrients.

For Brady, this means a huge focus on fresh, seasonal, organic whole foods that contain no chemicals and are locally sourced (aka no processed foods allowed).

The goal is to eat 80 percent alkaline-forming and 20 percent acid-causing foods (don’t worry, we’ll get into that). Here are the main rules:

  1. Go organic or go home. The diet’s golden rule: Fresh foods are the number one priority, and organic options are preferred. The reasoning is that organic foods don’t contain the chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives found in non-organic foods.

    According to Brady, some of these chemicals can block leptin, a protein that makes us feel full while we’re eating. If leptin isn’t produced, we continue to feel hungry and eat more.
  2. Local is best. When looking for your organic foods, opt for locally sourced options over anything else. Local food hasn’t traveled as far or as long as non-locally sourced options have.

    Local foods are also fresher and more nutritious. And while Brady acknowledges that this may be more expensive, he also adds, “It’s impossible to eat the cheapest foods while also eating the best foods.”
  3. Get comfortable with plants. The TB12 Method diet is not entirely vegetarian, but it certainly puts a huge focus on plant based foods.

    You’ll be eating mostly vegetables, and instead of thoroughly cooking them, you’ll want them mostly raw or lightly steamed (this can increase their nutritional value).

    Vegetables are full of fiber and enzymes, and they’re also alkalizing, so they help lessen inflammation. Focus on eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes. Limit your intake of meat, fish, dairy products, and any refined, processed foods (including sugars, flours, and oils).
  4. Eat according to the season. Choose foods that are in season where you live. Not only are these fresher, readily available, and less expensive than out-of-season foods, but eating according to your environment, Brady says, is more in tune with what your body wants.
  5. Get those essential fatty acids. Foods that are high in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are ideal, such as sardines, wild game, flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil.

    These fats help give us energy and transport oxygen, and omega-3s act as natural anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 fatty acids can also boost memory and performance (physical and mental!).
  6. Fill up on fiber. Your daily food intake should be high in fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and complex carbohydrates. Fiber is healthy, fills you up, and can reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  7. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Brady emphasizes the importance of eating a wide variety of foods to give yourself as many nutrients as possible and to avoid boredom that may cause you to stray from the diet.
  8. Keep alkalizing foods in mind. You’ve heard this fancy phrase a lot now, and in short, it means prioritizing foods that limit or counteract the amount of acid in your body in order to fight disease and promote health (this is just a hypothesis BTW — more research is needed about its efficacy).

    To follow TB12, you’ll want 80 percent alkaline foods and 20 percent acidic foods. The idea is that acidic foods cause inflammation, while alkaline-forming foods reduce it, and so this percentage (in theory) balances out your body’s pH levels.

    Your goal is to decrease the amount of acidic foods you eat so your body can neutralize the acids it produces.

    Alkaline foods include fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables. Acidic foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.
  9. Be wary of portion sizes. Just because you’re eating a lot of fruits and veggies doesn’t mean you can eat as many as you want. Portion control is important here.

    Basically, the meat, chicken, or fish you’re eating should be about the size of your palm, while the vegetables with it should be two of your palms. Eat just enough so that you walk away only 75 percent full instead of stuffed.
  10. Don’t eat too late. It’s recommended to finish your last meal of the day 3 hours before you go to bed, since your metabolism slows down at night.
  11. Snack smartly. Snacking is fine, since it curbs appetite and helps maintain energy levels. Just be sure your snacks are whole foods (like fruits and veggies) and not something processed.
  12. Remember the rules of combining foods. This part is odd, but important for the alkaline-pH-balancing effect (according to Brady).

    The four rules to follow: Avoid eating meat, poultry, fish, or dairy with carbohydrates. Always mix vegetables with proteins or carbs. Eat fruits alone and not with other foods. Drink water a half hour before your meal and an hour later instead of during your meal.

Start making your shopping list, because here’s a brief overview of what you can definitely eat on this diet.

  • Vegetables: Preferably organic, locally sourced options. Avoid options that are too acidic. Best options include asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, kale, onions, spinach, squash, and sweet potatoes.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Preferably organic, locally sourced options. Avoid options that are “too acidic.” Best options include apples, avocados, bananas, berries, coconut, grapefruit, lemons, mango, papayas, and peaches.
  • Fresh herbs: Add flavor with herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Canned foods: Some canned or jarred foods are okay, like artichoke hearts, capers, low-sodium chicken broth, coconut butter, nut butter, sugar-free pasta sauce, tomatoes, and low-sodium vegetable broth.
  • Nuts and seeds: Go for beans, lentils, split peas, and steel-cut oats.
  • Whole grains: Gluten-free is best, like quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, and oats.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are good, but soybeans should be avoided.
  • Meats: Opt for lean meats that are organic, grass-fed, and free of hormones and antibiotics.
  • Fish and seafood: Wild-caught is the way to go here. Opt for clams, mussels, halibut, herring, shrimp, fresh tuna, and wild salmon.
  • Eggs: Make them organic, cage-free, omega-3 enriched.
  • Superfoods: Things like acai powder, cacao, goji berries, and maca root are great.
  • Flour: If you’re baking, use all-purpose gluten-free flour, coconut flour, rice flour, chia flour, or oat flour.
  • Oils: You can use almond oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, or walnut oil.
  • Condiments: Add flavor with balsamic vinegar, horseradish, guacamole, hummus, Dijon mustard, salsa, tamari, and vegan mayo.
  • Milk: Instead of dairy, try almond, coconut, rice, hemp, or hazelnut milk.
  • Sweeteners: Need some sugar? Try coconut sugar, raw unfiltered honey, pure maple syrup, or stevia.
  • Spices: Basically anything that’s a spice is okay.

Say goodbye to that late-night fast food run… and all of your munchies.

  • Refined carbohydrates: The diet strongly encourages you to avoid any foods that come in a box or a bag. Avoid foods that contain white flour or added sugars, like instant mashed potatoes.
  • Unhealthy fats: No trans-fatty acids or saturated fats that are found in hydrogenated oils. Avoid saturated fats found in red meat, milk, butter, cheese, palm oil, and coconut oil.
  • Dairy: Protein in dairy products increases inflammation, and these items are also high in calories and lower in nutritional value. Limit your consumption of dairy as much as possible.
  • Salt: You don’t need to cut it out completely, but salt should be limited, as large amounts can elevate blood pressure and make it harder for our bodies to eliminate toxins and waste.
  • Nightshades: Dark-shaded foods such as eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers should be limited or avoided. Though not in the nightshade family, strawberries and mushrooms should also be avoided on this diet.
  • Caffeine: Limit your consumption of coffee, caffeinated tea, and sodas.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol should only be enjoyed in moderation sometimes, since it’s dehydrating, full of sugar, and inflammatory.
  • Very acidic foods: Since you should be sticking to 80 percent alkaline and 20 percent acidic foods, you’ll want to avoid or limit very acidic options. This includes beef, butter, cheese, chickpeas, cold cuts, hazelnuts, kiwis, lobster, mackerel, oranges, peanuts, pecans, pineapples, pistachios, pork, raspberries, currants, salmon, soybeans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, white bread, white rice, and yogurt.
  • Processed meats: No cold cuts, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, or hot dogs. Cured meat and ham is also avoided.
  • Anything containing gluten: No bread, pasta, tortillas, or anything else containing gluten.
  • Condiments: Some condiments are not approved, such as ketchup, soy sauce, and barbecue sauce that has sugar, artificial ingredients, excessive salt, or gluten.
  • Corn: That means popcorn and cornbread too.
  • Fruit juice: Yes, even if it’s fresh.
  • Grain based foods: This includes cereal, rice, instant oatmeal, wheat, barley, rye, and corn.
  • Cooking oils: Such as corn, safflower, canola, and soy.
  • Salty snacks: Obviously… chips, popcorn, pretzels, nachos, and crackers are out of the question.

Proper hydration is an incredibly important part of this diet. The goal is to keep your lymphatic system clean and flowing so that it can get rid of the toxins that build up in our bodies. Being hydrated will also help with optimal pliability.

Not drinking enough water can decrease the oxygen in your bloodstream and deprive your body of nutrients. It can slow down your metabolism and make you more susceptible to inflammation.

You want to avoid dehydration at all costs and drink as much water as possible. And, yes, there are rules that go along with that too.

  1. Other beverages don’t count. Yes, coffee and tea might contain water, but they are not a substitute for water.

    The TB12 Method believes that any drink containing caffeine, sugar, or alcohol take away from pliability because they’re diuretics. If you drink any of these, you have to drink extra water to make up for it.
  2. Avoid tap water, spring water, and carbonated water. Sources of tap water can contain fluoride and chlorine, making it less than ideal.

    According to The TB12 Method, most bottles of spring water are essentially treated tap water, and should also be avoided. Carbonated waters, like seltzer and sparkling water, contain less oxygen, are more acidic, and can be dehydrating (again, according to Tom Brady).
  3. Opt for mineral and purified water. Mineral water can be naturally alkaline and purified water has the fewest impurities out there — these are your two best options.
  4. Add electrolytes. Electrolytes, which are chemicals and nutrients in our bodies, can help water penetrate your muscles better. The TB12 Method believes that adding electrolytes to water is the best way to stay hydrated.
  5. Drink water as soon as you wake up. Add electrolytes to your first glass of water each day, which should occur a half-hour before breakfast.
  6. Drink it throughout the day. Whatever your daily water goal is, don’t try to gulp it down in an hour or 2. Spread it out throughout the day for the best hydration.

According to the TB12 Method, the best way to meet your full nutritional needs is to add supplements to your diet:

Reminder: Always speak to a doctor before adding supplements to your daily routine.

  • multivitamins
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin B complex
  • trace minerals (such as calcium, copper, magnesium, boron, phosphorus, potassium, silica, and zinc)
  • antioxidants
  • essential fatty acids
  • protein powder
  • probiotics

For the most part it’s best to take supplements with meals, as it can help your body absorb them more easily. Divide your doses rather than taking them all at once, and avoid taking mineral supplements with high-fiber meals.

Read labels carefully to avoid ingredients like sweeteners, binders, coatings, fillers, preservatives, and added sugars.

So, why should you throw away all of your junk food and consider this diet?

It might help you lose weight

Let’s be clear, The TB12 Method is not marketed as a weight loss gimmick diet. It was created with athletic performance in mind, and it’s meant to give you a healthier lifestyle and improve performance.

Still, it can certainly lead to weight loss. The diet discourages processed foods and eating before bed. Eliminating both of these things can contribute to weight loss.

You’ll be eating healthier foods

The TB12 Method is all about eating whole foods that are full of fiber and nutrients. Regardless of what else is said about the diet, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats is a more nutritious and healthy way of eating.

It might improve heart health

The TB12 Method is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which is widely known as one of the healthiest diets out there. It’s consistently linked to heart health and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Because these two diets/lifestyles are so similar, it makes sense that the TB12 Method would have similar effects.

It might prevent type 2 diabetes

The foods you’re allowed to eat include a lot of complex carbs and protein. These can help limit blood sugar spikes after meals and reduce inflammation, which can help prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes.

It might prevent other diseases as well

Eating whole foods that are minimally processed may protect against conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and some types of cancer.

It might boost athletic performance and aid in recovery

It may not give you Tom Brady-level skills, but it could help with workouts and athletic performance.

All of the vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds may limit inflammation and boost your immune system to help you perform better and recover faster. All that hydration doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, it’s not all good. Here’s the negative stuff to take into consideration:

It’s expensive

The first and most obvious criticism of the TB12 Method is that it’s expensive and not exactly accessible. Organic, locally sourced, whole foods aren’t available to everyone, and even if they are, not everyone can afford them.

Cutting out processed foods completely is also not cheap, and again, not something everyone can swing. The same goes for supplements.

It requires a lot of time and dedication

This diet requires a lot of dedication. It affects your social life in a big way and can make it difficult to go out and eat anywhere other than home. The food preparation required also takes up a lot of time. For many, it may be unsustainable in the long run.

It’s restrictive

Following this method means giving up a lot of foods you’re probably really used to eating. This can be extremely challenging, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods (they lurk almost everywhere).

Giving up entire food groups also isn’t realistic and research has shown that it isn’t quite as healthy as it seems — it may even shorten your lifespan.

Some of the guidelines are contradictory

There are a lot of rules in this method, and some seem to contradict each other. For example, you’re supposed to limit dairy, but whey protein (which is made from dairy) is encouraged.

It also states that you shouldn’t eat proteins with carbs, but foods like lentils, beans, and peas (all of which are encouraged) are a mix of protein and carbohydrate.

It’s not backed by science

Some of the claims of this diet don’t have enough research to make them scientifically legit. For example, there’s no evidence that food-combining TB12’s rules does much of anything.

There’s also not much out there to support avoiding nightshades and gluten (unless you’re intolerant to it). There’s also evidence that what you eat doesn’t really impact how your body alkalizes.

Still want to try it anyway? A perfect day in Brady’s nutritional world is made up of lots of water, plenty of supplements and electrolytes, and meals like these:

Breakfast: potato and broccoli frittata

Ingredients

For the frittata:

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup small broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup brown or red rice, soaked or cooked
  • Handful of chopped collard greens
  • 1 tablespoon of ribboned basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the poached artichokes:

  • 3/4 cup artichoke hearts
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the frittata:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190°C).
  2. Scrub potato under cold water, dry, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove potato from oven, let cool, and then dice.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk egg and egg white with 1/2 tablespoon of water.
  4. In a nonstick pan, sauté 1/4 cup potato in coconut oil over medium heat until crispy. Add garlic and broccoli and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add rice and collards and cover for 10 seconds, or until collards are wilted.
  6. Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables in the pan, then sprinkle basil on top. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. With a rubber spatula, lift the edges of the frittata as it cooks, allowing the runny egg mixture to seep below until it becomes firm enough to flip (about 2 to 3 minutes). Flip the frittata over and finish cooking for 1 additional minute. Move frittata to a cutting board and slice into wedges.

For the poached artichokes:

Tip: To prevent fresh artichokes from browning (before poaching), place artichoke quarters in cold water with lemon juice after removing outer leaves and inner fibers.

  1. Poach artichokes for 16 to 20 minutes, until tender. If using fresh artichokes, use enough water to cover the artichokes and half a lemon.
  2. Cut artichokes into quarters. Toss artichokes with lemon juice, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the frittata.

Lunch: Brady bowl

Ingredients

For the lemongrass curry sauce:

  • 4-inch lemongrass stalk, smashed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw Brazil nuts
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Salt to taste

For the bowl:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup small broccoli florets
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon shredded carrot
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tamari almonds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions

For the lemongrass curry sauce:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring lemongrass and water to a boil, and simmer down to about 3/4 cup of total liquid.
  2. Strain and put into a high-powered blender with nuts, lime juice, vinegar, and curry powder. Blend until smooth. Season with salt.

For the bowl:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Scrub sweet potato under cold water, dry, and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and cut into wedges, then toss with 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil and salt.
  3. Lay wedges cut-side up on a perforated sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 375°F for 35 minutes (until crispy).
  4. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, add the broccoli and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and steam for 1 minute. Remove broccoli and wipe pan dry.
  5. In the same pan over medium heat, toast garlic in 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil until golden brown. Turn off heat, add kale, and cover for 1 minute, until kale is wilted.
  6. Arrange all components side by side in a bowl. Serve 2 tablespoons of lemongrass curry sauce and almonds on the side.

Dinner: roast chicken with pumpkin and brussels sprouts

This roasting method works for any whole bird or meat roast. The flavor and texture of this natural reduction is unlike any starch-thickened sauce.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 whole (2–2.5 pound) chicken
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into two wedges
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 4 quarts water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the brussels sprouts

  • 1 1/2 cups halved brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt to taste

For the pumpkin puree:

  • 1 cup raw, cubed pumpkin meat
  • 1 tablespoon onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

For the chicken and the reduction:

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F (246°C).
  2. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Stuff garlic, lemon, and rosemary into cavity, then seal cavity (truss chicken or fold back wings and put a wooden skewer through ankles). Rub coconut oil over chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan in the oven. Brown for 16 to 20 minutes, then decrease heat to 300°F (148°C). Finish cooking to internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) then remove and let rest for 30 minutes. (Begin preparing the brussels sprouts at this stage.)
  4. Unseal cavity and discard lemon. Remove legs/thighs and breasts/wings, leaving meatless carcass.
  5. Cut into pieces and place in saucepan over medium heat. Sear bones for 15 minutes (until deep golden brown). Add garlic and rosemary from cavity and 4 quarts of water, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Reduce to thick sauce (will take about 45 minutes and yield about 3/4 cups of flavorful sauce). Skim off fat and impurities and strain through fine mesh strainer. Add salt only if needed.

For the brussels sprouts:

  1. Toss sprouts in a bowl with garlic until evenly coated. Immediately after removing chicken from roasting pan, turn oven up to 375°F (190°C), add sprouts to pan of drippings, and place in oven for 6 to 8 minutes.

For the pumpkin puree:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, caramelize onion and garlic in coconut oil until light brown.
  2. Add pumpkin meat and water and simmer for 14 to 16 minutes, until tender.
  3. Toss into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt.

To assemble:

Spread pumpkin purée across half of a plate and put sprouts on the other half. Slice a 5-oz piece of chicken breast (or one leg and thigh) and layer over the middle on top. Finish with broth reduction.

Snack: avocado ice cream

This modern interpretation of ice cream is just as delicious but much healthier. Try topping with coconut flakes, cacao nibs, or toasted almonds.

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe/soft avocado
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup coconut meat (from young coconuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 1/4 cups water

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth.
  2. Put mixture in freezer until ice cream reaches desired thickness. (For quicker ice cream, freeze half of the water into ice cubes before blending.)
  3. Scoop and serve with your choice of topping.

tl;dr

  • The TB12 Method is meant to increase muscle pliability, boost athletic performance, and reduce inflammation.
  • There’s a big focus on eating organic, locally sourced plant based foods, although the diet is not vegetarian.
  • Foods you should avoid or limit considerably include nightshades, anything processed, anything too salty or acidic, caffeine, alcohol, and many more.
  • Drinking a lot of water all day long is extremely important. Electrolytes should sometimes be added.
  • Supplements are another way to boost nutrition.
  • The diet may lead to weight loss and is similar to the Mediterranean diet. As such it may share some of the benefits.
  • TB12 Method has been criticized for being expensive, inaccessible, and restrictive, and parts of it are scientifically unfounded.