Lots of vegetables and berries are a part of the TB12 eating plan.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Should You Eat Like Tom Brady?


31 Days of Resolutions – Day 15

“TB12” is a known brand on the East Coast, and now in Tampa Bay. 

I realized it referenced Tom Brady and his jersey number when I read an article about Brady’s restrictive diet and the difficulties the author faced trying to follow the diet.

The author hated the TB12 diet. It’s been labeled by some in the media as “extreme.”

I wondered if this diet was sensible and based on actual science. If so, would it be worth my effort to give it a go – maybe starting Super Bowl Sunday?

Okay, maybe Super Bowl Monday.

What TB12 Is

Here’s the TB12 diet, according to the article:

  • The basic idea is lean protein (20%) and anti-inflammatory vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (80%).
  • Lean proteins include nuts, seeds, chicken, fish, and lean organic beef.
  • “Inflammatory vegetables” (therefore, eliminated from the diet) include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers.
  • No caffeine after 12 pm, no dairy, no MSG.
  • No white flour or sugar.
  • Use olive oil, except use coconut oil for cooking.
  • Don’t use iodized salt. Brady’s dietician uses Himalayan pink salt.

Those are the dietary basics. Other reported guidelines are:

  • Eat until you are 75% full.
  • Drink as many ounces of water daily as ½ of your weight in pounds. That is, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water.
  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime.

(Source: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/tb12-diet-diary-i-tried-to-eat-like-tom-brady-for-a-week-heres-what-its-like/ )

It’s mostly a common-sense eating plan.

I had some questions about those guidelines, though.

Hydration and TB12

The water guideline closely follows doctor recommendations.

The TB12 website says Brady adds electrolytes to his water. His TB12 website sells them.

If you aren’t Tom Brady, do you need to add electrolytes to your water?

Experts say that tap water contains trace amounts of electrolytes and unless you are ill, exercising longer than 1 hour, or sweating heavily, you probably don’t need to add electrolytes to your water.

My own experience is that adding 20% Gatorade to my water (at my endocrinologist’s recommendation) helps me stay hydrated, but that could be due to the medications I take which tend to be dehydrating.

You can make your own electrolyte water from natural ingredients without adding sugar. You’ll save money and save the Earth from more disposable plastic.

Eating Nightshades

Brady’s dietician says that nightshades are inflammatory. My research shows that hasn’t been proven.  

It seems that the chemicals under scrutiny are alkaloids. The theory is that alkaloids cause inflammation and that some people feel better eliminating them from their diets.

But aren’t peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms healthy?

According to the Cleveland Clinic blog, these foods are nutritious and are prominent in many world cuisines.

The article suggests that some people may have a sensitivity to nightshades, but that unless you have that sensitivity, have an underlying inflammatory condition, or eat tons of these foods, it is not necessary to eliminate nightshades.

In fact, one pepper gives you your daily vitamin C requirements, and tomatoes contain lycopene. Lycopene may be protective against some cancers.

Incidentally, sweet potatoes are not nightshades.

Cheating? TB12 Admits It

Those of us who learned to scorn the Pats had a nickname for Brady, et al: Cheaters.

Maybe that’s harsh and unjustified, but so is the world of die-hard football fans. It’s hard to forget Inflategate.

So, what about Brady’s adherence to his own diet?

A Men’s Health interview with Brady reveals that he does not always stick to the strict guidelines of his diet.

He says that he’ll eat pizza if it appeals to him. He suggests life’s too short to do otherwise.

But, cheating is the exception, not the rule.

That makes sense.

75% Full?

My research led me to “Hara Hachi Bu.” This is the idea to stop eating when you feel 80% full. It is an ancient bit of wisdom that is followed by Japanese living in one of the world’s Blue Zones.

Dan Buettner identified Blue Zones as “exceptional hot spots where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives.” 

I’m guessing this is where the TB12 concept comes from.

Putting it into practice means you should stop eating when your hunger starts to abate.

Why is TB12 75% and Hara Hachi Bu 80%? I don’t think the 5% difference in estimating your hunger means much.

Just stop excessive and compulsive eating.

Iodized Salt

Iodine is an important mineral needed by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Many populations around the world face health problems due to iodine deficiency, but since iodized salt was introduced into the American diet in the 1920’s most Americans get the iodine they need.

In fact, ½ tsp. of iodized salt will get you to the recommended daily intake of 150 mcg.

Iodine is found naturally in seafood from the ocean (whether wild or farmed), egg yolks, dairy, seaweed, prunes, macaroni, and lima beans.

But is it bad for you to consume excess iodine?

Most people tolerate excess iodine just fine, up to 7 times the recommended daily intake. If you consume higher amounts it can cause problems.

“A high intake of iodine may increase the risk of thyroid dysfunction in certain groups of people, including fetuses, newborn babies, the elderly and those with preexisting thyroid disease.”

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iodized-salt#iodine-rich-foods

Most of us are just fine consuming iodized salt and we probably should be using it, especially people who rely on a plant-based diet.

Coconut Oil

I’ve bought and thrown out two containers of coconut oil because I just can’t figure out if it is healthy or not.

I remember reading that tropical oils like coconut and palm oil are as bad for your arteries as butter, and you can tell this from their solid consistency at room temperature.

Coconut oil has been proven to raise cholesterol levels (both good and bad) and contains more saturated fat than butter according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sticking with olive oil, which is highly regarded in Mediterranean diets, seems the better choice.

TB12 Bottom Line

The TB12 diet tenets are healthy and mostly backed by science.

I’d think twice about removing nightshades, dairy, and iodized salt from my diet, or buying any specialized diet products. 

Is this eating plan doable? We shall see – after the Super Bowl.

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