What Is the Tom Brady Diet?

Tom Brady diet

 Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

Tom Brady is widely known for his seven Super Bowl wins and his very strict performance-enhancing diet. The NFL quarterback eats mostly plant-based with a focus on anti-inflammatory and alkalizing foods that are almost always organic and locally sourced. When he consumes animal products on occasion it’s usually lean protein sources like fish.

As the oldest quarterback in NFL history to start and win a Super Bowl, Brady makes sports headlines regularly. In recent years, Brady's eating regimen has gained nearly as much attention as his performance on the field. People started taking an interest in his diet when he revealed that he eats mostly plant-based.

The Tom Brady diet—also known as the TB12 diet—is a high-protein, plant-based diet that excludes gluten, dairy, corn, soy, MSG, coffee, alcohol, GMOs, sugar, trans fats, overly processed foods, and more. Some fruits and vegetables such as nightshades are off-limits, as are certain oils.

While rules on the Tom Brady diet are strict, the plan is nutrient-dense and designed to minimize or eliminate certain foods he believes can cause inflammation. Brady claims that his diet boosts energy, prevents bone injuries, enhances athletic performance, and increases recovery.

Like many professional athletes and celebrities, Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen, have private chefs to cook healthy meals for their family. The couple's former personal chef, Allen Campbell, worked with Brady to develop the TB12 Nutrition Manual, which is centered around a vegan diet and produce that’s seasonal, organic, and local.

Tom Brady’s diet inspired his 2017 bestselling book, “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance.” The book details the benefits of his anti-inflammatory and alkalizing diet and features recipes developed by Campbell, who holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition. While the effects of the TB12 method seem evident given his successful football career that spans 10 Super Bowls, keep in mind that Brady does not hold an advanced degree in nutrition sciences.

What Experts Say

"There’s a lot to like about the Tom Brady diet—eat organic and choose whole unprocessed foods—but there are some restrictions that aren’t backed by science, such as cutting certain veggies like mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

Many foods are eliminated on the TB12 diet including nightshade vegetables and foods containing gluten, dairy, corn, soy, MSG. There is no coffee or alcohol permitted, and foods containing GMOs, sugar, or trans fats are not allowed. The diet focuses on consuming whole foods over overly processed foods.

The plan follows an 80/20 pattern, consisting of about 80% vegetables, whole grains, and beans. The other 20% is lean meats. Certain specific fruits are also consumed, and protein powders, protein bars, nuts, and seeds are on regular rotation. Snacks on the Tom Brady diet usually include dehydrated fruits, raw veggies with hummus or guacamole, a protein bar, or bone broth.

What You Need to Know

Like the standard American diet, the Tom Brady diet includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Snacks are also allowed. But the eating patterns on this plan are highly regimented, which can make this program difficult to follow for the long term.

For instance, Brady begins his day with electrolyte-infused water. Breakfast is usually a fruit smoothie with nuts and seeds. After his workout, he will have a protein shake with almond milk.

Lunch and dinner are heavy on vegetables. His private chef will select fresh vegetables based on seasonality. These meals are typically served with a protein source like fish. Some of his plant-based meals consist of whole grains like quinoa with wilted greens and herbs. Having a private chef eliminates time spent planning, preparing, and cooking meals that are compliant with the diet.

The Tom Brady diet also encourages people to drink plenty of water, but the timing is specific. The plan states that you should drink water 30 minutes before meals and not to drink any water during meals until one hour afterward, but there is no evidence to support this timing. In fact, drinking water during meals can help aid in the digestive process.

If the Tom Brady diet is too restrictive for your lifestyle, try incorporating more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet. If that includes drinking coffee and eating nightshade vegetables, corn, or dairy products, it can still be healthy and balanced.

What to Eat
  • Most vegetables

  • Fruits like banana

  • Whole grains

  • Beans

  • Lean proteins

  • TB12 protein powders and protein bars

What Not to Eat
  • Dairy

  • Gluten

  • GMOs and MSG

  • Corn and soy

  • Overly processed foods

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners

  • Nightshade vegetables and fungi

  • Coffee and alcohol

  • Trans fat and saturated fat

Most Vegetables

The bulk of Brady’s lunches and dinners are composed of vegetables, ideally those that are organic and locally sourced. Nightshade vegetables and fungi are off-limits, however.

Fruits, Especially Banana

Brady is a proponent of protein shakes and smoothies. His breakfast almost always consists of a fruit smoothie with nuts and seeds. His go-to fruit is banana. Aside from his morning smoothie, the diet does not involve a large quantity or variety of fruit.

Whole Grains

Complex carbohydrates are a staple for many professional athletes. The Tom Brady diet includes plenty of brown rice, quinoa, and millet because they provide greater nutrition than their refined counterparts.

Beans

Since Brady’s diet is predominantly plant-based, he gets some of his protein from beans.

Lean Proteins

The diet does allow for the occasional serving of lean meat, fish, and seafood.

TB12 Protein Powders and Protein Bars

A big focus of the diet is on plant-based protein and supplementing with protein powder. The TB12 website sells a line of protein supplements including TB12 Plant-Based Protein, TB12 Whey Protein Isolate, and TB12 Protein Bars. For fans of the star quarterback and the TB12 method, these products may have an additional appeal.

Dairy

Brady frequently describes his diet as anti-inflammatory. He completely eliminated all dairy products because he believes they can cause inflammation. It should be noted, however, that this assumption isn't necessarily supported by scientific evidence. In fact, a 2017 review of 52 clinical studies reported that cow's milk does not have anti-inflammatory effects unless there is an allergy. Brady drinks almond milk instead of cow’s milk and creamy dishes are often substituted with a cashew base.

Gluten

Gluten is eliminated on the Tom Brady diet, which is free of white flour and even soy sauce containing gluten. Refined carbs containing gluten aren’t compliant because of Brady's belief that they have an inflammatory effect on the body. However, there is not enough evidence to show that gluten causes inflammation unless you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

GMOs and MSG

Eliminating GMOs and MSG from his diet was partially inspired by his former chef. Campbell had already been cooking professionally without these ingredients. In recent years, Brady has publicly spoken out against food companies that use GMOs.

However, GMOs are safe to consume and highly regulated, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MSG is also considered safe and may help decrease overall sodium intake up to 40% when added to meals and recipes while maintaining desirable flavor.

Corn and Soy

Brady doesn’t consume corn and soy because he believes that soy is acidic, which goes against his alkalizing principles. Corn is typically a GMO food, which explains why he avoids it.

Overly Processed Foods

Brady has referred to processed, sugary foods like Frosted Flakes and Coca Cola as "poison." Overly processed foods typically go against several of Brady’s criteria since they often contain added sugars, GMOs, trans fats, gluten, and dairy.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Brady's meals don't contain any added sugar or artificial sweeteners. He believes that sugar is the root of most people’s health problems, and to a certain extent, he's right. Excess sugar consumption is a leading cause of obesity in the United States, which can lead to chronic diseases. Like other health-conscious diets that eliminate added sugar, Brady cut out all sugar from his diet.

However, artificial sweeteners sold in the U.S are generally considered safe to consume in small amounts and may be beneficial to people who have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Nightshade Vegetables and Fungi

Despite being mostly plant-based, a number of vegetables are excluded from this plan. Brady doesn’t eat nightshade vegetables or fungi because he believes they are inflammatory. This means no tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, potatoes, or mushrooms. But these vegetables and fungi contain antioxidants, which would actually make them anti-inflammatory.

Coffee and Alcohol

Brady’s diet is caffeine-free. In fact, he claims to have never even tried coffee. Occasionally he will have a cup of tea, but he doesn’t have coffee because of its acidity. It should be noted, however, that the kidneys and lungs work naturally to balance the body's pH so that it's neither too alkaline nor acidic.

In addition, Brady drinks alcohol only on special occasions. He generally avoids it because he believes it can lead to inflammation when consumed in excess. 

Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

While olive oil and coconut oil are approved on the plan, they must be free of trans fat. For this reason, Brady's meals are never cooked with canola oil. He consumes olive oil raw and uses coconut oil for cooking. Brady avoids both trans fat and saturated fat as part of his anti-inflammatory regimen.

Brady gets a lot of criticism for being overly restrictive with his diet since there isn't a lot of scientific evidence to back up his rationale.

Sample Shopping List

Those who follow the TB12 plan may wish to shop at their local farmers market for fresh, seasonal produce. If you don't have a farmers market in your area, look for organic and local fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. If you're not sure what's in season or shopping organic is outside of your budget, simply choose produce that looks fresh.

The following shopping list offers suggestions for getting started with the Tom Brady diet. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list and you may find other foods that work better for you.

  • Organic lean protein (salmon, halibut, chicken, trimmed pork loin)
  • Seasonal local vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, fresh herbs)
  • Seasonal local fruits (grapefruit, oranges, bananas, blueberries, avocados)
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet)
  • Dried legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, flax seeds)
  • Olive oil and coconut oil
  • Organic local eggs
  • Almond milk
  • Protein powders and bars (Optional: TB12 nutritional supplements)

Sample Meal Plan

While the Tom Brady diet is very restrictive, there are still a number of creative recipes you can try on this plan. Since the TB12 method emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, you will have to do most of the cooking yourself. What you eat and the ingredients you cook with will depend on how closely you're adhering to the diet. For example, whether or not you choose to include nightshades, organic foods, GMOs, gluten, or dairy will inform what you eat at each meal. If you follow the timing for drinking water, remember to hydrate 30 minutes before meals and then one hour after you've finished eating.

The following three-day meal plan offers suggestions for getting started with a flexible version of the TB12 plan that includes three square meals per day with a snack. Note this plan is not all-inclusive and there may be other meals that are more suitable for your tastes, preferences, and budget.

Day 1

  • Pre-Breakfast: A 10-ounce glass of water mixed with electrolytes
  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs; 2 strips turkey bacon; 1/2 sliced avocado
  • Snack: Protein bar; 1 banana
  • Lunch: 1 cup Southwest Quinoa Salad (substitute coconut oil for cooking; omit bell pepper)
  • Dinner: 4-ounce filet baked or poached salmon; 1 cup steamed broccoli; 3 ounces mixed greens dressed with extra virgin olive oil

Day 2

Day 3

  • Pre-Breakfast: A 10-ounce glass of water mixed with electrolytes
  • Breakfast: 1 serving Vegetable Omelette Roulade (substitute coconut oil for cooking; omit feta and bell pepper)
  • Snack: 1/2 cup dried fruit and nut mix (no sugar added)
  • Lunch: 1 cup Asian Shrimp Salad (substitute amino acids for soy sauce)
  • Dinner: 1 serving Ginger Chicken with Baby Bok Choy (substitute gluten-free tamari for soy sauce; substitute coconut oil for sesame oil); 1 cup cooked brown rice

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Plenty of whole foods

  • Allergen-friendly

  • Suitable for athletes

  • May promote weight loss

Cons
  • Not sustainable

  • Overly restrictive

  • Lack of scientific evidence

Pros

  • Emphasis on whole foods: The emphasis on consuming whole, unprocessed foods allows for plenty of nutrients, protein, and dietary fiber.
  • Allergen-friendly: The diet is free of dairy, corn, soy, and gluten, which makes it easy for anyone with these allergies, sensitivities, or restrictions to adhere to this plan.
  • Suitable for athletes: As an athlete himself, it makes sense that the Tom Brady diet is suitable for athletes of all ages and levels. His anti-inflammatory diet is designed to boost energy and reduce recovery time, which can be especially beneficial for athletes.
  • May promote weight loss: Though the TB12 diet is not promoted as a weight-loss plan, a mostly plant-based diet emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods could lead to weight loss.

Cons

  • Not sustainable: The Tom Brady diet isn’t sustainable long term due to its many restrictions. Only consuming fresh, organic, and seasonal produce is also unrealistic for many people as it tends to be expensive.
  • Lack of variety: While eliminating added sugar is a healthy choice, cutting out all dairy, corn, and nightshade vegetables may not be realistic and make the diet very limited.
  • Overly restrictive: Brady eats 100% gluten-free, which excludes whole-grain foods derived from wheat like bread, cereal, and pasta. If you’re not sensitive to gluten or do not have celiac disease it may not be necessary to remove these from your diet. Similarly, if you are not allergic to dairy or nightshades, it may not be necessary to remove those from your diet, either.
  • Lacks evidence: In his book, Brady makes some bold claims about the benefits of alkaline foods. He believes that his diet neutralizes the pH level in the body by reducing acidity. But health claims about alkaline diets do not yet have enough evidence to support their effectiveness.

Is the Tom Brady Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Tom Brady diet is often compared to a vegan or plant-based diet, even though it contains the occasional serving of animal products. The TB12 diet is unique in that it doesn’t use many labels related to macronutrients (i.e. low-fat, low-carb, etc.), but it still comes with a long list of restrictions. Brady's diet isn't the only eating plan with a strict set of rules and requirements. Here's how similar diets compare:

  • Alkaline diet: This plan involves consuming mostly alkaline foods such as fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables.
  • Engine 2 diet: Unprocessed plant-based foods are the focus of this vegan diet. It’s low in fat and free of animal products, added sugar, and vegetable oils.
  • Anti-inflammatory diet: Designed to reduce inflammation, this diet claims to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and more.

The Tom Brady diet could also be classified as a high-protein diet. But unlike other high-protein plans such as the ketogenic diet, animal products are not the central focus. Instead, the TB12 plan encourages lots of vegetables and plant-based protein like legumes, which makes it naturally high in fiber. It’s uncommon for a high-protein diet to also be high in fiber. Despite its rules and restrictions, it is relatively nutritionally balanced when compared with federal guidelines for a healthy diet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, including vegetables of all types (especially dark, leafy greens), whole fruits, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and healthy fats for a balanced diet.

Many of the USDA's recommended foods such as nightshades, mushrooms, dairy products, corn, and animal protein are limited or off-limits on the Tom Brady diet. However, health experts agree that plant-based diets can still be nutritious so long as animal protein and nutrients from dairy products are replaced by plant-based sources.

The USDA also recommends a daily calorie intake of 2,000 calories for weight management and 1,500 a day for weight loss, but this number can vary based on factors like age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity. Professional athletes like Brady will likely require more calories than the average person. There is no calorie counting on the TB12 plan, but it's a good idea to know your daily calorie target to stay on track with your goals. To determine that number try this calculator tool.

The Tom Brady diet emphasizes whole foods over processed foods and is mostly aligned with federal guidelines with the exception of its restrictions. Those following this plan should up their intake of compliant fruits and vegetables, legumes, and gluten-free whole grains to ensure they're getting enough nutrients.

Health Benefits

Supports Weight Loss

The benefits of a plant-based diet are well-supported by scientific research. A 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open found that a plant-based diet can help lower cholesterol, boost metabolism, and support weight loss.

Improves Heart Health

Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies link vegetarian diets, vegan diets, and other plant-based eating plans to improved heart-related outcomes. A 2018 study in the journal Clinical Cardiology found a plant-based diet reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Reduced Risk for Chronic Diseases

Studies show people who follow vegetarian and vegan diets have lower rates of cancer; some researchers cite a 10–12% reduction in overall cancer risk. Additionally, consumption of certain meat products (such as processed meat) is linked to higher rates of cancer.

Research has also shown that eating a plant-based diet may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes.

May Help Fight Inflammation

Most of the criticism of the TB12 diet questions the alkalizing component of the eating plan and the restriction of foods thought to cause inflammation such as nightshades. Though certain anti-inflammatory foods may have some credibility in the prevention and treatment of certain chronic diseases, there is little evidence to back Brady's claims that nightshade vegetables trigger inflammation.

In fact, some experts point out that any inflammatory reaction experienced with nightshades such as eggplants could actually indicate an underlying condition of which the eggplant could be aggravating.

While the TB12 diet itself lacks scientific research, myriad studies support the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Health Risks

Could Lead to a B12 Deficiency

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that while plant-based diets can be effective for the prevention of chronic diseases, there is the potential for a vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly among vegans. The Academy advises those following a vegan diet to ensure they're getting adequate sources of this essential nutrient from fortified foods or other sources such as dietary supplements.

May Cause Disordered Eating

Similar to other restrictive diets, the TB12 plan walks a fine line between healthy eating and obsession. Getting caught up in labeling foods “good” or “bad” can create an unhealthy relationship to food and lead to disordered eating behaviors such as orthorexia, which is an obsession with "clean" eating.

Potential for Too Much Protein

Current USDA guidelines indicate that 75% of Americans meet or exceed the recommendation for animal protein but fall short on the recommendations for plant-based protein. Health risks like heart disease and colon cancer are mitigated when you choose plant-based protein over animal protein.

Brady consumes lean animal protein in moderation, which is part of a balanced diet and likely does not pose any health risks. He also has at least one protein shake a day with as many as three scoops of protein powder in it and consumes protein bars regularly as snacks. But professional athletes may require far more protein than the average person.

Since the TB12 method doesn’t keep a close track of protein consumption, some people may exceed their recommended amount of protein. Experts warn that consuming too much protein can cause kidney stones.

Three scoops of protein powder a day could be too much protein for non-professional athletes. In addition, health claims made by manufacturers of dietary supplements are unregulated by the FDA, so check with your healthcare provider before supplementing your diet with protein powder.

A Word From Verywell

Tom Brady and the followers of his diet claim to receive many benefits from this way of eating. This may be a suitable option for athletes who need lots of protein, electrolytes, and nutrients to stay healthy and energized for their sports performance. However, a majority of people are not professional athletes and have different nutritional requirements. What works best for Brady may not be the best plan for you.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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