The TB12 Diet Is Really No Big Deal

This morning I saw Pete Blackburn’s CBS Sports writeup about practicing the TB12 Diet for a week.

TB12 is the health and fitness approach of football star Tom Brady, who as you might have heard had led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, which will be played this Sunday. Brady published a book about his approach a short while back.

The TB12 Diet is built around a restrictive diet with the following rules that Blackburn helpfully outlined in his story:

  • 80% fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • 20% protein (chicken, red meat, seafood)
  • Eat until you’re 75% full
  • No dairy or nightshades (e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant)
  • Halve your body weight in pounds and drink that many ounces of water (e.g. a 140 lb person would drink 70 oz of water)
  • Max 2 cups of coffee / No caffeine after noon
  • No food within 3 hours of going to bed

Brady’s personal approach is more strict (he consumes no caffeine, no processed white anything, coconut oil is the only oil his food is cooked in, and he avoids a lot of other foods that can be considered overtly inflammatory). But the above is the basic guidelines to TB12.

Clearly, it’s not particularly unusual or particularly different from the principles a lot of others have preached or practiced. I wouldn’t even consider TB12 particularly restrictive, unless you like dairy or processed foods.

Blackburn mostly had a hard time with the diet because his general diet is not the healthiest. Any clean diet would be a big adjustment for him and many others.

Sure, TB12 preaches eating quite a bit before bedtime, while I prefer to eat a bit closer to bed to avoid hunger problems. Sure, half your bodyweight in water can be a challenge for anyone who’s over 130 pounds or 59 kilograms (or 9 1/3 stone, for my British readers): For me that’s about 85-95 oz of water a day, quite a bit unless I’m exercising really hard and am craving that much water. And for someone not used to a whole food diet, getting 80% of your food as produce and unprocessed grains et al may look like a challenge.

But most of us can support not drinking more than 16 oz of coffee, and skipping coffee after noon. Most of us can vouch for eating to satsifaction but not stuffing ourselves. Many of us don’t react well to excess dairy, and could find some value in avoiding inflammatory foods including nightshades. It’s advice many of us have received, given, and followed.

I know Brady’s gotten some flack for TB12 seeming weird to people, in part because Brady being rich/famous and a health nut seems weird to sports fans, many of whom love pounding fried/processed food and chugging beer. A lot of the food at stadium concession stands certainly isn’t TB12-approved! Part of the flack could also be the clear profiteering of publishing a book and website around what’s basically a simple and healthy approach to food choices.

(There’s also the whole Deflategate scandal, where Brady allegedly had footballs deflated before key NFL home games. It’s irrelevant to TB12, but the fallout of that scandal plays a role in why Brady gets flack.)

Upon further review, there’s nothing particularly weird about TB12. Sure, there are some rules I don’t agree with or wish to follow, but I don’t find TB12 outlandish by any means. Even the idea of following Brady’s lead and quitting coffee, though I definitely don’t want to do that, isn’t exactly out of left field.

Some key adjustments I’d recommend if you chose to follow TB12 is:

  • If you’re an endurance athlete you’ll need to learn to love fruit and brown rice, because that’s going to be your easiest TB12-approved carb source for longer workouts.
  • Because you’re not eating to fullness, if you have high calorie requirements, then don’t intermittent fast. Eat breakfast.
  • Try to drink water throughout the afternoon, and have a glass of water before dinner.
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