Since his first season in the NFL more than two decades ago, there has been a lot of interest in Tom Brady’s diet and the foods he eats (and avoids) as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Tom made his NFL debut with the New England Patriots in 2000. After 19 seasons as the Patriots’ quarterback, Tom moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, where he played with the team for three seasons until he announced his retirement from professional football on February 1, 2023. “I’m retiring. For good. I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning I figured I’d just press record, and let you guys know first,” he said in an Instagram video at the time. “It won’t be long-winded, you only get one super-emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year, so. I…really thank you guys…so much. To every single one of you, for supporting me, my family, my friends, teammates, my competitors. I could go on forever. There’s too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”
With 23 seasons in the NFL, Tom holds the record for the longest NFL career of any non-special teams players. In his 2017 book, The TB12 Method, Tom credited the longevity of his career to his diet. In an interview with Variety in 2022, Tom confirmed that he still planned to follow his diet ever after he retired from the NFL. “I don’t even enjoy eating things that probably aren’t going to give my body what it needs. I wouldn’t say I’m going to turn into a couch potato,” he said. He denied, however, that he’s a “psychopath” when it comes to his diet. “I mean, I eat ice cream. I’m not very super strict with my diet. I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m some psychopath about a diet. I just make good choices most of the time,” he said.
He continued, “It’s not even about the diet. You’ve got to see the process of food being grown. Just because it’s in a grocery store doesn’t mean it’s food. My view of food is, like, I need things that are going to give my body what it needs. Does that make sense? I don’t want calories. If I need nutrients, I need that from soil. It’s not going to be from Frosted Flakes. Now, because they sell it in a grocery store, people correlate that to ‘I’m going to get food.’ In my view, that food would have never allowed me to play football until I’m 44.”
So what is Tom Brady’s diet and what are the foods he eats and avoids? Read on for what we know about Tom Brady’s diet and the foods he credits to his athletic performance and two-decade-long NFL career.
What is Tom Brady’s diet? The Tom Brady diet, also known as the TB12 Method, is a plant-based diet that focuses on whole foods, with an emphasis on organic, locally grown and seasonal produce. Tom—who introduced the diet in his 2017 book, The TB12 Method: How to Do What You Love, Better and for Longer—credits the plan for his longevity in his professional football career and helping him lower the risk of injuries and minimize inflammation while improving his athletic performance, energy levels, recovery and health as a whole.
“At TB12, balance is as much about creating the right mixture of strength, conditioning, and pliability as it is about lifestyle choices—what we eat, how much rest and recovery we get, and what daily activities we engage in,” Tom wrote in the book. “The more balanced we are, the better. In my experience, most athletes like to work on things that they’re already good at. It reinforces their confidence in their own abilities. Strong athletes like to work on strength, and fast athletes like to work on speed. But that doesn’t create balance. To create balance, we need to work on our deficiencies as well.”
What foods does Tom Brady’s diet include? Tom Brady’s diet consists of an 80/20 balance between plant-based foods and meats. Tom Brady’s diet recommends eating organically grown fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes 80 percent of the time, and grass-fed, free-range, organic, hormone-free and antibiotic-free lean meats and wild-caught fish and seafood 20 percent of the time.
In an interview with Boston.com in 2016, Tom’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, confirmed that he cooked the former NFL player and his family—including then-wife Gisele Bündchen and their kids John, Vivian and Benjamin—a local, organic and majority plant-based diet. “My philosophy starts in my own life, and with my own lifestyle and eating habits. I make conscious decisions to buy local and organic, and to stay away from GMOs, and to think about the future of the planet and the future of humans,” Campbell said. “I took a plant-based nutrition course earlier this year. It was an online course through Cornell, and it’s taught by a doctor named T. Colin Campbell, who’s behind The China Study. My philosophy is that a plant-based diet has the power to reverse and prevent disease.”
Campbell also confirmed that Tom ate an 80/20 diet consisting of 80 percent plant-based foods and 20 percent meats with minimal added sugars and carbohydrates. “So, 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables,”he said. “If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon. It’s very different than a traditional American diet. But if you just eat sugar and carbs—which a lot of people do—your body is so acidic, and that causes disease. Tom recently outed Frosted Flakes and Coca-Cola on WEEI. I love that he did that. Sugar is the death of people.”
Campbell also told Boston.com that he did a lot of his grocery shopping for Tom and his family at farmers’ markets and Whole Foods. “I do all the shopping. In a perfect world, I would go to only farmers’ markets. But I do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods, too,” he said. “And I buy meats at The Butcher Shop in the South End—Barbara Lynch’s place. And Siena Farms. I live in SOWA, so I hit those guys at the farmers’ market on Sunday.”
What foods does Tom Brady’s diet avoid? Tom Brady’s diet avoids a list of foods and ingredients that he considers to be pro-inflammatory including: non-organic grass-fed dairy, refined carbohydrates, trans and saturated fats, added sugars, salt, alcohol and caffeine, according to The TB12 Method. Tom Brady’s diet also limits: GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, soy-containing foods, and most cooking cooking oils, such as canola and soy.
Tom’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, also confirmed to Boston.com that he avoided cooking with white sugar, white flour, MSG, olive oil, canola oil and iodized salt for Tom and his family. He also avoided serving Tom coffee, fungi, dairy and most fruits. “No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt,” Campbell said. “[Tom] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month. I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.” He continued, “What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy. The kids eat fruit. Tom, not so much. He will eat bananas in a smoothie. But otherwise, he prefers not to eat fruits.”
Nicole Feneli, RD, CSSD, VP of wellness, performance nutrition and sustainability at FLIK Hospitality Group, denied Campbell’s claim that nightshades were inflammatory. “Nightshades are family of produce and spices that contain the compound alkaloids which are believed to be inflammatory, but there is little to no research to suggest that alkaloids are associated with inflammation,” she said.
See below for a full list of foods Tom Brady’s diet avoids.
What meals are in Tom Brady’s diet? Tom’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, told Boston.com that he created a weekly menu for Tom and his family, which often included grain and vegetable bowls. “I’m all about serving meals in bowls. I’ve just did this quinoa dish with wilted greens. I use kale or Swiss chard or beet greens. I add garlic, toasted in coconut oil. And then some toasted almonds, or this cashew sauce with lime curry, lemongrass, and a little bit of ginger,” he said. That’s just comfort food for them.”
He continued, “I’ll do a menu a day or two in advance for the whole week so they can see what [I’m making]. And I keep [the menu] in the kitchen on the counter somewhere, but I just started doing that. They don’t really ask for specific things. They really are laid back.”
He also confirmed to Boston.com that Tom and Gisele’s kids often ate the same meals as their parents. “Vivi was only nine months when I started, so I gave her first food. And 90 percent of the time they all eat the same thing,” he said. “I cook for the kids, but Gisele makes Benny’s lunch to take to school. She packs that herself. Yesterday I made veggie sushi for the kids. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. It’s brown rice, avocado, carrot, and cucumber. The kids like [it] maki-style, so the rice is on the outside. And I do it with a ponzu sauce, which is uzu and tamari. [I use] tamari because we stick to gluten free for everything.”
He continued, “For snacks, I make fruit rolls from bananas, pineapple, and spirulina. Spirulina is an algae. It’s a super fruit. I dehydrate it. I dehydrate a lot of things. I have three dehydrators in their kitchen. I also make raw granola and raw chocolate chip cookies.”
What was Tom Brady’s diet during NFL season? Tom’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, told Boston.com that Tom Brady’s diet didn’t change if he had an NFL game the next day or not. “I always have it in mind, if [Tom] has a game—but it’s never dictating what I would cook. It’s really not different. The only real difference [in terms of the kinds of things I cook] is seasonal,” he said. “In the wintertime, it’s going to be more red meat and more soups and root vegetables. And in the summer, they eat lighter, so I’ll make raw lasagna and more salads.”
Still, Campbell told Boston.com that he had to be conscious of both Tom and Gisele’s diets given important their bodies were to their jobs. “I think that’s what makes [the job] so gratifying for me,” he said. “If I was cooking for anyone else who didn’t respect and appreciate my food as much as they did, it wouldn’t be as gratifying for me. I think that’s what makes me happy at the end of the day. I get to really do what I want, and they get to benefit.”
What rules does Tom Brady’s diet follow? Along with with the types of food he eats, Tom Brady’s diet also instructs followers to avoid eating three hours before going to bed and discourages snacking in the evening, according to The TB12 Method. Tom Brady’s diet also recommends that followers eat only until their 75 percent full to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients, a practice Dr. Nicole Feneli also supported in her interview with Healthline. “Leaving the table when you are 75% full could be a good tip for most people as we tend to eat past the point of fullness,” she said.
The diet also recommends eating meat, poultry and fish in portions the size of one’s palm and vegetables in portions the size of two palms. Tom Brady’s diet also instructs followers to drink half their body weight in water daily with added electrolytes and to avoid drinking water with and around meals.
For more about Tom Brady, read his book, The TB12 Method. The New York Times bestseller, which has been described as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers player’s “athlete’s bible,” takes readers through Brady’s revolutionary training, conditioning and wellness system that kept him at the top of the NFL for more than two decades. The book dives into Brady’s TB12 Method, a performance lifestyle brand he co-founded in 2013, that focuses on a more natural, healthier way of exercising, training and living and how to maintain one’s own peak performance while decreasing injury risks.
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