At 39, Tom Brady is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL — ranking second in 2016 — and he’s also the oldest. Brady credits a highly restrictive diet for his longevity and success, which involves eliminating entire food groups, consuming strictly organic foods, and adhering to the alkaline diet, which he says “maintains balance and harmony through [his] metabolic system” and requires him to eat 80 percent alkaline and 20 percent acidic foods.
“I don’t believe you could be a 39-year-old quarterback in the NFL and eat cheeseburgers every day,” Brady told New York magazine in September. “I want to be able to do what I love to do for a long time.” Instead, Brady eats 80 percent vegetables and whole grains, and 20 percent fish and lean meats. He doesn’t eat sugar, white flour, MSG, iodized salt, coffee, fungi, dairy, or nightshade fruits and vegetables. His fat comes from extra virgin olive oil on raw foods and coconut oil on cooked foods, and he only drinks alcohol and eats fruits occasionally, once claiming that he’d never eaten a strawberry.
And while something that Brady is doing is obviously working for him, experts agree that his diet is questionable.
“At his level, everything he does (or eats) is carefully scrutinized in hopes of maximizing performance on game day,” Tiffany Chag, MS, RD, CSCS, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Are some of these dietary changes healthful? Absolutely. Eighty percent of his meals are veggies and whole grains and the other 20 percent is lean meats and fish, and his diet has zero processed foods and refined sugar. That’s pretty great! Now, there are aspects of his diet that are a bit more questionable.”
Many of the foods in Brady’s diet, like lean fish, dark vegetables, high-fiber foods, and olive oil, are shown to slow the aging process, but so are many foods that Brady has eliminated. Antioxidant-rich fruits, red wine, blueberries, yogurt, and tomatoes are all off-limits for Brady but could provide him with important antiaging and disease-fighting nutrients.
Chag agrees, “The research regarding nightshade consumption and athletic performance really isn’t there,” she says. “Plus, a food like tomatoes, a nightshade, is a good source of lycopenes, which give tomatoes their red color. Lycopenes are an antioxidant, and research shows it can protect against prostate cancer.”
She continues, “His high alkaline/low acid diet is also interesting, and this diet has definitely gotten a lot of attention. What we need to know is our bodies do an exceptional job regulating our pH – if they didn’t, we’d die. When it comes to a high alkaline diet and sports performance, the research is also still not there.”
But perhaps Brady’s longevity and success can’t be attributed to his diet at all. Other factors, like winning the genetic lottery and the active nature of his job, could prolong his football career, as exercise, too, has proved to slow aging of the body and the brain.
“What we can say is Tom Brady has some interesting dietary habits, and whether they impact his performance because of biochemical reactions or simply the placebo effect is impossible to know. For the general population, focus on eating a well-balanced diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruit, lean protein, and whole grains,” Chag recommends.
“His stats speak for themselves, and the fact that he’s still competing on the gridiron at the age of 39 is beyond impressive,” Chag says. “Whether it’s just lucky genes or his unusual diet is impossible to know.”