From 1988 to 1990, Jerry Attaway, M.Ed., who at the time was the physical development coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, and I worked on a project for the National Council Against Health Fraud, addressing the deceptive marketing methods used by the sports supplement industry to fleece and exploit the typical misunderstandings of most athletes.
The investigation resulted in the publication of a peer-reviewed paper with the same title in the National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal in April 1992 entitled, “Deceptive tactics used in marketing purported ergogenic aids.” This paper, as well as other work I was doing at the time, led to a 1996 appearance on “Dateline NBC” called “Hype-In-A-Bottle” and later a book called “Muscles, Speed, and Lies – What the Sport Supplement Industry Does Not Want Athletes to Know” in 2006.
So, for the past 30 years I have become very familiar with three things regarding sports nutrition issues. One, how misinformed most athletes are regarding nutrition science issues, even at the professional level. Two, how gullible and easy they are to exploit. Three, that there is no shortage of those willing to exploit athletes and consumers’ misunderstandings and fleece them. Tom Brady’s newly released book “The TB12 Method,” is a perfect example of this fleecing.
Outside of a little bit of common sense, most of what is contained in the nutrition chapter of the book is utter nonsense and illustrates an extreme level of nutrition illiteracy. Mr. Brady clarifies that the nutritional regimen he follows “is a mix of Eastern and Western philosophies.” Indeed, it is, because it certainly has nothing to do with science. Brady appears essentially to be clueless regarding some very basic biology, nutrition science, the food supply process, common agricultural practices and The Principle of Toxicology. His competency on the field has not carried over to his advice off the field. It is unfortunate that due to his celebrity status, his book and the nutritional nonsense it contains, will negatively influence a significant number of gullible consumers.
There are many errors in Brady’s book, making it impossible for me to cover them all in this article, but I will provide a sampling to illustrate that the book should not be recommended. Ironically, he states his diet contains “80 percent alkaline forming and 20 percent acid-forming foods.” I will explain this nonsense in a minute, but the irony is that his nutrition science information is about 80 percent junk-science and bizarre personal beliefs and 20 percent common sense. Here is a sampling of the misinformation.
His preference for alkaline foods: The body maintains a very limited range of pH and has various mechanisms at its disposal to do so. There is literally nothing you can consume by mouth that is going to change this. Alkaline water or foods and their relation to your body’s pH is zero. This is basic chemistry.
His fear of additives and preservatives: This is a classic fear, of course, and only reflects a total ignorance of how we all benefit from these compounds, which I have previously explained. Mr. Brady’s misunderstanding of these issues illustrates one of the ongoing problems with consumer ignorance of the food-supply process. We have 1 to 2 percent of the population growing our food, leaving roughly 98 percent of the population totally disconnected from the process, but always willing to complain about something of which they clearly have no understanding. Brady’s book illustrates this very well.
His esteem for organics: Mr. Brady embraces all the standard misconceptions about the completely fabricated organic food market, an issue I have partly covered here. Organics are neither safer or healthier for you, nor are they better for the environment. It is biologically impossible for organics to be nutritionally superior if grown under similar conditions.
A plant’s vitamin and phytochemical content is related to its genetics, and the mineral content is related to the composition of the soil. Growers test their fields yearly for optimal mineral concentrations to make sure the soil conditions are optimal for growing. This is something every home gardener can do as well using a locally equipped nursery or gardener’s supply store. Growers also utilize what is called a petiole test of the plant tissue during growing periods to asses that the plant is obtaining what it needs from the soil. Consumers would reject produce grown in mineral deficient soil based upon its poor physical appearance.
His partiality to raw vs. cooked veggies: Mr. Brady feels most veggies should be eaten raw due to the nutrient losses when cooked. I covered this topic in my most recent column in WND.
His bias toward locally grown food: I live in Kern County, California, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, so I certainly have a wide variety of foods grown locally I could survive on. However, this is not the case for most people. Most rely on the advances in preservatives and additives Brady demonizes, which extend the shelf life and shipping distances of many products, and allow those living far removed from “locally” grown produce to eat in the first place.
As an example, I love bananas, something Brady frowns upon, but the closest banana plantation to me is 2,697 miles away in Guatemala. Also, there’s a little bit of hypocrisy here. As part of his pitch for his products he is trying to sell, he states, “As part of the TB12 Method, I’ve also created a line of healthy snacks and protein bars.” How “local” are these products? Why not just tell me to eat some fruit as a snack or go out to my local chicken coup and get an egg for my protein?
His belief in warm-weather vs. cold-weather vs. neutral foods: That’s correct. This is actually one of the many bizarre things Brady states in his book. Apparently, his nutrition philosophy includes claiming that the outside temperature or the time of year should dictate what we eat.
Try to figure out this statement: “A few warm-weather foods that cool the body include cucumbers, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, and celery.” I have read a great deal of physical training recovery studies and discuss the topic during my lectures at coaches’ clinics. But I have never heard of or suggested having coaches tell their athletes to eat a cucumber to assist cooling. Additionally, broccoli contains the indigestible sugar rabbinose, which the bacteria in your intestines ferment, producing gas – something no quarterback would appreciate his center having during a game. So, I am a little confused here. How can a food that induces the production of intestinal steam cool me off?
He avoids dairy: I have already illustrated why this is bad advice . Brady feels dairy protein increases inflammation (it doesn’t) “in both the digestive tract and the thyroid gland, which means your body is less able to absorb the right nutrients.” WHAT? Where does he get this stuff? I have read a great deal of nonsense over the years, but this is a first. I though Dr. Oz was bad, but Mr. Brady has now become arguably one of the worst sources of nutrition advice. It is so odd that he wants you to avoid dairy but would like you to purchase his vitamin-D supplement. Just drink the milk.
He avoids salt: Too much salt “elevates blood pressure and interferes with our ability to eliminate toxins and waste from our cells.” If you’re genetically salt sensitive, excessive salt can be an issue for blood pressure. However, most people are not, and salting various foods to make them more palatable is fine. For most of us, excessive salt is simply excreted through the kidneys. There is not a chance I am not going to salt my baked potato, which is often a white one, which Brady also says to avoid. Regarding the elimination of toxins issue, he provides no physiological justification, so I have no idea what he is talking about – but, of course, he does not either. The body has a multitude of ways to eliminate toxins, and salting your food will not interfere with any of them.
He limits nightshades: Brady advises limiting mushrooms, eggplant, potatoes, strawberries and bell peppers. Again, more nonsense. These foods are loaded with nutrients, and there is no reason to avoid them.
Combining certain foods: “Avoid eating proteins like meat, poultry, fish, or dairy with carbohydrates like potatoes, breads, wheat, or grain products.” This is purportedly due to the differences in pH environment needed to digest them. This represents simply zero understanding of how the stomach’s pH accommodates the digestion of protein and how as soon as food enters the small intestines, the pancreas secretes the necessary bicarbonate and enzymes to digest the rest. Again, this is all basic nutrition taught to freshmen college students with no science background. Can you imagine a steak with no baked potato?
By the way, after reviewing Tom Brady’s book, I had developed quit an appetite, so I stopped on the way home and picked up dinner for my wife and me from our favorite Mexican restaurant. Tom would have cringed. I ordered chicken enchilada dinners, you know, where they combine proteins, chicken, with carbohydrates, beans and rice. Sorry, Tom.
He thinks you should drink only water with a meal but very little of it: “Drinking water with meals can interfere with good digestion. I recommend only a little bit of water in order to ensure proper digestion.” This does not occur. Water will aid the digestive process by helping to break down food particles. Water will also help prevent constipation by adding more moisture to stools and assist in preventing constipation.
Buy his Supplements: “Even if you eat fresh, organically grown food at every meal, in can be tricky to meet your nutritional needs.” So, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. You are still going to have to buy his supplements regardless of how closely you follow his nutritional advice.
Antioxidant supplements: Brady just happens to sell these, of course, with the pitch as follows: “They protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.” However, he forgets to inform you that free radicals play a major beneficial role under most circumstance during normal metabolism. It is an old myth that died in the ’90s that antioxidants help in preventing aging. Again, ironically, what has been well-established in the literature for the last 10 years is the positive role free radicals play in muscle development. During hard exercise, the free radicals produced act as signaling mechanisms to the DNA, which in turn triggers your muscle tissue to adapt to the stress load. Taking an antioxidant after training will inhibit muscle adaptation. Additionally, free radicals play a major role in immunity. Your phagocytic cells, the cells that respond first to any viral or bacterial exposure, use free radicals to destroy them. So, taking his concoction will reduce muscle adaptation as well as increase the likelihood of advancing any illness, due to the squelching of the normal free radical production your body uses in both cases. Exercise automatically increases your own antioxidant production.
Most of Tom Brady’s nutritional advice in the book is as bizarre and without merit as I have ever read in 30 years. It is a clear example of a celebrity status being used to exploit and fleece naïve consumers.