September means several things to me- the start of my favorite season (fall), my birthday (hooray!) and the beginning of football season. I grew up watching college football with my family on the weekends and going to some home games of our favorite teams. You could say that I am a pretty big football fan. But do you know what I am not a fan of? Professional athletes sharing diet and nutrition advice to the general public.
This past week, Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots released a new book, dubbed as a “revolutionary approach to sustained peak performance for athletes of all kinds and all ages”, where he outlined some of the key features of his diet. Naturally, this piqued my interest and inspired me to chime in with my two cents. Here are my thoughts on why Brady’s diet plan might not be the best approach for “all kinds and all ages”.
Having a large list of arbitrary foods to avoid is not helpful
Brady has a long list of foods that he avoids including bread, caffeine, MSG, nightshades, potatoes and dairy. While there are times where avoiding certain foods might make sense (such as peanuts if you have a peanut allergy), his lists are not tied to any scientific or medical reasons. In addition, these types of lists can make eating well feel more restrictive. Instead of long lists of no-no foods, it’s better to build your own healthy eating style that is easy to maintain. Furthermore, newer science has shown that practicing mindful and intuitive eating can also help establish a more healthy relationship with food.
Don’t be scared of nightshades
While I could have defended any of the foods or ingredients on Brady’s no-no list, I decided to stand up for nightshades since they’ve been thrown the most shade recently. Maybe it’s their weird name that makes them such an easy target? Nightshades are a group of fruits and vegetables that include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and mushrooms. The “rationale” for avoiding these types of foods is linked to their supposed effects on inflammation, which we have debunked here. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that a healthy eating pattern includes a variety of vegetables as well as fruits. Unfortunately, Brady has been sidelined by some of the junk science behind nightshades and could be missing out on some of the healthy components, like fiber, vitamins, minerals and other functional components like antioxidants, found in these types of fruits and vegetables.
Drinking 25 glasses of water a day is overkill
Yes, it’s true that professional athletes may have different hydration needs than the rest of us. So at 25 glasses, Brady is drinking 200 ounces of water. This amount is well above what’s recommended for the average person. For example, the National Academies of Medicine recommend that women consume 91 ounces and men consume 125 ounces of water from beverages and foods each day. That’s right, foods hydrate us too! In fact, about 20% of the water we take in each day comes from the foods we eat. While water is the best choice, hydration can also be achieved through options like non- or low-fat milk, 100% juice and unsweetened coffee or tea.
It’s not surprising that Tom Brady’s diet is getting a ton of attention. He is a renowned athlete with many professional accomplishments. However, his achievements are not linked solely to his diet; rather they are tied to a variety of other larger factors (oh hey, genetics!). While it may be tempting to eat like a celebrity quarterback, Tom Brady’s diet feels like a Hail Mary to me and definitely not the play that credentialed experts would call when looking to score points for your health.