TB12 Diet Diary: We tried to eat like Tom Brady, 43-year-old Super Bowl champion, for one week

As a Patriots fan, it was odd watching Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl championship — his first outside of New England. I’ll forever be grateful for Brady’s contributions to a dynasty, but still, it’s always hard to see an ex thrive.

Since Brady is 43 and still doing it, and one of my strongest personality traits is an ability to punish myself at any given opportunity, my bosses here at CBS Sports thought it would be a good idea for me to embrace this personal crisis. What better way to prepare for the uncomfortable experience of watching Brady in Super Bowl LV than by living the TB12 lifestyle for a week leading up to the game?

For those unaware, TB12 is Brady’s lifestyle brand built around his method of living that has allowed him to find an unparalleled level of sustained success at the NFL level. Exercise, nutrition, expensive pajamas … it’s all part of the Brady method. For this experiment, we’re going to focus on the diet and pliability aspects of the TB12 method, and I’ll be documenting my experiences along the way. 

And for the record: I used to live a somewhat respectable lifestyle of my own before the world shut down last March. I used to work out frequently, attempt to eat well and at least make a casual effort to pretend that I take care of myself. However, over the last year or so, my brand has essentially become cigarettes, cheap beer, frozen pizza, marathon video game sessions and deteriorating hygiene. This project from my bosses may very well have be an intervention masked as a “work assignment.” Here’s how it went.

The guidelines

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard about Tom Brady’s absurd diet. The checklist of things he can’t/won’t eat is seemingly longer than the things he can/will. Here’s a glimpse at the insanity from Brady’s personal chef:

“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.

[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.

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.”

Yeah, so it’s safe to say I didn’t follow Brady’s diet exactly as the quarterback does — I’d rather have declined the assignment and be unemployed. However, I did follow the loose outline provided by the TB12 website. Here’s a basic outline of the rules:

  • 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
  • Halve your body weight in pounds and drink that many ounces of water (70 ounces for me daily)
  • Max 2 cups of coffee / No caffeine after noon
  • No food within 3 hours of going to bed

Final entry: Day 7

My goodness, we made it. The diet journey has officially reached its end and I lived to tell the tale (if you need help envisioning me in this moment, I am Andy Dufresne standing in the rain after crawling through a sewer pipe in “The Shawshank Redemption.”) I’m not going to say it was fun or enjoyable, but I will admit it wasn’t quite as difficult or insufferable as I thought it might be. You can still eat pretty well in this lifestyle.

Admittedly, I didn’t really get too creative with the meals, as you may have noticed by now. That’s partially because I am an idiot who is lucky to not burn down my house every time I try to make a meal, but also partially because I knew I was never going to be long for this way of life.

I did finally take a break from chicken on Sunday, deciding instead to bring steak tips into the mix. I seasoned with some rosemary and pink Himalayan salt and then paired with green beans and carrots. Not super flashy, but a consistent, reliable player.

Pete Blackburn

I wish I could provide you with some grand takeaway after all of this, but really all I’ve got is:

  • I got really gassy
  • I almost drowned from drinking so much water

Again, I only did it for a week, and a lot of these diets need a bit more time/commitment than that. That being said, I certainly don’t feel like I could go out there and win six Super Bowls under center, but maybe if I kept going a little longer? 

Honestly, though, you can keep your rings, supermodel wife and hundreds of millions of dollars. None of that would make me happy if I wasn’t allowed to smash a cheeseburger into my face or shove an entire pizza down my hatch whenever I damn well please. Do you know how happy I’m going to be when I get to crack into a bag of chips as I watch a game tonight? I’ve been waiting for this moment for my entire life one whole week.

Also, let the record show that I gained one pound while doing this diet. Nailed it.

Pete Blackburn

Day 1

Pete Blackburn

As I mentioned off the jump, this a drastic change from my natural way of living, so I had to knock out a quick food shopping trip in order to prepare. I figured my local Trader Joe’s would be the best play for a lot of the organic meats and vegetables, and then I filled in some of the blanks with a trip to Stop & Shop. 

We’ve hit an annoying road block already, as I figured yogurt & granola would be a good way to make the nuts and seeds bearable. Turns out I’m an idiot who forgot that yogurt is dairy, and also an idiot who didn’t realize that granola has a ton of sugar in it? God, this sucks already. I also decided to try some “green juice” simply because it looked healthy and seemed like something I’d be involved in while on this diet. It tastes like rain water collected in a yard waste bag and I will not be doing that ever again.

I had a palm-sized portion of chicken (cooked in coconut oil) for dinner along with some spinach, carrots and cucumbers for dinner. Not exciting but, honestly, it was solid. The bigger issue is that I got hungry again and sort of broke the rules on the first day already, as you’re not supposed to eat anything within three hours of going to bed. I had celery and almonds as a late night “treat” to settle the hunger. You know your life is in a pretty lame place when you have to feel guilty about eating celery and almonds. 

Also, this is so much water to drink. I can’t stop peeing.

Day 2

Okay, I’m not going to lie … I had a banana for breakfast and then I completely skipped lunch because I simply didn’t want to eat any of this healthy crap. That’s how diets work, right? It seems like I’m on the way to losing weight one way or another. 

The water thing is still absolutely killing me. I always knew that I never drank enough water throughout the course of a day, but I feel like I’m drowning myself by drinking this much water. I’m bloated and I feel like I could legitimately be popped like a water balloon. 

I finally got hungry enough to make another one of these meals for dinner, and I definitely overcompensated. I once again had some seasoned chicken and an absolute boatload of vegetables. Like, way too many vegetables. Look at how stupid this looks: 

Pete Blackburn

Yeah, about that whole “eating until you’re 75% full” thing … may have overshot the landing a little bit.  I also dropped a bunch of carrots on the floor while taking them out of the fridge. And, yes, I did cheat by eating two pieces of chocolate late last night (OK, fine … it was four pieces of chocolate.) This is completely going off the rails already.

And, for the sake of full transparency, I am farting. A lot. Still trying to figure out if that’s the diet’s fault, but it is rather concerning.  

Day 3

My bodily functions at least seem to be somewhat under control today, which is a nice little surprise! The foods are still greatly boring me — I had a banana and an avocado for lunch, then chicken, green beans and corn for dinner. Also, I tried the green juice again just to see if my body might be better equipped to handle it after two days … and nope. Still tastes like swamp soup.

Pete Blackburn

Three days in and I’ve officially hit the point where I might turn a family member in to the police if it meant a cheeseburger and beer was waiting for me on the other side. Throw in a side of fries and I might admit to crimes I didn’t commit. 

Honestly, one of the hardest parts of this thing is not being able to keep my hands busy and snack/drink while anxiously watching sports at night. Last night I had to settle for chewing on ice cubes just to keep me from cracking into a late night stash.

Overall, though, I feel pretty decent outside of the irritability that comes with not being able to do whatever the hell I want, when the hell I want. I feel somewhat accomplished for getting through a day without breaking any rules. But I’m already daydreaming about the absolute havoc I’m going to unleash on my body once this experiment is over.

Day 4

I think I might be starting to get the hang of this, at least in terms of putting my meals together. For the first time since starting the diet, I actually ate breakfast — three eggs over medium with spinach and a little hot sauce (no clue if hot sauce is actually allowed. If not, just ignore that I said that.) I was feeling pretty good about myself until Steven Cheah — a Barstool Sports employee/Buccaneers fan who’s been passionately committed to the TB12 diet since the start of the playoffs — decided to tag me in a much better version of a similar meal. Go away, Steven. 

Nevertheless, I persisted. I skirted around lunch with the help of celery sticks and some hummus, which did the job more effectively than I thought it would. Dinner consisted of — you guessed it! — more chicken and vegetables. This time, we spiced up the chicken with a little lemon and paired it with kale, sweet potatoes and corn. 

I promise I don’t want to keep talking about my farts, but they’ve returned with a vengeance and, as a trusted and ethical journalist, I simply must report the facts.

Pete Blackburn

I know diets typically take a while to produce any sort of meaningful results, so it probably won’t come as much of a shock that I don’t really feel any differently (other than the mild annoyance of having to take care of myself like an actual adult.) I have, however, lost 1.6 lbs from Monday-Friday. That could just be from the calories I’ve burned while bitterly screaming at the TV every time a fast food commercial comes on, though. 

Now that the weekend is here, we reach an important juncture in this trial. Alcohol isn’t explicitly prohibited on the TB12 diet but, admittedly, my normal weekend routine of drinking seven-to-eight beers too many while not moving an inch during a video game marathon probably isn’t encouraged by health experts. For the sake of the experiment, I am going to do my best to commit to a healthy lifestyle — at least with regards to what I put in my body. You’ll have to pry the video games from my cold, dead (and skinny) hands. 

Day 5

As expected, the weekend is presenting some challenges. I cruised through most of the day on Friday without any issue — slept through breakfast … eggs and avocado for early lunch … then finished off my chicken with some quinoa and black beans in a bowl. Please do not judge the presentation (or my hitchhiker’s thumb), because it was actually kinda delicious:

Pete Blackburn

Am I embarrassed about the lack of color in that meal? Yeah, maybe. Was I too lazy to make some spinach or throw some avocado in the bowl to give it a little life and not make it look like a pile of dirt? Of course I was.

Luckily, I’m a master of Photoshop so I can help you visualize what it would look like if I wasn’t a lazy garbage human. (I also decided to give straight thumbs a try.)

Pete Blackburn

Like I said, getting through most of the day was sort of a breeze, but temptation came out to play at night — as it often does. I was going to commit to doing the full weekend without booze, but that quickly shifted to “maybe I’ll just have one glass of wine with dinner … I deserve it.” I also decided to embrace my new lifestyle of being a fully boring and insufferable adult by attempting to do a puzzle (my first since childhood) on a Friday night. As soon as all the pieces were poured out onto the table and I realized how much work it was going to be, I decided I deserved a second glass of wine. Sue me. 

After a few hours and almost no progress on the puzzle, I decided to put on a movie instead. I was reflexively hit with an intense desire to crack into the Trader Joe’s movie theater popcorn stashed in my kitchen, but I somehow, some way actually managed to resist. Am I a hero? Some are asking the question (the movie I watched  was “The Little Things” on HBO Max. It was forgettable.)

Day 6

Today was a relatively easy day. I had eggs, avocado and black coffee for breakfast, which was fine, but it prompted me to realize that I can still never really enjoy avocados. I think they’re a bad food and an overrated topping/ingredient, and the texture makes me shiver. So, of course, I decided to tweet this out:

Not surprisingly, that really got under some people’s skin. My mentions were flooded with Avocado Defenders and avocado meme accounts, so that entertainment helped distract me from my hunger through lunch. Dinner wasn’t all that interesting — I had chicken, quinoa and green beans — but I want points for driving past a McDonald’s on my way home and not stopping, even though I thought about it. I am the strongest man alive.

I did drink a bunch of beers while playing video games all night, though. Whoops.