“I’m 39 and I get to play football for a living. There are not a lot of people who get that chance,” Tom Brady tells Dayna Evans of NYMag.com. “Part of that is because of the way that I treat my body. There are not many people who get to play for as long as I have, and I want to be able to show the next generation of athletes that if you follow certain routines and you’re disciplined in certain areas, then you could get to do this, too.” So what exactly does the legendary New England Patriots quarterback mean when he references his own personal body discipline? How, exactly, is he able to ward off the aging process and perform at a level of mental and physical prowess that dwarfs other football players 15 years his junior? It’s a strict combination of food science, a highly non-traditional workout regimen, and a healthy dose of ancient eastern spiritual practice.
“It is unbelievable to see a 39-year-old man play like he’s 29,” says Brady’s teammate of eight years, Julius Edelman, in an interview with Dan Pompei of CNN’s BleacherReport.com. “His body hasn’t really changed … It’s unbelievable to see the consistency, how level-minded he stays and how he manages to raise the bar every year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone like him — no one even close.”
To maintain stealth superiority as the NFL’s top quarterback at 39 — an age when most other football players have retired or whose best years are long behind them — requires more discipline than arguably any other player in the entire league. What’s more, the position of quarterback is the most intense and most stressful position in all of sports. So to achieve the peak mind-body performance level of Tom Brady begins and ends with the most important component of all — the right food.
Tom Brady and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, follow a very strict 80-20 diet regimen. He explains to Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated how his summer diet differs from his winter diet in order to maintain balance and harmony through his metabolic system. “It’s seasonal, which means he eats certain things in the winter that are considered ‘hot property’ foods, like red meat,” writes Bishop. “In the summer, when it’s time for ‘cold property’ foods, his diet is mostly raw. He subscribes to the 80-20 theory — but it’s not 80 percent healthy food, 20 percent unhealthy. It’s 80 percent alkaline, 20 percent acidic.” And The New York Times‘ Mark Leibovich adds, “After his vacation workouts, Brady joined his family for a late breakfast that — for him — consisted mainly of a protein shake that was also high in electrolytes and included greens like kale and collards. (Brady also likes to add blueberries to his concoctions, but some other berries are off limits because they are thought to promote inflammation.)”
WellAndGood.com sat down with one of Tom and Gisele’s favorite personal chefs, Joanne Gerrard Young, “a master raw food chef, holistic nutritionist, and health educator behind The Healing Cuisine, who has spent the last five years cooking for the power couple — and their family and friends — at their home in Costa Rica.” Young tells W&G, “They don’t always do raw, but since it’s so easy to do in Costa Rica, we do a 80-20 raw diet, with big colorful salads and lots of fresh veggies.” Lunch is the couple’s biggest meal of the day, followed by a small dinner. And when asked about their favorite desserts, Young adds, “They didn’t want to do desserts anymore, for healthy eating purposes, but I shared all of my raw vegan desserts with them and they love them and have them all the time.” Young shared one brunch menu she prepares for Tom and Gisele, and you can check it out at WellAndGood.com.
But Tom and Gisele’s favorite personal at-home chef is Allen Campbell. In an interview with FameFocus.com, Campbell reveals, “80% of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. 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.” He also says Brady never consumes sugar, white flour, dairy, MSG, coffee or caffeine from any other source, and no alcohol. He also famously confessed that he’s never eaten a strawberry or drank one cup of coffee in his entire life.
“For most of the year, Brady is a vegan. In the cold winter months, he adds some lean meat to his diet,” says Pompei. “A typical day’s menu this time of year might include a breakfast smoothie — made with almond milk, a scoop of protein, seeds, nuts and a banana — a mid-morning homemade protein bar, sliced up chicken breast on a salad with whole grains and legumes for lunch, a second smoothie as a snack and a dinner of quinoa with greens.” Brady is also famous for his favorite treat of all time — avocado ice cream (which he shared in the Facebook photo below). Tom compiled 89 of his favorite recipes into one highly prized $200 cookbook which, due to high demand, keeps selling out. Although the ingredients of his avocado ice cream are blurred in the FB photo, it can be found in the cookbook, so feel free to pre-order your own copy on Tom’s business website TB12store.com as you wait for the book to be restocked.
“It’s not a cookbook, it’s a nutrition manual,” Brady told GQ. “There’s just a lot of substitutes for maybe some traditional foods. So there’s some pastas. A lot of desserts that, when you look in there you think, ‘Well, it’s not a chocolate sundae.’ And nothing is going to be like a chocolate sundae at the end of the day, because chocolate sundaes are chocolate sundaes. But are there things that you can eat that you can enjoy that can curb what you’re looking for, that can be a lot healthier for you, that can bring down the inflammation in your body so that you’re not hurting and you’re going out there and doing the things that you wanted to do?” The manual avoids the use of sugar, white flour, olive oil, iodized salt, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, eggplants, and all caffeine and dairy products.
Tom Brady began his career very much as an underdog. He was passed over 198 times in the 2000 draft, and had 6 players ahead of him on the depth chart when he started playing university football at Michigan. “Brady was not born with football’s silver spoon in his grasp,” writes Pompei. “He went on a mission to find it. He stole it from Drew Bledsoe. He waged a war over it with Manning, and he refused to let it be taken by Jason Taylor, Bernard Pollard or Rex Ryan.” At the end of the day, Brady’s climb to the top is fueled by his fierce motivation to continuously improve. “It is one thing to achieve a greatness beyond what has been achieved in the past,” adds Pompei. “It is another to sustain that greatness, and then to not be satisfied with it, and to reshape it and to build on top of it. It is another thing still to do this as the oldest non-kicker in the league, after winning four Super Bowl rings and three Super Bowl MVP awards, after walking off the field victoriously more times than any quarterback in history.” Brady knows what it feels like to be on the bottom. As the old adage goes: the wolf at the bottom of the mountain is hungrier than the wolf on the top. Brady’s success comes from never having lost the drive of that hungry wolf.
Tom Brady goes to bed each night between 8:30-9:00pm, and one of the first people he sees the next morning after breakfast with his family is his trainer, advisor, close friend, and business partner, Alex Guerrero, whom teammates describe as Brady’s Mr. Miyagi. Brady and Guerrero have been together for 15 years now, and Guerrero has Tom’s highly detailed schedule mapped and micromanaged not just for the next week, but for the next several years — both in and out of season, well into his 40s. The detailed schedule is broken down into the following six groups: 1) Treatment, 2) Workouts, 3) Food, 4) Recovery, 5) Practice, 6) Rest. The program incorporates short-term goals, as well as long-term goals such as one year being dedicated to building muscle mass, while another year will be devoted to muscle pliability, etc. The trust Brady puts in Guerrero goes far beyond physical and mental peak performance as well. Guerrero happens to be the godfather of Brady’s son, Benjamin.
Brady almost always meets Guerrero at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, a center they founded together in Boston. Located in Patriot Place, the retail and entertainment plaza beside Gillette Stadium, the TB12 center is primarily where Guerrero gives Brady and his Patriots teammates their critical body work — custom manual massages from Guerrero himself. Each morning, as well as before and after practice, Guerrero massages Brady’s right arm and the neighboring muscles and tissues. “I think that arm gets rubbed and milked more than the entire cow population in the state of California,” Edelman tells CNN. Brady’s teammates jokingly say Geurrero knows Brady’s body better than Gisele. “I do have my hands on him a little more than she does,” laughs Guerrero, during his Sports Illustrated interview.
Guerrero completely revamped Brady’s workout program 15 years ago, and challenged all the conventional notions of NFL body work. “He showed Brady how the muscles in his forearm had, through lifting weights, become short and stiff and how that led to soreness when he threw,” writes Bishop. “Together they worked to make those muscles longer and more flexible — ‘more like rubber bands,’ says Brady, ‘so I can throw thousands of footballs and not worry.'”
Early-morning resistance training is also part of Brady’s daily schedule, sometimes twice a day, and Bishop tells the story of one of Brady’s teammates who discovered just how early Tom rises. “When Rodney Harrison played with Brady, the safety showed up at 6:40am to lift weights. ‘Good afternoon,’ Brady said to him. So the next day Harrison showed up at 6:30. ‘Good afternoon.’ Then 6:20. Then 6:10. Then 6:00. ‘Good afternoon’ each time, until Harrison finally said, ‘Screw you, Tom. I’m not coming in any earlier.'” (NOTE: Tom rarely lifts weights, and trains primarily with resistance bands).
Brady also stresses the vital importance of stretching exercises as a vital part of his secret to longevity. “The biggest issue is muscle pliability. That’s what I think the biggest secret to me is,” he tells GQ. “What is muscle pliability? Muscle pliability is keeping your muscles long and soft. We do so many exercises in the gym through all our strength training that make our muscles short and dense. So now you get up and you’re doing all these active things where you’re running and cutting, and you’re asking these muscles to expand and contract. Well, you basically taught your muscles just to stay contracted. So through all these different exercises you’re doing, now you’re running and you have parts of, let’s say, your leg muscle that’s not fully functioning because you’ve trained it to be this short, dense muscle that stabilizes and doesn’t do its action, doesn’t do what you’re asking it to do.”
You can get a fascinating and detailed breakdown of Tom Brady’s workout programs by visiting PopWorkouts.com. And be sure to also visit the website of the TB12 Sports Therapy Center he founded with Guerrero at TB12sports.com, and follow TB12 on Facebook.
Tom also meets regularly with his neuropsychologist via Skype, because years ago he underwent a wide range of neurological tests and scans which led to the development of a brain-strengthening program he follows religiously. The brain exercises he uses have worked wonders on the following: his memory, the speed at which he can rapidly process information between plays, how quickly he can read defenses and make lighting-fast adjustments, his peripheral vision, and how far he can see downfield. His brain program has helped make him faster and stronger than the day he was first drafted, but it also helps prepare and protect his brain should he ever get a concussion.
In the book Exploring Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Well-Being, authors Erik Gregory and Pamela Rutledge elaborate on Tom’s neurological training. “[Tom] is a real-life example of intentional activities to take advantage of neuroplasticity to maintain cognitive health. In the off-season, Brady looks for ways to sharpen his decision-making skills and maintain his mental acuity. Based on a baseline scan of neurological functions, Brady and his coach designed a program to make his brain perform even better. After identifying areas where Brady’s brain was deficient, they created exercises to get Brady back into what’s defined as the median range. The exercises are geared toward speeding up visual processing, verbalization, and memory skills. Brady’s coach also advocates brain-training to help with brain resiliency to recover from the inevitable sacks.”
Tom Brady’s health regimen would not be complete without a healthy dose of ancient Eastern wisdom. He is a hardcore lover of yoga, which he gives credit for miraculous mental and physical benefits. “It’s great for flexibility, it’s therapeutic, and great for your attitude,” he tells TheSportster.com. And he also raves about one book in particular, which he has been continuously re-reading for the past 10 years, and which he praises for having completely transformed his life. “I read a pretty cool book about nine years ago that is kind of a mantra for my life. One of the mantras in the book is don’t take things personally,” Brady tells WEEI. Entitled The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, and written by Don Miguel Ruiz, the book is “rooted in traditional Toltec wisdom beliefs,” he explains.
“It hit me at the right time,” Brady tells WEEI. “It was very relevant at that point in my life, and I read it once a year to reflect and gain a little perspective. It’s served me pretty well.” And in an interview with Esquire, Brady adds, “The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz — very spiritual book. You read it and you just go, Goddamn! You know, how can I be more honest, accept things that don’t go as planned? When you try to combat everything, at the end of the day you realize that you’re responsible for yourself.”
In Bloomberg’s Lighting Round With Tom Brady questionnaire, Brady tells anchor Stephanie Ruhle how much he loves transcendental meditation. Just like his revolutionary workout regime, Brady’s meditation practice also came from the suggestion of Guerrero. “Our method relates to being physically fit, emotionally stable and spiritually nourished,” Guerrero tells Bishop. “Emotional stability allows you to have spiritual awareness. I always tell him and Gisele they’re the most spiritual nonreligious people I know.”
Teammates and reporters often catch a glimpse of Tom’s spiritual side each time he opens his locker door after a game. Josh Peter of USA Today was inside the locker room in February 2015 immediately following the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl win. “Prominently displayed was was a four-inch bronze elephant-headed statue — Ganesha, the Hindu God,” writes Peter. “Or as Brady quietly told a visitor, ‘The remover of obstacles.'” Peter adds, “Ganesha illustrates the spiritual side of his psyche developed with trainer and adviser Alex Guerrero. But the spiritual is coupled by mental commitment, evidence by more items in his locker. Lying next to Ganesha were five note cards and handwritten notes that included: ‘Bend knees more on drop.’ And, perhaps most important, ‘Be on toes.'”
Tom Brady is without question the single greatest quarterback in NFL history, and at the ripe age of 39 — thanks to his remarkable commitment to health, personal improvement, and each day becoming a little better than he was the day before — his football career continues to chart record-breaking territory. “Tom is pushing back the aging process,” his throwing coach, Tom House, tells Sports Illustrated. “There’s no reason he can’t do at 45 what he did at 25.” If the wolf at the bottom of the mountain is hungrier than the one on top, then Tom Brady has found a remarkable way to be both wolves at the same time.
For all things Tom Brady you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram, and visit his mothership of all things peak performance at TB12sports.com. (Photos courtesy of: AP, GQ Man of the Year, Tag Heuer, Yahoo Sports)