I Ate Tom Brady's Insanely Weird Diet for a Week. Here's What Happened.
"What we get out of our bodies is a direct result of what we put in. Food is fuel, and we believe that food can help you achieve and sustain your peak performance." -- Tom Brady, on the packaging for the official TB12 Performance Meals
I first noticed those words from the New England Patriots quarterback scrawled on the delivery box in a violent red that looked like B-movie blood as I dunked the last bite of Buffalo chicken pizza into a melted Chunky Monkey container. (Don't judge me. I was out of ranch dressing.) Tom Brady's Goop-for-bros personal brand, TB12, recently joined forces with meal subscription service Purple Carrot on a line of health-centric feasts, and I was intent on unpacking its purportedly nutritious secrets.
I am no fan of high-performance diets, or, as a die-hard New Yorker, of Brady himself. But I do respect the guy, especially his ability to achieve unprecedented heights of success while effortlessly lying to everyone in America. So I figured, What the hell, maybe I can actually learn something from this Bill Belichick-approved goon. Instead of treating my body like a Pats fan scarfing down buckets of deep-fried Oreos at Gillette, I would start treating my body like this living legend who doesn't even care if he chops his thumb off in the name of healthy eating.
Of course, this meant ordering Brady's Purple Carrot meal plan, based around his insanely weird diet. He doesn't eat fruit. Or dairy. Or even freakin' eggplants. But I read somewhere that "what we get out of our bodies is a direct result of what we put in," so I ponied up for a week's worth of meals and submitted fully to the constraints of his diet.
Would I reach Peak Performance? Would my already disproportionately attractive significant other turn into a disproportionately attractive Brazilian significant other? Would I get a six-pack?
First quarterThe Brady meal plan arrived on a Tuesday in the typical trappings of any meal delivery service. There were copious amounts of packaging, laminated menus, and enough dry ice to kill a small dog.
Noticeably, no photos of Tom Brady were included inside the package, but I did find a lovely "handwritten" inspirational message from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB that assured me he was on this journey to Peak Performance right there with me. Neat! I promptly framed the letter and hung it where my diploma used to be.
I've had some experience with Purple Carrot, the gratingly vegan meal-plan service. Compared to competitors (like Blue Apron), it's definitely not easy to prepare. Especially for a person like me. I can't even make toast without starting a forest fire, and I don't even live near the woods.
"It was electric green and easily the most enchanting vegetable experience of my life."
The first meal was an appealing "white lentil risotto -- a 'creamy comfort dish.'" It seemed like every ingredient was a root vegetable, and they all had at least two or more names: gold beets, ivory white lentils, frisee lettuce. It was the kind of shit you might roll your eyes at as a waiter rattles off daily specials at an overrated bistro where they serve food encased in a sideways Mason jar.
But, it did include a delightful broccoli-cauliflower mutant hybrid hilariously dubbed "the broccoflower." It was electric green and easily the most enchanting vegetable experience of my life, aside from that talking rutabaga I met at Burning Man.
I won't bore you with the minutiae of cooking, but Brady & Co. basically want everything in their diet to be minced into oblivion. If you don't have a sous chef on hand, you might want to check out Craigslist. If you don't have carpal tunnel on hand, you will. The step headers were pretty standard, except they kind of gave off this pseudo-drill sergeant vibe:
Step 2: Knife Skills!
Step 4: Get Dressed
Step 5: Plate It Up!
I took particular offense to Step 5, because if I want to gorge my gullet to Peak Performance by eating straight out of the skillet like an animal, I have every right to.
But I didn't. I portioned two generous servings and, unsurprisingly, found all that hard work paid off. Despite being practically vegan (a great name for a reality show) and directly sponsored by every Masshole’s adopted god, the meal was excellent. Like, I would eat this by choice. And ultimately, I really only like to eat things by choice.
We were off to a good start.
Second quarterAfter eating the Brady meal plan for a day, I noted some minor improvements in my life. When I went on a run later that evening, I found I had more energy than previous nights where I would have probably eaten some variance of Buffalo chicken pizza dipped in Chunky Monkey.
And while Purple Carrot's meal plan only comes with two servings of three different meals, I had a thought: Why limit myself to only one serving size of excellence per day? Why not buy into Brady's theory of energy and double down? It was likely the only way I could reach Peak Performance without being bit by a radioactive spider.
That meant I had to adopt Brady's rigid diet rules to every meal. Basically, he only eats organic food. No gluten. No white sugar. No white flour. No caffeine. No dairy. And certainly no schnitzel with noodles. This is unfortunate, as those are a few of my favorite things.
He stays away from fruit almost entirely and throws shade at nightshades. About 85% of what he eats are vegetables. The rest is pretty much super-lean meats and wild grains. But he does drink alcohol every once in a while (probably during the off-season). So I had that going for me.
I threw away everything I actually liked in my fridge, timed another mile run, and played a game of catch with my girlfriend, as a way to compare my progress later.
Look, this was not going to be easy. But Tom Brady didn't get all the way to the top just by being smug and maybe-cheating-just-a-little-bit sometimes, did he?
Third quarterIt had been four days since I began, and holy shit. This was not fun.
The first thing that really kicked my ass was the cold-turkey caffeine hiatus. I don't so much enjoy a morning cup of coffee, as need it to function. If I could freebase my cortado, I would. It took me a few days to adjust.
I was walking around my life in a very un-Brady fashion. Sleepy. Hungry. Randomly eating cashews and baby carrots because that was pretty much the only TB12-approved snacking at Thrillist HQ.
I cracked into another meal plan for dinner, the crispy turnip cakes -- which included my favorite step header: "TA-TA-TABBOULEH!" The finished product made eating like a pseudo-vegan, excellence-obsessed athlete delicious, even if it took me one hour and approximately 61 profanities to make. (That's more than one swear word per minute -- Gordon Ramsay territory.)
When I wasn't eating my Purple Carrot meals (which, after the risotto, I learned I could stretch into three servings), I was basically eating baby carrots and cashews as snacks. For bigger meals? One night, I found the most local steak I could, outside of killing the cow myself with my laptop, and had that alongside some brown rice. Another, I just bought a salad from Sweetgreen and picked out all the naughty bits. A third night, I ate limp chicken without the skin for dinner and washed it down with some baby carrots.
"The Brady deal costs $78 -- possibly because Peak Performance don't come cheap."
This may sound bleak, but the diet began to get easier by the day, which was an upside. The downside? Eating this way is super-expensive and time-consuming and my wallet was feeling it. The traditional Purple Carrot meals cost $68 (three meals, two servings each), with the same deal at Blue Apron costing about $60. The Brady deal cost $78 -- possibly because Peak Performance don't come cheap. That is $18 more per week, or $936 every year. And these meals take at least an hour to make, no matter what the recipe sheet says. Paying premium prices for organic meat and what seemed like a lifetime supply of baby carrots for the rest of my meals was not inexpensive, either.
All of these issues probably would have been promptly solved with an NFL-sized paycheck and a personal chef. But alas, eating like Tom Brady doesn't actually turn you into Tom Brady.
Fourth quarterLiving, cooking, and eating like the GOAT is decidedly not as effortless as a prime Randy Moss slant. It's a fucking ordeal. It's Gronk bowling over three linemen then blowing out both knees. It's waiting seven rounds to be drafted while your mom stares at you. It's playing Eli Manning in a game that matters (too soon?).
But -- I could feel myself feeling better. As someone who has subjected his body (and diet) to numerous tests in the name of a paycheck, I know that it pretty much takes close to a week to begin to really know how a change like this can affect you. And in this case, I wasn't drastically changing my life, I was just eating super clean.
I could tell things were moving more fluidly. I did in fact have more energy. And, I just had the indescribable feeling that can only be referred to as "oh, yeah, this right here." Like I was the Tin Man, and baby, I just got oiled.
"I no longer craved the food of mortal men."
I no longer craved the food of mortal men. I was eating my veggies, with a side of veggies, and some baby carrots in between. I saved my final Purple Carrot meal for my last night: a ramen bowl with whole-grain soba noodles.
And as I sat over my steaming bowl of soupy noodles, with a glass of Gray Goose vodka on the rocks on the side (for some reason, I feel like this is the only booze Brady would drink), I thought about my brief but brilliantly bright journey into the world of Tom Brady's diet.
When I ran that night, I clocked in almost a full 30 seconds faster than the week before. Plus, the existential dread I'd held in my heart since reading The Stranger in eighth grade seemed to be drifting away. And when I played catch again with my girlfriend, I asked her if my excellence bar had been noticeably raised. She said, "Um, yeah, I guess," which I took as a minor success.
I had reached Peak Performance.
I took a swig of my ramen broth, chased it with some vodka (or, maybe the other way around), and came to my conclusion: Is Tom Brady the GOAT because he eats like Gwyneth Paltrow on a CrossFit challenge? Probably not. But it definitely does not hurt.
Going forward, it's doubtful I will stick to this diet. Mainly because -- even with the Purple Carrot meals -- it's just a little too hindering to my everyday life. And it precludes me from eating Buffalo chicken, in all its forms. But, I respect the hell out of anyone who can do it... including Brady.
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