It’s close to 2 weeks after the one of the best played super bowls in years. Minimal penalties, great plays and a historical win by the Eagles (of which I predicted back in week 4, seriously! Primarily because I love Carson Wentz). The only thing that could have made it better was a surprise throwback to NSYNC with Justin Timberlake at Halftime. Aside from that, the two teams were relatively evenly matched, except for the quarterbacks and their diets.
Now before I go further into this article I should definitely warn you about my bias against Tom Brady. Many of you will regard him as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) but in my eyes, it's Peyton Manning.
What happened? There was more than 2 minutes left in the fourth and the final possession was with the Pats at roughly the 50 yard line and they needed 8 points. Pats and Brady fans knew the game wasn’t over because he had clutched this kinda thing multiple times before. Furthermore, it was one of Brady’s best statistical Superbowl performances. He threw 505 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions but only 28/48 completed attempts (that’s only 58.3% compared to last year at 69.3%!) So, what happened?
Well the completion thing isn’t really related to nutrition (or is it?) but his performance was. For those of you that know Brady, you’ll know of his commercialized diet, TB12. Which bases it’s primary principles around a combination of Plant-based and Paleo beliefs. TB 12 is primarily drawn up by a “body coach” (what ever the hell that is), Alex Guerrero, that has been under investigation by his own regulatory body for pretending to be a medical doctor, making false and irresponsible health claims to sell his supplement; of which he claims could cure AIDS and cancer (the book obviously doesn’t mention that). His degree in Chinese-Medicine is from the now defunct Samra University of Oriental Medicine in LA.
Here’s the problem, Brady and Peyton (See? I’m being objective!) were never quarterbacks that their nutrition mattered as much as Russel Wilson or Colin Kapernick. The reason why? Brady and Peyton throw the pig skin, they rarely ever run it.
To understand why the diet was to a factor let's look at the energy pathways for these Quaterbacks. For quarterbacks that throw they’re primarily using the Phosphocreatine system; this includes Brady and Peyton. The Phosphocreatine system fuels explosive movements that are typically under 10 seconds and takes about a minute to “reload” the creatine in muscles. The nutrient that feeds this pathway is Creatine which is found in animal protein sources or supplements.
For Quarterbacks that throw and run the ball they use a combination of the Phosphocreatine and Anaerobic energy metabolism systems, depending on how far they run of course. The Anaerobic system fuels intense physical activity for under 2 minutes and has different “reload” time depending on physical fitness, resting heart rate, mitochondira (the power house of the cell) content in muscle, lactic acid thresholds and of course nutritional intake. Not to mention that carbohydrates are the preferred and most optimal fuel source for the brain.
Why is this important?
Well for Brady’s Superbowl performance, it starts to explain the final 2 minutes of his game. You see the final 2 minutes is so fast paced to get the final snap before the clock hits 0. Now take what I wrote above and start to think about this. TB12 is primarily plant based and may not be enough Creatine to fuel the Phosphocreatine stores. Does TB12 have carbs? Yup! But the swearing off of quickly absorbed carbohydrates during game time means that we can’t refuel Brady properly between quarters or even between offensive and defensive possessions, which means his fuel tank is empty by the 3rd or 4th.
Now let me explain one thing very clearly, I am not saying you need animal protein or fast digesting sugars in your diet but there is one very important distinction here; the difference between optimal sports nutrition and healthy eating. Because I can agree with a lot of what Brady says about the philosophy of nutrition in his TB12 method. There’s obviously some crazy stuff in there like why he doesn’t eat strawberries or nightshade vegetables without providing an actual allergy or intolerance. But messages like eat less sugar, less processed foods, more plant based and quality foods; I can definitely get behind that. The issue I have with TB12 is that it confuses general healthy eating advice with optimal peak performance advice, because those are two very different things.
You see, we can think of it this way using a car analogy. Let’s say Tom Brady is a peak performance car (eg Ferarri, Maclaren or Porsche) that’s fueling up with diesel instead of high octane fuel, the car will still run but not optimally. When Tom is playing he needs foods that break down faster so they can get to fuel his performance and his brain to make fast decisions. Re-watch the final 2 minutes of the super bowl, he wasn’t thinking fast enough and his final throw to Gronk was predictable, of which the Eagles defense knew to pull a blitz defense on Gronk. Had Brady been properly fueled to think, he may have chosen a different receiver, like Cooks, that open and may have made the run into the end zone with a 2 point conversion to win or a 1 point kick to push it into overtime. But nope! Brady wasn’t thinking or playing optimally.
So yes, Tom Brady’s nutritional choices may have caused him to not function optimally and his diet is a factor because the Pats played really well. Now I’m definitely factoring in the number of sacks he takes and the multiple concussions he gets every season – I’m not even going to get into how PROPER nutrition can help prevent concussions or assist with concussion recovery (Brady had 35 sacks in the 2017 season and Peyton had 16 sacks in his final 2015 season). So Tom, just a piece of advice; get rid of your snake oil peddler just like Belichick did earlier this season by banning his access to games, locker rooms and being available on the sidelines. Get some credible nutrition advice from a Sports Dietitian and learn more about physiology from a physiotherapist or manual therapist.
P.S. Ben’s pick is New Orleans Saints for 2018 Superbowl Champs! Unless Brady gets some proper Sports Nutrition and Manual Therapy
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
The Greatest Wealth is Health