The Patriots quarterbacks new book makes some dubious claims about how he has maintained his fitness into his 40s. What do the experts make of it all?
Tom Brady may well be the greatest NFL player of all time. He already possesses or shares a host of quarterback records career wins, Super Bowl wins, career playoff touchdowns and if he continues to play as long as he has hinted, he may finish his career owning them all.
But while Brady has it all, his attempt to pass on his performance secrets in his book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, falls flat and contains all sorts of dubious claims. The overall message of the book should be commended the importance of nutrition, rest, mental exercise and injury prevention but the roadmap to get there isnt, to say the least, universally endorsed. Bomani Jones, in a recent episode of his ESPN Radio show The Right Time, called it a multilevel marketing scheme, without the multilevels.
Of course, this isnt just about Brady, its also about the difficulty of using anything that a professional athlete does for individual performance gain. Likely the things that make Brady look great, perform better and remain injury-free, cant be packaged up and universally used.
The gist of this is that if I were to write a book on how to play quarterback at the highest level, people would rightly laugh, says Keith Baar, a muscle physiology researcher at the University of California, Davis. Everyone thinks that they are an expert in fitness if they are fit.
Lets take a closer look at some of Bradys claims in The TB12 Method.
1) What Brady says: These days, even if I get an adequate amount of sun, I wont get a sunburn, which I credit to the amount of water I drink.
What the doctor says: Though Brady refrains from giving specific advice about sun exposure, the passage suggests that hydration is a replacement for sun protection. Dr Sarah Arron, a dermatologist and leader of UCSFs high risk skin cancer program, believes that the young Brady could very well have experienced more sunburns than the 40-year old Brady, but not for the reason he contends.
Young children like the young, fair-skinned Tom Brady mentioned in the book are more sensitive to the sun but after years of exposure the skin can harden or become more resistant to sunburn, says Arron. But its a fallacy to believe that if you dont get sunburn you arent damaging the DNA in the skin. The UV light responsible for burns (UVB) isnt the same as the one that can lead to skin damage and cancer (UVA), making sunburn a poor indicator for long-term harm.
Arron stresses that a resistance to sunburn has nothing to do with how much water you drink, rather the skin hardening that can come with age and repeated sun exposure. Her assertion is that everyone, especially young athletes that frequently practice and play in the sun, should protect their skin against too much sun exposure.
2) What Brady says: Alkaline or neutral ash helps the body thrive, whereas eating too many acidifying foods leads to a condition called acidosis, which makes the body more prone to infections, colds, flu, low energy, fatigue, sore muscles, joint pain, hip fractures, bone spurs, poor concentration, and mood swings.
What the scientist says: What you eat doesnt affect blood pH, says Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist. But the foods he promotes to eat on an more alkaline diet are beneficial to overall health because they are primarily veggies, fruits, and low processed foods. Sims explains that while the bodys pH can drop a condition termed metabolic acidosis thats brought on by illness or breathing difficulty it cant be corrected by nutrition.
3) What Brady says: I also want to make sure my body remains in a state of recovery even at night. I do this by wearing bioceramic-infused functional apparel and sleepwear. The advantages? It increases energy, promotes recovery, and improves performance. If my opponents arent wearing what I wear, Im getting the edge on them even when Im sleeping.
What the scientist says: While seemingly an encouragement to go out and invest $200 on the Under Armour/TB12 pajamas, there is some evidence, albeit inconclusive about bioceramic infused sleepwear and performance, that the technology might have a positive effect. Bioceramics, a compound that can absorb the bodys heat and reflect back something called far infrared energy, have been shown to have therapeutic effects on aspects of health. The 2012 Harvard led review study cited as evidence by Under Armour concludes: If it can be proved that FIR (far infrared energy) has real and significant biological effects, then the possible future applications are wide ranging.