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Being Brady, Vol. I: The Tom Brady Diet

The Tom Brady diet will leave you poor, hungry and alone

Tom Brady’s life sucks. That probably comes as surprise, seeing as Tom Brady appears to live the most idyllic life a man could dream of. He gets paid millions of dollars to throw touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski, after which he goes home and makes love to his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen. Not a bad Sunday, imo. In fact, the only man who might live a more enviable life is Gronkowski himself, partly because he’s single and gets laid more than concrete, and mostly because he’s celebrated for being a big, drunk idiot.

But the price for Brady’s level of success is living in a world devoid of flavor. To constantly deny yourself the dopamine rush that comes from biting into a delicious pink-slime cheeseburger, or having that first, life-affirming sip of coffee wash down your throat. To annoy your loved ones with your overly finicky eating habits. To limit your dining choices to maybe two items on the menu at any given restaurant. To rob your sense of taste of its very reason for being.

I should know, because I ate his diet for a week, and it was terrible.

The Diet

Brady’s diet has been a topic of fascination ever since his and Gisele’s private chef gave a detailed account of what he feeds America’s most popular power couple. Their diet is astoundingly strict, even for a world-class athlete and a Victoria’s Secret Angel. “Eighty percent of what they eat is vegetables,” says Aaron Campbell, their personal chef. They also avoid all dairy, sugar, fungus and caffeine.

That’s hard enough, but Brady is even restricted in which vegetables he eats. He particularly abstains from “nightshades,” a family of flowering plants that includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, and supposedly causes inflammation. (The Arthritis Foundation says that’s bullshit, mind you, and a 2011 Journal of Nutrition study found that purple and yellow potatoes actually decreased inflammation in adult men.)

And yet, who can argue with the results? At 39 years old, when most NFL players have already been retired for years, Tom Brady is playing some of the best football of his life. His completion percentage and yards per attempt in 2016 were higher than his career average, and his touchdown to interception ratio was an astonishing 14:1. (For reference, 2:1 is generally considered very good.) To boot, he doesn’t look a day older than when he entered the league 17 years ago.

Brady even seems to be reversing the aging process. The Patriots administer a battery of physical skills tests to all players before the start of each season to determine how their faculties have diminished with age. But Brady’s scores have actually improved each of the past three seasons.

There’s so much interest in the Brady diet that he decided to literally capitalize on it earlier this year and team up with Purple Carrot, a meal delivery service that now sells plans tailored to Brady’s plant-based diet. I ordered two weeks of Brady meals in hopes of replicating his agelessness, and quickly found out that the Brady diet is unsustainable for the average man (aka me).

You Will Be Hungry

I initially thought the hardest part of the Brady diet was going to be adhering to the 80:20 vegetables:other foods ratio, seeing as my typical diet is 80 percent meat.

But the moment the box arrived, I knew my biggest challenge would be feeling sated. There’s no way this one-foot cube contains enough food to feed me for a week, I thought. The box contained three meals, two servings per meal. I made the first meal — a bland, but aesthetically pleasing white lentil risotto — and ate both portions in one sitting.

I quickly realized I’d have to buy additional foodstuffs to ensure I didn’t spend the week doubled over in hunger. Speaking of…

It’s Too Damn Expensive

Brady only eats organic, GMO-free foods. This necessitated a trip to Whole Foods, instead of my usual run to Traders Joe’s or my local independent grocer, and I was shocked to learn just how expensive it is to eat this well. A week’s worth of organic produce cost me nearly $200, almost twice as much as my typical grocery bill.

It Will Leave You Sluggish

Possibly the most annoying part of the Brady diet is that it prohibits caffeine, which for me, meant going cold turkey on coffee after drinking about a pot a day for the past several years. Every morning I was wracked with migraines and irritability. I normally treat my mid-afternoon funk with a tall cup of black coffee (my last of the day). But the Brady diet left me unproductive and fatigued. It did, however, lead me to discover a secret napping couch in an unused room in the back of the MEL office.

It Takes Too Much Fucking Time

I love to cook, and not just because I’m a stingy miser who hates spending money on dining out. Cooking is enjoyable for me because I’ve reduced the practice to several easily replicable meals. I typically throw some salt and pepper on a piece of chicken, beef or fish; roast, sear or broil it; and then either sauté or roast some vegetables or cut up a salad. There’s something about mindlessly executing these recipes that soothes my hurried brain after a long day of work.

But there was nothing cathartic about making Brady meals. Purple Carrot’s Brady meals involved dozens of new steps that struck me as unnecessary, including cup measuring, simmering, boiling, straining, grating, peeling, mincing and garnishing.

Each meal took between 45 minutes and a little more than hour to prepare, and approximately seven hours to clean up thanks to all the ingredients and cooking utensils involved in the preparation. In other words: Eating like Brady is infinitely easier when you have a personal chef on call 24/7.

It’s Unappetizing

The aforementioned lentil risotto was the best meal, and it was largely flavorless. The crispy turnip cakes were the hardest to make, and due to some errors, ended up as more of a mushy turnip hash than the perfectly formed cakes shown in the recipe. And the ramen was fine considering it used tahini and coconut broth instead of typical ramen ingredients. But none of them were worth the time they required.

The only enjoyable meals I made were from the groceries I bought, but those meals barely adhered to Brady’s dietary standards. The organic, grass-fed steak was one of the most delectable cuts of meat I’ve ever eaten, but it put me in direct violation of Brady’s 80:20 rule. I kept finding excuses to make date shakes (a Brady favorite) and scarfing down handfuls of raw, unsalted almonds to avoid having to choke down another chalky Brady ration.

It Will Make You Antisocial

But worse than anything was the effect the Brady diet had on my social life. I had to miss out on lunch with colleagues to drive home and eat one of my sad vegan meals all alone. I skipped dinners with friends and made lame excuses to dates about why I wanted to do just drinks and not dinner.

I didn’t even make it a full week. I abandoned my Brady experiment at a barbecue on Friday night, when a friend offered me a cheeseburger fresh off the grill. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the most satisfying bites I’ve ever taken.

It was then that I realized I definitely don’t have what it takes to be Tom Brady, although that won’t stop me from trying.