HOW DOES Tom Brady stay healthy? How does he recover faster from games, practice, and training compared to many younger players? How is he bending the aging curve in his favor, and what can we learn from him?
Any athlete – of any age, level, or sport – can apply these principles in their pursuit of health, wellness, and peak performance.
Simple interventions like adequate daily hydration are why Tom says he has more energy now than he did in his early 20s.
Wear, tear, and inflammation is part of the game at any level, but Tom has described playing in the NFL as like getting in a weekly car wreck. After two decades in the NFL, Tom has experienced many negative traumas, with collisions causing inflammation and neuromuscular memories that left unaddressed could dramatically speed the aging process and shorten an athletic career.
Negative body traumas and the muscle memories associated with them aren’t limited to contact sports. Sit too much in a recliner and the lower back takes a hit. Knee injuries, back pain, and shoulder troubles aren’t limited to professional athletes — aches and pains from everyday living can accumulate over time and undermine quality of life for athletes and non-athletes alike.
PAIN-FREE MOBILITY FOR ALL
Seventy-seven million baby boomers are at or nearing retirement age. As we get older, pain-free mobility is increasingly hard to attain. Tom’s experience with approaches for promoting longevity are not only useful for people looking to excel on the athletic field — many of them can be applied by anyone who wants to do what they love better, and for longer.
As reported in the journal Nature, scientists evaluating the impact of drugs like rapamycin (an immune-system suppressor) and Metformin (a drug for Type 2 diabetes that may lengthen lifespan) — and the possibility for similar breakthrough drugs — are debating whether living to be 150 years old is already in reach.
“The first 150-year-old person is probably alive right now,” researcher Steven Austad told Scientific American in 2001. In 2016, Austad followed up on this to Nature, saying he was “more convinced than ever” that his prediction will turn out to be correct.
Cutting back on sleep is cutting back on all of these anti-aging benefits – you’ll pay for those missed hours with poorer performance the next day.
HEALTHSPAN VS LIFESPAN
This prompts a comparison between “healthspan” and lifespan. If living past age 50 means things like chronic pain, dysfunction, sarcopenia, and sarcopenic obesity, how desirable would living past 100 even be?
Regardless of how lifespan boundaries may be redefined by innovations in pharmacology, we already know the rules of “healthspan” are being rewritten through principles and resources that are within reach of everyone.
The most important answer to the question: “How does Tom Brady stay healthy?” is that he questioned the conventional methods of training and recovery and sought out new solutions that worked more effectively.
In fact, simple interventions like adequate daily hydration are why Tom says he has more energy now than he did in his early 20s.
Whether your goal is to play in the NFL into your 40s or to be active and healthy into your senior years, the principles Tom has pioneered are relevant, accessible, and applicable for everyone.
Below are the core strategies and disciplines Tom Brady has relied on to help transcend both the physical and cognitive toll of playing in the NFL. These principles can help improve your health and well-being — not to mention performance — and your longevity in the “game” of your choice; whether that’s running a marathon, completing a round of golf or tennis match, or being the best parent or grandparent you can.
IT STARTS WITH MINDSET
It starts with a winning mindset. “Each day when I wake up, I can choose what I want my outlook to be,” Tom Brady says. “I realize I’m an active participant in my decision to feel as healthy as possible at all times.”
How does Tom Brady stay healthy? For one thing, he drinks water—a lot of it. If there’s one simple goal Tom emphasizes for energy, joint health and pliability, it’s a daily hydration routine.
Shoot for half your body weight in fluid ounces of water and enhance the absorption of that water by adding electrolytes.
EXERCISES FOR COGNITIVE HEALTH
As a quarterback, analyzing and responding to complex situations on the NFL playing field is crucial, so Tom pays close attention to his cognitive health. Key to Tom’s approach is a set of ritualistic cognitive exercises that improve focus, mental agility, and pattern recognition. Studies continue to support the value of cognitive exercises.
Another critical need for optimal cognitive health (and overall recovery) is sleep. Sleep promotes physical and cognitive repair, recovery, and hormonal regulation. Cutting back on sleep is cutting back on all of these anti-aging benefits – you’ll pay for those missed hours with poorer performance the next day.
PURSUING ANTI-INFLAMMATORY NUTRITION
How do you know if you have inflammation? Sure, you can diagnose it with blood tests, but an accessible measure you can employ right now is to answer this question: Do you have pain-free mobility? If you don’t, you have inflammation. The overriding assumption when getting older is that joint pain is inevitable. Consider that the inspiration to share what he’d learned about health and performance in a book for the general public: It was before the start of the 2016 Championship season and Tom Brady:
“IT WAS A BRISK, LATE SUMMER AFTERNOON—PERFECT NOVEMBER FOOTBALL WEATHER. AS I WAS RUNNING THROUGH MY TYPICAL FOOTBALL TRAINING REGIMEN, I KNEW ONE THING FOR SURE: I’D NEVER THROWN THE FOOTBALL AS WELL AS I DID THAT DAY. NOT WHEN THE PATRIOTS WON THE SUPER BOWL IN 2001, OR IN 2004, 2005, OR 2014. NOT EVER, IN FACT, IN MY LIFE.” — TOM BRADY
Nutrition is one of the most important factors for countering inflammation and producing health and vitality. This isn’t news. As Hippocrates put it many centuries ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Cutting back on processed food intake is a simple and powerful way to integrate better nutrition into your routine. A recent study in Cell Metabolism showcased the devastating effects of a diet loaded with processed foods — in general, carbohydrates that come out of a box and have long shelf-lives.
RETAINING FAST-TWITCH MUSCLE FIBER
A sedentary lifestyle leads to a loss of lean muscle mass every year after age 30. This can have devastating results on functional strength, hormonal regulation, body composition, and mobility. In other words, we get too weak to lift a bag of groceries, we accumulate excess body fat, and have trouble getting up and down stairs without pain.
Research indicates that the muscle lost is primarily fast-twitch muscle fiber:
Reduced muscle mass with aging is mainly attributed to smaller type II muscle fiber size and, such as, is unlikely accompanied by substantial muscle fiber loss. In line, the increase in muscle mass following prolonged resistance-type exercise training can be attributed entirely to specific type II muscle fiber hypertrophy.
This means older athletes may still be able to complete an endurance event like a marathon or Ironman, but will lose the capacity to jump, sprint, and move quickly and powerfully.
Weekend warriors may have a harder time enjoying recreational sports leagues, and people seeking general health and wellness may encounter more balance issues and experience more frequent falls.
So how can you train fast-twitch muscle fibers with a lower risk of injury? Olympic lifting a loaded barbell is an injury risk for anyone who’s not prepared for it, especially if you’re older.
Resistance band workouts are a great answer: low-load functional movements that allows for a wide range of motion, safely performed at the speed of sport (to stimulate fast twitch fibers with minimal stress on the joints).
When combined with the right recovery plan, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a powerful way to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
MAKING PLIABILITY A MISSION
Since 2004, the focus of Tom Brady’s functional strength and conditioning program has been pliability — complementing the conventional strength & conditioning he had focused on in the past.
Tom’s approach helps to restore his body’s natural pliability (i.e., long, soft, elastic muscles) that enable high-performance movement rather than dense, stiff, tight muscles that tend to hinder high-performance movement).
Pliability allows for better performance (through superior speed, efficiency, power, strength, and agility), faster recovery, and the ability to more easily absorb the blows that are an inevitable part of contact sports.
The lack of pliability is associated with tight muscles and weak neuromuscular connections. Think of a hip or quadricep on one side of the body that doesn’t fire after atrophying post-injury. The body then compensates by activating other muscles, which leads to imbalances. Additional injuries and chronic injuries inevitably follows. The term “broken runner” exemplifies this complicated and frustrating situation, in ways that evolved slowly enough to escape the athlete’s attention. Corrupted movement patterns feel normal. Pliability has been lost.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
But as Tom Brady discovered in 2004 — when severe elbow tendinitis could have meant an end to his career — he was introduced to Alex Guerrero and deep-force muscle pliability work that could restore his muscles’ pliability. Nutrition, hydration, resistance band-based functional strength & conditioning, attitude and cognitive exercises all became critical components of his pursuit of pliability.
For anyone serious about assessing imbalances and the state of their pliability and who wants to get a jumpstart on the Tom Brady path for bending the aging curve, working one-on-one with a TB12 Body Coach is an ideal solution. A TB12 Body Coach will help create a personalized plan that puts it all together: pliability, functional strength & conditioning, hydration, nutrition, and cognitive health, helping you to start bending the aging curve, just like Tom Brady.