As professional health care slips further out of reach for ordinary Americans, a new breed of imitator is emerging from the void. He promises to eliminate mysterious toxins with one weird trick, to harness your self-healing energy with a single weekend seminar, and to reboot your endorphins and unleash powerful antibodies with a bottle of supplements that costs less than your co-pay (shipping not included).
This swindler goes by many names, and one of those names is Tom Brady.
The NFL player’s new book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance is macho gibberish — an Axe commercial on an acid trip. Perform front-facing core angels with sheathed resistance bands to maintain optimal pliability, and remember that the goal of pliability and its amplifiers is optimal strength. Accelerating and decelerating muscle groups must be kept long and conditioned aerobically, attending to the difference between load and resistance. “In short, I train the way I want to play,” Brady says. “That’s why I’ll end up playing the way I train.”
Most of Brady’s book is harmless. Beneath unintelligible exhortations to holistically engage explosive movement is just a basic endorsement of exercise, a healthy diet, and branded TB12 supplements that probably won’t help much but won’t necessarily hurt either. But one of his fixations is potentially perilous. Brady is obsessed with hydration. “Sometimes I think I’m the most hydrated person in the world,” he says. But that can’t be true, because the most hydrated people in the world die of hyponatremia.
The recent deaths of two high school football players in a single year from hyponatremia caused by overhydration has led sports trainers to plead for “rational hydration strategies,” noting that “high fluid intake has become indoctrinated within football culture.” Seventeen international medical experts convened in California in 2015 to address the problem, documenting confirmed hyponatremia deaths in not just football but military exercises, police training, and fraternity hazing. Hyponatremia starts with swollen extremities and a bloated stomach, and if left untreated progresses through severe fatigue and disorientation onto nausea and vomiting, seizures, and fatality.
Brady confesses to drinking nearly 300 ounces of water some days, or 37.5 cups. He justifies his absurdly high water consumption — and his recommendation that you follow suit — with reference to para-medical, pseudoscientific phenomena such as ubiquitous yet undefinable toxins. “The lymphatic system is more than 95 percent water, and we need to keep it clean and flowing constantly so it can rid our bodies of toxins that build up,” he confidently asserts. “That’s one reason why keeping well hydrated is key to our overall health. Not only that, but it increases our chances for optimal pliability.”
Setting aside optimal pliability, all the toxins talk is a red flag. It’s not that there’s no such thing as a toxin — it’s that a mystified application of the term has become a staple of contemporary alternative-medical hucksterism in the last decade. “People are interested in this so-called detoxification, but when I ask them what they are trying to get rid of, they aren’t really sure,” said gastroenterology expert Dr. James H. Grendell in an interview with the New York Times. “I’ve yet to find someone who has specified a toxin they were hoping to be spared.”
Brady’s chapter on hydration — including a savant-like taxonomy of water types featuring quality assessments that account for fluoride content — is ultimately an elaborate plug for his product TB12 Electrolytes. “You can drink a gallon of water,” Brady says, “but unless it has electrolytes in it, the water molecules won’t be able to pass into and out of the fluid compartments in your body.” Luckily, Brady himself has developed the best electrolytes on the market — with his business partner, Alex Guerrero.
Guerrero started TB12 with Brady in 2013. It was his second act: in his first, he came under fire from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for falsely referring to himself as a medical doctor and for claiming that a supplement he created could prevent or cure cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and AIDS. “Consumers throughout the United States have suffered and continue to suffer substantial monetary loss and possible injury to their health” due to profit-motivated deceptions like Guerrero’s, the FTC wrote in its complaint.
But quackery is an entrepreneur’s best friend — especially in a climate where people can’t get the care they really need, administered by trained and certified professionals, in a humanizing environment at a price they can afford. It’s time to deflate Brady and Guerrero’s nonsense. (Go Titans!)