man drinking water

Penalty On Tom Brady For Sun Protection Advice

After each of Tom Brady’s six Super Bowl wins, people ask how the 41-year-old New England Patriots quarterback does it. His health regimen gets scrutinized, and with that, some dubious claims about how he says he avoids sunburns. His most recent win, February 3 at Super Bowl LIII, was no exception. It probably even attracted extra attention because he was the first player in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.

What he says

In his book, “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, “ (Simon and Schuster, 2017), he explains his theory about drinking large amounts of water: “When I was growing up, and playing outside in the sun, I got sunburned a lot. I was a fair-skinned Irish boy, after all. These days, even if I get an adequate amount of sun, I won’t get a sunburn, which I credit to the amount of water I drink. I always hydrate afterward, too, to keep my skin from peeling.”

This got pushback from many quarters. For example, in an interview with NBC News, Dr. Sourab Choudhry, dermatologist at Brooklyn Dermatology, called the claim “fake news.” He also said he doesn’t believe Brady’s theory that hydration keeps skin from peeling. “After a sunburn, your skin peels when the superficial skin cells have been killed and they’re being sloughed off by the body,” he told the network. “Being hydrated has nothing to do with getting a sunburn, or whether your skin peels.”

No scientific evidence

Dr. Caroline Kim, director of the pigmented lesion clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told The Boston Globe, “I’m all for his healthy living style, but in terms of his actual hypothesis of hydration preventing sunburn, we do understand a lot about the biology of what creates a sunburn and that is ultraviolet radiation. There is no scientific evidence that level of hydration would protect someone from getting damage from ultraviolet radiation. We know that the best methods of protection really are clothing and sunblock.”

The evidence-based way to protect yourself

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeking shade, wearing long-sleeved clothing and a hat, wearing sunglasses, and applying broad-spectrum sunscreen, but the website says nothing about drinking water to prevent sunburn. Drinking water after a sunburn, however, is a good idea. “Sunburn makes you get very dry inside, so you need to drink a lot,” according to a sunburn fact sheet on the American Academy of Dermatology’s website. “Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration.”

Water doesn't protect you

For Brady, extra would be a ginormous amount, because he already drinks way more than the recommended amount. He writes in his book that he drinks more than 150 ounces (4.4 liters) of water a day. On "active days," he drinks "close to twice that” – about 2.3 gallons (8.7 liters), or 37 glasses. He recommends that people drink at least one half of their body weight in ounces of water every day. Whatever he’s doing obviously works for him, but experts say don’t try this at home.

People who drink too much water are at risk for hyponatremia which occurs when the concentration of sodium in your blood is too low. Eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day is the generally recommended amount, though it will vary from person to person.

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