Rattling the Cage Book Review: The Gracie Diet

Monday, December 26th, 2011 by Tony Reid

Originally, I contacted Rorion Gracie to interview him for a series I am running in TapouT Magazine that relives the early days of the UFC. With Mr. Gracie being a co-founder of the organization, an icon in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and an extremely important member of the MMA community I thought it would be a good place to start. But like many potentially life changing moments, they happen when you least expect them. In the middle of our interview the topic went from The Garage Days to the Gracie Diet. I spent over an hour and a half on the phone with Mr. Gracie who displayed as much or more passion about the Gracie Diet as he did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or the UFC…and that is really saying something! I really felt like this was a sign. This seemed like program I wanted to take on and something that I might be able to stick with for the long haul. Aside from that my diet has been long overdue for an overhaul or transformation in some way, shape or form. Don’t get me wrong, I am very active in very good shape and I have been able to get away with not eating right up to this point in my life. But as I get older I recognize that I need to make a change. This might just be that change I’m in need of. So as our interview wound down, Mr. Gracie said that he would be happy to send me a copy of the book, free of charge and I promised to give the Gracie Diet my best college try. When I received the book Mr. Gracie had inscribed it with the following words “Tony, This is more important than Jiu Jitsu. Be Healthy! Rorion Gracie” If that doesn’t get your attention I don’t think anything will!

I read the book cover to cover over the past few weeks (Hey, don’t judge…I am a busy guy!). Here is the history of how the diet came to be and the general idea of the book itself. The Gracie Diet was developed by Master Carlos Gracie. He found his calling in his late 20’s when he dove head first into all topics covering the mind, body and soul. He knew his brothers had to be of optimal health if they were to compete at the highest level at the Gracie Challenge. He eventually focused on diet and narrowed his focus even further to food combining and its positive effects on health and performance. The Diet has been a vital component of the Gracie Family and their beliefs and values for over 65 years now. The basis of the diet is common sense and combining certain foods at certain times.  Rorion Gracie himself authored “The Gracie Diet” and in the book he supplements the ideals of the diet with his own personal beliefs and experiences as an athlete, teacher and parent.

The centerpiece of the Diet is the idea of food combining and timing. I’m not going to lie, when I first looked at the table I was little skeptical as to how I would make this work in the real world or at least in my real world. Here is the general idea of The Gracie Diet Table. Group A contains a large list of Vegetables and Greens, Meats and Seafood and Fats and Oily Foods. They combine with each other and with one of Group B. Group B consists of Starches such as Oat, Potatoes, Corn Flour and starches in general. Group B never combines with anything else in Group B. Group C consists of Sweet Fruits and Fresh and Creamy Cheeses combined with each other and with one of Group B as long as its not prepared with fat, such as butter or oil. Group D consists of Acidic Fruits and Milk Derivatives that do not combine with each other or with anything else. Examples of Group D would be Apples, Grapes, Kiwi, Mango, Oranges, Peaches, Strawberries, Tangerines and Yogurt. Group E consists of Raw Bananas that combine with all fresh sweet fruits. Group F consists of Milk that combines with cooked yolk and artificial sweeteners. Group G consists of Farm Fresh Milk that combines with cooked yolk and red apples, raw or baked, but not with apple juice. Good Lord, now I know why I just eat Grilled Chicken every night. This seems like more work than a workout itself! I’m kidding, Ok, only partially but like I said earlier I am in need of a change.

This diet is also about timing (Isn’t everything about timing?). Spacing your meals 4 to 4 ½ hours apart is a key to the diet. This gives your body enough time for full and proper digestion. It also calls for no snacks. No snacks? Are you trying to kill me? And during meals, as far as the combining is concerned its better to eat another small helping of the main dish than to eat desert, so no desert! The diet also proposes some degree of fasting, at least for those adults of a certain age. There is no tolerance for pork in any form at any time. There are certain neutral foods such as Raw or cooked egg yolk, coconut water, brewer’s yeast, coffee and several kinds of tea that are considered neutral and compatible with any food. A cool addition to the book is the section that lays out specific recipes and ideas that might be a bit outside the box but seem to work in most instances. There is also a section that offers suggestions as far as what to order from the menus of mainstream food chains if you are caught in a situation where you have no other alternative but to eat at one of these crappy establishments.

The book itself was very informative and you couldn’t help but be inspired by it and by Rorion Gracie’s story and enthusiasm for everything in his life.  I promised I would give it my best shot and damn it, that’s what I will do! As he states in the book, if you can’t commit to making a full transformation at least give it a legitimate shot and if you can incorporate only some of the ideas into your personal diet, well, it’s better than making no change at all! I was inspired not only for myself but for my children and their eating habits. If nothing else, if the book inspires me to make a healthy change for them then this was all well worth it. As a sidenote, Rorion and I discussed the idea of me being a guinea pig (in the most respectful way possible of course)in the sense that I will be starting the Gracie Diet and the online Gracie University Jiu Jitsu program simultaneously and logging my progress throughout the process for both. I will be logging my progress and keeping an ongoing series of blogs to track my family’s progress on the diet as well. I want to send a sincere thank you to Mr. Gracie for taking the time to speak to me and for taking the time to attempt to change one more family in such a positive way.