If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.


“This is even more important than the jiujitsu.  Really.”  Rorion Gracie maintained eye contact with me to emphasize the seriousness of his statement.  I thought, That’s quite a claim coming from one of the patriarchs of Brazilian Jiujitsu in the U.S.

Ever since I began training, I’d heard about the Gracie Diet.  However, it wasn’t until more recently, thanks in large part to the Youtube videos posted by Rener and Ryron Gracie demonstrating the preparation of various Gracie Diet meals, that I took a deeper interest.  This coincides with larger questions I’m grappling with, which I captured in a previous blog post about The Paleo Diet and American food obsession in general.

Last weekend I was in LA at the same time as The Gracie Diet book launch and signing at The Gracie Academy in Torrance.  I took advantage of this serendipitous timing to drop by, pick up the book and meet some of my heros.

Who should I make the book out to?

Rener spent time chatting with my sister and I. I hope to take him up on a week-long intensive at the Academy in 2011.

For those of you who might be considering buying the book, I’d like to present a measured review of it.  Hopefully, it will better inform your decision.

Overview of The Gracie Diet

The Gracie Diet is couched in the context of America’s current health epidemic, one which finds citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world suffering from very high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  In fact, it seems that for Rorion, this is his latest calling – to leverage The Gracie Diet as a weapon in combating these epidemics.

The book has a logical and easy-to-follow narrative arc.  Rorion sets the stage for subsequent chapters by providing background on the diet’s fundamental principles.

The main goal of the diet is to combine foods in such a way so as to a) maximize nutritional uptake, b) prevent fermentation, c) make digestion more efficient and decrease the energy demand the digestive process puts on the body, and d) to decrease blood acidity.

Based on extensive field research and personal experimentation, Carlos Gracie – Helio’s brother and Rorion’s uncle – defined certain “rules.”  The basics include:

1) spacing meals at least 4.5 hours apart

2) combining foods according to pre-defined categories

3) staying away from indulgences like desserts, alcohol, and tobacco.

It is a heavily plant-based diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and there are undertones of vegetarian leanings in the book.  However, the diet does not exclude meat by any means, and, apart from the rules, it is not a very restrictive diet in terms of the foods one is allowed to consume. (Pork is an exception.)

From here, Rorion “trains” the reader, each chapter providing a progressive building block for understanding the nuances of the diet and implementing its principles.  The progression starts with an eating behavior self-assessment.  Then, it asks the reader to log a week-long inventory of eating habits, patterns and foods consumed.  From there, the book recommends a 3-week phase-in, with the first week implementing the 4.5 hour rule, the second week cutting out desserts and soda, and the third week prohibiting the mixing of two or more starches in the same meal.  The final stage is the first Gracie Diet compliant meal.

Pros

  • The book is well structured, as captured above, especially for the goal of implementing the diet’s principles.  It speaks to the complete layperson, establishes a rather easy-to-use program, and even includes a comprehensive food combination chart and sample recipes.  There’s even a section on how to stay compliant with the diet when you find yourself at popular fast food restaurants.
  • I appreciated that the sample recipes tackle a diverse range of food, ranging from a freshly made vegetable juice to traditional pot roast.   Moreover, there is a 14-day chart that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for each day.
  • The book acknowledges the most obvious critique upfront and encourages the reader to research and self-experiment.  There are no comprehensive studies examining the impact of one or all of The Gracie Diet principles, and Rorion admits that neither he nor Carlos are/were doctors.  However, Rorion practices what he preaches, and believes the diet can have profound impact on your well being.  Frankly, putting more fruits and vegetables on your plate can’t do you harm.

Cons

  • The book never endeavors to explain the reasoning behind the central thesis of the diet.  I was left with the question: What is digestive fermentation and blood acidity, and why is it important to minimize these?  This is a glaring omission that I hope Rorion fills in for the second edition of the book.
  • I would have appreciated more rationale for other aspects of the diet as well.  For example, why is pork cut out completely from the diet?  (I don’t think I missed this in the book.)  New knowledge is better assimilated if the underlying principles are laid out since it helps in applying the diet rather than just memorizing it.
  • This is minor, but the book has very small print.  I imagine this was done to keep page count, and thus, costs to a minimum.  However, for someone as near-sighted as me, it made the book hard on the eyes at times.

Summary Review

If you’re looking to understand how the diet works and are looking for an implementation plan, this book is ideal.

Let me know if this review was helpful in the comments below.

My 28-Day Experiment

If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.  In other words, do your own research.

I plan to implement The Gracie Diet program as laid out in the book and keep you all informed of how it goes.  (Some might think I’m crazy to start this during the holiday season, but, is there ever an ideal time for implementing a new dietary regimen?   I’ll admit upfront that Christmas Eve will be a complete “cheat” day.)  I’ll use brief, daily updates, inspired by a great blog on the Paleo Diet by John Danaher purple belt, Jeffrey Knight. I plan to be transparent, both in what I eat and in how I feel.

P.S.

Caleb has a great interview with Rorion Gracie at The Fightworks Podcast.  Check it out!

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