Archives for category: The Gracie Diet

My friend Tony Tao running his first marathon in 2007.


Last year, Martin Rooney, renowned strength and conditioning coach, was interviewed on The Fightworks Podcast on the topic of fitness resolutions for the coming year.   He shared a framework for how to approach goal-setting that I found extremely valuable and that I’d like to share and expound upon here.   I would also suggest (re)listening to that segment because Martin’s energy and enthusiasm help ignite fire.


Martin’s framework is encapsulated in the acronym M.A.T., which stands for Measurable, Attainable, and Timeframe.   Let’s break these down.

Measurable: A goal that is not concrete and measurable is a goal that is doomed to fail because of ambiguity.  The only way to know if you hit a target is to have a defined target in the first place.  Many of us begin with a resolution, or what I will call an “intention.”  This is a very important seed, and since it often emerges from a deeply emotional and spiritual place within us, it is often amorphous.  The key to converting that from amorphous intention into reality, though, is to make it into something actionable.

In The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss illustrates how to take an intention and transform it into an action item.  One of his examples follows:

Become fluent in Chinese —–> Hold a 5-minute conversation with a Chinese co-worker.

I’ll share a personal example as it applies to BJJ.  My “intention” for this year is to improve my jiujitsu so that I am on a purple belt level.  The personal target that brings that into reality is: Submit three purple belts in one sparring session.

Be on purple belt level —-> Submit three purple belts in one sparring session.

Attainable: If your goal is simply out of reach, it is booby-trapped for failure.  When goal setting, be ambitious but sensible.  The ambition part is important, as the audacity of the goal serves as inspiration especially when the inevitable hurdles appear.   However, to shoot for something that is simply not possible is a great way to create excuses for inaction.

Timeframe: You must hold yourself accountable, and a great way to do that is by setting a deadline.   However, a timeframe is not just about accountability.  In my professional endeavors, especially as a 5th grade teacher in the South Bronx and as a Recruitment Director for Teach for America, having a deadline in the future allowed me to plan backwards from the end point and define milestone markers to track progress.  At these regular checkpoints, I knew if I was on track to reaching my goal or if I wasn’t.  And, knowing the latter ahead of time allowed for real-time adjustments.

Other Thoughts:

1.  Less is more. – Busy doesn’t always mean purposeful.  Focus on just two or three goals that will have a transformational impact on your jiujitsu (or on your life.)  Your goal could be to tap someone with a low-percentage submission.  Or, your goal could be to realize that smoking is inhibiting your full potential on the mats (and in life) and thus seek the help of a medical professional to implement a plan to stop all smoking in 4 months time.

2.  Publicly share your goals.  (Or don’t.) – I’m of the school of thought that sharing your goals publicly with influential stakeholders who will hold you to them (your coach, a spouse, etc.) increases your chances of achieving said goal.  However, I recently listened to a fascinating TED talk that actually argued the opposite.  (see video below) Ultimately, do what you think best sets you up for success.

Apply the Technique

Consumption is human, creation is divine.  Don’t just read this post, but apply Martin’s formula and my tips to a couple of goals that will move you forward, whether on the mats or in some other area in your life.  If you want to share them publicly, please post in the comments below.

Odds & Ends

Gracie Diet Phase-in // Week 3 (no two starches)

I am now in the third week of the Gracie Diet phase-in plan.  Now, in addition to waiting at least 4.5 hours between meals, and avoiding desserts and sodas, I now have to ensure that none of my meals has more than one starch as a component.  This meant that I ditched the buns to my sliders so I could eat the yucca fries last night.  It meant reaching for the whole wheat bread instead of the multi-grain loaf this morning.

So far, I’m not seeing significant change in energy levels, though it’s still early.  I can say, though, that thanks to the diet, I am realizing that I consumed more food previously that I really needed.  I’ll keep you posted on how this week goes.


Day 6 (Yesterday was a travel day from Oakland to New York City.  I found no time to post.)

Breakfast:   Oatmeal, two grass-fed beef burgers, and steamed spinach

Lunch: Two spinach pies, 3 falafel balls, and hummus (at the airport)

Dinner: Chicken breast, steamed spinach

Breakfast, Day 6

Notes (Day 6):

  • Virgin flight # 26 hit terrible turbulence about 2.5 hours away from NY.  I thought I was going to die, so, naturally, I didn’t feel very hungry.  When all was said and done, seven hours passed between lunch and dinner.
  • Rorion advises not to eat the same item in a 24 hour period.  I assume this is to encourage variety in the diet.  When I got to my parent’s place, this was the healthiest thing I could find.

Day 7

Breakfast: Chicken breast, steamed spinach, pitted dates

Lunch: Two grass-fed beef burgers, lentils, tall glass of carrot juice

Dinner: Smoothie with two bananas, half a mini-watermelon, and a cup of 4% fat cottage cheese; handful of macadamia nuts

Breakfast, Day 7

Lunch, Day 7

Dinner, Day 7


  • This is the last day where I exclusively focus on spacing meals 4.5 hours apart.  This coming week, I also avoid desserts and sodas.
  • I went to Trader Joe’s in Queens since my parents are not outfitted with things to help me keep the diet.  I am finding that the diet is definitely helping me to focus more on fruits and vegetables.
  • Coconut water seems to have an appreciable effect on how I feel between meals.
  • I bought a watermelon because I was craving it.  However, the dull color and lack of taste was a strong reminder for only buying fruits when in season.
  • Note: Dinner is not compliant because of the mixing of nuts with Group C foods.
  • has launched!


My friend and mat beast, Osman, sent me a PDF of bodyweight workouts.  Not have gym access here, and not having equipment at my parent’s place, I tried Crouching Tiger.  Modifications are noted below.  Total time: 22:40.  Let me know if you beat that time in the comments.

50 air squats
50 pushups – chest to floor, lock-out arms at top (this is important, don’t cheat)
50 (modified) pistols (search for example videos, with modifications, here:
4 finger tip pushups; 21 pushups (I didn’t want to slow down the pace, so I switched)
50 side lunges
25 pushups (knuckle pushups prescribed)
50 walking lunges
25 diamond pushups

Breakfast: Bowl of oatmeal, sausage from Jamie’s dinner last night, two wedges of Gruyere cheese

Lunch: 8 oz. of grass fed beef burgers, steamed spinach, a banana

Dinner: Chicken breast, roasted brussels sprouts, sauteed kale

Post-dinner snack: Two home baked chocolate-chip cookies (blame Jamie!!!)





  • I was crabby and lethargic about two hours after lunch.  I’m still not sure how to ensure I have the right amount of nutrients at each meal to get me through to the next one.  Could coconut water make that much of a difference?
  • Post dinner, though, I felt pretty great.
  • Please keep in mind, this is still week 1 of the phase-in, so I’m focused on meal spacing not correct combinations.  For example, the banana would not combine well with the meat or the spinach according to the tenets of the Gracie Diet.

Breakfast: Baked chicken breast, steamed spinach, and black beans.

Lunch: two Renery sandwiches (raw, organic almond butter + avocado + spinach on whole wheat) + 16 oz. of organic carrot juice

Dinner: 3 egg omelet with organic squash + a pear

Two glasses of wine at Yoshi’s Oakland while watching Natasha Miller do her annual Christmas show.


  • I still don’t feel great between meals, but I might be adapting as today didn’t feel as bad.  I suspect that having coconut water handy helped bridge the meals.

Boot and Shoe Service Restaurant in Oakland, California serves delicious, thin crust pizza in a vibrant, hip environment. The cocktails are the best in the neighborhood.

Breakfast: 2 grass fed beef burgers + black beans

Lunch: Smoothie // 2 bananas + 1 packet Acai Roots + 12 oz of nonfat organic milk

Dinner: Two corn and zuchini tamales

Dessert (I gave in…): 3 home baked chocolate chip cookies + 8 oz of nonfat organic milk

These tamales are available at Whole Foods and are delicious.


  • Last night’s dinner was pizza, salad, and wine at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland (  I was so hungry from lunch that I overate at dinner.  I am beginning to see Rorion’s wisdom in doing a 4-week phase in for the diet, with each week focusing on one macro element.  If I also had to worry about combining foods, I’d feel defeated.  At least with this singular focus on correctly spacing meals, I can tweak until I get to a place where I’ve eaten enough but have sufficient energy until the next meal.
  • Admittedly, the fact that I don’t have to worry about eliminating desserts until week 2 is great.  There are some yummy baked goods in the house right now!


Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, steamed spinach, and black bean.

Lunch: Acai, 2 bananas, milk, almond butter smoothie

Dinner: Contigo (, in San Francisco.  My God!!!  So delicious.  The fried goat cheese salad with pomegranate seeds and persimmons was easily the best thing I’ve ever had in SF.


  • The first week’s focus is waiting 4.5 hours between meals, and this has already proven to be challenging.  While the breakfast looks hardy, it definitely did not take me through the entire period.  By the time lunch came around, I tried to make the quickest thing possible.  This also proved to be less than sufficient calories, as I felt light headed and unable to concentrate at work.  I need to make my meals a bit heartier so that I have the energy to last me through to the next meal.
  • The other challenge is that other people’s schedule may not be in sync with my meal schedule.  Case in point.  My girlfriend’s mother is in town and we took her out to dinner.  I ate lunch at 12:30, which meant I could have either eaten again at 5 and not have had dinner with my gf and her mom at 6:45 (not an option), or I could wait until 6:45.  By the time dinner came around, I was in an unpleasant mood.
  • While the first week’s focus is not on food combination, it’s worth noting that the shake is not compliant.  (Not allowed to mix milk with either fruits or nuts.)  The diet demands forethought and planning, that’s for sure.

Day 2

Breakfast // Grass-fed beef burger, lentils, steamed spinach.

Lunch // 2 “Renergy” Sandwiches (whole wheat toast, raw almond butter, avocados, spinach)

Dinner // TBD, but I’ll definitely wait at least 4.5 hours.

Breakfast, Day 2


  • Still on a 4.5 hour schedule.
  • I was hungry two hours after breakfast.  Again, I need to pack more meangingful calories into that meal.
  • The first time I saw Rener make the Renergy sandwich on Youtube, I thought: “That looks disgusting!”  To the contrary, it’s money.  I just had two.