In the world of Jiu Jitsu, there is a gallery of different diets grapplers follow to improve their performance. Everything from keto, vegan, carnivore, intermittent fasting, paleo, low carb to name a few. Then you have the Gracie Diet.
Some of you new to grappling may be asking, what is the Gracie Diet? I thought the Gracie’s were just famous for their BJJ?
The Gracie’s are the first family of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and have been following a special diet for 60+ years. It has been one of the secrets to their success on the mats and living long and healthy lives.
In this article, we’re going to break down everything about the Gracie Diet. Everything from its origins, foods you can/can’t eat, and the belt system for the diet to follow.
The Gracie Diet Origins
The reason for the Gracie diet being created actually had nothing to do at all with Jiu Jitsu. It was created by the spiritual leader of the family Carlos Gracie Sr. Not for the family, but for his own personal health.
Around the early 1950’s, Carlos Sr. was in poor health and was bed ridding suffering crippling migraines. He felt weak and his all around health was poor.
During this time, the importance of diet was something that almost nobody considered important. No one really thought about the importance of what a person ate as being a key to their health.
With Carlos Sr.’s health in a poor state, he realized he needed to change his quality of life. He began doing research and reading every book on nutrition he could get his hands on.
After doing research, he began to implement changes to his diet and he noticed immediate changes almost overnight. The once frail and sickly man had now become one of the premiere Jiu Jitsu athletes of his time.
Noticing the drastic positive changes to his health, Carlos Sr. immediately put his entire family on his diet. He began to stress to his family the important on nourishment and how it was the key to a longer healthier life.
A byproduct of the Gracie Diet was extreme advances in the athletic performance of the Gracie family. As time went on, the family’s body type began to change thanks in part to their diet.
Carlos Sr. stood around 5’2, 140lbs and his descendants are almost double his size. This is partly thanks to the Gracie family continuing to follow the principles of Carlos Sr.’s diet.
His sons, nephews, grandsons, and granddaughters are physical specimens that dominated the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Two in particular were Rickson and Royler Gracie. Royler won the most championships in the sport and Rickson is considered to be the best in the family.
Also thanks to the Gracie Diet, Carlos Sr. and his brother Helio went on to live 8 decades each. Today, the principles of the Gracie Diet are still shared by the family and practiced many BJJ practitioners.
What is the Gracie Diet?
The Gracie Diet is basically a simplistic approach to nutrition. Core principles of the diet is to eat natural foods and not poison the body with artificial foods and overeating.
By following these principles these principles this prevents the body from getting sick and run at an optimal level.
However, there is no science behind the Gracie Diet and Carlos Sr. was never a qualified nutritionist. Though Carlos Sr. was honest about this, but he did do years of research reading books on health and diet.
Many modern day nutritionists and health experts share eating principles that are similar to what Carlos Sr. taught his family.
So, the Gracie Diet basically stresses having a diet that consists of natural foods and avoid overeating. According to the Gracie family, your Jiu Jitsu performance and overall health will increase if you follow the diet.
The Gracie Diet Rules
The rules of the Gracie Diet are very simple and easy to follow. It is all about keeping a balanced diet to meet the proper nutritional levels your body needs to run at its best.
You do this by eating a diet that consists of nothing, but whole/natural foods. By sticking to this diet, you will avoid poisoning your body your body with unnatural foods. Such as artificial sugars and carbohydrates.
Carlos Jr., the son Carlos Sr. was quoted with this comment about the diet his father created in Gracie Mag.
“Our body is a machine run by blood and if the blood is pure, the machine runs well. My father’s objective was to make sure the family’s fighters were well. Or in other words, free of any illness that might arise and postpone a combat.”
This diet prescribes that you eat three meals a day with at least 4-5 hours between each meal. The reason for this is to ensure that your stomach empty the next time you eat.
Snacking is definitely not permitted on this diet. The reason for this is because if you eat too much, your body will become lethargic. When you’re supposed to be resting, your body will still be digesting food, when it is supposed to be resting.
The Gracie Diet Belt Ranking System
A chart by belt rank was made to make it easier for Gracie Jiu Jitsu students to follow the diet. From white belt to black belt.
White Belt: Drink water first thing in the morning and wash your hands before every meal. Then write down everything you eat, drink, and what time for one week.
Blue Belt: Carry on the white belt habits and gradually eliminate desserts after cooked meals. You are permitted to drink water, iced tea, and veggie juices.
Purple Belt: Carry on blue belt habits and follow the Gracie Diet’s table of combinations.
Brown Belt: Carry on purple belt rules and space your meals 4-5 hours apart. Eat right for 6 days and have 1 free day to eat.
Black Belt: Carry on brown belt rules and eat right every day. As a back belt it is your duty to share this knowledge and help others.
What Can You Eat With the Gracie Diet Plan
The Gracie Diet stresses a diet of nothing but natural food eaten at a moderate amount.
Meats: This diet permits you to eat a combination of lean meats such as chicken and fish. Red meat is permitted sometimes, but Carlos Sr. would remove it from his brother Helio’s diet when he had a fight.
Fruits and Vegetables: Most of the Gracie Diet consists of fruits and vegetables. They’re light and provide many nutrients to your diet.
Drinks: To keep your circulatory system running smoothly, the diet states you must drink a lot of water. Also drink veggie juices, milk, and herbal teas to fight off ailments. (coconut water and carbonated water are also permitted.)
What Can't You Eat With the Gracie Diet Plan
The Gracie Diet is very strict on eating only natural food. No artificial food of any kind is permitted to eat.
There is no pork allowed and a limited amount of red meat permitted. This diet wants you to remove unnecessary cholesterol and saturated fats from your diet.
No snacking or desserts of any kind is allowed. Giving your body an unnecessary amount of food will make it harder for you to break down. Especially so with snacks and desserts that have excess amounts of salts and sugars.
To be at your peak level of health and perform at your best, you must remove all unnatural food. This is a key principle of the Gracie Diet.
While there is no science behind the approach of the foundation of Gracie Diet was founded on common sense. The research Carlos Sr. did and principles he professed are similar to what many nutritionists/health experts teach today.
The key to a healthy life is eating a diet of primarily natural foods that benefit your overall health. Also, the practice of eating in moderation and waiting periods of time between meals is important to learn and implement.
Thanks to this diet Carlos Sr. and Helio Gracie both lived for 8 decades. Also as Sr.’s son Carlinhos put it “health nourishment modified an entire family.” So, if you train consider using principles of the Gracie Diet and you will definitely see your overall health improve.
If you are interested in the diet plan and would like to get some in depth info, get yourself a copy of the Gracie Diet Plan Book - loads of great info there!