In Defense of White Rice
“Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people (and that half-Japanese, half-Irish Miyaki-dude) be wrong?” – David, The Lost Boys.
Some nutritional camps really do think white rice is no better than eating a box of maggots. “Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots. How do they taste?” (see da movie).
Yet in some cultures (both modern and historical) that exhibit immaculate biomarkers of health, with low obesity and diabetes rates, it has been a dietary staple for centuries. What gives? Seems as if I’ve been discussing both sides of this argument in a variety of different virtual locations. Figured I’d put that all together into one comprehensive post for ya.
Post Summary: This is a very controversial topic with no Universal answer. Rice can be a good food choice for some and not for others — a stance I’ve been trying to explain for years — but many athletes don’t understand nutritional biochemistry and disease states (including “sedentary-itis”), and many scientists don’t understand exercise physiology and Sports Nutrition (jogging is not a sport). As a result, I had to go multimedia on you to blast home my message. This article will includes 3 parts. (1) a clip from an upcoming nutritional video project. (2) An article that was published last week on my friend Adam Bornstein’s blog. (3) An article I wrote for T-Nation a while back discussing my unconventional carb selection strategies. By the end, you should understand:
- Why you should first assess whether or not you even need starch in your diet. Sedentary or insulin resistant, not so much, and the majority of your “carbs” should come from non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit (roughly 100-125g a day). No rice, white or other, necessary.
- Why the depletion of muscle glycogen reserves through intense training places extra carbohydrate demands on the athlete — ANAEROBIC metabolism and muscular contractions run on glucose/glycogen stores. This is a different physiological condition than from those who are inactive, or even from those who only perform low-intensity, aerobic activity.
- Why athletes should get the majority of their essential amino acids and essential fatty acids from animal proteins, and fiber and micros from plant foods. The primary reason to eat starch, then, is simply for the glucose chains that fuel anaerobic activity/exercise.
- Why it is important to obtain those glucose chains with as little toxic compounds or “anti-nutrients” as possible.
- Why that all sounds complicated, but its really not. In terms of practical application, its simple and straightforward — if Paleo/Caveman nutrition is the best baseline template for sedentary populations, WHITE RICE and ROOT VEGETABLES are the best starchy carb choices for anaerobic exercisers to add back in to support their training.
Some of this material overlaps, but its good to hear it more than once to break free from the dogmatic approaches to nutrition that dominate the industry (if you are going to sell to the masses there can only be One Way), and move closer towards the “you gotta fit the plan to the person” Truth. It took me over a decade to learn that. Maybe I can help shorten your learning curve.
PART I — DA VIDEO: CARB CONFUSION & WHITE RICE
PART II — DO CARBS MAKE YOU FAT (Published on Born Fitness)
Who would have thought my tiny little morsel of goodness could cause so much controversy.
I’m talking about my favorite food–rice, rice, baby.
Whether or not rice should be included in a health enhancing, fat slashing, muscle building diet is a highly debated topic in our industry. To some (such as certain followers of the Paleo movement), rice is a demon food that should be avoided like the plague.
Yet in some cultures that exhibit immaculate biomarkers of health and low obesity rates, it has been a dietary staple for centuries. What gives?
I ate 5 cups of rice last night for dinner. I’m also close to 5% body fat, so I can tell you what side of the fence I’m on. I think sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and high omega-6 vegetable oils do more to cause insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity than my pal white rice…
PART III – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE A$$-FATTENING: THE NEW STARCHY CARB FOOD PYRAMID (Published on T-Nation)
If you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ve probably read or heard something like, “carbs are not essential nutrients” or “there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate.” Those are both 100% accurate statements.
The anthropological study often cited involves Eskimo tribes. Historically they’ve survived on protein and fat diets (whale, walrus, seal, etc.) with carbohydrates virtually nonexistent. There’s water, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and that’s basically it. The body can find a way to function and fuel itself on those compounds alone.
Which leads to the question – why eat starchy carbs at all? Many low-carb proponents would suggest you shouldn’t, and while that may be fine for sedentary folks, it’s not the most effective or efficient approach for athletes.
I don’t see many Eskimos trying to hoist inhuman amounts of weight, get their arms so big they can’t wipe their you know what, go five rounds in the octagon, or get so shredded that they can watch their pancreas release insulin. That’s where sports nutrition comes in. Functioning and surviving is different from excelling and thriving.
In a sports nutrition context, carbohydrates are thus considered conditionally essential, with activity level, body type, training/performance demands, and physique goals dictating intake…
Now don’t just skim over this post and start indiscriminately shoveling bowls of rice down your, well, rice hole (like I do). That may not be the right approach for you. In fact, if you’ve appropriately grasped the concept of this article, you’ll understand that a large percentage of our population should skip the rice in favor of an extra serving of vegetables.
But if you engage in consistent, high-intensity, anaerobic activity, don’t avoid starch like its a box of maggots. Its only rice man, that beautiful low toxic, low anti-nutrient, gluten-free, anaerobic fuel.
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