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.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

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 II — DO CARBS MAKE YOU FAT (Published on Born Fitness)

Rice, Rice, Baby
Rice, Rice, Baby

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…

Read the rest of the article on Born Fitness


Starchy Tuber = geeky word, great food.
Starchy Tuber = geeky word, great food.

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…

Read the rest of the article on T-Nation


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.

13 thoughts on “In Defense of White Rice

  1. natemiyaki

    Hey Ty, I know this is not popular in today’s strength training community, but I train mostly like a bodybuilder. So multiple sets, multiple exercises per body part, 45-90s rest, 8-15 reps, etc. Hypertrophy training for hypertrophy. If you look at the physiology of strength training, these are the parameters that most researchers agree upon for the hypertrophy zone. Google Vince Gironda, he is closest to what I recommend for pure physique enhancement training.

  2. natemiyaki

    Right on Christopher. Thanks for sharing your success with this approach. Sounds like you’re kicking A$$. thanks for the support man.

  3. Christopher James Perilli

    I eat boat loads of jasmine rice after training jiu jitsu or strength training. I even go back for 2nd and 3rds and when I am really hungry I will throw in a dap of butter in the rice, I do this all at like 9 – 10 pm since I have been eating a sort of primal way for a year now, (i eat as carbs, white rice (jasmine, sometimes basmati – not a huge fan of basmati too light) potatoes, yucca, malanga (root plant), thats really it. I have seen an enormous change in my body and I am 37 and this change came about in the last year and a half. I used to suffer from hypoglycemia…it was really I was addicted to carbs and insulin spikes and crashes. In the AM I usually forgo most carbs for fruit, and some coffee with eggs, before training I sometimes eat some sweet potatoes just to have enough gas in the tank although I have def gone and trained on a fast, and did very very well surprisingly. Love the blog bro keep dropping bombs!

  4. Ty Fyter

    sorry for leaving all these comments, how would i adjust my training for hypertrophy??
    thanks 🙂

  5. natemiyaki

    @Ty Fyter 1.Cooked 2. yes, although you might adjust the portions down a little because its less volume than hypertrophy training. 3. Dude, I am the Rice Master, don’t try and test me. It has to do with the ratio of amylose:amylopectin starch. In general short grain is higher glycemic moving towards the lowest glycemic being long grain. Jasmine is a unique one, because although it is long grain, it has a high ratio of amylopecting, making it high glycemic. Basmati is low

  6. natemiyaki

    @Roman Sadikoff yeah, they are all made from brown rice as far as I know. They do mill the rice before cooking it with air pressure and heat instead of water and heat. So I do think its a decent choice for on-the-run, like traveling and stuff.

  7. natemiyaki

    @Ty Fyter Thanks for the support man. I don’t really use whey protein. I prefer to eat real foods for satiety.

  8. Ty Fyter

    oh, actually i also have some more specific questions:
    1.) when you say 6 cups, is that cooked or uncooked? either way is pretty impressive.
    2.) i’m pretty sedentary throughout the day minus my morning walk but then i workout in the late arvo when it’s cool. generally 3 lifts of 3setX5reps, can vary (if any, a lil’ more volume), do you think the wh/rice is fine PWO for my situation? [generally don’t eat starches before training (during the day), good sleep etc. etc.]
    3.) do you know which are higher glycemic out of: long grain, medium grain, short grain, basmat and jasmine??
    bonus points for number 3 😉

    anyways man thanks man and stay awesome! 🙂

  9. Ty Fyter

    hey great post nate! have you ever tried mixing vanilla whey with your white rice? it’s pretty yummy 🙂
    also [seguey] what brands of whey do you recommend?
    (see what i did there??)

    keep it up man!! i’ll reshare article

  10. Roman Sadikoff (@cujo16)

    Love rice cakes, but having a hard time finding the once made from white rice. All popular brand names use brown rice as an ingredient. Any suggestions?