Ok Ripped Fam, we know this is a tricky one (and a bit of a hot topic for our first article EVER) but you’ve asked, and we’re here to answer: When it comes to fitness, is rice “really” life?
Not to fret! In short, the answer is YES, but like all things in life, BALANCE IS KEY. And with ANY source of energy, knowing how to use it is golden. We’ll get back to this later, but first, let’s start by acknowledging that rice is a staple food for more than half the world. It’s an abundant rich source of carbohydrates and fiber which are essential to a balanced and nutritious diet. It is also low in fats and sugar, easily digestible (white rice at least), gluten-free and a good source of b vitamins.1 Nonetheless, rice is sometimes rumored to “make you fat” and fad diets suggest cutting it completely. So what’s one to believe?
A life without rice is admittedly unthinkable for many Filipinos so before you get worried that we’re about to hate on this beloved staple, rest assured that rice is here for the keeps. That said, let’s learn how to harness this energy by separating our deep emotional love of it, and seeing rice for what it truly is to humans: Energy Fuel. Superman needed to learn to harness his powers and energy, we learned early on that too much sun energy will burn us, and using electrical appliances in the rain will in fact electrocute us. So why do we seemingly through caution to the wind as we pile our plates with rice, this energy food form, without heed for consequence? When we overindulge in just anything or misuse power, there will always be a cost, but is it really fair that rice takes the blame?
Rice or not, the truth of the matter is that sustainable weight maintenance is a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet. If you’re trying to lose, you’ll need to maintain a 25% calorie deficit to lose weight healthily. And consume more calories than you burn, you’ll wind up gaining weight.
When it comes to white rice vs. brown; The calories, carbs, protein, and fat content are actually very similar between the two. Brown rice is generally considered healthier as it is higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will keep you feeling full longer. Plus, its nutrients help improve glycemic control, which benefits those with diabetes. White rice contains fewer nutrients after being stripped in the polishing process and consists almost entirely of carbs in the form of starches and glucose, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, “Many bodybuilders and athletes prefer white rice because of its higher sugar content and faster absorption to support training and muscle growth, but there isn’t any research to suggest brown rice is inferior for these purposes. Gaining lean mass is more strongly influenced by total intake and training.”2
Since this topic can be admittedly a bit confusing, I sat down with Steve of RCG to get his opinion on “Rice is Life” and how it impacts fitness goals. “This is a tricky one” he answered. “Yes brown rice or brown beans are better…but it’s about a balanced diet and the biggest challenge I see when it comes to fitness nutrition in the Philippines is the habit of eating late at night. Many members have asked me for dietary advice in the past and I’ve always said “cut the rice down”. They say “rice is life” and I say okay, but what time do you eat it? The average answer I get: “an hour before bed!” Now it’s one thing to put meat in your body at that time as it will slowly digest, but the rice will just sit there in the stomach all stodgy and not break down. Hence so many people with the potbellies — even big strong guys or the ladies have them. Rice is great as an athlete or when training hard (to bulk) but only during the day or at latest early evening.”
In the end, Steve confirmed to me what I had suspected all along; “Rice (in moderation) IS LIFE”, just not at night. It’s not about ditching the rice completely, but rather about portion control and timing (or channeling our “RE” aka rice energy!) So to help you do that, here are a few nutrition tips for a healthy “fitness” relationship with rice!
Time: Eating rice from daytime until early eve (the latest) is recommended. Its high glycemic index will turn to sugar quickly which converts to fat if you’re inactive and have consumed it before bed, which will, in turn, lead to weight gain.
Balance: A balanced diet is key so make sure veggies and lean protein are part of your diet rather than just a plate of rice. Veggies should take up half of your plate, lean protein 1/4, and your starch (rice) the other 1/4.
Frequency: If you’re trying to slim down, limiting your rice intake to one meal a day (after a workout) before 6 pm is advisable. Don’t forget to give brown rice a try — it will keep you full longer!
Portions: 1/2 – 1 cup of rice per meal (2 if you are trying to gain). Remember, it’s not just about eating balanced and healthy, if you’re trying to lose you’ll want to cut down too.
Preparation: The way you prepare your rice should not be forgotten. If you fry it (or fry your chicken) you really can’t blame poor ole rice for the extra pounds! Stick to steaming instead.
This, coupled with mindful eating (slowing down, consuming your water, and avoiding high sugar drinks) are just a few steps towards bettering your health. Give it a try and let us know how you feel! Or, for a full fitness and nutrition plan, just message us and we will connect you with a trainer so they can personalize a program just for you!
- Joanna Soh Official.