Why Athletes Still Choose White Rice Over Brown

Why Athletes Prefer White Rice

White rice gets a bad rap in general. Athletes and weight lifters disregard any negative claims and consume white rice as an important part of their nutrition plans. The goal of the athlete and lifter is supplying adequate amounts of macronutrients to fuel extreme training and replenish severely depleted glycogen stores. White rice plays a major part and is considered excellent sports nutrition for these athletes.

It can feel like a full-time job for athletes to beef up athletic performance with nutrition. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel physical training. Carbs also replenish muscle glycogen stores after extreme workouts. If you want to make a lifter happy hand them a bowl of white rice stacked with grilled chicken after a workout.

According to the Journal of Sports Sciences, carbohydrate-rich foods ranking high on the glycemic index provide a readily available source of carbohydrate for muscle glycogen synthesis. Intense workouts significantly deplete sugar (glycogen) in our muscles and eating the right carbohydrates are important to replenish what has been used. Athletes prefer white rice as a great carbohydrate choice for recovery meals.

White rice just so happens to rank high on the glycemic index. This is a score given to how foods affect blood sugar and insulin levels. According to an article published in Sports Medicine, knowing how to improve carbohydrate availability during prolonged exercise is essential. Clinical studies on carbohydrate consumption to benefit athletes has dominated the field of sports nutrition research.

Why White Rice?

White and brown rice bowls

Wise athletes and lifters recognize the high glycemic value of white rice to provide quick fuel for hard workouts and facilitate muscle recovery. Unlike brown rice, white rice does not come with negative drawbacks of gastrointestinal (GI) issues, allergy symptoms, and blocking the ability to absorb micro-nutrients.

Brown rice and other whole grains contain phytic acid (phytate). Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient binding to essential minerals like iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium preventing our body from absorbing them.

Phytic acid is located in the bran of the grain. The milling process used to change brown rice to white rice removes the phytate. This is probably one of the only times where refining a food potentially has a positive value. This is especially beneficial for carb hungry lifters wanting to refuel without stomach upset.

White Rice is a Safe Carbohydrate

White Rice
White Rice is a Great Carb Option for Lifters and Athletes. MIXA/Getty Images

Athletes don't have time to worry about gastrointestinal (GI) issues or allergies that may accompany brown rice. Brown rice has more fiber and those lifters suffering from food sensitivity may have an issue with the whole grain.

Extreme exercise requires eating lots of carbs. It is recommended athletes consume 60g/h of carbohydrates for prolonged exercise lasting more than two hours. White rice is considered a safe starch to consume prior to exercise and has been shown to meet sports nutrition recommendations. 

White Rice for Workouts

According to USA Rice Information, “Rice packs in more carbohydrates than potatoes for the same serving size”. Parboiled, converted and instant white rice are suggested for pre and post-workout meals. Consuming white rice ensures the body is properly fueled for the competitive athlete.

Although white rice is a great alternative for lifters and athletes, it may not be the best option for sedentary people. Also, those training less than 4-days per week or suffering from a metabolic disease, brown rice is a better choice.

Brown rice is still a healthy nutrient dense food. It's recommended for the general populous and everyday fitness person tolerating whole grains. Brown rice is a rich source of fiber and nutrients essential to a well-balanced healthy diet. 

The great news is continuing research is ongoing for degrading phytic acid in brown rice and whole grains. New studies are also finding antioxidant benefits in phytate.


Journal of Sports Sciences, Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery, Burke LM et al., 1/04

Sports Medicine, The use of carbohydrates during exercise as an ergogenic aid, Cermak NM et al., 11/13

British Journal of Nutrition, Phytate degradation determines the effect of industrial processing and home cooking on iron absorption from cereal-based foods, Hurrell RF et al., 8/02

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