Is Rice a Good Pre-workout Meal?

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 16, 2024
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As one of the most popular staple grains for nearly half of the world's population, rice is one of those meals you can easily pair with anything and eat anytime. But is it a good meal for pre-workout?

As a certified personal trainer, I strive to have pre-workout meals that will boost and sustain my energy before and during my workouts. I interviewed a dietician while also testing it with 5 clients to determine if rice is one of those meals.

Today I will share the energy value of rice as a meal for pre-workout and the great benefits of eating it before you hit the weights.

Read on.

Quick Summary

  • Incorporating rice, especially brown rice, as a pre-workout meal can significantly boost energy levels due to its high carbohydrate content, making it an excellent choice for sustained energy during workouts.
  • Pairing rice with a protein source, such as chicken or eggs, is recommended to create a balanced pre-workout meal that supports muscle growth and energy requirements.
  • According to one of the studies found on the National Center for Biotechnology information website, brown rice is a richer carbohydrate source, with a serving size of ⅓ cup containing about 17.05g of carbohydrates, providing a substantial energy boost for workouts.
  • In my experience, rice is an ideal pre-workout meal for individuals with gluten sensitivity and those seeking easily digestible carbohydrates for workout fuel.

Rice And Its Energy Value

Rice in a bowl

When I started my fitness journey, I quickly realized the importance of rice, both white and brown, in my diet. It helped me maintain a calorie-controlled meal plan while providing the necessary energy for my workouts.

Including rice in your meal for pre-workout can provide complex carbohydrates for energy and support muscle growth during exercise, according to a dietitian.

According to one of the studies found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, this is because rice is a rich source of resistant starch that promotes fullness and healthy weight [1].

In terms of caloric content, 100 grams of rice contains about 129 calories [2]. Rice holds the most calories due to its high carbohydrate content, making it an excellent energy source for the body during your workouts.

⅓ cup of cooked white rice gives you roughly 14.84g of carbohydrates.

This makes brown rice a richer carbohydrate source with the same serving size containing about 17.05g of carbohydrate [3].

As far as muscle building is concerned, rice only gives you about 1.8g of protein per ⅓ cup serving, and this might not be your best pre-workout snack if you're looking to bulk up quickly. According to a dietician, including rice as a meal for pre-workout can contribute to improved energy levels and the development of lean muscle mass.

5 Benefits of Rice as a Pre-workout Meal

Rice meal

According to a dietician, pairing rice with a protein source can help achieve an optimal protein ratio for muscle building when consumed as a pre-workout meal.

Here are the incredible health benefits of eating rice as your meal for pre-workout.

1. High Carbohydrates

Foods like rice with a moderate glycemic index contain many carbohydrates readily available for muscle and glycogen synthesis.

In my experience, eating rice is one of the best pre-workout meals that give you sufficient macronutrients to power your body and replenish your glycogen levels during physical workouts [4].

If you're looking to lose weight and bulk up while on a vegetarian diet, be sure to check out our best vegan pre-workouts to boost your energy for your next killer workout.

2. Good Protein Source

Flexing muscles while giving thumbs up

If you're on a strict vegan diet, taking high-protein white or brown rice is a fantastic method to keep your protein levels in check before working out.

According to one of the studies found on the ResearchGate website, rice protein is about 7% compared to other whole grains [5]. Consuming these proteins can help you bulk up easily.

3. Healthy Weight Management

The fiber and protein content in brown rice leaves you satiated. This implies that the carbohydrates in a serving of brown rice are gradually turned into energy.

As a result, eating a bowl of brown rice as a meal for pre-workout helps lower blood sugar levels [6]. This helps stabilize energy levels, minimize cravings, and results in healthy weight management.

4. Rice Is Gluten-Free

Eating a bowl of rice is your most viable option if you have gluten sensitivity. Whole grain rice also gives you insoluble fiber that helps keep your digestive system healthy [7].

5. Safe Starch

Rice is a safe starch meaning it goes easy on your stomach. The carbs in rice are easily digested, and the nutrients are ingested into your system. Rice has fewer acids that cause nausea or heartburn when washed and cooked well, particularly for diverticulitis patients [8].

"Safe starch foods like white rice also have the lowest protein toxin levels."

- Paul Jaminet, Nutritionist Author

How Long Before a Workout You Need to Eat Rice?

A rice in a wooden circular bowl

You need to eat rice for at least an hour before a workout.

The timing of your meal for pre-workout can affect your exercise performance, endurance, and recuperation post-workout [9].

I've found that eating rice about an hour before my workouts strikes the perfect balance. It gives me enough time to digest and ensures I have ample energy for endurance and recovery.

Because white rice digests faster than brown rice, you can eat it anywhere between ½ to 1 hour before hitting the gym.

But if you're serving brown rice bundled up with lean steak or eggs, it would be best to eat a few more hours before your workout session because the protein in the meat takes longer to digest, and exercising with a full stomach limits your performance.

A bowl of rice has a twofold benefit: it has low-fat contents and some proteins compared to other grains.

4 Rice Pre-workout Side Dishes

Chicken legs and black beans

According to a dietician, pairing rice with a protein source can help achieve an optimal protein ratio for muscle building when consumed as a pre-workout meal. Eating a bowl of rice on its own can be lifeless. Here are 4 easy-fix sides you can pair up with your classic pre-workout meal to spice things up a little.

Chicken

Rice and chicken are must-have pre-workout meals since it's high in the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients. This combo will build you up while also refueling your body.

The chicken's high lean protein content will repair torn muscle fibers, while the rice's carbohydrates will replenish stored glycogen content. As a meal for pre-workout, this meal guarantees that your muscle tissues open up and stretch healthily.

Black Beans

Rice and black beans combo is the perfect meal for pre-workout, as it gives you suitable protein and energy.

A cup of cooked blacked beans gives you roughly 7g of protein and 0.5g of fat. Also, plant proteins are easy to digest, meaning you'll be revved up in time for exercise.

Related articleIs Rice And Beans Diet Good For Weight Loss? 

Eggs

Close up image of eggs

Eating eggs before a workout is full of protein and gives you a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

This protein boosts training performance while promoting muscle  growth and development, recuperation, body and muscle mass.

Instead of going with the usual scrambled eggs, switch it up with a veggie-packed omelet topped with avocado and black pepper.

Avocado gives you lots of healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber.

Vegetable Rice Pilaf

Rice pilaf is a nutrient-packed easy, and delicious meal for pre-workout. Instead of eating blunt white rice, throw in cooked carrots, mushrooms, peas, corn, and green beans.

Drizzle the mixture with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with cilantro, black pepper, and salt.

One cup of this pilaf gives you about 220g calories, enough energy to sustain you through your workouts.

FAQs

Is White Rice Good For A Post-Workout Meal?

Yes, white rice is a good post-workout meal because it has good energy and protein content.

What Is A Good Pre-workout Meal?

A good pre-workout meal has adequate energy in carbohydrates, fats, and protein content.

Is Rice Good For A Gym Diet?

Yes, rice is good for a gym diet as it serves you energy to get you through your sets.

Does Rice Increase Belly Fat?

Yes, rice can increase belly fat when eaten in excess because it's high in calories that'll build up in the long haul.

What Are the Differences in Glycemic Index Among Various Rice Varieties?

The differences in glycemic index among various rice varieties are that white rice has a higher glycemic index than brown or basmati rice, leading to quicker energy release but shorter sustenance.

How Does Rice Contribute to Hydration for Athletes?

Rice contributes to hydration for athletes by absorbing water during cooking. This water retention can aid in maintaining hydration levels, which is especially important for athletes who need to stay hydrated for optimal performance.

What Are Cultural Perspectives on Rice as a Pre-Workout Meal?

There are different cultural perspectives on rice as a pre-workout meal. For example, in some Asian cultures, rice is a staple in pre-workout meals, often combined with lean proteins and vegetables for balanced nutrition.

How Does Rice Impact Digestive Health for Athletes?

Rice impacts digestive health for athletes by being beneficial for digestive health due to its high fiber content.

What Are the Best Ways to Combine Rice with Other Foods for Pre-Workout Nutrition?

The best way to combine rice with other foods for pre-workout is to combine it with other proteins like chicken or fish and vegetables, which can create a balanced pre-workout meal.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5111682/
  2. https://mobile.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/rice-white-cooked-regular?portionid=53181&portionamount=100.000#
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3996977/
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/a-good-guide-to-good-carbs-the-glycemic-index
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284832950
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17127465/
  7. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/fibre-in-food
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis-diet-list-of-foods-to-avoid
  9. https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/25877/
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