Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Rice Cakes?

The key to excellent bodybuilding training starts in the kitchen. Getting the proper nutrients pre-and post-workout can maximize exercise performance, improve recovery time, and keep you healthy.

And when it comes to fueling up your body, it’s hard to beat carbohydrates. A rice cake, for instance, is a good source of high GI (glycaemic index) carbs. Eating them has some benefits. That’s why many bodybuilders – okay, not all – eat rice cakes all the time.

Remember northern bodybuilder Danny Andrews? A BBC3 documentary featured him; his daily pre-competition diet includes a rice cake.

But what exactly are these benefits? Let’s find out!

Top 9 Reasons Why Bodybuilders Eat Rice Cakes

1. To Fuel the Body

Food equals energy. If you begin your training on an empty stomach, you risk not having adequate energy to work out at a high level. 

And in bodybuilding or any exercise regimen, your strength and endurance could decrease when your muscles are not fuelled and well-hydrated. 

In short, training with weights on an empty stomach is a no-no. You may lose more fat while exercising while hungry but also have less stamina and burn valuable energy sources. Some may feel light-headed or lethargic due to low blood sugar.

Brown rice cake is a good source of fiber and other nutrients. This food is low in calories but with the right carbs – enough to fuel a workout. However, watch out for the flavored varieties because they can be high in sugar and sodium.

For a Quick Energy Boost

Bodybuilders also eat rice cakes for a quick energy boost.  Pressed pieces of puffed rice for better chewier quality contain carbohydrates. They provide bodybuilders the energy they need before, during, or after training.

Compared to refined grains that are digested quickly, the carbohydrates from rice cakes provide longer-lasting energy. No wonder snacking on brown rice cakes can keep bodybuilders on the go for most of their day.

To Replenish Muscle Glycogen

Eating rice cakes post-workout replenishes muscle glycogen lost during the workout. Muscle glycogen is an essential fuel source during physical activity. 

In short, they prepare bodybuilders’ bodies ready for the next training session.

Once consumed, the fast-acting carbs in rice cakes convert to glucose – sugar in the blood and is a major energy source. The glucose molecules are combined in chains of glucose units, forming a glycogen molecule. This process happens when the body doesn’t yet need fuel.

But when the levels of glucose in the body start to decline – either because the body is burning glucose during a workout or by not eating – insulin levels will likewise drop. 

Bodybuilders who burn lots of calories in just a couple of hours almost immediately suffer when they run out of glycogen. That state is commonly referred to as “hitting the wall.” 

Such an afterburn is why some athletes – bodybuilders included – eat more rice cakes to replenish the muscle glycogen levels lost during activity or provide ample fuel before a strenuous exercise routine. 

To Gain Mass

Eating rice cakes post-workout can make bodybuilders gain mass. It’s because it’s the time that their body needs carbohydrates the most.

Rice cakes are large, crunchy, bland, and round. They promise a quick snack that can satisfy cravings without the guilt. Plus, they’re often gluten-free. 

A single unsalted rice cake provides around 7.3 grams of carbohydrates, 0.4 grams of fiber, and 0.7 grams of protein. 

A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition stated that consuming 0.5 grams of rapidly digesting carbs per kg. of body weight every 30 minutes to two to four hours after a workout promotes glycogen synthesis. As a result, it ensures that the muscles are full.

Rice cake and chicken also make a good combination for building muscle. The two foods make a good mix of carbohydrates to reload the muscles right after a workout. 

Aside from this, eating such a post-workout meal reduces protein breakdown and increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is a process wherein the body uses amino acids in protein and builds new muscle.

To Accelerate Recovery Process

Antioxidants protect healthy cells from DNA damage, which causes disease and aging. A 2018 review published in the Antioxidants journal states that brown rice contains phenolic compounds.

These phenolic compounds act as antioxidants that protect cells from damage associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. 

And because antioxidants mitigate cell damage, they accelerate the recovery process.  Bodybuilders also need antioxidants because excess production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species occurs during exercise.

Minimizing damage in the body is an essential part of achieving bodybuilding success. Free radical damage can be mitigated by consuming foods enriched with natural antioxidants like a healthy rice cake.

They are a High Glycemic Index Food

Rice cakes are a high glycemic food. That’s why they’re often included in a bodybuilder’s nutritional plan. 

High GI foods can quickly restore the depleted glycogen stores caused by a heavy workout. In addition, high GI foods allow glycogen to synthesize fast when there is an increased blood flow to the muscles. Such happens a few hours after an intense training session.

However, it is essential to note that consuming more low GI foods is also good because one’s energy levels are more sustained. As a result, they experience fewer highs and lows that some dieters complain about when cutting back their caloric intake.

Aside from carbohydrates, recent research shows that protein supplements post-training will initiate muscle tissue repair and replenish glycogen fuel stores in the body.

Being familiar with GI foods is essential for bodybuilders who want to utilize their efforts and time most effectively. Knowing which foods have low, moderate, and high GIs enables them to plan their diet to keep them satisfied, maintain consistent insulin and energy levels, and ensure the best possible result.

To Manage Weight

There are three main phases in bodybuilding. These are bulking, cutting, and maintenance. 

In bulking phase, you’re meant to consume more calories to gain muscles. In cutting, you shed excess body fat. And the maintenance phase is when you maintain muscle mass.

Eating rice cakes maintains bodybuilders’ healthy weight, especially if they replace high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods in their diet. For instance, swapping a plain bagel (bread) with two organic brown rice cakes cuts out 21 g of carbohydrates and 130 calories. 

Lower-Calorie Alternative To Bread and Gluten-Free

If you want to keep your carb and calorie intake in check, rice cakes make a good substitute for other carbs, like wraps, chips, french friends, rolls, crackers, and bread.

Since rice cakes are not made with energy-dense flour and contain more air from the puffed grain, they tend to be lower in calories and carbs than other snacks. When it comes to other nutrients, however, a rice cake is not that much different from white bread. 

Another benefit of rice cakes is that they are naturally gluten-free unless they are made with barley flour, rye, or wheat.

They Are Convenient and Versatile

Rice cakes don’t have much flavor, especially when it does not contain added ingredients. You can even use them in various recipes, both savory and sweet.

For instance, you can top them with sliced apples, peanut butter, or avocado. They’re also not expensive, don’t require cooking, don’t need to be refrigerated, and are shelf-stable. So, they are easy to take on trips or keep in your gym bag.

But Are Rice Cakes Healthy?

Rice cakes, especially the plain ones, are a healthy snack. They count as a whole grain with standout nutrients, including manganese. 

Such a trace mineral forms the body’s bones and hormones. They also affect carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and calcium absorption.

However, flavored rice cakes may contain higher amounts of sodium, sugar, and other artificial ingredients. If you are bodybuilding, it’s best to choose rice cakes made from brown rice than white rice. That’s because it has been stripped of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

Avoid adding jam to rice cakes as well to get more carbs. Most jam nowadays is high fructose corn syrup. So, it’s not the best carb source to rely on before performing in your bodybuilding competition.

Rice Cake Nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture shared that one unsalted/plain rice cake has roughly:

  • 7.3 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.4 grams fiber
  • 0.7 grams protein
  • 34.8 calories
  • 0.3 grams fat
  • 2.2 micrograms selenium/ 3% DV
  • 11.8 milligrams magnesium/ 3% DV
  • 0.3 milligrams manganese/17% DV
  • 32.4 milligrams phosphorus/ 3% DV
  • 0.7 milligrams niacin/ 4% DV

Healthy Rice Cakes Recipes to Try

If you decide to regularly snack on rice cakes, go for those made with whole grain rice. Plus, choose simple ingredients, like cinnamon or sea salt. Steer clear of rice cakes varieties that contain artificial flavors and indeed sugars. 

Here are some healthy and uncomplicated rice cakes recipes to try. We guarantee you that they don’t even take 2 minutes to prepare.

  • Top one rice cake with scrambled egg or veggie burger
  • Make a rice cake pizza with mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce
  • Make avocado toast rice cake, topped with your favorite seasoning and a sliced tomato
  • Use rice cakes to make healthy brown rice treats and mix them with almond butter
  • Combine them with hummus and add sprouts
  • Top one with smashed berries, chia seeds, and yogurt
  • Mash a banana on top of a rice cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder and coconut flakes

Of course, there are many other ways that rice cakes can be made, like using refined white rice to increase the volume, grinding the whole grain rice, or adding seeds to the mix – like flaxseeds, buckwheat, or quinoa.

Achieve the Physique of Your Dreams!

Bodybuilding is judged on leanness and masculinity than athletic performance. 

Achieving the “bodybuilder physique,” which is associated with shape, proportion, symmetry, and proportion requires special attention to your diet. 

A serious bodybuilding diet is one of the most challenging goals to achieve in all kinds of sports. It often takes about 12 weeks of total discipline. Adding rice cakes from whole grain brown rice to the diet can maximize the calories a bodybuilder needs to achieve the necessary muscularity and definition.

Just remember to try pairing rice cakes with healthy fats or a source of satiating protein to make them more nutritious.

To get more diet and nutrition tips, read our other reviews at ExpertFitness.org.

Nathan Lloyd, MSc

I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.

If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.