Brown Rice vs. White Rice – Which Provides The Most Nutrients for Strength

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: June 9, 2023
Brown Rice vs. White Rice

When it comes to preparing for a bodybuilding competition, many athletes turn to the infamous “chicken and rice diet.” But did you know that there are over 40,000 types of rice in the world?

From classic white to nutty brown, there’s a wide variety of rice to choose from. What’s more, different varieties of rice contain varying levels of fiber, protein, and carbs.

So, whether you’re bulking up or cutting down, there’s a type of rice out there to help fuel your fitness goals.

The debate about brown rice vs. white rice nutrition has been ongoing for many years. While both these rice types are staples in many cultures and cuisines, brown rice has emerged as the healthier option due to its lower glycemic index and higher fiber content.

This makes brown rice a better choice for individuals looking for long-term health benefits such as better weight management, blood sugar regulation, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, bodybuilders and powerlifters swear by the muscle and strength gains that come from consuming white rice.

So, is brown rice just a health fad or a real nutritional powerhouse? Which one is the best for muscle building and strength gains?

Let’s unpack the science behind these claims and get some answers.

Is Rice the Best Carbohydrate Source?

For bodybuilders, finding a convenient and budget-friendly source of sustenance that fuels muscular growth is paramount.

Luckily, rice provides a solution to both of these problems. Its ability to replenish glycogen stores is what makes it a top bodybuilding choice for athletes.

There are numerous rice-based meal combinations to experiment with, making it a versatile ingredient in any bodybuilding diet. Many athletes eat it for breakfast, before and after training, and even before bed when in a bulking phase.

Rice is a staple food for many people around the world due to its versatility and numerous nutritional benefits.

This grain is rich in carbohydrates, providing an excellent source of quick energy for athletes, bodybuilders, and strongmen who require an ample amount of carbs for optimum performance.

Rice is also high in calories, which can be beneficial for those looking to gain weight or build muscle mass. Despite the stigma often associated with white rice, it is worth noting that it has a high carb content and should not be overlooked when it comes to health benefits. 

Nutritional Value of White Rice

White rice is a nutrient-dense food that is packed with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

One cup of cooked white rice contains 205 calories, 4.2 grams of protein, 44.5 grams of carbs, 0.6 grams of fiber, and 0.4 grams of fat. It also provides 37% of the recommended daily intake (RDA) for manganese, 17% RDA for selenium, 7% RDA for phosphorus, 11% RDA for iron, 23% RDA for folate, 17% RDA for thiamin, and 12% RDA for niacin.

White rice is a fantastic source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and other trace minerals that support overall health and physical performance.

Whether you’re looking to fuel your workouts or simply improve your diet, incorporating white rice into your meals is a great way to boost your nutrient intake.

What does science say?

When it comes to satiety and appetite suppression, both white and brown rice are equally effective and superior to liquid glucose.

Both types of rice are rich in B-complex vitamins like thiamin, folate, and niacin, which are essential for energy production, metabolism, and brain function.

One B-complex vitamin, riboflavin, has been found to reduce post-race soreness in ultramarathon runners when taken in supplement form. Inadequate intake of B vitamins can also lead to decreased performance during high-intensity training. 

Nutritional Value of Brown Rice

When it comes to rice, choosing between brown and white can be a tough decision. However, if your goal is to increase your nutrient intake, brown rice is the way to go.

With each cooked cup containing 216 calories, 5 grams of protein, 44.8 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 1.8 grams of fat, brown rice provides more essential nutrients than its white counterpart.

Brown rice contains a significant amount of the RDA for manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, niacin, and thiamin. But it’s important to note that the choice between brown and white rice ultimately depends on your health and fitness goals.

So, whether it’s muscle and strength gains or macronutrient tracking, both varieties can play a positive role in your diet.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice in terms of dietary fiber

Brown rice is a nutritional powerhouse. Unlike white rice, which has had the germ and bran removed, brown rice contains all parts of the grain, including the nutritious germs and bran.

As a result, brown rice is packed with fiber, offering 3.5 grams per cup compared to white rice’s mere 0.6 grams for the same amount.

While the glycemic index for cooked white rice is slightly higher than that of brown rice, unless you suffer from diabetes, these small differences will not be significant when considering food intake.

It is important to note that dietary fiber slows down sugar absorption into the body, making brown rice the better choice for those looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Research Studies

Swapping white rice for brown rice can have a significant impact on your health, particularly if you are at risk of diabetes.

Studies have shown that postprandial levels of blood glucose are reduced when brown rice is consumed, providing a protective effect against diabetic vascular complications.

In addition, re-germinated brown rice has been found to improve total cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, and triacylglycerol levels in diabetic subjects compared to those consuming white rice.

The high glycemic index and low levels of fiber, lignans, vitamins, and other nutrients in white rice have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes and insulin resistance.

It is suggested that consuming even just one serving of white rice per day may increase your risk. By switching to brown rice, you can make a simple yet effective change to your diet that could have significant health benefits.

More Fiber Doesn’t Always Mean Better

For athletes, proper nutrition is key to maximizing performance, but sometimes the wrong foods can impede progress.

High-fiber foods, for example, can cause digestive issues and lead to decreased performance. It’s estimated that 30–50% of athletes experience digestion problems before races or sports events, often due to consumption of high-fiber foods, fatty foods, caffeine, and stress.

While fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, athletes need to consume post-workout fast-acting carbs like dextrose, glucose, or honey for glycogen replenishment and muscle growth.

Opting for low-fiber, high-simple carb sources like white rice can be a better choice for immediate energy compared to slower-digesting brown rice. By being mindful of their food choices, athletes can ensure they’re fueling their bodies for maximum performance.

White vs. Brown Rice B Vitamins

When choosing between white rice and brown rice, it’s important to consider their vitamin content.

Brown rice provides significantly more vitamin B than its white counterpart, with 15% of the RDA of niacin, 14% of the RDA of vitamin B6, 12% of the RDA of thiamin, and 6% of the RDA of folate per cup.

These vitamins are essential for the production of red blood cells, hormones, and cholesterol. While white rice is lower in all vitamins B except folate, it’s worth keeping in mind that one cup still provides 23% of the RDA compared to 2% from brown rice.

Opting for brown rice can be an easy way to boost your nutrient intake and reap the health benefits of these essential vitamins.

What does science say?

Regular exercise is vital for maintaining good heart health. However, it’s important to be aware that frequent, intense physical activity can lead to elevated homocysteine levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition revealed that high-intensity workouts can deplete folic acid in the body, highlighting the need for folic acid supplementation for some athletes.

Folic acid is crucial for DNA synthesis and helps the body break down amino acids, ultimately preventing deficiencies and potentially decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It’s important to maintain a balance between exercise and proper nutrient intake, to promote optimal heart health. For those who do not engage in strenuous physical activity, obtaining folic acid through a balanced diet may be sufficient.

Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

Did you know that approximately half of Americans have a magnesium deficiency? Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions.

It aids in the absorption of calcium, maintains strong bones, and even enhances performance and energy output in athletes. Brown rice is higher in magnesium than white rice, and active individuals require even more magnesium than the average person.

If you are looking to improve your athletic performance, studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements could help you reduce your cortisol and insulin levels and even improve your jumping and arm swing values.

Magnesium also increases glucose availability, which can help delay fatigue during exercise. So, if you want to keep your body functioning optimally, it may be worth considering adding more magnesium to your diet.

What about the Phytic Acid and Arsenic in Brown Rice?

Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are often touted as healthy food choices, but it is important to be aware of their potential downsides.

These foods contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that binds to minerals and can inhibit the enzyme amylase. This may cause digestive issues, including bloating, constipation, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

While brown rice is higher in minerals than white rice, it also contains more phytic acid, which cancels out many of its benefits. Additionally, brown rice can have up to 80% more arsenic than white rice.

When choosing dietary options, it is important to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and make informed decisions.

Arsenic, a toxic element found naturally in the environment, has been linked to some negative health outcomes. Exposure to arsenic has been associated with several types of cancers, damage to reproductive organs, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders.

It can even affect brain function and inhibit biochemical reactions in the human body. Unfortunately, eliminating all traces of arsenic from our diet can be challenging, even with thorough cooking.

Brown rice, a popular and healthy staple, is particularly difficult to rid of arsenic. It’s important to be aware of this issue and take steps to minimize exposure to this harmful substance.

Our Verdict

Rice is a staple in many diets across the world, and the debate over white vs. brown rice has been ongoing.

The truth is, both types of rice have their benefits. White rice, while processed and containing fewer nutrients, carries a lower risk of health issues due to having less arsenic and phytic acid.

On the other hand, brown rice is higher in fiber and more nutritious, but it also contains harmful compounds. However, it’s important to note that many of the nutrients found in brown rice can also be obtained from other foods without the risk of arsenic and phytic acid.

Moderation is key, and adding either type of rice to a balanced diet can be beneficial. The winner of the white vs. brown rice debate ultimately depends on an individual’s personal preferences and dietary requirements.

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Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.