Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Rice & Chicken? (why not potatoes or bread?)

January 9, 2024 |

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Why do bodybuilders eat rice, and why should you?

That’s the theme for today’s discussion, where we’re doing a brief dive into what rice is good for, why bodybuilders love it so much, and what it can offer the rest of us.

Let’s start with some of the basics about rice, why it’s so popular, and what it means to build muscle and get stronger.

Why is rice so popular?

Rice is one of the world’s most important and popular crops and has the highest yield of calories per square foot.

It’s a vital grain in eastern Asia, where terraced rice fields offer a huge amount of calories per acre.

rice field

Cultures like the Japanese have a very rice-rich diet due to the high elevation of much of their land and the general scarcity of farming-friendly areas.

The result is a terrace-rich rice culture – which is also one of the healthiest in the world.

There’s a connection between this staple carb and good health.

Rice is a whole grain and comes in various ‘colors’ that should outline the variety of the crop – each with its nutritional values.

We’ll mostly be looking at long-grain rice and brown rice, though, as these are the classics that are found in the diet of most bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.

Rice nutritional information

Rice is a carb source, first and foremost.

It’s a high-carb food that is easy to cook and has an unassuming taste before you start adding other ingredients like eggs, meats, vegetables, and sauces.

These are the basic macronutrients of rice per 100g:

Calories: ~375

Protein: 7.5g (~8% of total calories)

Carbohydrates: 81g (~90% of the total calories)

Fats: 1g (2-3% of total calories)

Rice is high in calories simply because almost all grain is digestible carbohydrate or protein.

100g of rice contains around 90g of digestible nutrients, which is very calorie-dense for a non-fat source.

The protein and carbohydrate content is an important part for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, where they offer a good bump to your total energy supply.

The protein content is also respectable for a carbohydrate source and is a good boost – particularly when combined with other protein-rich ingredients.

Why do bodybuilders eat rice?

It’s a long-running joke that bodybuilders live on a chicken, rice, and broccoli diet.


They are the three simplest foods for protein, carbohydrates, and micronutrients.

Bodybuilders eat rice because they’re a highly-digestible carbohydrate source with more protein than pasta or (most) bread. Rice is a very easy way to reach carbohydrate goals with a little extra protein and very little digestive discomfort or bloating.

This is important considering how regularly bodybuilders have to eat.

The digestibility makes it easy to eat a rice meal every 3-4 hours, as is often ‘best practice’ for bodybuilding diets.

The added ingredients can vary wildly from meat to seafood to vegetables, but the core of rice is very easy to cook and prepare – especially with a good rice cooker.

Why Is Rice Important In Bodybuilding?

What Can It Do For You?

Rice is important for bodybuilders because it’s one of the most carb-dense foods.

Cooked Rice with Parsley
Cooked Rice with Parsley

It’s a carbohydrate source that is 80-90% nutritious, meaning that for every 100g you eat, you’ll get 90g of macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats.

The carb content is very high, the protein is higher than many other carbs, and the fat content is very low (1% fat most of the time).

This makes it a good carb source, as it’s primarily carbs but offers some extra protein, which is always useful for bodybuilding, muscle growth, and repair.

Rice is a super-digestible carb source, making it easy to eat regularly and in decent quantities.

This is compared to things like bread and pasta, which are more likely to cause bloating, and water retention and typically have a worse macronutrient profile (e.g., more fat, less protein).

Rice and Cooking Variety in Bodybuilding

It’s also important to remember that bodybuilding diets are for people, which involves a level of personal preference and need for variety.

Rice is a versatile food with many possible ingredient additions from meat to seafood to veg.

These offer different options for nutritional information to fit any diet but a wide range of taste and texture options.

This can be a huge benefit when you’re counting calories and need a carb source that can stay fresh and interesting when used 3-to 7 days in a row.

The variety of options for rice includes ingredients, sauces, types of rice, and seasoning choices.

This makes it a great choice for consistent nutrition. It offers a wide array of cooking options that can keep it interesting – even when rotated against things like noodles, pasta, and potatoes.

The Rice Round-Up

Overall, rice is important in bodybuilding because carbs are important in bodybuilding.

Rice is one of the best carb sources.

The combined nutritional values of rice and its many culinary options mean it has some of the best ‘bang for your buck’ of any food out there.

When you’re eating meals that can be broken down into “meat + carb + veg” every few hours, you need a reliable source of carbs you can vary easily.

Rice is perfect for that role!

Eating Rice for Muscle Building – FAQs

Is rice good for gaining muscle?

Rice is one of the best carb sources to help you gain muscle, where it will offer a lot of carbohydrates as the energy source for muscle growth.

It also has secondary benefits with a decent amount of protein for a carb source – comparable to high-protein bagels (due to the wheat protein gluten) and higher-protein pasta products.

Rice is just a simple, in-built balance between carbs and protein at about 10:1.

This is a great choice for most people, and it offers a wide range of mixtures with other ingredients that also support muscle growth – meat, seafood, and veg in particular.

Just like pasta, it’s a keystone carbohydrate source that outperforms bread and potatoes while being varied and enjoyable from one meal to the next.

Why do bodybuilders eat rice instead of bread?

Rice is a better carb source than bread for just about any reason.

Rice is more carbohydrate-dense and a more effective food matrix for health and wellbeing.

It also has a higher protein content, contributing to better digestive and metabolic effects and a slight increase in the muscle-building stimulus.

Rice is also less digestively ‘heavy’ than bread, so you can eat plenty of rice regularly without running into as much fullness.

This is good for bodybuilding, where eating is frequent and accumulates a lot of daily food.

The result is that eating bread is less useful for muscle gains and less pleasant when repeated throughout the day.

This makes rice a much more palatable and effective carb source for bodybuilders and anyone who wants to build muscle and support performance.

Is rice the best carb for bodybuilding?

Rice is one of – if not the – best carbohydrate sources for bodybuilding. It offers a high carb content, very few wasted grams, and a good protein content relative to its use.

It’s one of the most digestible food sources, very cheap per serving, and super comfortable in the gut.

This makes rice the most well-rounded and popular carb source for bodybuilding, with a constant place in the spotlight of bodybuilding diets.

There are other great carb sources for other reasons – like potatoes for digestibility, beans for mixed nutrient content, and pasta for many of the same reasons as rice (but with more of a ‘bulking’ focus).

There’s no single ‘best’ carb for bodybuilding.

But rice is among the best because it’s the best choice for most people, most of the time. This makes it the keystone carb for bodybuilding and other strength and muscle-building pursuits.

Does rice make your belly fat?

No – rice will not make your belly fat.

Foods don’t directly affect a single spot for weight gain, and rice is a healthy choice.

With its higher protein content than most forms of carbohydrates and easy digestibility, rice is one of the best carbohydrates for keeping your stomach flat and reducing local bloating and water retention.

Can I eat rice to get abs?

No – rice will not give you abs by itself.

You can use rice as part of a healthy and balanced diet to reduce body fat and see your abs, but that’s the result of the whole diet and any activity and exercise you undertake along the way.

Foods themselves are not healthy or unhealthy, and they’re only going to change your body in the context of the whole diet.

This makes rice a good choice for getting abs, but it’s not going to do the work for you – though swapping out a lower-quality carb for rice can be a great improvement.

Should I eat rice when cutting?

Yes – rice is one of the best carbohydrate sources in the world.

Rice has a diverse range of nutrients and even more culinary options.

It’s a higher protein option than most carbohydrates (except for high-gluten bread and other forms of deliberately high protein “fortified” foods).

Rice is also super digestible and easy to eat, with a wide range of cooking options and pairings, and doesn’t cause much bloating compared to foods like bread or high-water pasta dishes.

Is it OK to eat rice every day as a bodybuilder?

Yes – there are countries full of people who eat rice every day with no real negative experiences, China, Japan, and other Eastern Asian countries have culinary cultures built around rice as the staple food and have typically good dietary health.

These are the bases for rice as a healthy carbohydrate, but bodybuilding has a long history of being used as a daily staple food.

It’s a popular food among bodybuilders and high-performance strength athletes like strongmen.

Rice features as a popular keystone for cutting diets like the vertical diet.

Why do bodybuilders eat rice cakes?

Rice cakes are a satisfying and relatively filling option for bodybuilders on a cut who are trying to control cravings.

They can be topped with a small number of sweet spreads or similar or savory flavorings to satisfy cravings without adding too many unwanted calories to a bodybuilder’s diet.

This is why they are popular with a wide range of fat-loss dieters.

Rice cakes are a versatile option for filling your stomach with fewer calories than many other snack forms- while being very convenient and easy to eat.

Rice, pasta, or potatoes – which is best for bodybuilding?

The best carbohydrate for bodybuilding is almost always rice due to the best protein content and a most digestible basic profile.

This makes the rice bowl a classic for bodybuilding and is only complemented by the fact that it prepares for future meals far more easily than potatoes.

Pasta is a good carbohydrate source.

However, it typically involves a larger salt and water content than an equal amount of rice or potatoes. It often causes bloating or water retention – dangerous for bodybuilders looking to get shredded.

Potatoes are great for overall bodybuilding goals and are easily digestible.


Bodybuilders eat rice because it’s one of the best carb sources on the planet, and you can get it cheaply while also getting the most culinary options from your carbs.

Rice competes with pasta, potatoes, and beans for the title of ‘best carb for bodybuilding.’

Rice is a simple but powerful carb source that has become the staple dietary carb of the healthiest countries in the world.

It’s a powerful option for anyone, and especially for those with goals in muscle building, strength gains, and high performance in sports and physical activities.

Rice is a good meal to start if you’re pursuing a better physique, performance, or health.

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