Carbohydrates and bodybuilding? How in the world does that even work? We all know bodybuilders never look at a carb meal without a frown unless they’re in the bulking phase. So, why do bodybuilders eat rice cakes?
Even though refined carbohydrates are not usually included in a healthy diet, rice cakes get an exemption for bodybuilding.
During training, bodybuilders need lots of energy to push through the hardest parts of the exercises. And they need the energy quickly. Rice cakes are a pretty good way to get that energy quickly.
The Bodybuilding Diet
It’d be helpful to know how the diet for bodybuilders is set up if we want to understand how rice cakes fit into it.
Bodybuilding is all about aesthetic appearance and much less about increasing physical performance and athletic ability. While it takes almost the same level of dedication for either of the two goals, the emphasis is quite different for each of them.
For bodybuilders, it’s all about staying lean while building muscle. Getting the right vitamins and minerals isn’t the major part.
And this is exactly why bodybuilders focus on maintaining macronutrient percentages no matter where it comes from, such as rice cakes and all other carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. In the usual fitness diets, these carbohydrates are a big NO-NO.
There are two different phases in the path of bodybuilding: Bulk and Cut. In the language of bodybuilding, “Bulk” is the phase when you’re in the off-season looking to build muscles. You don’t care about the amount of fat you’re taking in since you want to get bigger.
After you get into the pre-contest period, the second phase kicks off. And this is the “Cut” phase. This is when you’re getting rid of the extra fat on your body. The only focus in this phase is to get leaner while maintaining muscle mass.
A study done by Sports Medicine states that the amount of macronutrient breakdown is exactly the same in both phases.
In this diet, 55% of the nutrients come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and the rest from fat.
The main thing that makes the difference in these two phases is the total calorie intake. In the off-season or the bulking phases, the calorie intake is the highest. This is a hyper-energetic phase when you need the muscles to fire up. So, you need a hyper-energetic diet that can provide you with all the energy you need.
This is where rice cakes come into play.
Carbohydrates for Bodybuilding
When you digest carbohydrates, your body breaks them down to glucose. The purpose of glucose in your body is to do two things. First, it supplies you with immediate energy, and second, the remaining unused glucose gets stored as fat, known as glycogen.
This fat storage is in your liver and your skeletal muscles. That means you burn this fat when you exercise. According to Clevelandclinic.org, as you exercise, your body starts to break the stored glycogen fat and provides you with energy.
The amount of glycogen in your muscles depends on how active you are. More exercise means a higher rate of glycogen depletion.
So, what do you do when you don’t have any glycogen to burn? You start to lose energy, and you become lethargic. Although your body will resort to producing energy from actual fat, that takes more time. So, the bodybuilders will severely feel a lack of energy.
Usually, seasoned athletes have a trainer in their bodies to produce more energy from fat rather than glycogen which is why they can stay lean so easily.
Hitting the Wall
This term is popular among fitness enthusiasts. You can actually compromise your performance in the gym if you don’t have enough glucose supply. This is called hitting a wall.
Without immediate energy, your body takes the energy from fat and lean muscle. And decreased lean muscle will mean reduced strength, endurance, and musculoskeletal function leading to poor performance everywhere.
With less endurance and strength, bodybuilders can’t lift weight for long and don’t work the muscles enough to make them grow.
Bodybuilders need to hit the gym twice a day to work the muscles to their full potential in the pre-contest phase. If the glycogen supply isn’t strong, they can’t perform the necessary workouts for maximum muscle gain.
That’s why bodybuilders need carbohydrates to increase glycogen storage and provide immediate energy.
Benefits of Rice Cakes
According to a report by Nutrition today, consuming 0.5-0.6 grams of rapidly digesting carbohydrates per kilogram of the body weight can push the rate of glycogen synthesis to the required level. The recommended method is to keep a 30-minute gap between each meal for up to 4 hours. By doing that you can ensure that the muscles are full.
Let me do the math for you. If a bodybuilder weighing 250 pounds eats 55 to 70 grams of high glycemic index carbohydrates every 30 minutes for 4 hours, it’s enough for a day of intense muscle workouts.
Eating protein and fat alongside carbohydrates can slow down the digestion process. So, how do you make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates and rapidly digesting them?
Well, you eat rice cakes. It’s a complete carbohydrate food containing 7.5 grams of carbohydrates and only 0.25 grams of fat, and 0.75 grams of protein. Furthermore, rice cakes are pretty low in calories, with only 35 calories per the regular size cake.
Common Questions Asked
What is a rapidly digesting carbohydrate?
There are two types of carbohydrates named Low-glycemic and high-glycemic carbohydrates. The low glycemic carbs are rich in fiber, and it takes a lot of time for them to pass through the digestion process. These are good for a slow and steady dose of energy.
On the other hand, high glycemic carbohydrates are easily digested due to the lack of fiber content. However, it’s crucial to supply instant energy to the body by quickly enriching glycogen storage.
Are rice cakes high glycemic index foods?
Yes, rice cakes are high glycemic foods, making them a regular item in a bodybuilder’s diet.
Are rice cakes healthy?
Eating only rice cakes can be quite unhealthy for overall health since it lacks fiber and many other macronutrients.
Rice cakes are quite good for bodybuilding diets, as the above article shows. But it’s never going to be a complete diet. Don’t make the mistake of relying on rice cakes only since bodybuilders maintain a complete diet consisting of all the necessary nutrients.