Even people here in Japan thought I was crazy…
After all, what sane person would eat through a 10-kg/22-lb bag of white rice in only 31 days?
I mean, that’s a whopping 37,000 Calories from processed carbs.
(Hell, even I can’t believe that I managed to pull it off!)
And here’s what that looks like, with a can of ice-cold Sapporo Classic for scale :)
So polishing off that in only 31 days (I’d originally planned on 33) was a pretty big ask.
But here’s the $64,000 question:
Does rice make you fat?
Well, here’s what happened to my weight over the past month:
On the morning of Day 1, I weighed in at 183.2 lbs (83.1kg).
And on the morning of Day 31 (the day after finishing the last few grains left in the bag)…
…I weighed in at 182.8lbs (82.8kg)
So, here’s the bottom line:
Amazingly, I actually lost weight while consuming a diet that included 37,000 Calories-worth of white rice.
Now at this point, let’s just be clear about one thing:
This isn’t about bodyweight, this is about fat.
After all, some folks might claim that I lost a load of muscle mass and gained a bunch of fat.
(Even though that’s pretty much impossible when you’re doing resistance training and eating a lot of protein).
Well, all I can say is that I neither saw nor felt any difference in body composition.
My pants didn’t get snug around the waist and it didn’t appear like I’d put on any fat when I looked in the bathroom mirror…
(In case you’re wondering, there was no pumping up or any of that other nonsense beforehand)
And if you look carefully, you can see the Band-Aid on my forearm from the blood test that morning.
So, here’s the only reasonable conclusion:
Eating white rice doesn’t automatically lead to weight or fat gain
…even for a caucasian guy that’s supposedly “unadapted” to eating rice :)
Blood Sugar, Rice, Magik
OK, having visible abs doesn’t automatically translate to good health.
(Hell, if it did, Iggy Pop would’ve been one of the healthiest people on Earth)
So, that’s why I had blood drawn at both the beginning and end of the 31-day rice-a-thon.
The major things of interest being:
• Fasting blood glucose – used to diagnose diabetes, and
• Blood lipids (LDL-c, HDL-c, triglycerides and Apo-B) – used to identify the risk of cardiovascular disease
Well, here’s how the results panned out:
Amazingly, fasting blood glucose was actually LOWER after a month of relentless rice eating.
But let’s not get carried away here…
These numbers are all inherently variable, so it’s not possible to say that my fasting blood glucose “improved by 10%”.
So, I’m happy to go with the doc’s take on my results:
All things considered, your before and after results are identical
Eating white rice doesn’t automatically lead to an increased risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease
I know that sounds almost heretical, but it’s true.
No Cheating, No Hacks
Now, thanks to the “carbs are evil” bandwagon, many folks have a strong emotional attachment to this idea:
Eating white rice causes blood sugar to rise
Rising blood sugar levels lead to increased insulin release
Insulin blunts fat burning and promotes fat storage
Even to the point where I’ve been told that I somehow “hacked” my system because I didn’t gain weight.
(There’s our old friend, confirmation bias – the very thing that kiai master Yanagi Ryuken and his students had in spades)
So, here’s the deal:
Overall Food Intake
First off, this wasn’t one of those faddish rice-only diets.
No, I just had a few simple guidelines:
• Eat enough rice each day to allow me to finish the bag within 33 days
• Consume 180 grams of protein each day from lean meat, fish and whey protein
• Eat a ton of fibrous vegetables
I didn’t count calories, I just ate until I felt full.
And I weighed myself on my super-accurate (and crazy expensive) Tanita scales everyday upon waking and using the bathroom.
I didn’t time or plan meals to try and “hack my biology” and minimize fat gain through short-term hormonal changes after working out.
Nope, I simply ate a massive bowl of rice with both lunch and dinner, everyday for 31 days straight.
(And I guess that blows the whole “eating rice at night makes you gain weight” thing out the water, too)
Over the 31 days, my training volume actually dropped.
During the first two weeks, I ran maybe 6 hours in total (my first marathon was on Day 8).
I’m guessing that I burned around 5,000 Calories during that, but get this – that entire day was a total sugar-fest.
Energy gels, sports drinks, PowerBars, candy, beer, ice cream, Coca Cola and anything else I could get my hands on.
Well, during the last two weeks, I did zero running and just kept the same schedule of barbell training that I have for months.
Just 2 hours per week in total, with most of that time spent resting between sets of squats, overhead presses, chin ups, bench presses and deadlifts.
I made precisely zero attempt to offset the increased carb intake with increased activity.
So there were no cheats and no hacks.
White Rice: Don’t Believe the Hype
Listen, if you get nothing else from this article, always remember that:
Short-term, transient hormonal responses shouldn’t be extrapolated to long-term, clinically-relevant outcomes
(A clinically-relevant outcome being something like heart attack, hospitalization or death)
The fact that spiking insulin can be ONE PART OF A PROCESS that could lead to a clinically-relevant outcome doesn’t automatically mean that spiking insulin IS a clinically-relevant outcome.
That’s a fundamental mistake that folks who obsess about food always seem to overlook.
The reality is that it’s possible to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight while eating rice (or any other food).
What determines that?
The amount being eaten and the context in which it’s being consumed.
Furthermore, eating white rice won’t automatically send your fasting blood sugar soaring.
Or your blood lipids into a flat spin.
Bestselling authors with a carbophobic agenda might not want you to believe that…
…but it doesn’t make it any less true.