There's nothing like an intense 60- or 75-minute muscle-building workout to get you pumped up—and wrung out. You had your shake a while back, and now you're hungry as a tiger. The restaurant menu offers a number of carbohydrate choices, and of course they all sound good.

Let's see... there's orange juice, a Caesar salad, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, broccoli florets, and white rice. Which one is the best choice? As with many things in life, the simplest: white rice. Here's why.

Rice Is Nice For Mass Gains

Hard training expends muscle glycogen to fuel your workout, while elevating levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol. That makes post-workout the optimal time for a fast-digesting meal. That's one reason many bodybuilders choose to bring their shaker cup to the gym, but it's an idea worth extending to your first post-workout meal, too.

This isn't to diss vegetables. Definitely focus on slow-digesting carbs and veggies throughout the day to provide a steady stream of energy, get essential nutrients, and limit gains in body fat. Plenty of physique competitors even take this to the next level, timing up to 80 percent or more of their carb intake before and after their workouts.


Not all carb choices are created equal when looking to replace muscle glycogen quickly post-workout. That's the best time for a high-glycemic food like white rice.

And with good reason! Before a workout, carbs are an easy energy source. Post-workout, your body benefits from fast-digesting carbs to drive amino acids to your muscles and get you on the road to recovery. If your meal is between two-a-day workouts, this is doubly true.

Conversely, complex carbs like whole-wheat pasta and oats have their place, but they also take a long time to digest. Veggies, though technically carbs, contain few grams of carbohydrates and are loaded with fiber, which also slows digestion. Orange juice contains a high amount of fructose, or natural fruit sugar. Although you may think this is a perfect choice, fructose has been shown to preferentially replenish liver glycogen before muscle glycogen, which isn't the benefit you're seeking after something like a high-volume leg session.[1,2]

No matter what you eat the rest of the day, some white rice and a hunk of protein are your ideal choices after a tough workout when the goal is muscle growth. Load up your plate confident that these carbs are your friends.

  1. Conlee, R. K., Lawler, R. M., & Ross, P. E. (1987). Effects of glucose or fructose feeding on glycogen repletion in muscle and liver after exercise or fastingAnnals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 31(2), 126-132.
  2. Décombaz, J., Jentjens, R., Ith, M., Scheurer, E., Buehler, T., Jeukendrup, A., & Boesch, C. (2011). Fructose and galactose enhance postexercise human liver glycogen synthesisMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(10), 1964-1971.

About the Author

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger, MA, has served as a senior content editor for and group editorial director with MuscleMag and Reps magazines.

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