Rice Bulking Update: Bring On The Gluten

It's been one month since I started my Rice Bulking Experiment. The goal here is to learn how to spend minimal time and effort to gain weight and muscle mass while staying lean.

The reason I'm calling this a "rice bulk" is because I've been using white rice to make up for the increase in calories I need on top of my formerly-low-carb diet. White rice is inexpensive and easy to prepare in large batches. This has allowed me to keep the rest of my weekly routine relatively consistent in terms of meal prep.

The overall routine in July was as follows:

Diet

  • 350-450g (450-600 calories) of cooked white rice per day 
  • Averaged at least 2,000 calories per day while targeting 150g carbohydrate, 125g protein, 100g fat on non-cheat days
  • Cheat days on Fridays and Saturdays
  • No breakfast -- just coffee and sometimes almonds (20-30g) when hungry. 

Workout

  • 30 min workouts on Wednesdays and Sundays for total of 1 hr per week
  • Bodyweight exercises only including:
    • Push exercise: incline push-ups, handstand push-ups (feet against a wall), dips
    • Pull exercise: pull-ups, chin-ups, inverted rows (lying underneath a table) 
    • Lower body exercise: bodyweight squats and sprinting up 15 flights of stairs to my apartment 
  • Only 1 set of a given exercise until unable to do anymore reps

Results from the first month

I started this experiment on July 1, 2014 weighing in at 62.5 kg with 9.4% body fat. By July 31, I weighed in at 64.9 kg with 9.4% body fat. 

If we do the math, this translates into a weight increase of 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) with 2.2 kg coming from increased muscle mass and the remaining 0.2 kg coming from fat.

In other words, 90% of the weight I gained came from muscle. This sounds pretty great, but because we’re dealing with pretty small numbers here, it doesn’t make too much sense to overanalyze the numbers at this point. An extra glass of water or going to the bathroom can shift the numbers significantly. 

The important thing for now is that my routine has indeed helped me gain weight without putting on too much body fat, and I am now only 3.1 kg away from my weight goal of 68 kg. 

At this rate, it seems I should be able to reach my goal by the end of August.    

Top: weight in kg. Bottom: body fat %. Note that I was in Taipei during the 2nd week of July and did not take any measurements during that period. I also had a few more cheat meals than usual but came back to Shanghai only 0.4 kg heavier than when I left.

Top: weight in kg. Bottom: body fat %. Note that I was in Taipei during the 2nd week of July and did not take any measurements during that period. I also had a few more cheat meals than usual but came back to Shanghai only 0.4 kg heavier than when I left.

Questions to explore

Based on my experience with bulking this first month, here are a few questions that come to mind that might serve as topics for future experiments:

  • Breakfast has been an optional meal for me since my high school freshman year at boarding school where I was free from pressure to eat breakfast every morning. How big a factor is skipping breakfast (or “intermittent fasting” to use a fancier term) when it comes to burning fat? 
  • To make sure my body has enough “stuff” to build additional mass, I’ve been having two cheat days per week. Would I have gained weight with one cheat day? Were there certain cheat days that were more extreme and thus led to more weight gain for that week?
  • It seems body weight exercises are indeed sufficient for gaining muscle mass. But at what point is it necessary to start introducing external weights for increased resistance? 
  • While I was in Taipei, I felt that beef noodles and other wheat/gluten-based goodies left my stomach feeling super bloated, while rice seems to not have the same impact. Is there a difference between rice and wheat on the body? Is one fattier than the other? Is the gluten-free craze warranted? 

Plan for next month: Eat Pasta

The question comparing rice and wheat is an interesting one. I’ve lived in Asia for nearly half my life, and it seems quite clear that obesity is not (yet) a problem despite the fact that white rice represents a huge chunk of calories in most Asian diets. Noodles and breads are of course commonly eaten as well; but few would disagree with the fact that rice is the dominant carb for most Asian countries.

Given this, my hunch is that white rice perhaps isn't as fatty as wheat-based carbs like pasta and bread that make up a large portion of Western diets.  

In order to test out this hunch, I've decided to swap out rice for pasta in August. Basically, I’ll need to replace the daily calories that I’ve been getting from rice with calories from pasta instead -- I'll also need to settle on a "standard" pasta to eat everyday. Everything else in this bulking experiment will remain the same.  

I'll be going on a two-week trip to Italy towards the end of September so this adjustment to the experiment might provide me with a better sense for how much pasta and pizza I'll be able to stuff my face with before things start getting out of hand.

[This is Update 1 of this experiment. Check out Bulking 0Bulking 2Conclusion]

What did you think about this article? Comments are always welcome!