9 Simple Reasons Why Runners Should Drink Rice Milk

There has been quite a hype about rice milk in the running community recently. More and more runners including marathoners and ultramarathoners make rice milk by themselves at home. Why is that and what is so special about it?

Rice milk is a great alternative to dairy milk or other plant-based kinds of milk such as almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk. Obviously, all of them have their pros and cons.

I am a runner myself and since I have discovered the benefits of homemade rice milk, I have never gone back to drinking dairy. See it by yourself!

Rice milk is a great source of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide a lot of the energy that humans need to power their muscles. They are not only important for muscles and therefore movement in general, but they are also crucial for fueling your brain.

Rice milk is a great source of carbohydrates. A typical runner needs around 5-7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day in carbohydrates.

One glass (244 grams) of rice milk contains about 22,4 grams of carbs comparing to 4,9 grams in the case of cow’s milk, 12 grams in the case of soy milk and 13 grams for almond milk. A glass of coconut milk contains about 9 grams of carbs.

In addition, rice milk has a high glycemic index (86) which means that it is quickly digested and then converted to glucose and energy. That makes rice milk ideal pre-workout food beating its dairy and plant-based milk alternatives big time.

How do carbs turn into energy?

How carbohydrates turn to energy

After consuming your rice milk, your liver converts carbohydrates that the drink contains into complex chains of glucose molecules called glycogen. Glycogen is then either stored directly in the liver or in muscle cells and becomes a secondary source of energy for your body. The primary source of energy is glucose that is freely circulating in your blood.

Rice milk is full of antioxidants

Homemade rice milk or carefully chosen rice milk from the store is an amazing source of antioxidants. That is great news for runners as antioxidants play a key role in preventing muscle damage during long workouts.

During long exercise, your muscle cells are being constantly attacked by oxidative stress. Post-run marathoners’ blood tests show a 6,25-fold muscle stress increase comparing to prior-run levels.

More antioxidants you include in your diet, less damage to muscles which means you can run longer and recover quicker.

Antioxidants are actually beneficial for all your body not only running muscles. They help to neutralize free radicals which are produced during the process of cellular respiration. Eating food that contains antioxidants can significantly reduce the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma attacks or Alzheimer’s.

Most fruits and vegetables contain a high level of antioxidants and therefore should be regularly on your food list.

Antioxidants

Rice milk has a significantly higher amount of antioxidants than cows’ milk and similar amounts as other plant milks.

Rice milk has less fat than any other type of milk

One cup of homemade rice milk prepared from white rice, brown rice or whole-grain rice contains only 2 grams of fat. That is less than any other milk alternative out there.

In comparison with cow’s milk, one cup of whole cow’s milk has 8 grams of fat, which is 4 times more. Low-fat cow milk has about 3 grams. Other plant-based milks range from 3 to 5 grams per cup, which makes rice milk the best choice between milk options available.

The thing that makes rice milk even more valuable is that it does not contain almost any saturated fat (0,1 g). Saturated fats are the “bad fats”, fat molecules saturated with hydrogen molecules that are typically solid at room temperature. They are responsible for blood cholesterol increases and not limiting them in your food can lead to cardiovascular problems.

If we look at dairy alternative, 60% of its fat is saturated, which is not good news for your heart. Most people are aware of this and prefer to drink plant milks instead.

Rice milk vs Whole cow's milk

Saturated fats are not recommended for runners as well. In search of optimal body performance, runners should focus on so-called “healthy fats” (liquid at room temperature) which are present in food like eggs, fish, seeds, nuts or avocados.

Rice milk has no cholesterol

High cholesterol poses a considerable risk for heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the U.S according to the CDC. That is one of many reasons why a lot of people substitute high-cholesterol food ingredients with high-nutrition low-fat alternatives.

You may ask, what is wrong with cholesterol? Well, cholesterol creates fat deposits inside of your blood vessels. The more of these unwanted deposits, the more difficult it becomes for your heart to distribute blood around the body as arteries and veins allow less flow. To secure that oxygen and proper nutrition get to all important tissues and organs, the heart needs to pump stronger and blood pressure increases.

Cholesterol

For runners, proper blood flow is absolutely crucial during a workout. The ability of the heart to deliver the proper amount of oxygen and glucose to running muscles is the key factor in a runner’s energy production and therefore performance.

According to American Heart Association, the daily intake of cholesterol should not exceed 300 mg.

A cup of whole cow’s milk contains about 24 mg of it, which is obviously not a tragedy. But in combination with some of the high cholesterol food like eggs, cheese, butter or meat products, milk selection can play its role.

Rice milk, in contrast, has 0 g cholesterol.

Rice milk is gluten-free and vegan-friendly

Well isn’t that nice? Gluten-free and vegan together? Quality homemade rice milk is a product literally for everyone!

To be fair, we have to admit that cow’s milk is completely free of gluten as well. But far away from vegan with its full scale of animal proteins.

There are more and more long-distance runners going vegan these days. Many have noticed how much more energy they have when they get rid of some of the recipes with animal-based ingredients.

Vegan milks
Picture from Getty images

Inflammation is another story. Due to a high level of plant-based nutrients, vegan runners report less inflammation after long runs leading to shorter recovery times.

One famous case that speaks for many is a famous ultramarathoner, 7 times winner of Western States 100 and 3 times Badwater ultramarathon winner Scott Jurek. His book Eat and Run is a pure inspiration for those who seek more insights into running nutrition.

Back to the topic though. 🙂

Comparing to its dairy alternative, rice milk does not contain the allergens (mainly protein called casein) found in animal kinds of milk, which makes it a great option for those with dietary restrictions.

Cow’s milk is actually one of 8 foods responsible for most food allergies between children. (together with peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, wheat, fish and eggs).

Rice milk is rich in vitamins and minerals

Not surprisingly, rice milk contains generous amounts of vitamins and minerals that are essential for all of us, especially for runners. It contains nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, sodium, calcium and iron. Let’s have a more detailed look at some rice milk nutrition facts. Following nutrition data were taken from the USDA website.

Rice milk is full of vitamins

Vitamin B12

The number of vitamins can obviously vary based on the producer of milk. Nothing compares to homemade rice milk made from quality ingredients though. One cup of rice milk contains 1,54 micrograms of vitamin B12 which stands for 64% of the B12 daily value recommendation. Cow’s milk, in contrast, contains 1,07 micrograms of B12.

Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient. It is irreplaceable for the functioning of the nervous system, the creation of new blood cells and plenty of metabolical functions.

Vitamin A

Some of the basic functions of vitamin A are that is necessary for the creation of a hormone called rhodopsin which is an eye pigment required to see in conditions of low light, it is an important antioxidant or it is crucial to body cells general health.

Our body can produce Vitamin A from pigment present in fruits and vegetables called beta-Carotene. If you look for healthy food with high levels of beta-Carotene, check Spirulina, which is a food supplement used by many athletes.

One cup of rice milk actually contains 154 micrograms of vitamin A which is about 20% of recommended DV. A comparison with whole cow’s milk which contains 68 micrograms of vitamin A plays in favor of rice milk alternatives.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral highly important for runners but obviously not only for them. It is needed to maintain strong bones, muscles, and teeth. Calcium also helps in muscle contraction.

One glass of homemade rice milk has almost 300 milligrams of calcium standing for 22% of recommended DV. Alternative milk products contain similar calcium levels and therefore can be considered as substitutes in this aspect.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and promote bone health. It is also beneficial for your immune system. One cup of rice milk contains 2,4 micrograms (12 % of the recommended DV) of vitamin D, a comparable amount to some other milk options.

Rice Milk has no lactose and is easier to digest

Rice milk has zero lactose which makes it a nutritious option for those who are lactose intolerant.

Lactose is a form of sugar found in milk. An enzyme used to break down this sugar is called lactase. Not all of us are able to produce enough lactase enzyme to properly digest dairy milk which often leads to intestinal issues such as diarrhea, bloating or gas.

RIce milk, nut milk or oat milk become the simplest alternatives. They are equally or more nutritious and you should have no trouble digesting them.

Gastrointestinal issues and bloating are common running problems, specifically for long-distance runners. Some food may be difficult to digest due to a lack of blood in the digestive organs during long workouts. (blood is being redirected into running muscles). Therefore it is highly advised to experiment during training runs to figure out which nutrition works for you the best.

Rice milk is definitely an option to consider. It is definitely easier to digest than its dairy alternative. Try to see some rice milk recipe and see by yourself.

Rice milk is easy and cheap to prepare at home

Lots of runners and not only them actually make rice milk at home. It is because it is easy and cheap to prepare. You just need some rice, water and a blender or food processor.

There are many rice milk recipes you can find online if you do not want to experiment on your own. My favorite website for quick and easy recipes is called Minimalist Baker.

My favorite homemade rice milk recipe ingredients

  • 1 cup of white rice / brown rice
  • 4 cups of filtered water (put less water if you like your milk to be more creamy)
  • 1–2 dates as natural rice milk sweetener (or 20–30 ml of maple syrup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract for smell and better taste
  • 1–2 tablespoons of cocoa powder if you like to make it a “chocolate milk” 🙂
Homemade rice milk

Preparation

Put the rice in a bowl or bigger cup and cover it fully with hot water (not boiling). Let it soak for about 2 hours. After 2 hours, the rice will be still raw but bloated. You should be able to easily halve the rice grain with your nail.

Put all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend for about 2 minutes. When the mixture is ready, taste it. If you think it is not sweet enough, add some more natural sweetener. If it is too creamy, add more water. Blend for 1 more minute.

Rice milk is generally sweeter than its milk alternatives so the amount of additional sweetener is completely up to your preference. If you have high blood sugar, you may consider no additional sweetener at all.

When the drink is ready, it is desirable to filter it, to get rid of the rest of the solid rice parts. You can simply strain the rice milk through a nut milk bag or a piece of cloth.

Finally, store your homemade rice milk in the glass containers and refrigerate for 4-5 days.

Voilà! Your first homemade rice milk is ready to drink!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your rice milk recipe next time though! Feel free to add some additional ingredients according to your preference.

The shelf life of your rice milk is about 7-10 days, so feel free to use it in more recipes fitting your diet. It is ideal to prepare sauces or smoothies.

White rice vs Brown rice. Does it matter?

White rice vs Brown rice

No, it actually does not really matter, it is fully up to your preference. Any type of rice you have around is suitable to make homemade rice milk. Including grain rice. If you have some leftover rice and don’t know what to do with it, feel free!

Many runners like brown rice more. Brown rice is a bit more healthy as it contains more nutrients. Brown rice contains a lot of fiber that can help improve digestion during the run. It is also a great source of magnesium. But it also has a longer cooking time.

I personally prefer white rice because I like to make rice milk as white as possible. But both of them are just fine for your rice milk recipe.

The downside of rice milk

In the previous paragraphs, some evidence of the benefits of rice milk over cow’s milk has been provided. Now, let’s mention the main rice milk downside so you are able to make proper diet choices.

It is naive to think that some kind of rice milk miracle recipe will magically improve your running performance. It is all about understanding what are its advantages and why you may want to add it to your diet. Timing is crucial as well.

As rice milk is high on carbs, it makes it an ideal pre-workout drink. Not only it will replenish your carbs storages but it will also increase your blood sugar quickly due to the high glycemic index. That means quick energy for your long run. Cooked rice is often used by ultrarunners to replenish carbs during their extra-long races as well.

Lack of protein

Protein powder

The main disadvantage of rice milk is that it is low on protein. One glass of rice milk has 0,7 grams of protein comparing to 8 grams present in cow’s milk (recommended DV is 50 grams).

Protein plays a vital role in muscle tissue repair and recovery which makes rice milk not a good option for a post-workout tissue-repair drink.

The low protein content is one of the reasons why many brands come with so-called “fortified rice milk”. Fortified rice milk is rice milk with an additional protein supplement added.

If you prefer to fortify your own homemade rice milk by yourself, you can use one of the vegan protein powders and include it in your recipe.

Some other rice-based products

Rice is a versatile food crop that can be used to make a number of different types of products. The rice milk industry has grown exponentially in recent years but there are also other interesting products being made from rice.

Rice flour

Rice flour is a type of cereal that is made by grinding rice grains. It can be used as an ingredient in cooking or baking, replacing wheat-based flours and other types of grain mills.

It is gluten-free, vegan and contains fewer calories than grain. Good to experiment for those who like to prepare their own long-run snacks!

Milk rice

Milk rice

Milk rice is a type of dish that uses milk and rice as its main ingredients. The milk may be evaporated, condensed or fresh to produce this protein-rich food which can then be consumed on its own or used in other recipes.

By using rice milk, it turns into a soft dessert with hints of sweetness. Add some cocoa powder and there you go!

Rice pulp

Rice pulp is a by-product of rice milling that consists of the outer layers and some or all of the internal material.

It can then be used in many different ways, such as animal feed, fertilizer for farmland, compost to create soil nutrients or even fuel pellets if dried out properly.

The bottom line

If you’re a runner who likes to eat healthily, consider substituting dairy milk with rice milk. Rice milk is full of carbohydrates and antioxidants that will keep your energy levels up during those long runs.

It also has less fat than any other type of milk available on the market today. Plus it’s gluten-free, vegan-friendly and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Remember though to replace your protein intakes from other sources in case you are not using the fortified rice milk version. To fortify your homemade rice milk, consider protein powder.

All the facts mentioned above can make rice milk a great choice for runners looking to boost their diet while trying to hit their running goals on the road.

About author

Blog author

My name is Tomas and I like to run…a lot! Running is my passion and exploring new things including food keeps me going strong. Sometimes when I feel really stressed out from work, I go for a long-distance jog just to clear my head, it’s so invigorating!

One thing that always gets me through the day is carbs- I could eat pasta every day if you let me haha! One of my favorite meals is garlic bread with some spaghetti on top covered in cheese- yummy. 🙂

If you have some healthy recipes for me, I would be delighted to hear from you! Comment on this article below or contact me at my email address info@allformarathon.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *