A simple bowl of oatmeal with some berries on top just might be the fuel that powers you to your next PB. While every runner or triathlete has differing dietary needs, oatmeal checks off some of the boxes for most of us and can be a great way to start your day or to have as a snack post-workout. Here’s why you should go back to basics and fill up your bowl with oats this morning.
Oatmeal is nutritionally rich and inexpensive
One ½ cup serving of old-fashioned oats contains 28 grams of carbohydrates. Carbs are your friend as an endurance athlete – and some sources, like oatmeal, are more nutrient-dense than others. Oats contain complex carbohydrates and are full of fibre, which aids in slowing down the rate at which carbs are released into your bloodstream.
Anyone who has ever experienced the phenomenon called “bonking” (also sometimes called hitting the wall) will appreciate oatmeal for its ability to fuel you for longer without a crash.
Sports dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede explains: “when you’re looking to hit a performance goal, you’ll need a steady intake of carbs throughout the day to keep your glycogen levels high and your body ready to go whenever the opportunity for a sweat session arises.
Oatmeal is great post-workout, too – while we often focus on the protein we need to eat after a workout, carbs are necessary to replenish glycogen stores so that you’re primed for your next workout.
Choose toppings to make your bowl extra delicious (and even more nutritious)
Oats are already a tiny powerhouse of nutrition, packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals that help support overall health and well-being, including iron, zinc and B vitamins. Add a few toppers, and you’ll create a bowl to suit almost anyone’s taste–and you’ll check off even more of your dietary needs while you’re at it.
Instead of adding brown sugar to sweeten a bowl of plain oats, top it with cinnamon, berries, or milk (soy and almond milk work perfectly if you’re opting out of dairy). Add some protein by whisking in an egg white (your oats will be incredibly creamy and delicious) or add a scoop of your favourite healthy protein powder.
Research suggests that the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio after endurance exercise is around 4:1. Whisking an egg into your oatmeal and topping it with banana, chopped apple or raisins will nail that perfect post-workout ratio.
Time your oatmeal toppings for optimal energy and recovery
The list of things to add to your oats is seemingly endless, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the timing of your toppings. Chia seeds and flax are often included in recipes for overnight oats: milk or yogurt and toppings are added to your oats the night before you eat them, eliminating the need to cook your oats and allowing them to soak in that deliciousness.
While we love tasty overnight oats and both chia seeds and flax add a fabulous nutritional boost, they also add fibre (usually a good thing, but timing is everything). Use caution when adding extra fibre to your bowl if you’re eating it pre-run.
While oatmeal in general is very gentle on most stomachs as a pre-run fuel, adding fibre right before you run may have you making a dash for the nearest public washroom. Save the fibre-rich toppings for the days you have more time to digest before you run, or for your post-run fix.