For years, oatmeal has been a staple part of the western diet. It’s cheap, easy to prepare and packed with soluble fiber, which helps ward off that mid-morning hunger.
But oatmeal is more than just a quick breakfast picked up from Starbucks on the way to work, or something rushed down before the school run. Nutritionists actually recommended oatmeal for bodybuilders, athletes and fitness fanatics to keep them on top of their game.
To celebrate the nutritional powerhouse that is oatmeal, we’re sharing a tasty recipe that turns this breakfast favourite into a surprisingly delicious dinner.
But first, let’s talk about why oatmeal is so damn fantastic.
Why every athlete needs oatmeal
There’s a ton of reasons why athletes should keep a good supply of oats in their kitchen. Here are some reasons why oatmeal is so highly regarded by nutritionists:
1. It’s a complex carbohydrate
Oatmeal is slower to digest than refined carbs like cereals and white breads, and keeps you feeling full for hours after eating it. Carbs are often painted as an enemy, but they’re one of the most important nutrients in an athlete’s diet. When carbs are digested, they’re broken down into glucose, which is stored in the muscles and liver to use as fuel. The energy that carbs provide helps improve athletic performance by reducing your fatigue and allowing you to exercise for longer.
Carbs are also important for muscle gain; when there isn’t enough stored glucose in the body, muscle protein is used for energy. This can lead to acute muscle soreness and an increased recovery time, so it’s essential athletes get enough carbs.
2. It’s packed with nutrients
Oatmeal is filled with essential nutrients, including magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Though these vitamins are an important part of everyone’s diet, athletes and bodybuilders need to pay special attention to them. Magnesium is a mineral that’s great for helping your body recover from a workout, as it works to relieve sore muscles and promote the regrowth of your muscles cells. Iron is important for maintaining your energy levels, and B vitamins help with a variety of things, including energy, muscle function and your overall brain health. Oats also pack a good protein punch, with about ½ cup of oats giving you as much as 9 grams of protein.
Want even more protein from your breakfast? Try stirring nuts and seeds into your oatmeal for some tasty crunch.
3. It’s rich in soluble fiber
Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber, which is the type of fibre that ferments in your colon, helping to increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. Soluble fibre has numerous health benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed by the body. Unlike insoluble fiber, which helps food pass quickly through the intestines, soluble fiber slows your digestion down. It does this by attracting water and turning to gel during digestion, which gives your body more time to absorb the other nutrients in oats. This slowed digestion also helps control blood glucose levels, making it a great choice for diabetics, as it prevents sudden spikes of these levels in the blood.
4. Oats are easy to customise
The final reason athletes should jump on the oatmeal bandwagon is: it’s super easy to customise! Professional athletes often follow a strict diet, which can lead them feeling a little bored when it comes to mealtime. But oatmeal is one of those dishes that’s never dull: similarly to pasta, it’s endlessly customisable and super affordable. Chuck in some cacao powder, fresh berries, almonds, maple syrup or some chopped banana – the possibilities are endless!
Which oats should you buy?
Obviously the pre-cooked, maple-flavoured oats are not your best option. So which oats should you be buying? To help you out on grocery day, we’ve broken down the different types of oats into a handy list:
Steel-cut oats: The least-processed form of oats that you can buy. These are cut oat groats and are processed as little as possible.
Rolled oats: Sometimes known as old-fashioned oats, rolled oats are steamed, rolled and toasted, which means they lose some of their nutrients. However, they’re still a healthy choice and are faster to cook than steel-cut oats.
Instant oats: These are pre-cooked and then dried, meaning they’re the fastest oats to cook. However, they’re also the most processed, which means they lose a lot of their nutrients. Instant oats often come prepackaged with a lot of added sugar, so try to stick to steel-cut and rolled oats.
So, oatmeal is pretty fantastic, and should absolutely be incorporated into everyone’s diet. But it’s not exclusive to breakfast: there are a whole host of tasty recipes to turn oatmeal into a savoury dish.
Here’s our favourite lunchtime oatmeal recipe:
Baked potato oatmeal
Sounds weird at first, right? Before you start questioning our sanity, hear us out.
Remember – oats are a grain, just like the wheat that makes up pasta. They aren’t restricted to breakfasts filled with sugar and cinnamon. Because oats are relatively flavourless on their own, you can use them as a base or an ingredient for all sorts of meals, from curries and cheddar bakes to, well, baked potato oatmeal.
This meal is packed with nutritional goodness that’ll keep you powering through your workout. You’ll get a boatload of protein, a lot of slow-digesting carbs, and a meal that’ll keep you full for hours.
3/4 cup of cooked rolled oats
2/3 cup of cubed red potatoes
2 slices of bacon (preferably turkey bacon, uncured and free of preservatives)
1 tbsp of shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp of 2% Greek yogurt
Chopped green onions for garnish
A pinch of garlic powder, salt and pepper to season
- Set your oven to 410°F to preheat. While the oven is heating up, cook your oats according to the packet instructions. When the oatmeal is ready, pour into a bowl and set aside.
- Drizzle your cubed potatoes with olive oil, and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the potatoes out evenly on a baking tray, and cook in the oven until the soft (approximately 20 minutes). Test them with a fork after the time is up.
- While the potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon in a pan with some olive oil. Once the edges of the bacon start to curl up, flip the slices over and continue cooking until both sides are crispy.
- Once the bacon is cooked, set it aside and allow it to cool. Then, chop the bacon into small square pieces.
- When the potatoes and bacon are ready, you can start to layer them on top of the oatmeal. Add the potatoes first, then the bacon bits, and top with the yogurt and the cheddar cheese. Garnish with green onions, and add more salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve and enjoy!