Oatmeal: The Ultimate Superfood
Diet plays a crucial role in running performance and recovery. Most non-runners (and the occasional runner) believe that if you run regularly, you can eat whatever you want because you burn a bunch of calories and need the energy. This is not accurate, as most people will overestimate how many calories they are actually burning during any exercise. If you are a runner trying to lose or maintain weight, it is important to keep your calories at or below the amount you are burning. What is even more important for runners and other athletes is the quality of those calories. Because of the constant work we put our muscles, bones, and organs through during long-distance training, our bodies require certain nutrients to help repair itself. It is smart to choose foods that are naturally rich in these essential nutrients to keep the healthiest diet possible.
Oats = Fuel
Oatmeal is a popular choice amongst athletes for a reason. Probably the main reason most choose this option for breakfast is because it is a quick and nutritious choice compared to spending time cooking scrambled eggs, grabbing an unhealthy muffin, or worse—forgoing breakfast altogether. Oats are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which are the “good” carbs. They are broken down in our bodies much more slowly than simple carbs, which means they keep us feeling full for a longer period of time. Oats have been promoted to provide heart heath benefits due to its healthy high fiber content that helps lower bad cholesterol.
Oat’s Nutritional Essentials
Besides providing our bodies with a good source of complex carbohydrates, oats have several other powerful nutrients that fuel athletes for any activity without weighing them down. This carbohydrate choice gives the energy you need without causing a blood sugar crash. Oats are loaded with vitamins and minerals that help repair our bodies as well, which make them a great choice for either a pre-run or post-run meal.
One serving of oats provides as much protein as one egg, which is about 7 grams. Choosing steel-cut oats, which have more groat (the protein-rich part of the oat), will give you 8 or 9 grams. This is why oats are usually a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets. Unlike whole grain rice, barley, and wheat, oats are one of the higher-protein sources of grains. Protein is an essential macronutrient for athletes since it assists with muscle repair. Mixing oats into a recovery smoothie or muffins make a quick and easy post-run snack.
Oats are filled with several of the energy-producing b vitamins—vitamin B3, B5, B6, B7, and B9. This category of vitamins is important for brain health, muscle function, and for assisting with converting food into energy in the body.
About one-third of daily requirements for iron can be found in a ½ cup of oats. Iron is extremely important for runners due to the increased energy requirements and possible destruction of red blood cells through the constant pounding on the ground every day. It is important to pair your iron sources with another nutrient such as vitamin C to help absorb that essential iron. Try topping your oatmeal with berries or mixing oats in a ‘green’ smoothie filled with kale or apple.
Oats contain about 275mg of magnesium in every serving. This mineral is important for muscle health. Magnesium is also in charge of lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, which is crucial following a hard workout. If cortisol remains elevated, the body cannot fully repair and the immune system weakens. Oats provide more magnesium than many vegetables.
This nutrient is the reason why oats provide a great benefit to heart health and weight loss. Beta glucans are the soluble fibers that keep you feeling full, remove bad cholesterol from the body, and help with regularity. These factors all play a role in the reason why oats are one of the best foods for maintaining a healthy weight and less abdominal fat.
Make it Simple
Oatmeal is a go-to breakfast for many people, and the best part about this option is that there are several different ways to make it so that you never get bored! Adding in extra protein with nut butters or protein powders is a good idea for post-workout. Nut butters and flax or chia seeds are a great addition to supply essential fats to help with iron and other mineral absorption. Fruit is always a good topping, as are nuts, cinnamon, or even a few chocolate chips for more flavor. Oats can also be added to any kind of dough to make bread, pizza or muffins, or used as a topping for smoothie bowls and yogurt.
Athletes highly benefit from food rich in the nutrients their bodies need to get stronger and recover faster. Oatmeal is one food that is packed with several of these essentials and is basically a blank canvas—there are so many ways to make it even more nutritious by adding other healthy ingredients. Since it provides a good amount of protein as well, oats can become a staple for any meal. If you have not been including oatmeal in your diet, consider switching your breakfast to this deliciously healthy alternative and you will see the benefits it has for your running performance and overall health.
- Oats as a Functional Food: A Review, Journal ,