If you were to take a poll amongst endurance athletes asking what their favorite food is to have before a workout or event, oatmeal is sure to land near the top. It has many benefits including being a great source of carbohydrates and lower on the glycemic index, but we’ll leave out the benefits in this post and get straight into how to prepare your oatmeal.
Oatmeal, just like a protein shake or smoothie, is pretty versatile. You can create great flavors with the addition of different ingredients, and it’s not just for breakfast, you can eat it any time of the day. But it’s also versatile in terms of its ability to be manipulated by adding different ingredients to meet the fueling requirements for a particular workout. The “Fuelixir Oatmeal Builder” is designed to help you choose the amount of oatmeal and additional ingredients in order to create the right balance of macronutrients to fuel (or recover!) from a workout.
We’ll offer the base ingredients, or “foundation”, for your oatmeal which is where you start. The foundation is designed to offer a good balance of all three macronutrients. After the foundation come the building blocks, these “blocks” are offered as options based on the carbohydrate requirements of a training session. In brief, shorter workouts (<90mins) that are at lower or moderate intensities really don’t require a ton of carbs, so some lower carb and lower GI additions are provided. But as the duration and intensity of exercise increases carbohydrates become more important, making it important to ensure your glycogen stores are sufficiently topped up, for this we have provided some higher carb and higher GI options. The best strategy is one of experimentation, use this as a guide and find out what works best for you and your gut! Also, we have provided some “treats” to enhance the flavor of your oatmeal.
- Carbohydrates: Depending on your caloric needs and macronutrient goals you can manipulate the amount of oatmeal you add for your base serving. 1/2 a cup is a good place to start, that’ll provide around 25g of carbohydrate depending on the brand and type. Remember to consider the blocks you are adding in your total carb count.
- Protein: Study after study has identified whey as the king of proteins. It is a complete protein and is excellent at stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Should whey not be your preference some other options are casein, soy, pea, rice, or vegan powders. Protein is often overlooked by endurance athletes, but it is important to promote recovery and to offset the breakdown that occurs during exercise. 1 scoop of whey provides between 20-30g depending on the brand. That’ll be a good serving size to start, but you can vary based on your own caloric and macronutrient goals.
- Fat: The importance of fat is often overlooked. It is a primary fuel source for your workouts and also helps with satiety. Coconut milk adds great flavor and provides a healthy source of fat. Try to choose a brand with as fewer ingredients as possible. Ideally there should be just the one; coconut milk! Depending on your daily caloric and macronutrient goals you can vary the amount. A ¼ cup is a good start and will provide about 10g of fat.
This foundation will provide around 400-500 calories with a well balanced macronutrient profile; ~30g of carbs, ~25g of protein, and ~25g of fat.
The Building Blocks
For low intensity and/or shorter durations (e.g. aerobic pace and/or <90 mins)
- You could go with no additions to the foundation and skip straight to adding some zero calorie “treats” (below) to enhance the flavor. For example vanilla or peppermint extract.
- Adding one ¼ cup of berries (blueberries or raspberries) is a great low carb and low GI addition to your oatmeal that provides great flavor with only a few additional calories and carbs. This would be a great option if your low intensity workout is moving towards that 90 mins to 2 hour range.
- 1 tbsp of nut butter (for example almond or peanut butter) provides some awesome flavor and consistency to your oatmeal while adding a few extra calories. Go for all natural nut butters, and again try and find brands containing just one or as few ingredients as possible.
For medium intensity and/or moderate durations (e.g. tempo pace and/or ~2 hours)
- To up the carbohydrate content of your oatmeal you can start with one of the low carb additions above and then simply add one of the following. These natural high GI sources of energy will provide a few extra carbohydrates to fuel your workout.
- 1 tbsp of raw honey, maple syrup, or agave.
- ½ banana
- ½ apple
- ⅛ cup of raisins
- If you require a few more calories but don’t want to add too many more carbohydrates, nuts are a great option. For example almonds, walnuts, pecans, or brazil nuts. Just one thumb sized portion should be sufficient.
For higher intensity and/or longer durations (e.g. threshold work or HIIT and/or >2 hours)
- For these workouts it’s all about carbohydrates. 1-2g per kg of body weight is a good place to start, but you should experiment to find what works best for you. Here are some great tasting examples to add to the foundation based on a 75kg (165lb) athlete who would require ~70-150g of carbohydrate.
- 1 banana + 1 tbsp maple syrup + ¼ cup of berries (~75g carbs with foundation)
- 1 apple + 1tbsp honey + ⅛ cup of raisins (~85g carbs with foundation)
- 1 mango + 1tbsp agave syrup + 1tbsp coconut flakes (~90g with foundation)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree + 1 tbsp maple syrup + 2 chopped mejdool dates + 1 chopped apple (~100g with foundation)
Treats…add a selection! Get creative. Just be careful on the portions, you only need a very small amount of these. A few drops, or a teaspoon, or a thumb sized portion.
- Peppermint extract
- Maca powder
- Cacao nibs
- Cacao powder
- Coconut flakes
- Dark chocolate chips
- Vanilla extract
- Add ¼ cup of coconut milk and ~1 cup of water to a pan.
- Bring liquid to a boil.
- Add oatmeal and let cook (see instructions on the back of your oatmeal pack).
- Put in a bowl, add your protein powder, and stir until mixed well.
- Add your desired blocks and treats, stir in, and enjoy!
A Fuelixir favorite for high intensity long duration workouts – “PB & J Oatmeal”
- ½ cup of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats
- 1 scoop of Now Sports Whey Protein Isolate Natural Vanilla
- 1 tbsp CB’s Peanut Butter
- ½ sliced banana
- ¼ cup mixed berries
- 1 tbsp of raw honey
- 1 tsp of maca powder
Provides ~570 calories with ~75g carbs, ~40g protein, ~35g fat