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Why Every Athlete Needs Oats

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Oatmeal is one of the most beloved breakfast dishes out there; this is nothing new. Oats are great for keeping you full, providing you with fiber, and are incredibly versatile, cheap, and easy to prepare. Whether you cook them on the stove, in the microwave, soak them overnight, or even bake with them, oats are a handy grain to keep in your plant-powered kitchen.

Oats are a common food eaten among a wide variety of ages, from kids to teens, and adults, they’re a classic staple grain that most people enjoy. But they’re beneficial for more than just the average person. Athletes can benefit from using oats in their diet for several reasons, which is why they’re often one of the star grains eaten on a body-building program or recommended for a general athlete’s diet. 

If you’re an athlete, you need complex carbohydrates and protein from foods like oats in your diet from specific sources to provide you with energy without causing a blood sugar crash, and to repair and refuel your muscles. While some grains, such as brown rice, are healthy and contain beneficial nutrients, their overall nutritional profile doesn’t compare to that of oats.

Here’s Why Every Athlete Needs Oats:

1. B vitamins

B vitamins are important for a healthy metabolism, energy, brain health, and muscle function. Oats offer an immediate hit of B vitamins, including Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B7 and Vitamin B9. Though eggs are often thought of as a top source of B vitamins, oats have so much more to offer in the B department. Though they’re lacking in B12, they’ll still provide you with an abundance of energy thanks to their B’s. One half cup of oats will provide you with quality B vitamins that will leave you energized for hours.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral for the everyday person, but especially for athletes who are looking to recover properly after a workout. Magnesium helps relieve sore muscles, encourages repair and regrowth of muscle cells, and lowers cortisol in the body, the stress hormone that’s elevated during exercise. While cortisol is helpful when you’re working out and in need of speed and adrenoline, you don’t want it elevated for a long period of time after you workout. Magnesium can help you relax, promotes a positive outlook, encourages healthy nervous system function, and stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain that fuel focus. A lack of magnesium can cause fatigue that no athlete (or anyone else) wants, can lead to insomnia, and can cause inflammation that impairs future workouts.  Oats contain 275 milligrams of magnesium in just 1/2 cup dry rolled oats (1 cup cooked), which is more than a cup of spinach or kale coming in between 24-56 milligrams.

3. Protein

Everyone wants to know how plant-based athletes get their protein, so show them up and have some oats! One serving of oats contains as much protein as one egg, often thought of as the most prized source. What do eggs have that oats don’t? Cholesterol, harmful saturated fats, inflammatory properties, salmonella, and possibly hormones, pesticides, and GMO’s. No thanks- we’ll take our oatmeal instead! Oats contain 7 grams of protein in 1/2 cup of rolled oats. Choose 1/2 cup of steel cut and get 8-9 grams of protein. Oats are an easy way to sneak protein into your smoothie without a powder and can be consumed several times a day in place of other grains if you wish.

4. Iron

Oats contain around 4 milligrams of iron per 1/2 cup. That’s nearly 1/3 of the daily recommended amounts (18%)! Eating iron-rich foods like oats with a source of Vitamin C (such as berries, greens, lemon, oranges, apples, kiwi, and peppers) is an easy way to boost absorption of this important mineral. Athletes need iron to maintain energy just like anyone else, so choose the best plant-based sources such as oats, greens, chia seeds, spirulina, beans, legumes, and even cacao!

5. Beta Glucans

Beta glucans are soluble fibers found in oats that benefit the body in so many ways. First, they keep you full, aid in regularity, assist with removing cholesterol from the bloodstream, and provide a leaner waistline. This is helpful for athletes looking to stay energized, healthy, and keep a toned, lean look to go along with their plant-powered muscles. Oats have been said one of the best foods to reduce excess abdominal weight and are one of the most prized foods for withstanding athletes through long, grueling workouts. 

Oat Notes:

Keep in mind, you want to choose plain, rolled oats (not prepackaged or instant), or you can go for steel-cut as an even healthier, whole option. If you’ve skipped out on oats until now, give this healthy grain a bit more attention in your diet from now on. Are you a gluten-free eater and worried about oats? Just choose certified, organic gluten-free oats so you can get this healthy staple into your diet without worrying about cross-contamination.

To prepare your oats the healthiest way possible, choose non-dairy milk, simple spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and fruits such as berries, apples, banana, and kiwis. Top your oats with some calcium, magnesium, and protein-rich almonds for greater satiety and energy, and toss in a little chia to boost your workout even further.

Pair your oats with other plant-based muscle-building foods for the most benefits and if you’re an athlete, do you use oats daily and if so, what’s your favorite way to eat them?

Image Source: Irene Yiran Wel/Flickr

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