Fueling with Oats

My favorite pre and post running fuel is oats. For my longer and later morning runs or races, I prepare hot oats before and then have lunch afterwards. For my shorter and early morning runs, I almost always have a banana with peanut butter before and then I have overnight oats afterwards.

Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates, but they should be paired with other sources of protein and fats to help balance out the meal. Before a workout, the focus is on more carbohydrates to fuel your muscles with small amounts of protein and fat for satiety. After a workout, the focus is on protein and carbohydrates to help rebuild and refuel your muscles.

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Below are the generic recipes I use to make my oats. Remember to alway try foods and make sure they work for you prior to having them before a race or a big event. You have to figure out what works for you. Oats work for me and many other elite runners including Shalane Flanagan (as outlined in her cookbook Run Fast Eat Slow), but you may do better with toast or pancakes or eggs. Practice your fueling just like your training, and remember do not try anything new on race day!


Pre-Run Hot Oatmeal (Makes 1 serving)

  • 1/2 cup oats (old fashioned or instant)
  • 3/4 cup water + 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • Toppings: small amount of nut butter or chopped/sliced nuts, granola, berries, cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, etc.

Cook oats with water and milk on the stovetop (or microwave if you must). While cooking, cut up banana in a bowl. When oats are done cooking, pour oats over the banana and mix together. Top with your favorites!

This recipe focuses on carbohydrates (oats and banana) and only uses a small amount of protein and fat (milk and nuts) to keep things easy on your stomach before you exercise. The oatmeal will be creamier with more milk, but my stomach seems to tolerate 1/4 cup best. Feel free to adjust to your taste and tolerance.

Below is the recipe above topped with cinnamon, granola, and peanut butter mixed in.

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Post-Run Overnight Oats (Makes 1 serving)

  • 1/2 cup oats (old fashioned or instant)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I use plain greek yogurt, but feel free to use your favorite kind)
  • 1/2 cup milk or water
  • 1/2 banana
  • Toppings: nut butter or chopped/sliced nuts, granola, berries (fresh or frozen), chia seeds, ground flax seeds, cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, etc.

Slice up banana and place in bowl. Cover with yogurt and milk or water. Mix well and then stir in any toppings that will hold up overnight such as nuts, seeds, and/or berries if using. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, top with additional flavors and serve!

This recipe is higher in protein due to the greek yogurt to help you refuel after exercise. Similar to above, there are endless variations and mix-ins. Make it your own and personalize with your favorites!

Below is the recipe above mixed with a combination of raspberries, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds the night before. In the morning, I added cinnamon, goji berry granola, and this peanut butter from Trader Joe's. Yum!

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