Welcome to March everyone!!
It's really starting to feel like Spring with longer days and more light in the mornings, which means more early morning runs for me.
In this Blog post I'm going to talk all things oats and why I think runners should include these in their pre and post run fuel kit.
I hope to inspire other runners to create their own nutritious and energy rich running fuel, to sustain longer runs, without spending a fortune on gels, protein bars and powders.
I'll be sharing my favourite energy ball recipes over on The Hamlyn's of Scotland website soon but in this post you'll find my favourite oaty pancake recipe.
As a lover of all things oat-based and having eaten Hamlyns of Scotland's oats for years, I was delighted when I was asked to work with them on a project sharing the benefits of oats, especially for runners, who need a reliable and healthy source of energy to fuel an active lifestyle.
Hamlyns of Scotland is part of a family food business, owned and managed by a family with 14 generations of history in oat milling, and last year the Hamlyns of Scotland brand celebrated its 50th birthday.
The Hamlyns of Scotland range inlcudes Scottish Porridge Oats, Scottish Oatmeal and Pinhead Oatmeal in a re-sealable tin, plus Scottish Porridge Oats and Bran. All of these can be used to make a delicious bowl of porridge but they are also great for baking and can be included in various recipes, more of which I'll be sharing on the Hamlyns of Scotland website in the coming weeks.
For cooking speed, porrdige oats are the quickest option as they have been lightly steamed before being rolled. They only take a few minutes to cook in a pan or microwave. Oatmeal is a courser texture, takes longer to cook and makes a denser porridge but this is my personal favourite. Pinhead oatmeal also makes a great ingredient for a tart or other treat where you'd traditionally use pasty as a base.
Before a long run my favourite food to dig into is a big bowl of creamy porridge about 2 hours beforehand.
There are many reasons why I love oats and it isn't all about taste. As a long distance runner they provide key health and performance benefits, which I will share
below. I'll also share my favourite post-run pancake recipe.
The reasons why I believe runners should incorporate oats in their diet are many but here are a few:
1. Oats provide complex carbohydrates
For any runner, especially a long distance runner, sustained energy is key for a successful run. Food eaten prior to, after and sometimes during a run is absolutely vital to achieveing sustained energy and aiding recovery.
A distance runner doesn't want food that creates a quick fix (unless energy levels are completely depleted). Simple carbs like white bread, sugary cereals or sweet snacks and drinks provide instant energy but don't sustain energy levels.
A distance runner wants to run for as long as possible without having to start eating and thats why porridge is great before a run. As a complex carbohydrate it
provides slow release energy that lasts longer. Not only is it tricky to eat and run without slowing down, it can cause sudden stomach cramps and an urge to go to the loo.
When carbohydrate rich food is digested, it's broken down into glucose, which is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen to use as fuel but this WILL run out during a long run. That's why slow release carbohydrate-rich food beforehand is important.
In general, runners need to add 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes but it's important to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run; by that time, your tank will be empty, and once you hit empty it is very hard to recover.
My personal method of fueling during a run is to sip on water containing an energy rich drink with electrolytes and carbohydrate every 20-30 minutes, before I start consuming food at around 1.5 hours. Fueling during a run requires practice if you haven't done it before. Each runner's body is very different and some need to eat sooner than others.
2. Many athletes use oats as an important part of their training
I've always been a believer in the theory that if someone is already doing something successfully, and it makes sense and is healthy, there's no shame in being a
copy cat. If oats are good enough for Paula Radcliffe, they're good enough for me!!
3. Oats improve gut health and digestion
Oats are packed full of fiber and this is what the friendly bacteria in your stomach use for fuel. The fiber called beta-glucan is the gel-like substance that
gives oatmeal its gummy texture. As well as keeping you fuller for longer, it also "coats the stomach and digestive tract." (Medical News Today).
The coating feeds good bacteria in the gut, which increases their growth rate and can contribute to a healthy gut. In 2016 a small study examined the correlation between oatmeal and gut microflora functions. According to the results "oatmeal porridge has an effect on gut microbial functions and may possess potential prebiotic properties".
As someone who suffers with IBS and acid reflux, it's important for me to eat enough fiber each day. This is something I pay close attention to, to ensure regular
bowel movements and a happy tummy. If I don't eat enough good fiber I suffer from 'runner's stomach' which is a very sudden urge to go to the toilet mid run.
NHS guidelines recommend 30g of fiber per day but most people don't consume half that amount. A 40g portion of Hamlyns Scottish porridge oats contains 3.5g of fibre. Adding a medium banana (3.5g) and 15g of Chia seeds (5g) to your porridge will take you a third of the way to your fiber daily total.
4. Oats have a positive impact on cholesterol
Various studies have demonstrated the beneficial impact of consuming oat and oat-based products on serum cholesterol and other markers of cardiovascular disease.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of oats is thought to be associated with the beta glucan it contains (Food and Function Journal). However, it has been suggested that the processing of the oat can
make a difference and you're best to consume oat-based foods where some of the plant tissue remains intact i.e. Hamlyns of Scotland pinhead oatmeal. That's according to a study you can read
5. Oats contain iron
Oats contain around 4 milligrams per half cup. Women aged 19-50 need 14.8mg per day (NHS website). 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!
6. Oats contain magnesium
Magnesium is important for everyone but especially for runners who are looking to recover quickly and with minimal pain 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.
Cortisol is helpful when you’re working out and in need of speed and adrenoline, but you don’t want it elevated for a long period of time after you workout. A lack of magnesium can cause fatigue that no runner 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. Other sources include bananas, cacao, whole grains, nuts and seeds and leafy greens so combining oats with any of these is an ideal way to get more magnesium. Females age 31-50 need 320mg of magnesium per day (National Institute of Health).
7. Oats contain protein
As a plant based runner the most common question I get asked is where do I get my protein? One serving of oats contains as much protein as one egg, often thought of as the most prized source but with oats you are skipping the cholestorol that's in eggs and eating a more sustainable food source.
Each person requires a different amount of protein per day, which depends on a number of factors. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends for an adult 0.6g of protein per 1kg of body weight.
8. Oats are easy, cheap, sustinable and versatile
A 1kg bag of Hamlyns of Scotland porridge oats costs £1.75 in Asda, which is incredible when you think you can get 25 X 40g portions from that one bag. That's almost one breakfast per day for a month and just 7p per bowl of porridge.
When you compare that to some other options a runner may choose, for example a protein bar or energy gel, these cost the same for one as a whole bag of oats. Plant-based protein powders can cost as much as £40 of £50 for a 1kg bag.
In addition to their affordability oats are a sustainable food. Hamlyns of Scotland oats are milled in the North East of Scotland and the company work with Scottish farmers, who supply their oats, which means they are not sourcing oats from far off destinations and creating a huge carbon footprint before they even reach the supermarket.
You can buy Hamlyns of Scotland oats in most Scottish supermarkets and local retailers inlcuding Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, The Co-operative and Morrisons.
If you are looking for a quick meal pre or post run, porrdige is so easy to whip up with minimal mess and faff. All you need is a bowl, oats, milk or water, plus toppings.
You can also use oats to make a variety of running snacks. I include oats in my energy balls that I take on long runs to top up my glycogen stores. I also use oats in smoothies, granola and sometimes in soups to add a creamier texture.
Whilst I love a great big bowl of steaming hot porridge, I also like to make more creative and fun dishes.
I'm going to share my delicious, nutritious and satisfying oaty pancake recipe below.
Something many people don't realise is that pancakes are very easy to make without milk, butter or eggs if you eat a plant-based diet. Pancakes are a traditional home bake and very much associated with these ingredients but I want to show how delicious and easy they are to make 100% plant-based.
Pancakes definitely vary from country to country and one tradition to the next. If you've ever visited France you'll know they make very thin crepe-style pancakes, usually covered in nutella or lemon and sugar, whilst in the USA they make very fluffy, thick pancakes. My recipe is somewhere between. We do prefer them more fluffy in our house but not as thick as American pancakes.
They are apparently so delicious that "pancake day" has rolled over many days in our house. My seven year old keeps asking for mummy's pancakes.
In general these are something I make after I've run as post workout fuel. I usually run in the morning so they can double up as brunch or a lazy weekend breakfast. I make a small batch if they're just for me as they're nicest when they are fresh. This recipe is enough for one.
My son loves pancakes too so if he's around I double the quantities for more.
1/2 cup Hamlyns Scottish Porridge Oats
1 dessert spoon Chia seeds
1 cup Coconut milk or any other plant milk
1/2 cup gluten free self raising flour (or flour of choice)
1 teaspoon coconut oil for frying
A few drops Almond extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon GF baking powder
1. Add flour, chia seeds and oats to a blender or blending cup (if using a stick blender).
2. Pour in milk and mix well with a spoon before blending in your blender.
3. Leave batter to sit for 5 minutes whilst you heat 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan
4. Let your oil and pan get hot (this step is really important). You don't want to pour the batter onto a cold pan.
5. I prefer to make small pancakes (2 dessert spoons of batter per pancake) into the pan.
6. Leave batter until small bubbles appear and the batter is turning slightly yellow at the edges.
7. Flip your pancake once it's ready. I like to make 4 smaller pancakes out of the batter but make 2 bigger pancakes if you prefer.
8. Serve with fruit, berries, yoghurt and more maple syrup or nut butter.
What food do you use to fuel your run? Do you add oats to your pancakes?
This article is part of a paid partnership with Hamlyns of Scotland.