Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

As a Registered Dietitian, I am frequently asked which is the best type of carb to add to your diet if you’re a bodybuilder.   

Today we’re talking about oatmeal.    

So, is oatmeal good or bad for bodybuilding? 

Oatmeal is good for bodybuilding since it’s a complex carb that provides long-lasting energy during workouts. For a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, its high fiber content provides satiety, essential when cutting calories. In a bulking phase, oatmeal is a high-protein carb that helps repair and promote muscle growth.

In this article, I will talk about:

  • The nutritional content found in oatmeal.
  • The pros and cons of having oatmeal for bodybuilding.
  • Can you eat oatmeal before or after a workout?
  •  The difference between cooked or raw oatmeal for bodybuilding.
  • Which type is better for bodybuilding?
  • How does oatmeal help muscle growth?
  •  Amazing recipes for you to try with oatmeal.

Oatmeal For Bodybuilding: Overview

oatmeal is considered a carb source for bodybuilders

One cup (81 g) of regular oatmeal, dry, not fortified, has the following nutritional content (1):

  • Calories: 307
  • Fat: 5.3 g
  • Total carbs: 54.8 g
  • Fiber: 8.2 g
  • Protein: 10.7 g

Oatmeal is considered a carb source for bodybuilders. Carbs are necessary to provide the energy needed to sustain training and everyday activity. One of the benefits of oatmeal is its high fiber content. Fiber provides satiety, making you feel fuller for longer, and releases energy slowly.

Oatmeal has low-fat content, which makes it an ideal food to eat before a workout since digestion will be quicker. It contains 5.3 g of total fats, with just 0.9 g of saturated fats (the type of fat you want to consume with moderation to avoid heart problems). The rest is divided between monounsaturated (1.6 g) and polyunsaturated (1.9 g). These two types of fats help reduce inflammation.

Finally, regarding the last macro, protein, for being a high-carb food, it offers a good amount of protein, with just over 10g per serving. If you struggle with getting enough protein throughout the day, then eating oatmeal can help increase your intake.  

Here is a list of the top micronutrients you find in oatmeal and how they will benefit you.

  • Thiamin (B1) – 25% of the daily recommended value (DRV). Essential for producing energy, repairing cells, and forming new cells (2). It helps support brain health and the central nervous system.
  • Iron – 19% DRV. It helps transport oxygen around the body. Essential for female bodybuilders since they might be at a greater risk of having anemia (3).
  • Magnesium – 28% DRV. It helps support the immune system, sleep, recovery, and bone strength (4).
  • Phosphorus – 33% DRV. Supports bone health, tissue repair and helps in muscle contraction. It has also been studied to help improve aerobic capacity (5).
  • Zinc – 20% DRV. Zinc helps improve immune function since it has antioxidant capacities, helps support sleep and recovery. Zinc has also been linked to boosting testosterone levels (6).
  • Manganese – 147% DRV. It supports a healthy metabolism, recovery and regulates inflammation (7).

Oatmeal is on our list of high calorie, low sodium foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)

3 Pros Of Eating Oatmeal For Bodybuilding

Here I will examine other benefits of adding oatmeal to your diet if you are a bodybuilder.

1. High Versatility

Oatmeal has no specific taste, which makes it a very versatile food. You can have it either in sweet or savory recipes.

This allows you to have it for breakfast, snack, lunch, or even dinner. Add it to your shakes to have a ready-to-go carb. Since oatmeal is available everywhere, it simplifies your diet, allowing you to reach your total carb intake.

2. Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants help reduce the body’s inflammation produced through exercise. Oatmeal contains potent antioxidants that have been studied to help reduce inflammation (8).

Avenanthramides (one of the antioxidants found in oats) could help reduce blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide production. Nitric oxides help dilate blood vessels, which helps have a better blood flow (9). 

3. Gluten-free

For celiacs or people intolerant to gluten, finding a carb option can sometimes be a hassle. Oats are gluten-free, making them a perfect carb to add if you are a bodybuilder with this common food intolerance.

However, even if they are gluten-free, make sure to search for a certified gluten-free brand. There could be contamination in the processing plant with other gluten-containing foods.

  • Oatmeal is a low FODMAP food, which is great for people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Click to check out my other low FODMAP foods that are good for bodybuilders

3 Cons of Eating Oatmeal For Bodybuilding

Here are 3 cons of adding oatmeal for bodybuilding.

1. Low Protein

A daily intake of 1.6-2.2 g/kg of body weight is recommended for optimal muscle building.

Even though oatmeal has a lot of protein for a carb source, it still won’t be enough for a bodybuilder. Add a protein source like protein powder, eggs, or even cottage cheese when having a bowl of oatmeal.

2. Gastrointestinal Problems

Although it is not common and depends on whether you have them raw or cooked, oats can produce gastric swelling. This could lead to abdominal cramps and bloating.

Having gastric problems could affect performance, reducing the intensity of the workout and not having the results looked out for.

3. Bland Food

Since it is bland food, people always add extra things and toppings to add some flavor. This could, in the end, add up the calories, jeopardizing your process if you are not careful.

I know I’m guilty of adding peanut butter and nutella to my bowl of oatmeal, and if I don’t measure those toppings properly, then it’s really easy to add a couple of hundred extra calories without knowing.

If you are in a cutting phase, the calories are more limited. Make sure to always add up the toppings you decide to add to your daily intake.  We’ll give you some ideas below.

Can You Eat Oatmeal Before Workouts?

Yes, oatmeal is an excellent source of complex carbs that offers long and steady energy. However, since oatmeal is high in fiber, it means that the carbs will digest more slowly.  For your workout, my recommendation is to consume oatmeal 1-2 hours before training in order to give your body enough time to break down the carbs for energy. 

Is Oatmeal Good or Bad Before a Workout?

A bodybuilder’s diet should be high in carbs to provide enough energy for working out, with percentages ranging from 50-60% of the total daily calories.

Why do we need carbs? I sometimes like to create an analogy for my clients. It would be like if your body were a car. Carbs (oatmeal in this case) are the gasoline that keeps the car moving. Without sufficient energy (carbs), the car will not move accordingly.

Therefore, it’s important to fuel your body with carbs prior to working out so that you have sustained energy. 

However, carb sources that contain a lot of fiber, like oatmeal, can take a long time to digest.  And therefore, a long time in order for you to feel energized.  

So if you’re going to eat oatmeal before a workout, you should plan to eat it 1-2 hours before, just so your body has a chance to digest the carbs for energy. Add a little bit of protein and healthy fats to make a complete meal or snack. 

  • Oatmeal is on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources

How Much Oatmeal Should You Have Before a Workout?

When making a meal plan, I usually space out the carbs among six meal times. An average carb intake for a male bodybuilder could be around 450 grams, while a female bodybuilder could be about 350 grams. 

This means, per meal, approximately 75 grams of carbs for a male bodybuilder and 58 grams for a female bodybuilder, should be consumed.

One cup of dry oats has 54 grams of carbs.

For a female bodybuilder, this could be a good amount to have before training. That is, if you have no other carb sources (fruit, honey, or milk).

For a male bodybuilder, one cup could be enough if you add some extra carb sources. For example, have one cup of oats and some fruit and honey to reach the recommended 75 grams. 

Can You Eat Oatmeal After Workouts?

Yes, you should eat oatmeal after a workout. Oats have a variety of antioxidants that have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They are also a great carb source that will replenish your muscle glycogen. Although oatmeal does have some protein, it might not be enough for muscle recovery. Add a protein source to make it complete.

Is Oatmeal Good or Bad After a Workout?

During your workout, your body uses the glycogen (a form of energy) stored in your muscles. After the workout, it is essential to replenish the energy lost. If you add a carb-containing food post-exercise, it will help replenish muscle glycogen.

Oatmeal is a fantastic carb choice to add after your training. However, since oatmeal is low in protein, add extra protein (like a scoop of protein powder) and healthy fats to create a balanced meal. 

How Much Oatmeal Should You Have After a Workout?

The ideal carb recommendation for glycogen replenishment is to have 1.1-1.5 g/kg of bodyweight of carbs. For a male bodybuilder with a weight of 90 kg, this means having 99g of carbs. While for a female bodybuilder with a weight of 65 kg, it means having 71.5 g of carbs.

This means that you can have almost 2 cups of oats for a male bodybuilder after your training. This recommendation will be if you don’t put any other carb source (fruits, milk, and sugars). In case you decide to include any of these, 1.5 cups would be more than enough.

On the other hand, an intake of 1 1/3 cup of oats would cover the amount of carb recommended for a female bodybuilder. If you are going to include other carb options, opt for having 1 cup. 

Check out other carb sources for bodybuilding:

Raw vs Cooked Oatmeal for Bodybuilding: Does It Matter?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get during my consultations.

Raw oats are higher in beta-glucan (a type of fiber) than cooked oats. Having extra fiber helps increase satiety, maintain blood sugar levels stable, and reduce cholesterol.

However, raw oats can absorb fluid inside your body, leading to stomach and intestinal problems such as bloating and constipation. They are also high in phytic acid, a component that interacts with other essential nutrients, like zinc, making it hard for the body to absorb.

Although it is safe to eat raw oats to reduce gastrointestinal problems, make sure to soak them for at least 12 hours prior to eating them to reduce any complications.

In the end, cooked or raw oats will have the same nutritional macros if you have time to soak them beforehand. Pick the one that adjusts to your lifestyle and meal planning. 

Which Type of Oatmeal Is Better For Bodybuilding?

best oatmeal  for bodybuilding

There are different types of oats. Here you will find a summary of the difference between each one:

  • Whole oats. It is what is left after the inedible outer layer of the oat grain is removed. They take longer to prepare (30-45 minutes) than any other type of oat.
  •  Steel-cut oats. They are oat kernels that have been cut into 2 or 3 pieces. This process makes them easier to cook (20-30 minutes).
  • Rolled oats. They are steamed oat kernels and rolled to make them fresher for longer. They take faster to cook (5-10 minutes).
  • Instant (quick) oats. They are prepared similar to rolled oats but are thinner, which makes them easier to cook (1-3 minutes).
  • Oat bran. It is the outer layer removed in the first process of the oats. It is mostly fiber.

So, which type of oatmeal is better for bodybuilding? 

Rolled oats have more fiber than instant or quick oats since they are less processed. Include rolled oats at least 1-2 hours prior to training to have long-lasting energy. You can also add it after a workout to help replenish glycogen. 

On the other hand, if you don’t have enough time and need a boost of energy, instant or quick oats are the way to go. They will have less fiber and will be digested quicker allowing for a faster energy boost.

Does Oatmeal Help Muscle Growth?

Yes, oatmeal does help with muscle growth by providing the energy and carbs required to be in a calorie surplus. With that said, oatmeal alone won’t increase muscle, and you will need to pair it with a high-protein diet focused on quality protein sources with all the essential amino acids, especially leucine. 

Another key element found for muscle growth is an amino acid called leucine. 

Having 2.5 g of leucine intake before exercise seems to stimulate muscle building (10). 

Although oatmeal doesn’t have the complete dosage, one cup has 794 mg of leucine (11)—almost 32% of the recommended intake. If you have it with protein powder, this could help maximize muscle growth.

Oatmeal Recipes For Bodybuilding

Pre-Workout Oatmeal Recipe

pre-workout oatmeal recipe for bodybuilding

Before a workout, the main goal is to provide sufficient energy to optimal performance during training. Carbs are a great source of energy, and oatmeal offers a good amount.

Here you will find a delicious and simple recipe to make to have 1-hour prior training. 

Cinnamon Oatmeal with Strawberries

Macronutrient Breakdown

Calories: 420

Carbohydrates: 76.2 g

Proteins: 11.9 g

Fats: 7.5 g

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  •  ¼ cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of strawberries chopped
  • Sugar substitute (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients (except the strawberries) in a small pot and cook over medium heat.
  2. Keep stirring for around 5-8 minutes.
  3. Pour into a bowl and add the strawberries.
  4. Enjoy!

You can add one scoop of protein powder to make it a breakfast or even peanut butter to add healthy fats. 

Post-Workout Oatmeal Recipe

post-workout oatmeal recipe for bodybuilder

After a workout, the main goal is to replenish glycogen stores and provide enough protein for muscle recovery and growth. This recipe has almost 50 grams of carbs for optimal recovery, and 48 grams of protein for muscle growth, and some healthy fats to help decrease inflammation. 

Banana Oatmeal Protein Pancakes

Macronutrient Breakdown

Calories: 613

Carbohydrates: 49.7 g

Proteins: 48.9 g

Fats: 25 g

  •  ½ medium ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  •  ½ scoop protein powder
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons of peanut butter
  • Sugar-free maple syrup
  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender until completely smooth. If the batter is a little thick for your liking, you can add water until you get the consistency of choice.
  2. Spray some oil into a pan and place over medium heat.
  3. Add 1/3 of the batter onto the pan for each pancake and cook for 2-5 minutes or until it starts to bubble.
  4. Flip the pancake and cook until golden brown.
  5. Repeat until all of the batter is used.
  6. Put on a plate and add some sugar-free maple syrup.
  7. Enjoy!

You can make them in advance and place them in the freezer. They can last up to 1-3 months.  

Other Oatmeal Recipes for Bodybuilders

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FAQ About Oatmeal

Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Oatmeal?

Oatmeal is a great source of carbs, vegetable protein, fiber, and nutrients. They can help add up the calories and the carbs in your diet, helping you repair muscles and achieve those gains. Oatmeal is a complex carb that provides steady energy throughout the day. This means that you won’t have a sudden energy crash.

How Do Bodybuilders Make Oatmeal for Breakfast?

The most common way bodybuilders make their oatmeal for breakfast is with milk (can be cow milk or vegetable milk), oatmeal, nuts (adds healthy fats), berries (adds vitamins and minerals), protein powder (adds protein for recovery), and finally a sugar-free sweetener. They usually heat it up in a pan for 3-5 minutes.

Is Oatmeal Good for Staying Lean?

Oatmeal is an excellent choice of carb for those that want to stay lean. Since they are high in fiber, they will keep you satiated for longer. This means that you will feel fuller throughout the day, which means you could potentially eat fewer calories. A calorie deficit is a must when losing weight.

Is Oatmeal Bad for Bulking?

Oatmeal is a good food to add to your diet for bulking. It is a carb source that is higher in protein than other carb sources. They are a convenient carb that could help you add in calories throughout the day. They will keep your sugar levels steady during the day and optimize glycogen stores.

Is Oatmeal Good for Cutting?

Oatmeal is the perfect food to choose when cutting. Since it’s a complex carb high in fiber, it will provide steady energy throughout the day and keep your satiety levels high. High fiber foods are essential when cutting so you don’t feel hungry during the day.

About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.