One of the best carbs you can add to your diet if you’re bulking is oatmeal.
Oatmeal is an awesome food for bulking since it’s a complex carb that promotes long-lasting energy to help fuel your workout. Oatmeal is also great for bulking since it is a carbohydrate that is relatively high in protein (around 11 grams in 1 cup), which is essential for your body to repair and build muscle.
Below, I’ll explain the pros and cons of eating oatmeal if you’re trying to gain muscle, as well as which type of oats are best for bulking.
- Oatmeal is primarily a carb source, but also contains a fair amount of protein and some healthy fats making it a well-balanced whole food. It also contains important micronutrients that will contribute to your overall health and vitality.
- Oatmeal has antioxidant properties that promote muscle recovery. It’s also gluten-free grain, making it a celiac-friendly food.
- However, eating too much oatmeal while bulking can make you feel quite full due to its high fiber content. If your calories are quite high (i.e. 4000 kcal or more), it will be hard to consume this target if your only carb source is oatmeal.
Oatmeal For Bulking: Overview
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
As you can see, oatmeal is considered a carb source.
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.
While this is good, eating too much fiber when bulking may make it hard for you to reach your overall daily calorie requirement.
Therefore, it’s important to eat oatmeal in moderation and vary your carb sources.
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 in 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.
- Related: Oatmeal made our list of Best High-Calorie Low Sodium Foods.
While oatmeal is a high-carb food, it also 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.
Percentages represent the daily recommended value (DRV) in 81g of oatmeal.
- Thiamin (B1) – 25%. Essential for producing energy, repairing cells, and forming new cells (2). It helps support brain health and the central nervous system.
- Iron – 19%. 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%. It helps support the immune system, sleep, recovery, and bone strength (4).
- Phosphorus – 33%. Supports bone health, tissue repair, and helps in muscle contraction. It has also been studied to help improve aerobic capacity (5).
- Zinc – 20%. 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%. It supports a healthy metabolism, recovery and regulates inflammation (7).
4 Pros Of Eating Oatmeal For Bulking
Here I will examine other benefits of adding oatmeal to your diet if you are bulking.
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.
For example, a great way to increase your calorie and carb intake is by adding oatmeal to your shakes and smoothies.
Since oatmeal is a fairly bland food on its own, you can easily change the taste and add extra calories to it by adding ingredients such as peanut butter (or any nut butter), Nutella, nuts, seeds, or fruit.
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 better blood flow (9).
This is especially important if you are in a bulking phase, since improved muscle recovery will result in better training sessions and building more healthy muscle.
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.
4. Contains Protein
Unlike some grains, oatmeal is a carb source that also contains a decent amount of protein, making it a great food choice if you are trying to put on muscle.
Eating 1 cup of oatmeal (measured dry) not only provides you with around 55 grams of carbs but also an impressive 11 grams of protein.
You can increase the amount of protein in your oatmeal bowl even further by cooking your oatmeal in milk, which contains 8 grams of protein per cup.
You can even add a scoop of protein powder to your oatmeal bowl for a bit of variety. Try out our version of a high-protein oatmeal breakfast bowl here.
2 Cons of Eating Oatmeal For Bodybuilding
Here are 2 cons of adding oatmeal for bodybuilding.
1. Gastrointestinal Problems
Although it is not common and depends on whether you have oatmeal 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.
2. High in Fiber
While high-fiber foods are important to include in every diet they can potentially cause issues while bulking, since high-fiber foods are typically quite satiating and will make you feel quite full.
If you are having trouble hitting your calories and macro targets in your bulking phase because they are so high, then eating too much oatmeal might make it even more difficult to reach your daily targets since 1 cup of oatmeal provides 33% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
It is still important that you are eating enough fiber while bulking in order to maintain healthy digestion, but make sure you aren’t overdoing fiber-rich foods when you are trying to eat high calories in order to avoid getting too full.
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.
- Oatmeal is on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources
Can You Eat Oatmeal After Workouts?
Yes, you can eat oatmeal after a workout.
Oats have a variety of antioxidants that have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which will improve recovery.
While oatmeal does have some protein, it might not be enough for muscle recovery. So make sure to add a protein source to make it complete (such as a schoop of protein).
Check out other carb sources for bodybuilding:
Raw vs Cooked Oatmeal for Bulking: Does It Matter?
Since raw oats are higher in beta-glucan (a type of fiber) compared to cooked oats, cooking your oats will be better suited during a bulking phase, since too much fiber when you are bulking can be problematic.
While fiber is important to help increase satiety, maintain blood sugar levels stable, and reduce cholesterol, too much of it while you are bulking will result in you feeling uncomfortably full, which could lead to not hitting your daily calorie goal.
In addition to this, 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.
- Looking for a recipe with oatmeal, try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls.
Which Type of Oatmeal Is Better For Bulking?
Overall, the best type of oatmeal to eat during a bulking phase is quick oats since the processing they go through makes them digest slightly faster, which can be an advantage while in a calorie surplus. In addition, quick oats provide a faster source of energy compared to rolled oats, making them a great pre-workout meal option.
With that said, all varieties of oatmeal can have a place in a bulking diet. Below I go into detail about the different types of oatmeal and the differences between them:
The different varieties of oats and their differences are:
- 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 similarly 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.
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.
Therefore, if you combine oatmeal with protein powder, this could help maximize muscle growth.
Oatmeal Recipes For Bulking
Best Pre-Workout Oatmeal Recipe
- Egg White Oatmeal: This oatmeal bowl utilizes egg whites as a source of protein and gives in the perfect ratio of protein and carbohydrates for a pre workout meal. This recipe is also slightly lower in fat compared to other oatmeal bowl recipes, which means it won’t be weighing you down during your training session.
Try out the Egg White Oatmeal Recipe here.
Best Post-Workout Oatmeal Recipe
- Peanut Butter Oatmeal: This peanut butter oatmeal recipe is super quick and easy, and contains a nice balance of protein, carbs, and fat for a post-workout meal. You can easily switch up the flavors in this recipe by swapping out different flavors of protein or switching your peanut butter for a different nut butter (such as almond butter).
Check out The Best Peanut Butter Oatmeal Recipe here.
What To Read Next
- Can You Mix Creatine With Oatmeal? (Pros & Cons)
- Oatmeal Make Me Gassy & Bloated: 5 Reasons & How To Fix
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.