Many weight loss blogs and experts have called oatmeal the “perfect food” for those who are looking to shed fat because, according to these sources, oatmeal provides a slow and steady source of complex carbohydrates, which can prevent hunger and thus promote fat loss.
In a nutshell, they say that you don’t have to worry about oatmeal triggering excess insulin or high blood sugar because it’s a “low-glycemic” food and therefore delivers a slow, steady source of energy and sustenance that won’t cause fat storage .
Is It True That Oatmeal Can Promote Weight Loss?
There’s no doubt that plenty of people have used oatmeal as a foundation food in their fat loss program; in fact, bodybuilders have used oatmeal as a staple in their diet and have been able to achieve extremely low body fat percentages, even in the single digits range while consuming oatmeal daily!
Oatmeal can definitely be a good addition to many people’s fat loss arsenal, but is it right for everyone?
Not So Fast…
On the other side of the picture, you have the “low-carb” movement that suggests that oats are the devil…well, maybe not the devil, but at least the evil minion to the devil…
Oats are almost entirely made up of carbohydrates, with a little protein and fat mixed in. Based on recommendation of the low-carbohydrate movement, you should avoid oatmeal like the plague or risk a life of fat loss frustration…
Answer: Both, depending on the person. (No surprise here)…
In a minute, we’ll talk about the qualities of oats, i.e. calories, carbs, glycemic index, fiber, etc. Before we do, however, we have to have a little chat about the most important factor in this equation…YOU!
You see, bodybuilders are not “you”, that is, unless you’re actually a bodybuilder (wink, wink, Blythe) Most bodybuilders have metabolisms that handle carbohydrates very well in comparison to the rest of us. That doesn’t mean that bodybuilders aren’t susceptible to getting fat, they can and do put on fat, but many of them are able to handle carbohydrates better than the general population. Their bodies have a tendency to respond to a calorie-counting model because their metabolisms are good at handling carbs and because they don’t suffer wild swings in blood sugar when they do consume some starch, which often leads to hunger in cravings in us unlucky folks who are prone towards blood sugar swings…
This, by the way, is why many naturally fit personal trainers will squint suspiciously at clients that aren’t losing weight despite following the very same diet that works like a champ for them…they just don’t understand that, metabolically speaking, we’re as different on the inside as we are on the outside…
It seems like I’ve gone off tangent, but the truth is, you can’t judge how “fat-loss friendly” a food is without first knowing the metabolic tendencies of the person who is eating the food in question. (Golden nugget alert!)
You see, oatmeal can promote fat loss in some people because it may keep hunger at bay, satisfy a craving, and simultaneously improve metabolism. For others, however, like myself, we can get fat off of oatmeal because it promotes a high blood sugar, which results in compensatory low blood sugar and thus raging hunger and cravings. Thus oats can be a friend or foe, depending on the metabolic tendencies of the person who eats it!
For The Love of Pete! Is Eating Oatmeal for Weight Loss a Good Idea or Not?
Whoa! I’m getting to that…Let’s dissect the oat…
- Carbohydrates – 1 cup of cooked oatmeal (in water) will provide 166 calories and 28 grams of NET Carbohydrates. This is a moderate amount of carbohydrate for a cereal. Not high, not low, not necessarily “just right” either…just mediocre.
- Fiber – 1 cup of cooked oatmeal will provide 4 grams of fiber. Compared to many cereals, this is a moderate amount. Some high-fiber cereals can double this amount, so we can give oatmeal a solid “B” on fiber content. Some research suggests that the beta glucan fiber, found abundantly in oatmeal, may be especially potent and helping some folks lose weight and control cholesterol.
- Glycemic index – A glycemic index of 55 or below is considered “low”, and thus, good. Depending upon the way that the oatmeal is manufactured, the glycemic index can range from fairly high to moderate. Instant oatmeal has a glycemic index as high as 83, while steel cut oats come in at the lowest at 42. Standard oats (i.e. rolled oats) have a glycemic index in the middle at 55. Once again, oats fall into the “middle of the road” for glycemic index. I’ll point out that the glycemic index of a food can vary by how it’s cooked. The longer you cook it, the higher the glycemic index will typically be, that’s why steel cut oats are considered superior to instant oats.
- Protein & Fat – Oatmeal contains 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat in 1 cup of cooked oats (in water). Not too shabby for a cereal food. Oatmeal is considered a total protein, containing all essential amino acids.
- Vitamins and Minerals – According to nutritiondata.com, oatmeal has a nutrition score of 43 out of 100. Once again…mediocre.
In a nutshell, the qualities of oatmeal make it a mediocre food for most people, that is, when fat loss is the goal. As I mentioned earlier, the metabolic tendencies of the person will determine whether oatmeal will be a good food addition to your diet or an enemy to fat loss.
How to Use This Information:
- If your body responds to a calorie cutting approach, rather than a low-carb program, then oatmeal can be a good food to keep in your cupboard. For your metabolism, “middle of the road foods” are good choices because they give you comfort and don’t cause extremely high spikes in blood sugar. Watch your portion size and try not to add other things like raisins and sugar, unless you know that it does’t negatively impact your appetite.
- If you’re diabetic or heading in the direction of diabetes, oatmeal is likely not your friend. It’s just too high in carbohydrates for most people who have genetics that do not handle carbs well. Once you’ve established a low-carb diet, you may be able to add a bit of oatmeal into the mix as a comfort-food. More times than not, people with tendencies toward diabetes will not be able to consume oats more than once or twice a week without consequences.
- If you’re prone towards major hunger swings, test out a cup of oatmeal one morning. If you find yourself hungry 2 hours later, then oatmeal is not a good choice for you. Wild hunger is usually caused by swift increases in glucose followed by a swift drop in blood glucose. It’s the swift drop in blood sugar that causes the brain to trigger food-seeking behavior.
- Never judge a food in the context of a single meal. If you’re having oatmeal in the morning, but eat tons of veggies and lean protein for the rest of the day, then oatmeal may be ok for you. Test everything and never remove a food in its entirety unless you know for a fact that it does a number on your metabolism. We have a tendency to crave what we can’t have so be sure before we label a food “poisonous” to our fat loss.
Although you can do much worse than oatmeal, it’s not the “perfect fat loss food” for many people. For some reason oats have seemed to develop a reputation as a “free food”, i.e. a food that can be eaten without concern for storing fat.
The reality is that oats may be better than other carb sources (like Fruity Pebbles), but no way can we list them as a “free food” in the same class as non-starchy veggies. Here are some tips bonus tips, in case you decide to add oats to your food plan:
- When choosing an oatmeal, the less processed, the better. Steel cut oats are superior to rolled oats, which are superior to instant oats.
- Cook them in water and try not to add any additional dried fruits or nuts.
- If you need to add a bit of sweetness, try a teaspoon of raw honey or some xylitol.
- If you allow the oats to cool, this will increase the amount of resistant starch and thus decrease the likelihood of having unwanted spikes in blood sugar.
So, once again, the answer is…”it depends”; hopefully, using these guidelines, you can now determine if oats will fit within your lifestyle as a “fat loss friendly” food or a “minion to the devil”.
Tell us what you think of oatmeal and what your experience has been with eating oatmeal for weight loss! Comment below!