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What do 70 year old Irishmen and bodybuilders have in common?

Their love of oatmeal.

With its historical value and versatility, it’s no wonder how this comforting bowl of a top favorite breakfast dish reached its current level of popularity today.

Being around since the beginning of civilization, oats were one of the main foods eaten during the times of the Roman Empire. Although they’ve been around for quite some time, oats were actually one of the last major grains to be used for major consumption, starting around 3,000 years ago in Europe.

But where do oats come from, exactly?

What is Oatmeal?

Oatmeal is the makeup of either rolled or crushed oats with the addition of milk or water.

With their ability to absorb liquid, oats become the soft comfort food we all know and love. Oats were one of the last cereal grains to be used for human consumption, having to be picked and harvested. They have two times of year in which they can be grown — spring or fall.

Russia takes the lead in oat harvest, producing over five million tons, or 23% of the world total.

There are several varieties of oats including whole oats, oat bran, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats, instant oats and oat flour.

The least processed (and therefore best type to eat) are whole oats. While they pack the most nutritional benefits, they do require the most time in terms of cooking, making them less than ideal for a busy morning ahead compared to other types of oats such as quick oats or rolled oats.

Oats are added to many other foods as well, such as cookies, granola, bread, pancakes and more.

We know oats are gluten free. But The real question is — are oats low carb or keto friendly?

Oats are packed with key vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B and folate. They offer an abundance of different minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

One three and a half ounce serving (or 100 grams) is about 389 total calories. Within these calories are 17 grams of protein, 66 grams of carbs, 56 grams of net carbs, ten grams of fiber and seven grams of fat.

56 grams of net carbs per serving? Gulp.

Needless to say, this amount of carbs will not keep you in ketosis. In fact, even half of this amount (about one and three quarters of a cup or 50 grams) would come to around 28 grams of carbs, taking up more than half of the daily carbs the ketogenic diet allows while still maintaining a ketogenic state.

Avoiding these carbs early on in the ketogenic diet are extremely important as your body will still be searching for those carbs to pull from for energy instead of resorting to your fat stores and ketones first.

So, are you able to consume oatmeal at all on a low carb or keto diet?

How and When Does Oatmeal Fit Into a Low Carb or Keto Diet?

With it’s warm, gooey texture and rapid prep time, oatmeal can be one of the tougher high carb foods to give up when starting a keto or low carb diet.

But there are plenty of low carb alternatives to oatmeal that will fit your ideal keto macronutrients.

However, if you’re following a low carb or keto diet and really want to squeeze in that oatmeal somehow, it’s not impossible.

While 100 grams of oats comes out to 56 grams of carbs, you could limit your intake to a quarter of that (25 grams) and lower your carb count all the way down to 14 grams, staying within the safe zone for carbs per serving.

The standard keto diet (SKD) recommends that you stay between 20-50 grams for your daily intake of carbs. This is especially important for individuals just starting keto.

Carbs are the body’s first fuel choice, pulling energy from your glycogen stores first. However, when the body is deprived of carbs, it will pull from it’s second favorite energy source — fat. Since the body of an individual just starting to transition to ketosis is still going to search for carbs for energy, the lower intake the better.

For those that have been in ketosis for a while and know how to listen to their body, there may be other options. The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) is a type of keto diet made for more active individuals that need that extra carb intake — allowing 20-50 extra grams of carbs up to 60 minutes and after exercise.

If this still isn’t enough carbs for an athlete training at extreme intensity, the cyclical keto diet (CKD) may benefit them. The CKD is a type of keto diet made for individuals training at such high intensity that their glycogen stores get completely wiped out. The CKD follows the standard keto diet five days of the week, with the other two days (anywhere from 24-48 hours) follow a high carb, low fat intake. The carb count for these 48 hours can range anywhere from 400 to 600 grams of carbs, depending on the individual.

When Should Oatmeal Be Avoided on a Low Carb or Keto Diet?

While oatmeal may pack some serious nutritional value, it’s high carb count can make those struggling with weight loss a bit more difficult. And while it may be a high carb favorite, it doesn’t produce a rapid increase in glucose. In fact, it’s glycemic index sits around 55 per every 250 grams.

If you’re just starting a low carb or ketogenic diet, you may want to avoid anything with oats as a main ingredient, especially oatmeal. Once your metabolism is altered to a ketogenic state and you’re able to switch into ketosis at an easier rate, oatmeal can be reintroduced in smaller amounts. However, beginners should stick with low carb alternatives for oatmeal to avoid feeling deprived while still having the ability to feel full and satiated from your favorite breakfast dish.

So Is Oatmeal Low Carb Friendly?

This warm, gooey breakfast cuisine is filling and satiating in every which way, but is it low carb or ketogenic friendly? Unfortunately not, but there are a few exceptions. These exceptions include:

  • If you are following the cyclical ketogenic diet and consume the oatmeal during your high carb days.
  • If you are following the targeted ketogenic diet and consume the oatmeal directly before or after your period of exercise.
  • Your carb intake for the day including the oatmeal does not exceed 20-50 grams of carbs.

Oatmeal is not low carb or keto friendly.

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Responses (8)

  1. Hay I found a great recipe for pancakes 3 table spoon of oat meal flour and 2 eggs and the best part it’s only 14 carbs and you get a hint of oat meal

  2. I like a small amount quarter cup of raw whole grain oats occasionally satisfies me

  3. Presumably: “allowing 20-50 extra grams of carbs up to 60 minutes AND after exercise.” should be “allowing 20-50 extra grams of carbs up to 60 minutes BEFORE OR after exercise.” ??

    This seems to be critical. For boxing, I always eat my oats 60 mins before (empirically derived period), and never run out of energy even during sparring. If I don’t eat oats I feel like crap. Weightlifting is different as it doesn’t require the same energy burn rate, and I don’t use oats if I’m just doing strength training. I eat raw oats that you are supposed to cook, but I don’t, cos I think the taste is better. I appreciate this impacts the energy release, though my workouts are only usually 60 mins (or less) total.

    Best Regards,

    John (Manila)

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