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Protein, Oats and Performance

7204-eat7Did you know that protein derived from oats has ergogenic benefits? Though we know the importance of animal-based proteins, the nonanimal sources may indeed be an alternative to add to the dietary arsenal of vegans and meat eaters alike.

Recently, oat protein, purified from oat meal, was studied to determine its effects on swimming performance and other physiological paramenters.1 Thirty male mice were divided into control, oat meal and oat protein groups. They were fed a laboratory food for 30 days and were subsequently given a swim-to-exhaustion test. The mice in the oat meal group had significantly longer swimming endurance than the controls, but the oat protein mice had increased liver glycogen. The authors believed that oat protein was effective in improving the animals’ physiological condition.In fact, other research has shown that oat bran can improve endurance during training and competitions, lower inflammation and enhance recovery.2 Thus, oats should be up there as one of many superfoods that bodybuilders and other athletes should eat regularly.

On another front, we know that different proteins have different effects, but what about the pattern in which protein is eaten? Does that affect muscle protein synthesis? In an elegant study, scientists determined the effects of different feeding strategies on protein metabolism in weight-trained young men.3 The subjects were randomly assigned to get either 80 grams of whey protein as 8 x 10 grams every 1 1/2 hours (pulse), 4 x 20 grams every three hours (intermediate), or 2 x 40 grams every six hours (bolus). They got the protein right after a bout of bilateral knee extensions (4 x 10 reps at 80 percent max strength). The researchers measured whole-body protein turnover, synthesis, breakdown and net balance through 12 hours of recovery.

Which strategy worked best? Interestingly enough, the researchers found no statistical differences in net balance between the groups. Ultimately, all we care about is net balance. Whether it’s a function of more synthesis or less breakdown or both really doesn’t matter. As long as the net effect is one of muscle protein anabolism.

The authors did state that “magnitude-based inferential statistics revealed likely small and moderate increases in net for [the] pulse and intermediate [groups] compared to bolus and possible small increase for intermediate vs. pulse.”  Conclusion: “Individuals aiming to maximize net balance would likely benefit from repeated ingestion of moderate amounts of protein (~20g) at regular intervals (~3h).”

Now, before you dismiss the pulse or bolus strategies, keep in mind that 80-gram serving of protein taken throughout the day is paltry—like giving a sumo wrestler a Weight Watchers meal and expecting him to gain weight. Many guys eat 80 grams of protein in one meal!

So what’s the bottom line in my opinion? It makes sense to space out your feedings so that your body has plenty of amino acids for producing muscle protein. Does it really matter if you eat little meals all day or large meals a few times per day? Maybe, maybe not. Heck, if you eat enough total protein throughout the day, it may just be a wash. The pre- or postworkout feeding is likely the most critical period of eating anyhow. So do this: Eat plenty of protein, at least one gram per pound of bodyweight a day. Eat plenty of protein postworkout, at least 20 to 40 grams. And try to eat at regular intervals, whether it is six, five, four or three times per day. —Jose Antonio, Ph.D.


Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University in sunny South Florida.


1 Xu, C., et al. (2012). Supplementation with oat protein ameliorates exercise-induced fatigue in mice. Food & Function. Published online ahead of print, November.

2 Donatto, F.F., et al. (2010). Effect of oat bran on time to exhaustion, glycogen content and serum cytokine profile following exhaustive exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 7:32.

3 Moore, D.R., et al. (2012). Daytime pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body protein turnover in resistance-trained males. Nutrition & Metabolism. 9:91.


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