Nutritionist TJ Waterfall explains why the humble oat is a nutritional powerhouse primed for peak performance.

They might not the prettiest or most exciting food around, but there are plenty of reasons for oats to get your heart racing.

Packed with performance-boosting nutrients, they should be a dietary staple for anyone interested in fitness.

As with other wholegrains, oats provide a load of fibre, complex carbohydrates and protein to supply a steady stream of energy, so including them in your diet can help boost both endurance and strength.

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Oats also contain impressive amounts of many important vitamins and minerals – including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and thiamine (vitamin B1) – and they’re particularly high in antioxidants, including one group, avenanthramides, that are found almost exclusively in oats and have been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is involved in many cell processes, including vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels), which helps to increase delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise, thereby improving performance.

And let’s not forget the powerful soluble fibres called beta-glucans found in oats. These aren’t digested, but they serve to slow down food transit in the intestines, meaning carbohydrates are absorbed slower, leading to steadier blood sugar.

Beta glucans also take cholesterol away with them as they move slowly through the digestive tract. On top of that, once they reach the colon, they’re used to fuel healthy bacteria, which in turn produce short-chain fatty acids.

These keep the gut lining healthy, but also enter the bloodstream and play an important role in the maintenance of health and prevention of disease throughout the entire body.