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Fueling Up With Fat and the Best Strawberry, Coconut and Chia Oatmeal

with LENTINE ALEXIS, cyclist and professional chef

Whether you’re pushing yourself for days on end, or just preparing for a busy day, adding a little bit of fat to your diet is important to perform at your peak, and to help your body complete its vital functions so you’re living and being your best in your daily life. Breakfast is a perfect time to add a bit of fat to ensure that you’re starting your day on the right foot. No excuses! This delicious, hearty and colorful breakfast porridge can be made ahead of time, so it is ready to go – even before your morning spin.

It was mid-August and I was three days into a 6-day stage race in the Colorado Rockies. My legs, heart and head ached from relentless climbing - breathlessly. My shoulders, quadriceps and head throbbed from the impact of descending. I’d started the race well rested, well-fueled, and ready to perform at my best. But, we’d been crossing significant, technical distances each day and the high altitude had stolen my appetite. I’d all but lost track the logical cravings my body would have for entire bags of potato chips, slices of cake or frosty root beer floats in this state of calorie deficit.

My brain foggy, my emotions fluctuating between heartbroken and frightened at the end of a brutal stage, I found myself standing in an ice-cold lake at the edge of our camp wearing my dusty, salty race kit. Staring blankly into the distance, I was a shell of my vibrant, fit race-ready self, with tears staining my filthy cheeks. The podium was far from my mind, and I was ready to quit.

“Lentine! Lentine?!” my sister called, puzzled and suspicious of my posture from the shore. She’d come up to visit me - a welcome treat from the somewhat solo nature of this sort of race. “What are you doing out there?”My sister isn’t a coach or an athlete, but she is wise beyond her years and she knows a thing or two about how our souls are satiated. She waded out into the water and gently touched me on the arm. She gave my rag-doll body a big squeeze and coaxed me back to shore and out of my sweaty spandex. Then, she practically carried me to the car and drove me into the little mountain town down the road to a pizzeria.

Without asking any questions, and before I could utter any objections, she ordered up a deep-dish pie piled high with salty sausage and fresh vegetables, cheese and tangy sauce. When it arrived at the table, she scooped the biggest piece onto the plate placed before me and put a fork in my zombie-like hand.“Eat it.” she said, as she leaned back and sipped a beer. Reluctantly, with surely hollow eyes, I fumbled with my fork I took a little bite. The salt and fat immediately hit my taste buds like happy firework explosions of flavor. Another bite. And another!

I’d tried for the past three days to eat“virtuous,”balanced meals in camp. Big bowls of oatmeal with honey and bananas for breakfast with a small scoop of peanut butter and coffee, and pasta with salad and a little dustings of cheese for dinner. But with an absent appetite, I was checking off incomplete boxes in my mind and was neglecting one ridiculously important nutrient: fat.

Fat is what my body wanted to burn at lower intensities during my 6+ hour days on the bike. Fat that would help my body to normalize my hormones (and my emotions). To help absorb vital nutrients from my meals while racing, and help my internal organs and mind function more vitally when working to perform at my peak under strenuous conditions. Fat that would make my food taste GOOD so I was sure to get enough of it at each meal - which is an important consideration when you’re in the middle of a week full of racing.

A few belly laughs, and two-and-a-half slices of pizza later, I was headed to sleep in my tent in the camp with a full belly and a happy mind. My body was still sore from the past days’stages, but my heart was ready to give all I had. The next day, I was back on the podium - proud, hungry to compete, and with quitting the race far from mind.

The Best Pre-Ride Oatmeal

Pre-Ride Breakfast Bowl: Strawberry + Coconut Chia Oatmeal w/Toasted Pepitas + Hemp

This colorful and power-packed Strawberry + Coconut Chia Oatmeal bowl calls for coconut butter (or manna,) which can be found in the nut butter aisle in a well-stocked natural grocer. Coconut butter has the texture of any other nut butter and is essentially whole, ground coconut, full of healthy fats and flavor. The oatmeal is quick to make and easy to make ahead as well. You can store pre-made oatmeal in pint-sized containers and top with colorful, nutritious strawberries, nuts and seeds on the morning you plan to eat it!

This recipe also calls for bee pollen and hemp seed; both ingredients you may not have in your pantry, but ingredients you’ll be able to find easily at a well-stocked natural grocery near you. Hemp seed is rich in healthy fatty acids, and adds delicious texture to salads and smoothies as well as this oatmeal! Bee pollen is a healthy, flavorful and nutrient-packed addition - high in protein, folic acid and vitamins.

Makes 2-3 servings

•        ¾ cup // 60g whole quick cooking oats

•        3 tablespoons chia seed

•        1¼ cup // 295g water

•        ¼ cup 61g almond milk (or your favorite coconut, hemp or dairy milk)

•        4 tablespoons // 45g coconut butter

•        2 tablespoons // 43g honey or maple syrup

•        Juice of one small lemon

•        ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

•        1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced

Toppings: roasted unsalted almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, hemp seed and bee pollen or whatever other toppings you love.

Ingredients for Strawberry Coconut Chia Oatmeal Bowl

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the oats, chia seed, water and almond milk. Bring to simmer then turn the heat down to low, stirring often. Add the sea salt, honey and coconut butter, stirring into the oatmeal with a spatula and pressing as you stir to be sure no lumps of coconut butter remain. Cook until the oats are soft yet still have texture, and until the chia seeds are bloomed completely. Remove the oatmeal from heat and add the lemon juice. Then taste. Does it need a bit of salt? More honey? Add accordingly.

Ladle the oatmeal into bowls and top with sliced strawberries, roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and bee pollen to taste. The nuts and seeds add texture so add as liberally or as conservatively as you choose. 

Pre-Ride Strawberry Coconut Oatmeal Bowl

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