I started pumping iron a few months ago. It was my first real foray into the weight room, spurred by the realization that I was sick of waking up at 6 a.m. so a tall Nordic man could yell at me while I trudged through HIIT classes. I ditched the HIIT, picked up a barbell, and haven’t looked back. Along the way, I’ve encountered a lot of sinister nutrition advice for lifters. The worst, by far, has been the strength community’s weird aversion to sweet breakfasts. I have the sweet tooth of a much younger, hardier woman, so I only eat sweet breakfasts as a rule. That’s why I’m so thankful for the overnight oatmeal recipe that I now eat every single day of my pathetic life.
My life-altering oatmeal moment came courtesy of Casey Johnston, the author of LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell. This is the beginner barbell program I used to enter the weight room with confidence, and it has helped me tremendously; I will sing of its virtues until the end of my very swole days. Not only is Johnston’s program great for beginner lifters, but it also hinges on the fact that, to lift heavy, you must eat a lot. A lot. Way more than I was eating when I was at the mercy of the Nordic HIIT instructor.
To eat enough to fuel your big daddy lifts, you must learn to sneak nutrition—protein, and lots of it—into every meal. That’s where Johnston’s oatmeal recipe comes in. I found the recipe in an edition of Johnston’s newsletter, She’s a Beast, under the heading Protein Oatmeal v2.0: Mush Reloaded.
I wasn’t stoked on it at first. For one thing, the mush was meant to be eaten cold, and I was of the outdated belief that oatmeal must be eaten hot. (I was younger then, and foolish.) I had also never used Greek yogurt in my oatmeal. In fact, I was still averse to Greek yogurt after overdoing it on probiotics in my early twenties and hobbling to urgent care only to be told that I had a bacterial overgrowth. The bacteria had taken over my gut and was throwing a party akin to the biker bar scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Tequila!
Eventually, I was swayed by the fact that Johnston’s recipe contains nearly 40 grams of protein. I whipped up a five-serving batch for the week, topped it with peanut butter, wolfed it down, and leaned back in my chair. “Damn,” I whispered. “Those are some oats.” Topped with peanut butter, the mush is smooth, creamy, and just sweet enough to satisfy my relentless sugar cravings. It’s also way, way more filling than the wimpy instant oatmeal of my youth.
Now, I eat the stuff pretty much every single day. Is it fancy? No—but I don’t want it to be. It’s a quick, inexpensive, and very tasty breakfast that allows me to go full Trough Mode and knock out a ton of protein first thing in the morning. Now, with Johnston’s permission, I’d like to bring the magic to you.
Courtesy of Casey Johnston
Makes 5 servings
- 3 1/8 cups rolled oats
- 3 cups Greek yogurt
- 1 2/3 cups milk
- 5 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 1/2 scoops (about 62 grams) protein powder (I use Optimum Gold Standard Vanilla Ice Cream)
Combine all ingredients in the most giant food storage container you have and stir until well incorporated. Put in the refrigerator and let sit at least three hours, but ideally overnight, for best results.
Stir again in the morning, portion one serving, top with desired ingredients (peanut butter, berry compote, etc.), and serve.