This story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of our print edition.
Oats first hit the breakfast scene in about 1000 B.C. in central Europe. They’ve been the quick and gut-filling choice for farmers, warriors, and anyone else with a big day ahead (hello, climbers) ever since. Sadly, oatmeal also has a tendency to go down like glue. Until now. Biju’s Oatmeal recipe is not only quick and simple to make, but it’s also tasty—and super-charged to help you tackle huge objectives. Add the fact that it’s easy on sensitive stomachs, inexpensive, and a great base to customize to your personal taste, and you’ve got an unbeatable morning meal. Make it at home or on a camp stove, and the complex carbs and fiber will give your muscles long-lasting energy and keep you full until lunch, all while warming your body from the inside out. The sugar, molasses, and banana provide immediate energy, while the added water makes the oatmeal easy to digest. Use Biju’s as the starting point and then add whatever you want, from chia seeds to dark chocolate chips to almond butter (check out the next page to see pro climbers’ picks). Vegan (with non-dairy milk), vegetarian, gluten-free, and delicious, this is the perfect kick-start to a day of hard climbing.
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- 1 to 2 cups milk, depending on desired thickness
- 1 banana, chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- Dash of salt
- In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a low boil. Add oats and cook about five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add milk and brown sugar, then return the mixture to a low boil. Add molasses, banana, and raisins, continuing to stir until oatmeal reaches desired thickness. Remove from heat. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes if you have the time.
- Finish by adding other desired toppings and a splash of milk.
Tip: Use any kind of milk you want: dairy, soy, almond, etc. Start with one cup and add more to achieve your desired consistency.
Nutrition Facts (per serving, half total amount)
Energy: 490 cal • Fat: 6g • Carbs: 102g • Protein: 19g • Fiber: 10g • Sodium 181mg
Next Level Oats
How the pros do oatmeal
Steph Davis: “I love oatmeal. I usually like to add dried mango and dried bananas—the whole, soft kind, not banana chips—with powdered soy milk and cinnamon.”
The kind of bananas Davis uses are much healthier because they’re simply dried bananas, while banana chips usually have added sugar and oil. Powdered soy milk is a great way to add texture and thickness to the oatmeal if you don’t do dairy. Research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that cinnamon slows digestion after meals, so seasoning a high-carb food like oatmeal with cinnamon can lengthen the time that your body draws energy from breakfast.
Conrad Anker: “Oatmeal is the best. I suggest adding soy-based protein powder, dates, and dried blueberries. Mix everything in a bowl before you go out, and then package into pre-built meals. In the Himalaya, you can use tsampa instead, which is roasted barley flour.”
Roasted barley flour is high in complex carbs, fiber, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals; it also has a moist texture and nutty flavor. Sometimes real nuts or protein sources are a luxury when weight counts, so replacing those with packable protein powder that offers the nutrients without the weight is a great idea. Dried fruit is also lightweight and adds sweetness when you can’t fit a bottle of maple syrup or agave.
Kate Rutherford: “Whatever you do—add fat! My favorite is real butter, nuts, or nut butter. Coconut shavings are awesome, too. Otherwise I’m hungry again all too soon.”
Healthy fats like the ones Rutherford suggests are an ideal part of a morning meal as they help you feel fuller longer, offer sustained energy, and, of course, make everything taste better!
Adrian Ballinger: “I have a love/hate relationship with oatmeal. It works; it’s fuel; it’s warm. But damn, I hate it most of the time! My secret for big-mountain, high-altitude oatmeal is a hefty pad of butter and some good dark chocolate. It makes a gooey, chocolatey, high-calorie, high-fat mess that keeps me warm and climbing hard. I learned the trick from my Alaska mentor Aaron Zanto on my first trip to Denali. It kept me warm then, and now I look forward to it when I’m cold and wet in a tent, waiting for daylight. Eating it means I’ve got a big day coming up.”
Again, added fat is good for climbers. And there’s nothing wrong with that little extra sugar; you’re definitely going to need those calories on big days. Some other sources of good fats: avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, and even olive oil if you prefer a savory flavor.
Will Gadd: “Plain oatmeal is horrible, a gastronomic crime right up there with serving spaghetti without sauce. But add some dried apricots, a little maple syrup, some pecans or cashews, a bit of salt, and boom! Now you have food instead of glue! I look at oatmeal as a platform on which to do culinary experiments with whatever is hanging around my house or camp pantry.”
Pecans, cashews, salt, apricots, and maple syrup are brilliant suggestions. A great balance of protein, sodium, sugar, and carbs adds a huge amount of flavor to your breakfast bowl.
A no-cook breakfast for alpine starts
If you’re heading out early, throw everything in a jar the night before, leave it in your fridge, and in the morning, you’ll have fresh-made oats ready for you—no stove required! If you prefer hot oatmeal, add a splash of water in the morning (to keep it from drying out) and put your meal in the microwave or on the stove for a few minutes. Oats soak up whatever liquid you leave them in, so you can use any kind of milk or yogurt. The difference for overnight oats is that using only milk, rather than part milk, part water yields better results. Use equal parts oats and milk, but add or subtract based on the thickness you prefer. Don’t forget to jazz it up with your personal additions (chocolate chips, chia seeds, cinnamon, bananas, etc.).