Oatmeal and Eggs vs. Cereal

by on April 24, 2014

Oatmeal and Eggs vs. Cereal

Over the last few years IIFYM (if it fits your macros) has become a popular diet strategy, particularly with natural bodybuilders and competitors. In general the idea behind IIFYM is that as long as you meet your macros (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), fiber, and micronutrient needs the end result of the diet will be the same as if you only ate traditional bodybuilding foods such as tilapia, broccoli, chicken, oatmeal, etc. What we do know is that the contest prep journey is difficult, no matter what diet you follow. The body does not want to be extremely low in body fat, so both the body and mind will fight hard to get in your way.

That is why I will present two studies to you where they put Eggs head to head vs. Special K cereal, and then another which puts Oatmeal head to head vs. Honey Nut Cheerios. In other words – Is cereal just as good as a traditional bodybuilding breakfast of eggs and oatmeal?

Eggs vs. Special K Cereal (Protein Quality)

In an IIFYM diet the food choice doesn’t matter as long as it hits your macro requirement. For example, a breakfast with 40 grams of protein from cereal is just as good as 40 grams of protein from eggs. Many of us would agree the protein quality (amino acid composition) of eggs is far superior to that of most all cereals. This is why a new study wanted to put protein “quality” to the test by giving 21 healthy adults a high quality (eggs), or low quality (cereal) breakfast for two weeks [1]. They hypothesized the following:

“We reasoned that if a test meal higher in protein quality enhances objective and subjective measures of satiety, then future weight loss trials may manipulate protein quality instead of quantity, which has not been tested in long term weight loss trials.”

Some important notes include the fact they not only matched calorie content of the breakfast meals, but also the macronutrient composition (see table). To do this they had to include other foods. The egg and cereal meals included the following:

Egg Meal – 2 whole scrambled eggs, 120 mL skim milk, 2 slices thin white bread, 5 g of butter, 18 g of Smuckers® strawberry jam

Cereal Meal – 1.5 cups Special K® ready to eat cereal, 200 mL Silk ® original soymilk, one slice of natural grain “Wheat n’ Fiber”® bread, 13 g of butter, and 10 g of sugar free strawberry jam

They measured subjective feedback from participants after the meals to appropriately determine their level of satiety. They also measured objective measures to quality the participant feedback. The results? Here’s a summary:

  • Lunch food intake was 6% lower after the egg breakfast vs. the cereal
  • On day 1 the feeling of fullness was greater in the group who had the egg breakfast 30 minutes after the meal
  • On day 7 there was no difference in feelings of satiety between the egg and cereal meals
  • Ghrelin (hunger hormone) was 50% lower 3 hours after breakfast in the egg group on both day 1 and day 7 (although this was not statistically significant)
  • PYY3-36 (a peptide that increases with satiety) was significantly higher after the egg breakfast than it was after the cereal breakfast
  • Blood levels of leucine, glucose, and insulin were not different between the two groups

At the end of the day it seems protein “quality” makes a small yet perhaps overrated impact on satiety. Keep in mind this study was fairly short, and did not measure the retention (or increase) in lean body mass between the two groups.

Oatmeal vs. Honey Nut Cheerios (meal satiety and satisfaction)

In another new clinical trial researchers at Louisiana State University wanted to take two common American breakfast foods and put them head to head to determine which food makes you feel more “full”, and help maintain your appetite [2]. This is interesting because they are foods that you might see both a traditional bodybuilder eat, and someone who follows an IIFYM diet. The two foods were Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal, and Honey Nut Cheerios. They gave 46 young men and women isocaloric (equal calories) meals of both oatmeal and cheerios on 2 different days. They allowed study participates to include Splenda and cinnamon in their meal as long as they had it in both meals (and not just one). They were also given a glass of skim milk with each meal.

Before and after (every 30 to 60 minutes after for up to 4 hours) each meal all participants completed a survey that measured feelings of hunger, fullness, stomach fullness, desire to eat, prospective intake, and satisfaction. They found that oatmeal increased the perception of fullness, decreased hunger, desire to eat, and prospective intake at all time points in the 4 hours post meal. They also found that satisfaction was not different between the two meals, which is surprising considering the higher sugar content of the cheerios. The researchers attribute the differences to the amount of soluble fiber (ß-Glucan), NOT to the meal’s glycemic load, protein, or insoluble fiber content.

Is the traditional bodybuilding breakfast of eggs and oatmeal best?

We all know we cannot judge a diet by one meal, or one food choice. It’s the consistency that matters more than anything. We could argue all day that a traditional bodybuilding diet, and an IIFYM approach both will reach the same physique. But sometimes (often times) the hardest part of dieting isn’t the training, or the cardio; it’s your mind making you think you’re starving. These studies show eating traditional bodybuilding foods like oatmeal and eggs, can make the journey easier. Whether or not traditional bodybuilders are right or not doesn’t necessarily matter, what does matter is that oatmeal and eggs are one tool that can make your contest prep easier. And don’t forget to keep your meals high in protein to feel even more “full” (high protein meals also decrease post meal hunger) [3].

[1] B. E. Bayham, F. L. Greenway, W. D. Johnson, and N. V. Dhurandhar, “A randomized trial to manipulate the quality instead of quantity of dietary proteins to influence the markers of satiety,” J. Diabetes Complicat., Feb. 2014.

[2] C. J. Rebello, W. D. Johnson, C. K. Martin, W. Xie, M. O’Shea, A. Kurilich, N. Bordenave, S. Andler, B. J. W. van Klinken, Y.-F. Chu, and F. L. Greenway, “Acute effect of oatmeal on subjective measures of appetite and satiety compared to a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal: a randomized crossover trial,” J Am Coll Nutr, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 272–279, 2013.

[3] R. Fallaize, L. Wilson, J. Gray, L. M. Morgan, and B. A. Griffin, “Variation in the effects of three different breakfast meals on subjective satiety and subsequent intake of energy at lunch and evening meal,” Eur J Nutr, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 1353–1359, Jun. 2013.