The chia seed was once a staple food of the Aztecs, loved for its ability to sustain and to give endurance. It contains 20% protein and has 19 amino acids, with all of the essential amino acids except taurine. The name chia comes from the Aztec word for ‘oily’, which helps explain its very high source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. When it comes to the amount of omega-3 oil in various seed oils, the chia seed has the highest content, even higher than flax. Chia has eight times more omega 3 than salmon, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, three times more iron than spinach and twice the potassium content of bananas. Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants and have four times higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value than blueberries. They’re a powerhouse of nutrition all packed into one tiny little seed.
Can chia seeds help endurance athletes to train harder and perform better? I believe they can. By mix¬ing chia seeds with water and then eat¬ing them before a run, the gel sub¬stance coats the stom¬ach and this gel physically prevents the fast break down of carbohydrates in the body. The gel essentially works as a barrier between carbohydrates and your stomach’s digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates into glucose at a slower rate. Glucose is the main source of fuel for muscular activity. By slow¬ing that break¬down process, chia seeds provide endurance athletes with a longer period of time before they experience low blood sugar resulting in muscular fatigue. Chia seeds can therefore delay the breakdown of protein and allow for more efficient utilization of nutrients.
Additionally, chia seeds can absorb up to 12x their own weight in water, mak¬ing them a fantastic tool for hydration. They can help keep athletes hydrated for longer periods of time while also helping to maintain electrolyte levels.
For those endurance athletes training for events such as the marathon, you may want to see if this mighty little seed can help your performance. Only you can decide if chia seeds will work as a nutritional source for your training. But don’t wait until race day to give them a try. If you would like to see if chia seeds can help you on your next long run, try this chocolate tapioca pudding along with your regular pre-run breakfast.
- Chocolate Tapioca Pudding
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 4 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 teaspoon cacao powder
Stir together and let sit for 10 minutes. Enjoy.