The link between chia seeds and running is nothing new – from the ancient aztecs and mayans, to the Mexican Tarahumara tribe of today, people have long revered chia for its powerful energy boosting and stamina increasing powers.
But, what exactly is it about chia that makes it so great for runners?
We asked our resident dietitian Emma Morris to explain how chia can be fantastic exercise fuel, helping you stay hydrated, increasing stamina and aiding in a faster recovery.
For better hydration
Keeping yourself hydrated is essential for runners. Even minor losses of fluid from your body through sweat can cause you to lose concentration and get tired more quickly.
Many people wait till they’re feeling thirsty before drinking water, but at this point you are actually already dehydrated! What’s more, drinking large volumes of water when you’re dehydrated is not an effective way to rehydrate – large volumes of water can be hard for your body to absorb, causing an electrolyte imbalance.
So, the most effective way to avoid dehydration is to maintain your fluid levels before, during and after your run. Here’s how:
Get your hydration levels in tip-top condition before your exertion by adding 1tbsp of chia seed to a 250ml glass of water daily for four days before the run. Chia is a fantastic food for runners because it holds 16 times its weight in water, making a thick gel in your stomach that prolongs hydration.
During the race/exercise
Everybody’s fluid intake needs will be different, so it pays to get an idea of yours before a big race. You can do this easily by weighing yourself before and after exercise – each kilogram of weight lost is equivalent to 1l of fluid. For example, if you finish an exercise session 1kg lighter you have a total fluid loss of 1l.
Once you have an estimate of what your sweat losses will be you can make a plan to help make sure you are replacing the right amounts of fluid during the race. Most athletes can tolerate 200-300ml every 15-20min during exercise, but this will vary depending on the intensity.
Try our Chia Fresca for a delicious rehydrating beverage before, during and after your race.
Chia seeds are extremely absorbent, turning into a gel-like substance when left to soak in liquid. This gel not only helps you stay hydrated longer but also slows the conversion of carbohydrates into blood sugar, stabilizing your blood sugar level and giving you a slow, steady release of energy which keeps you fuller for longer.
Reducing inflammation and joint pain
Inflammation is how our body tissues respond to injury or infection, and is a critical part of our natural immune function. The inflammatory process involves a series of cellular signals that alter physiological responses and is a normal process that protects and heals the body following physical injury or infection.
However, if the agent causing the inflammation persists for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation can become chronic. Chronic inflammation can also result from a viral or microbial infection. Chia is one of the highest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation in our bodies and is also thought to reduce the prevalence and severity of various inflammatory responses.
A faster recovery
Chia is packed with antioxidants and contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of our body and can help with cell and tissue regeneration. Chia’s high levels of antioxidants work to fight free radicals, which are unstable cells in our body that attack and weaken our immune system. The hydration powers of chia can also play an important role after your race, aiding in a faster recovery.