The Power of Chia: Why the Chia Seed is Great for Runners
Written By: SportsShoes
Named after the ancient Mayan word for strength, the tiny Chia seed was prized by the Aztecs and Mayans for its ability to provide sustained energy. In recent years the chia seed has enjoyed a resurgence, going from ancient staple to a modern day superfood. This is largely thanks to their role in Chris McDougall's book Born To Run, in which they were praised as a nutritional source of the Tarahumara people, renowned for their long distance running ability. So why is chia so great for runners and how does it boost performance?
A Nutritional Powerhouse
Chia seeds are loaded with nutrients. Two table spoons (28g) provides 11g of fibre and 4g of protein. Added to that, this serving delivers a massive 18% of RDA for calcium and 30% of Magnesium, with 9g of fat, of which 5g are Omega-3s. Chia seeds also contain good amounts of Zinc, Vitamins B1,2 and 3, along with potassium - and all at less than 150 calories.
Packed With Antioxidants
Chia seeds contain an army of powerful antioxidants, higher than any other whole food, helping fight free radicals and prevent cellular damage which contributes to ageing and diseases such as cancer and boost immunity. Quercetin in particular has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, and has been shown to help enhance athletic performance, and particularly, endurance.
In Born to Run, McDougall likened a tablespoon of chia to the nutritional equivalent of a "smoothie of wild salmon, spinach and human growth hormones." Chia is thought to deliver sustained energy by helping to slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, providing long burning fuel. Research here is light, however a 2011 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found a 50:50 mix of chia and Gatorade had the same performance benefits as pure Gatorade.
Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their own weight, helping prolong hydration, and helping to manage electrolyte levels.
Chia is higher in protein than the majority of plant foods, helping rebuilding and recovery, which combined with its anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content, makes it a great recovery food. Adding chia to recovery smoothies is a popular protein boost to help accelerate recovery.
Easily Added to Your Diet
In fact, their bland taste means that chia seeds can be incorporated into almost any meal. Add them to porridge, sprinkle on cereals, yogurts, salads, rice dishes and add to smoothies - when added to liquid chia forms a gel-like substance. You can also add them to baked foods such as bread, muffins etc.