Chia Seeds: Ultimate Running Food or Flax's Ugly Cousin (1/2)

Tomorrow morning I'm going to get up at 6:30 and run 12 miles. Usually, I would bring along a couple power gels, but not tomorrow.  No, tomorrow we're gonna do some science, Aztec style.

As internet legend tells it, chia seeds (yes, as in the pet) contain powerful endurance magic.  Supposedly, the Mayans and Aztecs both held them in high regard and running messengers relied on chia as an on-the-go food. I want to find out if I can use them to replace my gels.

On Thursday, I got a zip lock bag full of magic beans.

That's right, I ordered the 2 pound bag :)

When moistened, the seeds develop a gel which allows them to absorb 9x their weight in water.  This gel is said to digest slowly, providing runners with a steady drip of water.  If the water contains some carbs, like honey or apple juice, then those carbs should also be released slowly, helping to avoid that nasty "Oh, we've used up all the glycogen, eh?" feeling.

If you squint, you can kinda see the gel halo around the seeds. Click if you want a bigger picture.

Nutritionally, chia seeds are similar to flax seeds.  They're a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber (about 2/3 each of what you get from ground flax, by weight), but they last longer in the fridge and you don't have to grind them.

I have to include the next picture.  With my $10 pack of seeds, I also got a free sample of hemp protein, some extra fancy white chia seeds, and a hand-written note from the sellers.

A hand-written note from the vendor is one of those red flags that makes me think I'm doing something a little more strange than usual.  But, never mind that!  Here is the plan:

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to have my standard peanut butter toast.  I'm also going to soak 2 Tbsp chia seeds in a 15 oz bottle of apple juice for 10 minutes.  I'll drink the juice as I head out the door and leave my gels at home.  Based on previous experience, I will know exactly how effective the chia-juice combination is in 90 minutes (the run should take me about 2 hours).

If the chia works as advertised, I'll have an awesome run and will plan the phase II trial next weekend -- possibly leading to a chia-powered Green Bay half marathon in 2 weeks.  If it doesn't work, I'll know.  Oh I assure you, I'll know...

EDIT: Part 2 is posted here:


amyhageman said…
I hope for your sake that they taste better than they look. :)
Brenda said…
There may be some other variables that will make your run successful!! Like wonderful running weather or the route is down hill!! Beware of the variables!!
They don't really have flavor (an advantage over flax). It's more of a texture thing.

Brenda, I like how you think. We need more data, approve additional funding for more research! It was a super nice day. The route was a pretty flat loop, but everything was ideal.
Brenda said…
Charlie, it always comes down to "money"!!
Congrats on the run!
Funny Sonny said…
Hey Charlie, what did the letter say? Oh, and have you tried flax before this "chia" experiment? I use to eat the cereal and it was quite tasty. (Not sure if it boosted my energy though.)

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