That silly jingle is the first thing that comes to mind when you first hear that line but apparently there is much more to chia seeds. I had heard of chia seeds before but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to take a close look at them.
Chia seed can hold up to 12 times its weight in liquid, forming a gel like substance. Once consumed, this gel acts as a buffer that slowly releases the particular liquid in which you soaked it.
The effect of this is like having a Camels hump or a personal reservoir that releases the liquid slowly as this chia gel is absorbed by the body. In theory, this “slow release” helps you stay hydrated for a much longer period.
This allows the user to train longer without suffering from the effects of dehydration.
It is said that the Aztec messengers would keep a small pouch of chia or salba seeds with them when running messages over great distances.
I have been using chia seeds over the past couple of months for my long runs, and put together the following for your consideration:
Here, I used 6 ounces of orange Powerade.
One tablespoonful of dry chia seed.
I used two total.
Within ten minutes, you could see the gel form.
After about 30 minutes, almost of all the liquid is absorbed.
This was with grape powerade.
Two spoonfuls of dry chia seed for illustration.
This is mixed with strawberry endurox. Again for illustrative purposes, I poured it into the plate. Not so coincidentally, I had a great run that morning.
When soaked in water, it absorbs twice as fast.
You can clearly see all of the water has been absorbed.
These are 4 ounce bottles I carry in a miniature hydration belt on runs of 12 miles or more. The entire set-up fits nicely underneath my shirt, to the point that you wouldn’t even know I am wearing it.
I got the bottles from GNC.
These are filled with different flavors of Powerade, and chia seeds.
After 30 minutes.
Ready for the road!
From my experience, it seems as if I am not as thirsty during a run as I normally am, but I obviously have nothing concrete to back that claim up.
There is little clinical study of chia seed from what I have seen. Most of the comments are theories.
But just in principal alone, the thought of having water or electrolytes released slowly into your system while you are running or during another physical activity is desirable.
Or, say if you are concerned about sodium loss during an event, you could soak them in chicken or beef broth.
If you wanted a caffeine boost you could soak them in tea or perhaps coffee.
Or if you were running in 80 degree heat and just wanted to soak them in water you could do that as well. Any of us who has run out of fluid 4 miles from our cars could appreciate the value in something like that.
As far as benefits, chia seed packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber in two tablespoons. If you have ever tracked your fiber consumption, you can appreciate just how amazing that is.
There are also 6 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs just in the seeds themselves. When I soak them in endurox, I am adding 6 grams of protein and 27 grams of carbs for a total of 12 grams of protein and 37 grams of carbs respectively slowly being released into my system while I run.
This allows me to get a jump start on the all important anabolic window, which lasts up to one hour after physical activity has ceased.
In summary, I believe chia seeds are an added advantage for me. While I do not use them in everyday cooking, there are many who do. You could also take them dry and then drink water or other fluids, allowing the gel to form in your stomach. I prefer them in gel form however, and essentially drink them.
I have spoken to several people who also use chia seeds and they all agree that they would rather use them than not.
As for evidence that they work, if you believe in something (even if it is a placebo) and you feel that it is providing you with its intended benefit, then that is really all the evidence you need.