Chia Seeds Provide Sports Nutrition Minus the Sugar and Calories

The popularity of sports drinks and performance gels has exploded over the last 10 years but most nutritionists would agree they aren’t that good for you. A simple drink that combines water, chia seeds and a twist of citrus is healthier and will help you keep that competitive edge.

Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds made a comeback about five years ago. Before that, most of us either hadn’t heard of them or didn’t understand the nutritional benefits that adding them to your diet can bring.

Chia seeds

Chia Seeds Have Superfood Properties

Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are very high in antioxidants. Unlike other seeds – flax for example – they can be added to water, soups, salads, and homemade bread right out of the package. Flax seeds, while good for you, do not have any real nutritional benefits whole and must be ground before they can be consumed.

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients. One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) has 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber. Chia seeds also contain essential nutrients including manganese, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper and potassium. As a bonus they contain essential fatty acids alpha-linoleic and linoleic acid, and vitamins A, B, E and D.

Adding chia seeds to your diet for the nutritional value they provide alone is reason enough. But some research shows they can increase your energy level and metabolism which can lead to improved athletic performance. Add them to the water you drink during your workout and you won’t need a sports drink like Gatorade that’s loaded with sugar and other additives or G2 that has questionable artificial sweeteners.

Replace Sugary Beverages with Chia Seeds to Maintain Your Edge and Lose Weight

Most of us look to sports drinks to help us get through athletic endurance trainings and events. If we are doing a 50 mile bike ride or a 13 mile run on a hot day, we need something beyond water to keep us moving. You can safely replace the sugary carb-loaded beverage with a tablespoon of chia seeds in water with a splash of lemon or lime which will save you calories and provide the needed energy.

A study cited in the National Institute for Health created two control groups that consisted of athletic males. They had both groups perform a one hour run on a treadmill at approximately 65% of their VO2max followed by a 10k time trial on a track. One group consumed 100% of their calories from Gatorade. The second group consumed 50% of their calories from Gatorade and 50% from chia seeds. The group that consumed the 50% Gatorade, 50% Chia seed drink performed just as well as the 100% Gatorade group, which shows the athletes could decrease their dietary intake of sugar by using the chia seed replacement drink.

Chia in water

Chia Water = A Healthier Option

While the study doesn’t go so far as to prove that chia seeds alone will lead to athletic performance, the good news is that often times we consume more calories in the form of beverages and other carb aids when we work out or compete in events. Unlike chia seeds, those calories comes from sugar that has no nutritional value and leads to inconsistent ebbs and flows in our energy level. Over time, consuming sugary sports drinks can sabotage our weight loss goals and leave us wondering why we’re working so hard but the stubborn belly fat doesn’t budge.

Plus, the high fiber content of the chia seeds (one ounce has 10 grams) will fill you up so you’re not starving when you’re done!

Chia Seeds – A Natural Appetite Suppressant With Benefits

Chia is yet another edible seed that has nutritional benefits similar to those found in flax seeds.  But, the chia seed has some additional qualities not found in flax seeds that goes beyond the obvious, which is being able to grow a head of hair on a terra-cotta bust of Bart Simpson. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

Bart Simpson Chia Pet

Omega-3s, Antioxidants and Gel

Here’s the run-down on the properties of chia seeds that make them even more of a superfood than their close neighbor flax.

Chia seeds are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than flax, and the abundance of antioxidants they contain extends the shelf life so that they can be stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid.  They also provide calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.

Chia provides 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon which is a significant amount.   The daily recommended amount of fiber is 14 grams (approximately 1 tablespoon) per 1,000 calories.  If you need something to compare this to, a Fiber One Bar has 9 grams of fiber.

A Jar of Chia Seeds

A Jar of Chia Seeds

What may be one of the biggest attribute of chia seeds are the way they form a gel when they are allowed to sit in water for 30 minutes. Research suggests that this same reaction takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and converts them into sugar.

When added to green tea, protein shakes, juices or smoothies, the seed’s gelling action causes the liquid to become thicker and more filling.

Chia seeds can be added to oatmeal and cereal, home-baked breads, cakes and muffins, and sprinkled on yogurt and other foods. There’s no need to grind chia seeds before you eat them.

Proceed With Caution

Because of the high fiber content, it’s a good idea to add chia to your diet slowly.  Rapidly increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can result in some unpleasant symptoms including stomach cramps and flatulence.  Start with a teaspoon a day and work your way up as your system begins to tolerate the increase in fiber.

A little chia goes a long way.

A little chia goes a long way.

Research has shown that eating chia can lead to improvement in certain health conditions and can actually result in lower doses of prescription medications being needed and in some cases eliminated altogether.  People that are taking prescription medications to manage heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or have obesity and lifestyle related conditions should consult with their doctors before eating chia seeds because an adjustment in the mediation may be required to prevent overdosing.

Here’s a quick, easy and nutritious recipe for chia seeds:

Cinnamon Chia Seed Granola

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of canola oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Combine oats, seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Dry Ingredients

Slowly stir in honey and canola oil.

Spread granola mixture onto the baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Let cool until oats become crunchy.

Chia Seed Granola on cookie sheet

Makes four ¼ cup servings.

Use the cinnamon chai seed granola as a topping for Greek yogurt, or put in a baggie for a healthy on-the-go snack.

Chia Seed Granola in bowl

What’s your favorite way to use chia seeds? Be sure and tell your friends about the health benefits of Chia Seeds.

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