Let food be your medicine. ~ Hippocrates
Iskiate, or chia fresca, is a popular topic these days after appearing prominently in Born to Run, Christopher McDougall’s book about ultrarunning, the Tarahumara, and the physiology of running – particularly running stupid distances in a single push. McDougall speaks about its use as a natural energy drink in his book and I have been experimenting with it the past several months to see how to incorporate it into my regular race and training diet.
There are lots of ways to use chia seeds (yes, of the Chia Pet ilk) as a dietary supplement and I have been using Iskiate as a pre- and post-run addition to my nutrition with decent results. I have not been particularly scientific about my use of the chia seed but definitely have done a little experimenting with how best to incorporate its use into my regular regimen and have found it to have a refreshing effect.
Chia seeds can be purchased online or at many natural food stores. I have definitely found the best deals online, but if you want to pick up just a little to try it out first, many stores have chia seeds in their bulk or raw foods sections.
Chia seeds have a remarkable ability to soak up liquids and when introduced to water or another liquid, open up to absorb up to 9 times their original volume of water to form a gel. This gel can be consumed in a variety of ways and not only is a great source of energy but helps to keep a person hydrated. The seeds are rich in calcium, Omega 3 and 6 and when in gel form, provide a slow-release mechanism for carbohydrate absorption so you don’t get as much of a spike as you would from a glucose-based energy drink but more of a slow burn energy release.
Chia gel can be made in a variety of different ways and can be stored for use in the fridge for a week (I have heard up to 3 weeks but I like to err on the side of caution). I mostly have been using it as an addition to juices (grape, apple, orange) and will pour a glass, add a couple tablespoons of chia seeds, stir vigorously, let sit for 10 minutes or so to let the seeds soak up the juice, stir again and drink.
A more traditional Iskiate recipe calls for lime juice, sweetener, water and chia seeds and I have found this to be incredibly tasty and refreshing before, during and after exercise. Take the juice of 1 lime, combine it with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar, agave or sweetener of your choice. Add a couple teaspoons of chia seeds, mix it up, let it sit for a bit for the seeds to soak up some of the liquid and get good and plump, then drink up!
Iskiate is a bit too thick to flow through a standard water bottle valve so you may have to slow your pace a bit and drink from an open top if you plan to use it during exercise but other than that, I have found it to be a great addition to my regular nutrition/hydration. nuun is still my go-to solution for hydration but I have definitely used Iskiate (even in combination) to provide a natural energy boost to compliment the regular use of nuun tabs during training and racing.