If you’re here to learn about the chia seeds benefits for runners, you’ll learn why and how to include them in your meals.
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Disclaimer – This post is for informational purposes only and is not for diagnosing or treatment. See your medical provider or Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations applicable to your health and health history.
As a sports dietitian, I’m a big fan of chia seeds and the benefits of chia seeds for runners. They are awesome for the vegetarian diet for runners and you’ll likely see them as a staple in a vegan runner diet.
But, even for omnivores, these tiny seeds can be a highly nutritious way to diversity your diet.
The best part about chia seeds is that they seamlessly integrate into any dietary lifestyle. They are versatile and easy to add to anything you’re already eating.
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are tiny seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica L. These ancient grains are believed to have originated from Mexico and Guatemala.
Chia seeds don’t really have a taste, but they do absorb liquid and cause things to “gel” or thicken up. In doing so, they can impart a texture change to what you add them to.
You can find black or white varieties of chia seeds, though nutritionally speaking, they are both pretty equivalent.
You can buy them in bulk on Amazon or from Thrive Market, and they should last a while.
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Benefits of Chia Seeds for Runners
- Rich in Nutrients: Chia seeds provide an array of essential nutrients, including iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Great source of fiber: Chia seeds are high in dietary fiber, a nutrient that many Americans aren’t getting enough of. Many runners may have issues with fiber, avoiding high-fiber foods before a run. Fiber helps promote satiety, digestive health and helping to regulate blood sugar levelsThere. are nearly 10 grams of fiber in one ounce (which is nearly 33% of the daily recommended amount).
- Antioxidant Properties: Chia seeds contain antioxidants that help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation. Like many fruits for runners, chia seeds give you a lot of bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking!
- High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Chia seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Nearly 60% of the fat in chia seeds comes from omega 3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, which are beneficial for heart health, skin health, and reducing inflammation that comes with heavy training.
- Blood Sugar Control: The soluble fiber in chia seeds can help stabilize blood sugar levels, making them beneficial for individuals with diabetes. While running and exercise is also beneficial for blood sugar control, including chia seeds in your diet apart from exercise can also help.
- Helps with Hydration– Chia seeds absorb water, so they can be great for hydration and aiding in fluid retention. This is why they are a great addition to a breakfast for runners.
- Bone Health: Chia seeds are a good source of calcium for runners, an important nutrient for bone health, alongside phosphorus, and magnesium, which are important for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
How to Add Chia Seeds to Your Diet
You may be surprised at just how versatile chia seeds are! Here are some creative and delicious ways to add chia seeds to your diet.
- Chia Pudding: Chia pudding is perhaps one of the most popular uses for chia seeds. To make, simply mix chia seeds with your choice of milk (dairy or plant-based) and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The seeds will absorb the liquid and create a pudding-like consistency. I like to add yogurt or protein powder in for more protein. Top it with fruits, nuts, or granola for added flavor. Some easy recipes are chocolate cherry chia pudding or banana chia pudding.
- Smoothie Booster: Add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to your favorite fruit smoothie. They will add a nutritional boost and a slightly thicker texture. Greek yogurt smoothies are high in protein, and you can add additional protein, fiber and micronutrients with chia seeds.
- Homemade Energy Bars and Energy Bites: Mix chia seeds with nuts, dried fruits, and honey or nut butter to create homemade energy bars. Some of our favorites are trail mix bars, hemp protein bars
- Salad Topping: Sprinkle chia seeds on salads for added texture and a nutrient boost. They pair well with both green salads and fruit salads.
- Yogurt Parfait: Layer chia pudding with yogurt and your favorite fruits to create a delicious and nutritious parfait. This can be a great option for what to eat before a 10k or what to eat before a long run. Of course, a simple post-run meal idea too.
- Oatmeal or Cereal Topping: While oatmeal for runners tends to be a popular breakfast idea, sprinkle chia seeds on top of your morning oatmeal or cereal for an extra crunch and nutritional kick.
- Add to granola– Chia seeds are an easy add-in for your favorite granola recipe, like this hemp seed granola.
- Chia Jam: Chia jam is so easy and a great way to make a healthier version of jam by simply combining chia seeds with mashed berries and a sweetener. This healthy cranberry strawberry chia jam is delicious!
- Chia Drink: For a refreshing and hydrating drink, add chia seeds to your homemade electrolyte drink or smoothie. You may have to experiment with the ideal amount so it doesn’t ruin the texture or flavor. Start with 1/2-1 teaspoon.
- Sprinkle on Salads: Sprinkle chia seeds on top of soups, salads, or stir-fries just before serving to boost nutritional content.
- Homemade Popsicles: In the warmer months, cool down with homemade popsicles (like these coconut popsicles). Simply mix chia seeds into fruit puree and freeze the mixture in popsicle molds for a healthy and refreshing treat.
Should All Runners Add More Chia Seeds?
While the benefits of chia seeds for runners are significant, each runner should evaluate his/her current diet.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Certain medications – If you are on blood thinner medications, talk with your doctor before incorporating chia seeds into your diet since omega-3 fatty acids can impact medications and their mode of action.
- More is not better – While many athletes quickly go down a rabbit hole of thinking more is better, know that the benefits of chia seeds don’t increase with more. In fact, having excess chia seeds can lead to unwanted side effects, like digestive discomfort, diarrhea, stomach pain and more. If you’d like to add more chia seeds to your diet, start slowly and increase the number of servings slowly, rather than adding more all at once.
- Store properly – Since chia seeds have unsaturated fats, you should store them in the refrigerator to prevent them from going rancid. At the very least, store them in a cool, dry place, where they cannot be exposed to sunlight.
In conclusion, the benefits of chia seeds for runners are plentiful. Many runners can get extra nutrition by simply adding them to things they are already eating.