Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chia Power

I was running with a friend the other day.  We both had the same shoes, but the sounds coming from our feet were decidedly different.  I’m a dedicated forefoot/midfoot striker, while she is more of a heel striker. 

We were discussing minimalist running, when she exclaimed, “I should be able to do that, I have the shoes, and I even eat chia seeds!”
Chia seeds.  If you’ve read “Born to Run” or if you listen to too many triathlon podcasts, you might think that chia seeds are powerful enough to turn Lemonade into Rocket Fuel.  Let’s look at why you might think so.  
Chia seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids.  Also known as Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s), these are fats that are easily converted into energy.  Calories that come from Chia are every bit as good as calories that come from commercially available carbohydrate drinks, especially when used as part of a carbo loading protocol.
Medium Chain Triglycerides are a great souce of fuel if you want to spare carbohydrate and decrease blood lactate increases during moderate and intense activity, especially when compared to Long Chain Triglycerides.
It isn’t enough to consume chia.  You also need to train your body to increase the use of MCT’s and that is facilitated by training.  High Intensity Training in the presence of medium chain triglycerides will enhance the ability to use fat as a fuel during endurance exercise.
So are Chia seeds worth it.  Sure.  However there are other sources of MCT’s such as almond butter, salmon, avocado and hummus that are also worthwhile options, unless you want to grow sprouts on a ceramic animal.

1 Lilian TG, Casey JC, Bishop PA. Omega 3 Chia seed loading as a means of carbohydrate loading. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):61-5
2 Nosaka N et al. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
3 Jong-Yeon K et al. Long- and medium-chain fatty acid oxidation is increased in exercise-trained human skeletal muscle. Metabolism. 2002 Apr;51(4):460-4.

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