Remember those amazing plant animals (and now future presidential candidates) that came in the terracotta planters?  Just add water and see the hair grow?  The tacky infomercial music?  Well… turns out, the seeds used to grow those fuzzy locks actually have more nutritional value than you may realize!

The Discovery

I’ve jumped on the band wagon a little late and just started reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the book because I’m planning on doing a whole review when I finish reading (however as of now, I recommend it!)  Mr. McDougall is a man that loved to run, but his body betrayed him with static injuries.  He heard about the Tarahumara Indians who competed (and won) in a 100-mile Ultra called the Leadville Trail, located in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.  They are minimalist runners, who don’t use commercialized sneakers, but run with homemade sandals.  They don’t use the over advertised electrolyte goos and carbohydrate tablets,  they drink something called iskiate and eat pinole.  He said that this iskiate drink gives them all the energy and power they need to not only complete in these races, but run 100’s of miles on their own accord.  Another name for this is chia fresca or “chilly chia”.

“It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime.  In terms of nutritional content , a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach and human growth hormone”. -Christopher McDougall

As soon as I read about this, I was intrigued.  I keep chia seeds handy for my smoothies and I couldn’t wait to see if I could create this Tamahumara traditional drink right in the comfort of my own home.

Benefits of Chia Seeds

After I read about it, I decided to do a little bit of research.  How popular is this drink and if the benefits are what Mr. McDougall is claiming, then how hasn’t it been commercialized and sold to death?

While doing the research, I came to recognize the list of advantages that chia seeds offers is long.  It’s essentially a little black book of essential vitamins and nutrients.  Chia seeds are stock full of fiber, protein and healthy Omega-3 essential fatty acids.   The advantages of fiber and protein are well known, but the advantages to Omega-3 is actually what makes the little seeds amazing. These fatty acids are not only great for brain health,  but assist with the symptoms of asthma,  joint stiffness & pain and help curb the blood fats that cause heart disease.   Chia seeds also contain manganese, which is directly related to bone strength.  It’s clear that when it comes to running, especially long distances, any advantage for lungs, joints, heart and bones is a plus.   I’ve included a list below of the advantages specifically for running:

  1. Boosts energy–  slows down the process of carbohydrates turning into sugar.  In laments terms, this means that the carbs you ingest will be able to fuel your body longer.  Just be sure that you’re still taking in carbs, as chia seeds have zero carbs in them.
  2. Promotes weight loss
  3. Relieves joint pain
  4. Accelerates recovery – the antioxidants and proteins help the body after a tough, long run.

*Important to note in high heat & humidity:  Chia seeds are highly absorbent, meaning that they can help retain water, which majorly helps with dehydration.

It’s clear that these little seeds have a laundry list of advantages.  However, there has been no definitive research done that links the consumption of iskiate or chia fresca to improved endurance and performance.  I’ve been drinking it in the morning for the past 4 days and I found that I do have more energy and focus.  After a rough track workout on Tuesday, I drank this before going to bed and felt good enough to go on a quick 5-miler at 6:00 AM the next morning (mornings are rough for me!).  Is that related?  It could be or it could be a placebo effect.  I’m going to continue drinking it to see if I can replace coffee or maybe even some of those previously mentioned over advertised gels with this, as it seems to be healthier!  I’ve included a recipe below and I hope that you’ve learned a little something here and maybe even give it a shot!!


I recommend putting the chia seeds in first and then adding water.  Make sure you’re using a big enough container, as the seeds need room to gel up!  Fun little fact – they can get up to 10x their original size!  The recipe below is a compilation of a bunch of recipes I found during my research.

  • 2 TBSP Chia Seeds
  • 2 Cups Water
  • Juice of 1 Lime (or 2  TBSP of bottled lime juice)
  • 1 TBSP Agave Nectar
  • Add mint leaves or basil for some extra umph 

Mix all the ingredients together in a big enough container (from experience, disaster can occur).  Remember, the chia seeds will expand!  Let sit for at least 20 minutes.  You can also halve the recipe or double, depending on what you need it for!

*Note: I’ve learned that you have to keep stirring in order to avoid clumping of the seeds.

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