Loving the BITE: Chia For a Long Lasting Energy Source


It’s a sports nutrition superfood of legends.  It’s a fill-you-up nutrition powerhouse breakfast.   It’s a Chia Seed.

And, while it may be small, it works wonders to soak in fluids, gel up, and provide long-lasting energy and volume for foods.  Many athletes use it because they’ve heard the stories of amazing athletes using it throughout history.  Others, like me, are now just joining in.  This week, we’ll use the humble chia seed to make “Overnight Oatmeal” (it provides a wonderful thickness to this simple breakfast) and discuss some Cycling Nutrition Chia options.

Recipe of the Week: Overnight Chia Oats 


  • 1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup milk (any kind)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons real maple syrup or organic honey
  • ½ cup fresh berries or other chopped fruit


Place all ingredients in bowl or mason jar.  Stir or shake (if in covered mason jar) well.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.  Serve cold or heat up on stove-top or microwave in the morning.  Easier, faster, and WAY more healthy (were talking 10+ grams of fiber and 12+ grams of protein) than the ol’ packet of sugar oats.


Whether or not you’re a runner (good cycling cross-training, right?), you may have heard of the book Born to Run.  Personally, I love this book.  It’s a wonderfully entertaining, well-written story of incredible endurance athletes, great racing, and the love of sport.  If you’ve read it, or heard about it, you may also be interested in the fuel used by these incredible endurance athletes.

According to the book, the Tarahumara People used pinole (ground corn) and chia seeds as their primary fuel.  In the ever-increasing sports nutrition market, this revelation sparked a whole new interest in the ancient seed, and a whole new niche for Chia seed sports foods.  While I don’t think Chia seeds are a one-stop miracle food that will solve all your problems and single-handedly get you to the top of the podium, they are a valuable nutrient-packed, high-antioxidant, long-lasting-energy seed .  And surprisingly, many athletes tolerate the high fiber content well and don’t report digestional issues like you’d expect from a high fiber food.   In my opinion, they make for a perfect complement to quicker energy foods/drinks on the bike.

As a long-lasting energy source, Chia seeds and Chia-based products are most appropriate for consumption 1-2 hours before a ride or during a ride that lasts longer than 2 hours.  A few commercial sports nutrition options that use Chia seeds include:

In addition to long-lasting, slow-and-steady-digesting carbs and fiber, Chia seeds are wonderfully versatile and have a lot to offer nutritionally.  They are absolutely a great choice for everyday nutrition, anytime.  In fact, they provide:

Minerals – Chia seeds are an excellent source of phosphorous, manganese and calcium.  They also contain trace amounts of sodium and potassium.

Healthy fats: Chia seeds contain a high amount of plant based omega-3s.  And, while these cannot replace the omega-3s from fish and seafood, they still promote reduced inflammation and overall health.

Fiber: Chia seeds are a great source of fiber at six grams per one tablespoon!  Soluble fiber promotes digestive health, steady energy and blood sugars, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, and overall wellness.

Antioxidants: Great for the athlete, Chia seeds provide healthful antioxidants that combat oxidative stress.  Specific antioxidants include caffeic and chlorogenic acids, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol.  These nutrients have also been correlated with reduced risk of cancer.

Protein: Chia seeds, like quinoa seeds, contain complete proteins with all essential amino acids.  Every tablespoon of chia provides 2 grams of protein.

Bonus Recipe:  Muscle Sparing Protein Shake

As posted last month, our muscle sparing protein shake utilizes Chia and Protein to provide a nutrient dense, nourishing shake that can reduce overnight muscle wasting in athletes.

Chia isn’t just for your Chia Pet.  It’s a great option for a filling breakfast, cycling nutrition, and protein shakes.  Take it from the Tarahumara, it’s good fuel.

Enjoy Your Ride

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7 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: Chia For a Long Lasting Energy Source ”

  1. Nostalrius on December 11, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Awesome article. I read your posts pretty regularly and you always do a
    good job articulating the whatever topic you’re writing about.
    Btw, I shared this on Facebook and my followers
    loved it. Keep up the great work!

  2. Chris on October 4, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Kelli thanks for the article..Going to have to try the overnight chia oats.

    • Kelli Jennings on October 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Chris, You’re very welcome. The overnight chia oats are very flavorful and maybe even more convenient than instant oats. I hope you like it – let us know… Take care!

  3. glenn on September 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Hey Darryl, some vegans use chia to replace eggs in recipes. I tried this with brownies. I also added a 1/2c uncooked quinoa and 1/2t almond extract to a standard brownie mix (like Betty Crocker). The texture was nothing like brownies, but it was pretty good. Moist and dense. The quinoa gives it a bit of crunch. I won’t say it’s health food, but it’s healthier junk food.

    • Kelli Jennings on September 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks Glenn! Although I’ve never used chia for eggs, I’ve often used ground flaxseeds in place of eggs (my youngest kiddo’s allergic to egg whites). 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg in baked good. And, speaking of brownies, I’ve been thinking of sharing a very yummy black bean brownie recipe – I’ll steal your description, a healthier junk food:)

  4. Karyn on September 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I’ve been using Chia seeds on and off for a while now but honestly never knew about the benefits. Thanks for sharing this article. Can the muscle sparing shake be used even when not working out? Should I only take it on days I’m working out or just worked out?

    • Kelli Jennings on September 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

      Hi Karyn, thanks for your comment! The intention of the muscle sparing shake is: 1) the provide long lasting protein (it becomes more long-lasting as the fiber in the chia delays digestion) overnight to spare muscle after working out, 2) provide a healthy, portion controlled fix before bed, and 3) provide a lot of healthful nutrients. So, it’s a good replacement for a sugary dessert any night. The muscle sparing effects of protein have been studied with mostly resistance training (weight lifting), and can be hypothesized to be of benefit from cycling with resistance as well (hills, high speed, intervals, etc). Here’s my recommendation: If you don’t normally have a after-dinner snack on days you don’t workout, stick with no dessert. If you do like to eat something after dinner, this is a healthful portion-controlled swap for anything sugary, even on non-workout days. On days you workout, it’s benefifical for muscle sparing, so include it on these nights.


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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