Athletes looking for a carbohydrate load prior to exercise may consider an omega-3 chia drink, suggests new research from the University of Alabama.
A beverage containing 50 percent omega-3 rich chia seeds and 50 percent Gatorade, the “traditional carbohydrate-loading treatment”, produced the same athletic performance as 100 percent Gatorade, according to findings published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
“Omega-3 Chia loading appears a viable option for enhancing performance for endurance events lasting more than 90 minutes and allows athletes to decrease their dietary intake of sugar while increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids but offered no performance advantages,” report researchers led by Travis Illian at the Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, of U of A.
Chia is the edible seed of the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family, which grows in Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina and Peru. The seeds are said to be a significant source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are also rich in fiber (over 5 percent soluble fiber), protein (over 20 percent), amino acids, and a range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals (including calcium, B vitamins, zinc, boron, potassium, copper and phosphorus). They are also said to be a stable source of antioxidants.
The new study suggests that chia may be an option for sports nutrition formulators, given its apparent equivalence to Gatorade for carbohydrate loading in performance athletes. Carbohydrate loading is practiced by athletes prior to competition in order to increase their stores of glycogen in the muscles.
The Alabama-based scientists recruited six highly trained men, and assigned them to carb-load with either Gatorade (100 percent of calories) or a mix of Gatorade (50 percent of calories) plus omega-3 chia seeds (50 percent of calories, Greens Plus Omega-3 Chia seeds).
Following carb loading with one of the beverages, the men ran for one hour run at about 65 percent of their maximum performance level (V̇O2 max), and followed by a 10 km time trial. Two weeks after the first test, the subjects were crossed over to the other carb loading test.
Results showed that there were no significant differences between either groups, with mean 10K times of 37 minutes 49 seconds in the chia group, and 37 minutes 43 seconds in the Gatorade-only group.
The results led the researchers to conclude that the omega-3 chia drink may be an option for athletes who wish to carb load while also reducing their sugar intake, and boosting their omega-3 intake.
Sports nutrition 2011
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Source: Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
January 2011, Volume 25, Issue 1, Pages 61-65, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fef85c
“Omega 3 Chia Seed Loading as a Means of Carbohydrate Loading”
Authors: T.G. Illian, J.C. Casey, P.A. Bishop