Chia Improves Carb Loading For Endurance Sports

From Ergo Log

Endurance athletes who load fast carbs before a race could see what happens if they replace some of the carbs with chia. Chia is healthier than fast carbohydrates in a 1001 ways, and sports scientists at the University of Alabama suggest that cocktails of chia and carbs work just as well as the carb-bombs produced by the sports drinks industry.

Experimental setup
To set the record straight from the start: the Alabama study does not provide scientific proof that chia is a substitute for fast carbohydrates. The subjects knew when they were getting chia and when they were only getting carbohydrates. But never mind, as they say in our gym: there’s more protein in half an egg than in an empty shell.

The researchers got six well-trained endurance athletes to run at moderate intensity for an hour on a treadmill [65 percent of their VO2max], and then run a distance of 10 km on a track as fast as they could.

The athletes did this on two occasions. On one occasion they prepared by loading with classic fast carbohydrates: during the two days before the event the athletes did a short but intensive training session in the morning after which on both days they consumed a sports drink which provided 6 g fast carbs per kg bodyweight. This was on top of their usual food.

On the other occasion the athletes replaced half of the kcals in their sports drink with chia. Click here to see the protocol. The researchers hoped that the omega 3 fatty acids in chia would promote fat oxidation, which would mean the athletes’ performance would be just as good.

Indeed: the athletes completed the 10K run in about the same time on both occasions.

“Chia loading with additional carbohydrates appears to be an option for carbohydrate loading for endurance events lasting longer than 90 minutes”, the researchers conclude. “This approach would allow athletes to decrease their dietary intake of sugar while increasing their intake of healthy omega 3 fatty acids. This dietary approach yielded results similar to traditional all-carbohydrate loading.”

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):61-5.


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