Super fuel: homemade chia sport gel

One small silver lining of a forced break from long training/racing and intensity is that, when you're not stressed with competitiveness (even when it's the kind that's just with yourself), supporting from the sidelines can be fun. And, minus the cloud of overhanging nerves and fatigue, you have more clarity with which to thoughtfully consider where your best efforts allow for the most significant support. When those efforts collide with fun in the kitchen, all the better.

Right now, Dave's on a chia kick. You're probably well more familiar with chia than I was previously, as my greatest associations have been a nose-wrinkling reaction to conjured images of old Chia Pet commercials. Chia is an edible seed that comes from a desert plant called Salvia hispanica, and is found in abundance in southern Mexico. It's a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, more so than flax seeds, and seeds are so packed with antioxidants, they can be stored for long periods of time without deteriorating. These nutty little seeds further offer good doses of fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and more. And, added to water they naturally form a gel. In fact, they are apparently able to absorb up to twelve times their weight in water; they are a slow release energy source, too, making them an optimal endurance food.


The big thing about chia seeds that has kept me from exploring their potential is the cost. They're pricey. However, they could well be worth it, especially when you can purchase exactly what you need in a bulk bin. A little goes a long way. This week, they were on sale at Sprouts for $7.74/lb, making the fairly sizable amount (about 1 1/2  cups) we took away for a couple recipes trials ring in a good bit under $4.00.

Dave found this great blog from an ultra runner in New Zealand, and was dead set on trying out the chia energy gel recipe as trial #1. The ingredients aren't the cheapest, but it's good fuel. Besides, relative to sport gels in general, the total's not so bad, especially considering you are in charge of everything that goes in and how much you take. Moreover, this recipe is so very easy to prepare. Everything goes into the blender or food processor, and there you are. The result is very thick,  sticky, and sweet, but it tastes good...and that's from a quick sampling session when we were specifically not hungry, or training.

The best thing, it goes without saying, is, today, the gel worked a treat. According to Dave: The gel was awesome. Not too sweet, once out on the trail, and all I needed for the four hours in the hills. You might say Dave's predisposition to love it helped, like a placebo, and the truth is, after one day, who would know the difference. But, Dave is decidedly looking forward to finding out.

The hardest part was actually getting the sloppy, viscous (but tasty!) stuff into Dave's flask. In the end, we created a contraption in which the cap of a honey bottle pressed through the inside of a zip lock baggie with the corner cut off, pressing into the flask and pushing out the gel in a most unappetizing way. For next time (because now we know there will be a next time), we're getting wider-mouthed gel pouches and an icing dispenser bottle. Can't go wrong with those, for sure.


Chia energy gels

Ingredients per one gel

1 Tb chia seed, ground 1 Tb coconut oil 1 Tb lemon juice 1 Tb honey 3 soft dates 1 tsp lemon zest pinch salt or ground seaweed

Blend all ingredients until smooth. This makes one gel. It is easier to make a whole lot and freeze what you do not need. The mixture remains soft when frozen.