Written by Victoria Patchell, Director of Surfing – Peaks ‘n Swells
When it comes nutrition, Chia is a surfer’s best friend. As any best friend, they get this title as they are there for you when it really counts. When no one else can be, Chia will come to your aid.
If you’re feeling a little confused or curious; no we are not talking about Chia Pets, in fact the seeds in the Chia Pet package and the Chia seeds in your local grocery store are not the same. The Chia seeds us surfers are so fond of are from the mint family originating from the shores of Central and South America. It was a very important source of energy for the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day. They believed Chia gave them incredible strength, endurance and nutrition and was highly valued, even to the extent of being offered to the gods in religious ceremonies. In fact the word ‘Chia’ is the ancient Mayan word for strength.
Kelly Slater is wise to the incredible benefits of Chia and its aid in performance of surfing having stated he eats Chia soaked in coconut water every morning for breakfast. The Aztecs and Mayans and Mr. Slater are definitely on to something as Chia offers many health benefits such as, Omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A, B, E, and D, as well as other key minerals.
With this all-star cast of nutrients and vitamins, Chia is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the market. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, more calcium than milk, more Omega-3s than salmon, more iron than spinach, and more antioxidants than blueberries. So with all these staring qualities Chia is quite impressive, however, we surfers hail Chia our best friend for several other reasons.
1. Provides sustained energy. Due to the extremely absorbent nature of Chia seeds, with the capacity to expand up to ten times their original size when soaked in water and forming a gelatinous substance Chia has the ability to provide sustained energy to surfers when they need it most. Because of this gelatinous action, chia seeds slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, meaning the carbs you eat will be able to fuel your body for longer periods of time. The regulation of carbohydrate release also stabilizes blood sugar levels. Therefore, as a surfer, Chia can help you surf better for longer. What a great friend!
2. Combats dehydration. Chia has the capacity to absorb thirty times its weight in water and in turn combat dehydration. Surfers are one of the most dehydrated athletes on the planet, therefore this is an amazing asset of this humble little seed. How it works is the surfer can continue to draw hydration from the seed once it’s ingested, from its expanded and gelatinous exterior. Also Chia seeds help regulate body fluid levels and retain electrolytes, both key in the battle against dehydration.
3. Reduces inflammation and joint pain. Chia can relieve those burning paddling arms after a long surf session. With more Omega 3 essential fatty acids than salmon (gram for gram) and a proven anti-inflammatory, Chia seeds will help support and restore you for your next surf session. The Aztecs knew Chia’s special healing qualities and ate chia seeds to relieve knee pain. In addition to battling aches and joint pain, the essential fatty acids found in chia seeds can assist in healing sun damaged skin which is unfortunately a regular occurrence for surfers.
4. Accelerates post-surf recovery. As a surfer, if the conditions are right you will endeavor to surf sometimes 2 or 3 times in one day, therefore your post surf recovery is essential. Consuming Chia seeds after surfing can greatly assist in this process. Chia seeds are nutrient dense in amino acids, which are the “building blocks of protein” and also are a great source of antioxidants, which are the ultimate defense against free radicals. Eat them soon after your workout to jumpstart recovery and rebuild muscle and fight off those free radicals.
5. Promotes weight loss. Surfing if you’re overweight is a challenging practice as it is all about power to body weight ratio. That’s how those scrawny groms can score so many waves. As Chia seeds are so dense in fiber and protein, they help you feel fuller faster and longer. The absorbent qualities regulate carbohydrate conversion, preventing blood sugar spikes and providing sustained energy. Recent studies have shown Chia seeds help prevent high cholesterol and high triglycerides along with reducing body fat.
The best way for a surfer to eat chia seeds?
A surfer can eat chia in many forms from mixing the seed in with their cereal, oatmeal or muesli to throwing it in to their favourite smoothie. As chia can be eaten straight from the bag and does not have a strong flavour you can even sprinkle a tablespoon or two over your salad, quinoa, rice or pasta. Another popular method is making ‘chia pudding’, this is where you soak the seeds overnight in coconut milk or water, almond milk etc and it naturally forms a delicious gelatinous puddling.
In order to gain the greatest benefit from this incredible little seed I recommend allowing the Chia to soak up hydration before ingesting. You can even get creative with this and soak with other nutrient dense foods such as coconut water, spirilina and almond milk. HOT TIP- If you come to join us at Peaks and Swells in Costa Rica you can sample the Costa Rican version of Chia, called Chan. It looks very similar to Chia and has very similar properties except it is not as potent in the Omega 3 fatty acids. The Costa Rican natives hydrate on Chan regularly in a traditional sweet drink.
Luscious Raspberry Chia Smoothie
¾ Cup Frozen Raspberries
¾ Cup of Rice Milk
1 Teaspoon of Spirilina
1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds
1 Teaspoon of honey or agave (optional)
Place peeled banana and raspberries in blender; add rice milk to just cover the fruit. Then add chia seeds, spirilina and honey or agave on top. Please note it’s important to add the spirilina, chia and honey on top of the other ingredients as otherwise they have a tendency to get stuck in the corners at the bottom. Blend ingredients until all combined. Let mixture rest in blender for 5 minutes to allow the chia to take on the hydration of the smoothie. After chia is hydrated, blend mixture for a few seconds to ensure it hasn’t separated. Serve and enjoy before or after an epic surf session.