Omega 3 Chia seed loading as a means of carbohydrate loading

Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): J Strength Cond Res
Page numbers:61-65
doi (if applicable):N/A (

Summary of Background and Research Design

Background:High carbohydrate (CHO) intake for several days before competition lasting >90 minutes increases muscle glycogen stores and enhances performance. High fat diets relative to high CHO diets increase fat oxidation and spare muscle glycogen, potentially increasing energy reserves. Omega 3 Chia seeds are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and essential amino acids.

Hypothesis/purpose of study: To compare sports performance and endurance fuel usage after loading with CHO plus an Omega 3 Chia seed formulation or traditional CHO source alone.

Subjects:The study included 6 highly trained male endurance athletes (mean [SD]: age, 23.7 [5.2] yr; height, 196.7 [8.7] cm; weight, 68.2 [8.5] kg; maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), 70.3 [13.3] mL/kg; 10k personal best, 35 m 55 s)

Experimental design:Crossover, counterbalanced, repeated measures design with a 2-week washout between testing sessions.

Treatments and protocol:Athletes completed a preliminary exercise session to assess VO2max. Two days before testing, subjects completed an intense run followed by ingestion of either a CHO drink (100% calories from Gatorade) or Chia drink (50% calories from Gatorade, 50% calories from an Omega 3 Chia seed formulation) ad libitum throughout the day. The day before testing, subjects completed an easy run (< 30 min="") or="" rested="", as="" desired="", followed="" by="" ingestion="" of="" a="" CHO="" or="" Chia="" drink="" throughout="" the="" day.="" The="" day="" of="" testing="", subjects="" ran="" for="" 1="" hour="" on="" a="" treadmill="" at="" ~65=""% VO2max="" followed="" by="" a="" track-based="" 10k="" time="" trial="" to="" mimic="" a="" >90-minute competitive endurance event. Participants were instructed to vary speed as needed to maintain 65% VO2max. Only water was permitted on the day of testing. There were 2 separate exercise sessions, separated by a 2-week recovery period. During the second testing period, subjects received the CHO-loading drink not ingested during the previous testing period.

Summary of research findings:
  • Mean 10k times were indistinguishable between treatments (Chia: 37 min 49 sec; CHO: 37 min 43 sec; P = .83)
  • Two of the 3 most highly trained athletes noted that their heart rate was slightly lower during testing, requiring them to run faster to achieve 65% VO2max on the treadmill; these athletes completed slightly faster 10k runs
  • All participants reported that this was a large number of liquid calories to drink in 1 day
  • Digestion issues/mild cramping were noted by 1 runner for both treatments and 2 runners were hungrier while drinking the Omega 3 Chia seed beverage

Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications:

No difference in running performance was noted between the 2 CHO-loading drinks in this testing scheme, but loading with an Omega 3 Chia seed/Gatorade blend appears a comparable alternative to CHO loading for enhancing performance during endurance events lasting >90 minutes. However, muscle glycogen and fat oxidation were not assessed to indicate whether Omega 3 Chia loading can improve energy use during endurance exercise compared with a Gatorade-type loading. This option may be preferred by athletes who want to decrease dietary sugar intake or increase Omega 3 fatty acids intake while maintaining athletic performance.

Limitations of this study:

Given the obvious differences in physical characteristics between the Chia seed beverage and plain Gatorade, the subjects would be able to distinguish between treatments and might have altered their performance intensity. This is especially concerning if the subjects had a belief that the Chia seed was ergogenic and might have subconsciously increased exercise intensity in that group relative to when they were in the Gatorade group. It would seem that perhaps isocaloric bars with and without Chia seed might better have disguised these seeds so that subjects would not have perceived the differences between treatments. Another limitation is that the sample size for this study (n = 6 subjects) was quite small.
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