Runner-friendly recipe: Chia fresca

If you’ve read “Born to Run,” you don’t need me to tell you there’s a higher purpose for chia seeds than growing sprout-like “hair” on a clay sculpture of an animal. In the book, Christopher McDougall describes how chia fresca—chia seeds, water, citrus juice and honey—serve as a “home brewed Red Bull” for the Tarahumara, a tribe of natural superathletes in Mexico who routinely run 50 to 100 miles at a time.

And that’s not where the seeds’ alleged super powers stop. Dr. Andrew Weil discusses the myriad health benefits of chia seeds  in this Prevention magazine column. A Huffington Post story titled—no joke—”Change Your Life With Chia” rattles off even more healthy, almost miraculous, properties.

What runner wouldn’t be curious? I picked up a pack of chia seeds at Whole Foods, and set out to make me some chia fresca.

The more messageboards I read, the more freaked out I got. One runner after another raved about the delicious drink, which they almost unfailingly described as “slimy” and “gel-like.” Really, runners? Aren’t “slimy” and “delicious” mutually exclusive?

I tried this Chia Fresca recipe from the aforementioned Huffington Post story, whose author describes it as “the perfect before-the-gym endurance drink:”

1 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 teaspoons honey

Whisk the chia seeds into the water and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes.

Waiting for the seeds to gel ...

Stir in lemon or lime juice and agave and whisk well. Drink immediately. Makes 1 serving.

Anything is less scary in a CU cup.

Guys, I tried. I really tried. And I almost vomited from the first sip. The gooey, slimy, chunky texture was just too much for me. I’m sure my opinion would be more favorable had a glass been given to me after 50-mile run through the Mexican desert, but in my kitchen before a swim at a DC pool, it’s a no-go.

But as horrified as I was by chia fresca, I wasn’t going to give up on chia seeds. Weil recommends sprinkling them a salad or mixing them into yogurt, and I tried the latter a few hours before my run on Tuesday.

I was too freaked out to eat the seeds knowingly ...

I masked the seeds, which I was now thoroughly freaked out by, with almonds and Kashi cereal, plus some berries and peaches from this week’s CSA offerings.

I kept adding stuff—almonds, cereal, fruit—until I forgot the chia seeds were in there.

I ate it a few hours before my run on Tuesday … and …

The jury’s still out. It tasted perfectly fine, but I’m not sure I felt any pronounced energy boost. My stomach felt a little gurgly during the run, but that likely has more to do with the uber-hilly route and the DC summer heat than the new fuel.

Next up: chia seeds in a smoothie, and chia energy bars, an idea I got from Matt at No Meat Athlete. Matt says he came to try this recipe to avoid the “little globs of chia snot” in chia fresca. Glad I’m not the only one!

Do you use chia seeds? What in the world do you put them in to make them tasty? Is chia fresca an acquired taste (if you tell me you loved it from Day 1, I’ll never touch the stuff again)?


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56 responses to “Runner-friendly recipe: Chia fresca

  1. try it in a smoothie, I’ve had better luck with that. And, in things like oatmeal, or baked in bread.
    Also, I’ve heard it’s sustained energy – you consume it 4 or 5 hours before your run. Not sure that part would work for me, I’m a every two hours eater.

  2. michjoy61

    I put my chia in smoothies. I totally feel you on the gooey, slimy, chunky texture. Not pleasant. I once made chia pudding and dumped it after one taste of it. Try adding to smoothies. You may not even know its there, but it does thicken it up a bit. :O)

    • Brenda Stice

      I’ve done the smoothie as well – it works pretty well for me that way. I don’t know that I could choke it down otherwise…especially out of a CU cup 😉 haha only kidding. Good luck with your Chia exploration!

  3. I just finished reading – Born To Run – today! What an inspirational read.
    As for Chia seeds…I’m sticking to Pumpkin Seeds ; )

  4. Amy, we also have not quite become a fan of the drink. And we tried putting them in our shakes but they just stick to the sides of the blender mostly. I do mix them in with my morning museli mix often and I like the little crunch they add. We also bake “cookies” for our rides and runs, which work really well. Unfortunately, my recipes are going to be a little vague because we just kinda make it all up, but I hope these help!

    Morning museli:
    In a bowl mix:
    greek yougurt (or other plain yougurt of choice)
    cooked oatmeal (we prefer steel cut)
    shredded or chopped granny smith apple
    honey or agave syrup
    thinly sliced almonds (you buy them that way)
    use enough of each to create the consistency you like. More yougurtmeans more liquidy, more oatmeal, means thicker, etc)
    Refridgerate and when you are ready to serve, mix in tsp of chia seeds per person and top with sliced berries of choice. (if you put in the chia ahead of time, the museli gets to thick and chewy)

    Energy “cookies”:
    On a stove, toast a mix of cornmeal, almond meal and or flaxmeal (I actually haven’t tried the flaxmeal yet, but I intend to. I ususally do half-in-half of almond and corn meals in a small skillet). Watch carefully, it only takes about 5 minutes to toast and brown.
    In bowl, mix toasted meal with 1 tbsp of water at a time. Mix so its just barely all wet and pasty (not too wet).
    Stir in:
    uncooked oatmeal (can be regular or steel cut)
    peanut butter or almond butter (we have found that the kinds which add in sugar work best for baking, like Martha’s… the true organic kind, which we use for shakes, etc, is not as good in these) )
    chia seeds
    honey or agave
    chopped dried fruit (I like Trader Joe’s Super Berry mix of cherries, pom seeds, and cranberries)
    Roll the dough into tsp size balls, flatten a little and place on foil covered tray
    Bake for about 10-15mi at 350. Check every minute or 2 after 10 min…they should be somewhat soft but a darker brown on bottom. As they cool (and best to put in fridge overnight) they will get a little harder so they stick together, but still keep a “soft cookie” consistency so they are easy to eat and digest on runs/rides. You can also eat without baking, like a paste. Put in a small ziplock and squeeze!

    Feel free to email me if you have any other questions or suggestions…we are always playing with the recipes.


  5. roger

    My favorite way of eating it is like oatmeal. I put two tablespoons in a coffee mug. Add hot water. Stir like I would instant oatmeal. Sweeten with a little honey or agave. Add fresh fruit/berries. Energy packed meal to start the day!

  6. Alexis

    Can you try mixing them in bread & muffin mixes? similiar to what you’d do with flax seeds?

    I have yet to try the chia seed, but I also read somewhere that you can make a “gel” out of chia seeds & use it to add volume to jams, jelly, peanut butter, yogurts, condiments (that one sounds weird to me?)

  7. Interesting…..I’ll try anything too!!

  8. Heather C

    Ha! well, I certainly won’t be trying that drink anytime soon. Maybe it’s only after a 50-mile Ultra or a run through the Mexican desert that “slimy” and “delicious” become one and the same. 😉

    Interested to keep hearing about these trials…I’ll pick up my share soon and contribute to the testing!

  9. I adore chia seeds!!! put them in almond/soy/rice/cow milk add cinnamon and sweetener (i love stevia) and let sit for 15 minutes. stir. It’s just like tapioca pudding except better!!! chocolate powder and mint are also delicious!! great source of calcium and omega 3s and protein!

  10. Pingback: Runner-friendly recipe: Chia bars « Amy Reinink

  11. i’ve heard about the chia-water/gel/snot effect… not so sure about that one. i am definitely tempted to try it, they sure made it sound magical in the book!

  12. Pingback: Runner-friendly recipe: Chia cookies « Amy Reinink

  13. Miosoti

    No thank you on the texture of soaked chia seeds. But I drink chia fresca every morning. I just soak them for 10 minutes, then throw them in the blender with some extra water, ice, lemon juice and agave. Way better! And as far as the energy, yes I have noticed a big difference (it also helps curb hunger, something that may be helpful during those longer runs).

  14. My iskiate was not slimey, but, I let two tablespoons of Chia in an 8 oz. glass of water sit overnight on counter (not refrigerator) and stirred it before going to bed and in morning. Quite a homogeneous mix. Added lime juice and packet of Splenda. Great Drink! Going to try previous blogger’s hot drink in the morning in coffee cup and seeds should dissolve lot faster in hot water. Ran further and faster after my glass of iskiate.

  15. My wife Sheree and I are both registered nurses. We read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Tried every combination you can imagine. Started sharing with other Nurses, Doctors, and physical therapists. In one year we have had two negative reports ,as to texture. The testimonials are amazing. We are now selling in packages ready to add to any liquid of your choice. Mine is water, Sheree’s is coconut water, for more electrolytes. I drink mine after mixing for only about 5 minutes, she mixes hers in the evening, lets it stand on the counter over night and drinks it every morning. We call it WingFoot Iskiate. You can find it in some Whole Foods and New Frontiers Markets. It really is a super food, just rediscovered from the Aztecs! We recently did a demo at Whole Foods and had a 4 and 6 year old brother team test it, you know if they did not like it, it would have ended up in the trash. They both drank it all and asked their Mom to buy the “Orangey one”

  16. Ed

    I tried iskiate just as a drink, wound up cutting the amount of chia seeds to make it less jelly. Then I had a job last summer in Palm Springs, 105 degrees and dry. I’m 20 years older than the other guys, and the iskiate (full chia seeds this time, wait till they jell) kept me going long after everyone else was dying in the shade.

    I don’t think most of us are sweating enough to notice a huge difference.

  17. Alinia

    I just tried it and I feel like I washed down a caffeine pill with Dr. Pepper (yes, I did do that back in my misguided college days). 1 T whole chia seeds + juice from half a lemon + 32 ounces water in my nalgene — I’ve drunk about half so far. The extra water and gulping rather than sipping makes the seeds slide down easier.

  18. Federico

    Hi y’all!
    in addition to increasing energy,
    chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids
    and not nearly as gross as drinking fish oil.
    and flax seeds are high in phytoestrogens which may cause hormonal imbalances in both sexes, lead to tumors in women.
    well alot of things contain phytoestrogens.
    Chia seeds do not.
    they are perfect for frequent use,
    so take a deep breath and just get over it already!

  19. Jules


    I’ve been trying to incorporate these into my diet for years and I’m getting less skeeved by them. Honestly, they don’t taste bad, they’re just weird! Getting over that though, these are some of my more helpful experiences. First off, grind them. Seriously grind them up in a cheap coffee grinder, makes them a little easier to incorporate into things. As far as incorporating them into things, scrambled eggs mask them pretty well though they do make the eggs look a little funny. I actually love to make my own salad dressings and I’ve found that the best (and healthiest) way to make a thicker salad dressing is to add the chia seeds to it. They take on the flavor of the dressing and add a very slight crunch to your salad. It also works somewhat well in yogurt, though I use greek yogurt and it can be a little thick so adding some agave syrup to thin it out and sweeten it up a bit helps. Probably the easiest and most effective way I’ve had them thus far is by taking some natural peanut butter, nuking it for about a minute, then mixing the ground up chia seeds with it and spreading it on the vehicle of your choice (I use those popped rice cake things). I ate one of those about an hour and a half before working out and it made a significant boost in energy. And as far as energy, not only have I noticed a difference, but my friend who teaches the kettlebell classes I take has noticed a difference too. The dosage I use is a 15g scoop which comes out to be about 4 teaspoons of seeds. Hope this helps!

    • This is SO helpful! I can totally see the peanut-butter trick working … and the salad dressing. Thanks for the ideas—they may just save the Amy-chia relationship for good!

  20. Dia

    I have also ground chia/flax in a coffee grinder for an egg substitute in GF baking – usually grind just before use, as they have unsaturated oils that can go rancid quickly – works great!
    Last night I saw a recipe for Chia pudding that I loved & quickly adapted (you can add all sorts of antioxidants to it – maca, carob powder, adai berries, cacao nibs … etc) Here’s my version:
    1/3 C OG applesauce, 1/3 C coconut milk kefir, 2 Tbsp frozen raspberries, shaved; 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tsp Grade B Maple syrup, 2 Tbsp Chi seeds. Stir all these together, & let sit 30 minutes. I am making a ‘breakfast bowl’ rather than a smoothie today.

  21. Jess

    Hi All, I also read the book, bought my seeds from I agree most of the above, gooey yes, but that stuff doesn’t bother me as long as I know it’s beneficial. But, because it can absorb water 9 to 12 times it weight it can make your stomach gurgle, if it’s your first meal of the day. If not soaked in water or juice etc. So keep that in mind. Also I don’t feel a boost, it’s more of a steady energy unlike coffee, or something filled with sugar. Hope this helps.

  22. Claudia

    yeah, i tried to “sprout” the chia seeds. wotta mess. so here is “granola” recipe that i developed using as many antioxidant grains i could find in the cupboard. the result is very tasty without being overly sweet or gooey…….

    place 2 cups almonds, 1 cup pepitas, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds and 1/4 cup chia seeds in a big bowl and cover (maybe 1/2 inch over the tops) with refined water. leave overnight at room temp. cover 1 cup currants in warm water (just to the top) and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
    so, in the morning, you will have this lovely mass that looks like the “blob” rolled over a food coop. no worries!

    add 1 cup chopped pecans, and 1/2 cup macademias. throw the currants and their soaking water in a blender, add 1 tablespoon pure vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon high-quality ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and puree until smooth.

    add the pureed currant mix to the messy nut mix in the big bowl and combine well. cover a baking pan (i use a big cookie sheet with a raised edge) with parchment paper so there is overlap by about 2 inches on each side. dump the contents of the bowl onto the parchment paper and smooth over. place in a 170 degree oven overnight.

    the next day, take the pan out of the oven. you should find a lovely toasty somewhat pliable brick. if not, leave in the oven until it firms up more. flip the brick onto a fresh sheet of parchment paper, back onto the pan, and back into the oven for another 2 hours.i just turn the oven off and leave the pan in there to cool slowly. the brick should be dry and crisp and easily broken off into small chunks.

    it goes well with bulgarian yogurt and fresh berries in the morning and makes a great trail mix for hiking. I keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator because i don’t know what its shelf life is. be sure to drink lots of water or fluids with this mix as it is a very dense and potentially cloying food.

  23. Forest

    Try blending the chia fresca. That’s what I do and it gives it a more fluid consistency. I love it that way.

  24. lolo341

    I guess those of you who have trouble with the consistency of chia fresca probably don’t like bubble teas?

  25. hahaha I can understand this dilemna, I suppose. Personally, I started eating chia seeds just plain and quickly got used to the slimy goo they transformed into when hydrated. The first time I tried to make my own iskiate I absolutely loved it. I also love bubble tea and aloe vera drink though so perhaps that is just me 🙂
    I eat chia seeds with yogurt, on pasta, in bread, in salads, anything, really. And just eating a few spoonfuls on their own fills me up like a small meal. It’s great!

  26. Michelle

    I use chia seeds in a hot “cereal” recipe that I make (I low carb, so I don’t do oatmeal), and it’s seriously amazing. It tastes like a mushed up piece of pumpkin pie.

    1 egg
    2 Tbsp chia seeds
    1/4 cup pumpkin
    2 Tbsp cream or milk
    1/4 cup almond meal
    sweetener to taste (I use about a 1/4 cup generic SF maple syrup)

    Beat the egg well, add the milk and pumpkin and mix. Stir in chia seeds, and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or more. You can even let it sit overnight – according to the USDA, an uncooked, beaten egg will last in the fridge about 3 days.

    When you’re ready to cook, stir in the almond meal. (I don’t know that you need to wait to add it, but I’m afraid it would get mushy if it sat in the liquid for too long.) Melt a smidge of butter in a small pan over medium heat, then pour in the pumpkin mix. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally like you would with scrambled eggs. Pour into a bowl, add sweetener, and serve.

    There is absolutely nothing slimy or gooey about this – the egg and the almond meal help to thicken it up and give it some texture. It’s also totally delicious – everyone in my family, including my 5- and 9-year old, loves it.

    • Jules

      Oh hay that pumpkin pudding sounds awesome! I definitely have to try that, especially since I always have pumpkin in my pantry.

  27. Lynn

    I love the Chia seed . people that are grossed out think of it this way . your drinking special life force that with each sip your body becomes more alive. I like the taste and your bringing a life force into your body . try getting that from a coca cola.

  28. ErinD

    I just got a bag of chia seeds off Amazon after trying a…I think it was cherry flavored…kombucha that I got at MOM’s. After some experiments with concentration and stirring methods, I figured out that constantly stirring for about a minute, then letting it set, gets rid of the clumps. Still trying to figure out how to automate that.

    I wasn’t a huge fan of lemon chia fresca, but with watered-down unsweetened cranberry juice instead, it was delicious. And Thanksgiving appropriate!

    I’ve also found that putting some in my morning tea gets rid of the snot problem; the clumps are still there, but they taste like tea instead of …slime. If you don’t like boba tea you might not want to try it, but otherwise it’s pretty good.

  29. I’ve eaten Chia Seed Pudding for several years and didn’t realize it was “hard to swallow” as most everyone loves it.
    I just tried the Chia Fresca recipe using frozen cranberry concentrate as I don’t have any lemon in the house. I think where you might have mitigated the taste toward “tasty” instead of a “gelatinous mess” is by stirring the chia seeds in water immediately, add the other ingredients to your taste, stir again, wait about 10 minutes and blend before drinking.

  30. Gil

    2 Tbsp ground chia seeds
    10 oz V8 Fusion juice
    Stir, let sit 10 min
    Stir occasionally while drinking.
    No clumps, snot or seeds stuck in your teeth.
    If you can’t deal with this, go sit on the couch and watch TV!

  31. I love chia. I have a chia drink every morning. I put it in apple juice, v8 fusion, orange juice. I noticed a huge decline in my a1c and blood sugar. I also noticed a noticeable change in my cholesterol. That said, I decided to incorporate it into my husbands life too. I put it in our soup after it’s put in the serving bowl, I put it in hot cocoa and also sprinkle it on pizza. He doesn’t mind it at all.

  32. S B Runner

    I mix my chia seeds in with my pinole, then I chug it down. The dryness of the pinole is cancelled out by the slimy chia. It works for me

  33. Carla

    I am amazed at the negative comments regarding the texture of chia seeds. I love chia seeds and make a type of chia fresca using coconut &,almond milk, honey, cinnamon, and chia seeds. I bring the ingredients to a boil & then let sit for about 10 minutes. It is delicious. If there is a lot it’s refrigerated for later. At times I add a little nutritional yeast for extra benefit. I also add the chia seeds to soups.

  34. Just tried the chia fresca and LOVED IT. I, too, was surprised the so many hate the texture. I didn’t have any problem with it :). I added lime juice and sweetened with liquid stevia. Can’t wait to try it in milk as another suggested.

  35. Brian

    I just had my first glass! I put my chia seeds in water last night, and this morning dumped some sugar in and a half of a lime. I love it!

    I’ll have to wait awhile to see if there is any energy boost, but it was very soothing to my hangover at least.

  36. Pingback: New To Me: Chia Seeds « Racy Stacie: A training journey.

  37. Eileen

    Drink it with a a straw.much easier. I make a raspberry green tea,2 tbsp.chia,1tsp. Honey and sparkling water to mix. Devine!

  38. DiJ

    The traditional recipes for Chia Fresca call for 9 cups of water to 1 T of chia seeds. I would think that is why it seemed so slimey. It was more of a pudding than an energy drink. You could make a small test batch by putting 1/2 tsp or less chia seeds in a cup or so of water and the honey, lime or whatever you decide to mix it with and see if it is more palatable. If you like it, then mix up bigger batches as it will keep in the fridge for about a week from what I understand.Then get the daily amount (2 T.) of Chia with the other methods described above.

  39. DiJ

    PS I just came across this comment and decided to share it as well. It was talking about the initial concentrated recipe you described above and gave the following suggestion:
    If you plan on using Chia fresca on an extended run or workout session, add another 8 to 10 oz. of water to the chia gel. Since chia seeds are so absorbent, they could potentially dehydrate your body if not accompanied by ample water.
    That is possibly why the traditional recipes are not as concentrated. The traditional peoples figured out that more is less. They have been using Chia fresca for many, many years. We modern people often think, “If a little is good, a lot must be better.” Not always the case

  40. Nick Leale

    I just tried my first ever Chia seeds. To test the ‘gloopiness’ for myself I simply soaked a bunch of seeds in a glass for a couple of hours and drunk the lot without any addatives. It had a neutral taste (If any) and the texture wasn’t off-putting at all. I can hardly wait for more!

  41. Melissa

    I mix a 1-2 tblsp chia with a cup of water and let it set overnight. It turns in a gelatin, this is my chia concentrate. Then when I want a glass of Chia Fresca I use 2 tblsp of the concerntrate in a glass of water with the lime and other ingredients and it is great. I use as much or as little as I want when ever I need an energy boost. Sometimes I just add a tablespoon in a smoothie. The concerntrate lasts about a week and then I make another batch. It is very good that way.

  42. Felecia Mendicino

    I like to eat some chia seeds because it is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. They are very nutritious just like flax seeds. :.’**

    Best regards“>

  43. Pingback: Where to start? Start with the fuel! | Keep it moving…

  44. bob

    I am doing a slow carb thing. So I make this as a kind
    Of smoothie come desert drink.

    3 cups almond milk.
    3 tbsp chia seeds.
    1 spoon cocoa powder.

    Mix well and leave it in the fridge to chill n gloop up.
    Stir it each time you drink it. Sort of like semolina.

  45. For all worried about the texture and not able to drink….why are you waiting until it gets thick??? You don’t have to! I put on my drinks and drink it right away and it gives me a full sensation so I eat less, and it does give me energy too I love it, you can Aldo add to bread recipes for moisture.

  46. JD

    I don’t know what everybody is so squeamish about. I bet some of you folks faint at the sight of blood. Although I admit the look of chia fresca is totally disgusting, you just need to get past that part. Your brain is telling you that if it looks disgusting, it must taste disgusting. It doesn’t. Try this: Take a bottle of water, and take a big slug. Add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and one sleeve of Crystal light lemonade mix… any less than that and you are just wasting your time. Shake the stuff up every few minutes for the next 15 minutes, then put it in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. Then just give it a shake and woof it down.

    Chia Fresca is the easiest way to ingest a sufficient amouint to realize any benefits. Sprinkling on salads or oatmeal just doesn’t give you enough, and is a waste of time.

  47. Jules

    I’m real sick of everyone basically saying if you don’t like the texture you’re a pansy. It’s totally unnecessary (not to mention unhelpful) to scoff at the experiences of others. I simply don’t like crap floating in my drinks (except ice). In any case, I’ve been eating the stuff for years (I eat about 15g at a time) and I still don’t like the texture, it has nothing to do with what my eyes are telling my brain. It also doesn’t stop me from eating it. I simply gave my opinion on how to deal with something I find rather unpleasant. And no, blood doesn’t bother me.

  48. Eddie

    Seriously, here is a blog where someone (Amy) knows the benefits of chia seeds and has a problem with the sliminess or gloopyness and is asking for hints around this. Stating that you love them and if others can’t get over it is plainly inconsiderate and shows how much you actually read the article. Helpful suggestions were for the asking not pompous attitudes. Sorry, Amy.

  49. George

    I started playing around with chia seeds after watching Hungry for Change. I mixed them in juice and chugged them down. In organic orange juice spiked with a bit of raw cranberry it feels like super pulpy OJ. After reading Born to Run I decided to try the much lower sugar option and started whipping up chia fresca wherever I could get the components together. I have texture issues with some foods (mayonnaise, avocado), but I absolutely love the little balls of snot. When I make it you can hardly see the water for the chia seeds.

    To each their own, I guess.

  50. Pingback: More info on Chia Seeds benefits and how to tolerably consume...taste debatable but benefit sounds positive. | Clean, Lean and Healthy

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