I was recently "reintroduced" to Chia Seeds from a few ultra-runner friends of mine on a long drive home after training in the mountains. They raved about the health benefits, and more importantly, the sustained energy during long runs from these tiny seeds. As you might of guessed, I went out and bought them immediately.
If you're not familiar, Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in southern Mexico. Chia is very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (30% of their oil is Omega-3), even more so than flax seeds, and it has another advantage over flax: chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don't deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid. Unlike flax, they do not have to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body. Chia seeds also provide fiber (4 grams of fiber per tablespoon) as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.
The chia seeds are great for athletes because they are highly hydrophilic, which means it absorbs large amounts of water. Chia Seeds can absorb over 10 times their weight in water making them a great enhancer in hydrating our bodies. They absorb the water we drink holding it in our system longer. Studies also show that eating chia seed slows down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrate calories into simple sugars (there's the sustained energy).
I've been trying to find liquid alternatives to solid food while running, and the Chia Seeds have become a nice edition. Pre-training I mix 1 tablespoon of Chia Seeds, 12oz Almond or Rice Milk, 1 banana, and Chocolate Greens Powder. Doesn't sound like much I know, but this held me over and kept my body hydrated during an 18 mile run through the desert in 90+degree summer heat.