Chia Power for the Backcountry

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Chia has been dubbed, for better or worse, one of the latest superfoods.  Ever since Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, endurance athletes have wondered over the mysterious properties of chia seeds, and some research indicates that they provide a good long-term energy source and aid in recovery.  According to some experts, chia seeds are a pretty stellar source of protein, dietary fiber, Omega 3, and iron.

Chia has been dubbed one of the latest, backcountry superfoods. Ever since Chris McDougall’s book 'Born to Run,' (and long before, according to Lou) endurance athletes have wondered over the mysterious properties of chia seeds, and some research indicates that they provide a good long-term energy source and aid in recovery. According to some experts, chia seeds are a stellar source of protein, dietary fiber, Omega 3, and iron.

The whole-foods, plant-based experience took on a new twist for me : camping. True, vegetables and fruit travel and store well, but they’re not the best fuel sources for sustained backcountry exertion such as the trail runs I had planned during this particular trip. Instead, I had my heart set on a twist on morning oatmeal that I discovered on Angela Liddon’s blog Ohsheglows.com. Ideally, you’d mix all the ingredients together the night before and put the bowl in the fridge, allowing the oats and chia seed to soak up the moisture. Pressed for time (we were, after all, there for a festival and not for me to make oats and hunt down containers that wouldn’t capsize among the PBRs in our cooler), I mixed a batch on the morning of our run and let it sit for about a half-hour before eating.

Overnight Oats

1 cup almond milk
1/3 cup regular oats
1 tbsp carob powder (non-roasted)
2 tbsp chia seeds
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp chopped almonds
1/2 cup fresh cherries, chopped
Maple syrup to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for as long as you’re able.

When putting together your shopping list for backcountry adventures, it’s good to shoot for calorie-dense foods. Jurek recommends nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados, oils (olive, coconut, flaxseed), lentils, beans, etc.

When putting together your shopping list for backcountry adventures, it’s good to shoot for calorie-dense foods. American ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek, recommends nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados, oils (olive, coconut, flaxseed), lentils, beans, etc.

Liddon recommends using a chopped banana instead of cherries, and notes that a banana is better for sweetening the mixture if you have time to let it sit. I couldn’t help but use the fresh cherries we picked on our way through Paonia.

Liddon recommends using a chopped banana instead of cherries, and notes that a banana is better for sweetening the mixture if you have time to let it sit. I couldn’t help but use the fresh cherries we picked on our way through Paonia, Colorado.

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(WildSnow.com guest blogger Jess Portmess currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. Having grown up in New York and Vermont, she’s now chasing snow covered peaks, endless trails, and a legal career in the West. She is recently fueled by chia seeds, basic survival ration of ancient Aztec warriors — and modern superfood.)

Comments

17 Responses to “Chia Power for the Backcountry”

  1. Lisa Dawson July 13th, 2012 9:27 am

    Looks tasty. Interesting idea to soak oats overnight. I’ll try it.

  2. Joe July 13th, 2012 9:50 am

    I wonder why the Aztec warriors decided to stop eating Chia seeds and turn them into counter top dogs, cats, trees, and rams?

    “The Original Chia Commercial”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzY7qQFij_M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Something to do with the 70′s? :-)

  3. Sarah July 13th, 2012 10:21 am

    Yum–thanks for sharing this recipe!

    If you’re feeling really adventurous, here is an Iskiate recipe (also mentioned in Born to Run) that you can put in a energy gel-type fuel bottle. I used this on a ski tour last weekend, and was pretty impressed! Warning: the gelatinous texture might not be for everyone.

    Iskiate

    10 oz. water
    1 tablespoon chia seeds
    a few teaspoons of lemon or lime juice
    honey or agave to taste

    Stir it all together, let let for 5 minutes, stir again, and then chill until use. I threw some crushed mint leaves in, and it tasted like a mojito :)

  4. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2012 10:58 am

    The question that kept coming into my mind was if the chia seeds had any relationship to Aztec human sacrifice as , then my mind went to the pain of endurance athletics, and it all tied together in a sort of disconcerting way (grin). I think this might be caused because I’m reading revised edition of Freakonomics, and looking for the hidden connections in everything (grin).

  5. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2012 11:00 am

    Before GU, before Clif bars, in 1969, yes, we carried a plastic bag of chia seeds and hopped them in the maw with a load of dried fruit and a slug of water. Seemed to work. GU is easier. But I’m all excited to try chia again.

  6. Bill July 13th, 2012 12:25 pm

    Chia Obama and Chia Mitt now ready to ship! Do you think the consumer purchasing preferences for these fine dinner table pieces could accurately predict the election results this winter?

    https://www.buypresidentialchia.com/?rtag=chiaobama&

  7. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2012 12:33 pm

    Bill, thanks for the link. Just to show we’re not total slaves to our affiliate sales, we refrained from the Presidential chia links in the post. It was discussed (grin). Lou

  8. Lisa July 13th, 2012 12:38 pm

    I had a Chia pet once. It was shaped like a little piggie. I wonder if there’s a market for a Chia pet WildSnow skier? Any takers?

  9. Jess July 13th, 2012 12:49 pm

    I loved this idea from the first time I saw it — for those mornings when you have to get up before the sun rises and you wish some one would just hand you a cup coffee so that you can get out of bed. I’ve also been thinking of trying the chia paste on runs but couldn’t figure out the best way to approach it. Sarah, I’ll have to try your approach.

    I think this would be a spectacular time to bring back the chia pet. Market it to backcountry/endurance athletes. Maybe little chia mountains?

  10. Lisa Dawson July 13th, 2012 2:27 pm

    Little chia mountains are a lovely idea, provided they have some ski runs.

  11. Jordo July 13th, 2012 3:10 pm

    Am I the only person who gets wicked gas after eating chia? Even a tablespoon in a smoothie will clear a room.

  12. Jess July 13th, 2012 4:09 pm

    Jordo, can’t say I’ve had that problem with chia. Switching to fruits/veggies/whole-foods definitely has that effect though. Maybe you have a chia allergy, or it’s the smoothie’s fault?

  13. Steve July 14th, 2012 1:52 pm

    Lou, just shot you a quick email on this if the filters let it through!

  14. Matt July 15th, 2012 6:02 pm

    folks like Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf seem to have a different opinion on the value of chia. For Example: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/quick-guide-edible-seeds/#axzz20jrI2zud
    They may have a bunch of omega 3′s but they’re not ideal kind

  15. deez July 22nd, 2012 6:01 pm

    I saw Caballo Blanco speak a few years back and someone asked about Chia. He said it was bunk. Corn was the ticket down there in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

  16. Kit Cohan July 24th, 2012 10:28 pm

    We found a mix in Canada called “Holy Crap”, made of equal parts chia, white buckwheat, and hemp hearts, with a little dried fruit tossed in there too. The idea was that it was quite the ‘colon mover’, but I found it to not be anything special in that department; it is remarkably tasty though.

    It is easy enough to obtain all 3 of these items; just keep it refrigerated once you mix them up. I had been mixing mine into yogurt with a little dried fruit (let sit 30 mins or overnight), but I’m trying a zero dairy diet right now so I’ve been using almond milk instead. It does get pretty gel-like within minutes and the longer it soaks, the softer all the grains are. Chia does make gel out of about any fluid source.

    I have also heard that you get a lot more nutrients if you grind your chia or buy it pre-ground.

  17. LePistoir July 25th, 2012 10:38 pm

    Chia are really fun just thrown in a glass of water and left to sit for 5-10 mins!

    Those Paonia cherries are amazing! We had many and when a bear got into our food in Estes Park, he was apparently a PhD bear because he ate those delicious cherries first!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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