Pre-Hydrate with Chia

August 5, 2011

With Fall comes football and other sports, and some tough training in hot weather.  Dehydration occurs when too many fluids are lost, not enough are taken in, or a combination of the two.  Kids can get dehydrated more quickly than adults, the risk of dehydration increases when the weather is sunny & hot, especially if there is profuse sweating and intense exercise.  So kids heading off to football training or other intense Fall sports should come prepared with plenty of water and electrolyte replenishing beverages. Acute dehydration can be life-threatening, but even slight dehydration in the muscles can negatively affect performance, so prehydrating the body for as many as 3 days before a major sports event can help to prepare kids for sports.

Prehydrate with Chia

Gradually eating more hydrating foods, and drinking an extra glass or two of water each day over a 3 day period can help to hydrate the body and muscles. But one of my all time favorite foods for prehydration is chia seeds.  A staple food of both Native American and Mexican cultures, chia fueled the Aztec warriors as they went to battle. The book Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall, tells the story of how chia seed, known as ‘the running food,’ could sustain the Tarahumara barefoot runners in Mexico on regular 50-100-mile runs. McDougall compared chia to a  ‘smoothie of wild salmon, spinach and human growth hormones.’ In addition to incredible stamina, the Tarahumara also enjoyed longevity and mental health, very likely related to their consumption of chia seed.  Naturally high in omega 3s, chia is also covered in a very unique soluble fiber. Unlike the soluble fiber of oats or flax seed, chia’s fiber is hydrophilic – meaning it can absorb approximately 10-12 times of it’s own weight in water*. When chia seeds come in contact with liquid, they soak up the water and turn into a gel. Being hydrophilic means that chia prolongs hydration and retains electrolytes in body fluids which protects against dehydration and promotes endurance and recovery – exactly what an athlete needs!  Chia seed might also give an athlete an edge – over time naturally boosting endurance, stamina and energy.  Check out this photo gallery of chia seeds.  Learn how chia seed can also naturally lower cholesterol.

*Because of it’s hydrophillic properties, it is important to consume chia seed with plenty of water or a liquid to ensure that the seed is not soaking water internally from your body. Ideally, chia seed is soaked in water for 10 minutes before it is consumed.

How to Recognize Dehydration:

Certain factors such as sweating, hot climate, vomiting, medications can quickly accelerate fluid loss to cause acute dehydration. It is important to be familiar with the signs of dehydration, especially parents and coaches. Taking these symptoms seriously is important, as complications from severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Relying on thirst is not a good way to determine if you need fluid replacements, as thirst may not always be a reliable indicator of dehydration.

Chronic dehydration typically occurs from not taking in enough hydrating fluids and/or foods on an on-going basis. The symptoms are more likely to be chronic and might not recognized as dehydration at all – they can range from bothersome to serious and can include constipation, headaches, low energy, elevated cholesterol, and more. People suffering from one or more of the above symptoms, might try gradually increasing their intake of fluids and foods with a high water content and notice if there is an improvement in their symptoms over a period of time. Regularly drinking caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic beverages can also contribute to chronic dehydration, as all are diuretics. Chronic dehydration puts us at greater risk of becoming acutely dehydrated from a workout and/or sweating.

Dehydration and Blood Thickening

Studies have found that a loss of 2% or more of one’s body weight due to sweating can cause a drop in blood volume – so the blood essentially becomes “thicker”. When this occurs, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the bloodstream, this can raise the risk of a heart attack. Blood thickening also causes muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, heat exhaustion/ heatstroke, and can even lead to swelling of the brain and hypovolemic shock.

When is Water Not Enough?

Electrolyte replacement is needed when someone loses measurable amounts of fluids from one reason or another (sweating, vomiting, etc). How do we know how much fluid we have lost? One way to tell if there is fluid loss – is to weigh yourself before and after a workout – if you have lost weight – there has been fluid loss. Typically 2 cups of fluid accounts for approximately each pound of weight lost. But if it is not convenient to weigh yourself – you need to go by feel – did you work out hard, sweat a lot, maintain fairly continuous movement over a period of time? Was it a hot or particularly dry day? Are you working out in high altitude? Did you drink enough water leading up to the activity, or do you tend to be chronically dehydrated? If there has been a significant amount of fluid lost – there will be sodium, potassium and other important minerals also lost. Plain water will not replace those lost minerals.  If someone loses a lot of fluids and drinks lots of water without replenishing electrolytes – this can lead to hyponatremia, which is an imbalance of water to sodium in the cells.  Brain swelling can result from hyponatremia.

Why Do Sports Drinks Contain Sugar?

After a very intense workout, glycogen stores get depleted in the muscles – many sports drinks contain sugar (such as glucose) because it is a fast-acting carbohydrate that can quickly replenish the lost glycogen. So endurance and intensity athletes that want to quickly replace lost energy after an intense workout – might use sports gels or drinks – which offer the electrolytes and fast acting carbohydrates they need.

But often kids drink sports beverages when they have not worked out very hard and their body does not really “need them” to replenish glycogen stores, in this case, the carbohydrates/sugar end up getting stored as fat overtime. A 20 oz. sports drink contains 125 calories and 35 grams of sugar – which is over 9 teaspoons – more than the recommended daily limit for added sugars for one day for kids. Studies show that over-consumption of sports drinks is linked to weight gain and an increase in cavities in children.

Another concern are the artificial colors many sports drinks contain, which serve no other purpose than to make them more “fun.” There is some evidence that some kids are sensitive to artificial coloring – potentially causing ADD-like symptoms, or making them worse. So it is important to read labels to know what is in the sports drinks, and be aware of how often sports drinks are consumed – and if they are really “needed”. But if someone is showing signs of dehydration – grab them any sports drink – dehydration is very serious and if someone is showing the signs – it is not the time to debate about artificial colors or sugar.

Alternative Electrolyte Replenishers:

If you want an electrolyte replenisher, but don’t want the added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial coloring, there are some cool products available:

  1. Skratch– are powdered electrolyte replenishing packets that you can add to your own water after a hard workout.  These would be a smart thing for coaches and kids to pack in their bags.
  2. Coconut Water – called nature’s perfect drink for a reason- coconut water is naturally high in potassium and other minerals, and it also has some natural carbohydrates. Coconut waters come in a variety of delicious flavors too. It also is naturally alkalizing – which helps to balance our body’s pH and recover from workouts. ONE Coconut Water has convenient single serve coconut waters, and they even have a new line of coconut waters with fruit juice – great for kids’ lunchboxes.
  3. Electrolyte waters – these are just plain unflavored waters that serve to replenish lost electrolytes without the sugar, artificial coloring, etc. I like the brand Metroelectro. These do not contain carbohydrates, so to replenish glycogen stores have with a carbohydrate.
  4. Try this delcious pre-hydrating Lime Strawberry smoothie, great for post-workouts too:
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons of chia seed (put into coconut water and allow to soak 10 mins.)
  • 3/4 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup coconut water (add more if needed)
  • 1 tsp. Natures Agave clear agave nectar or stevia liquid (optional)
  • pinch of high quality salt (such as Himalayan or Celtic)
  • DIRECTIONS: Put into a Vitamix blender and blend well & serve.

Stay hydrated!

Suggested reading:



Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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