Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The most powerful energy drink you might never try!

It's iskiate, and yep, you probably won't try it 'cause it likely sounds too weird or, at the very least, way too good to be true! So there's the challenge, prove me wrong about trying it. If you do, you'll find that you'll prove me right about how absolutely incredible an energy source this is. Hey, it's a win-win situation! But I'll bet you still won't even try it!

Here's the scoop. For as long as we've been running and paddling together (almost 38 years!), Joan and I have tried every energy bar / drink / candy / gel / "jelly" bean / in addition to various homemade possibilities. From Gatorade to "Watermelon Chomps" to Joan's awesome dried and pressed "Logan Bread", we've searched high and low for something that will sustain energy on a run or paddle.

When Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run, came out, there was the answer. Since then, thousands of runners have tried the recipe of Mexico's "running people", the Tarahumara Indians. They are arguably the finest endurance runners on the planet and they have used the tiny chia seed as a quick and sustaining energy source for generations. Here's how McDougall describes his introduction to this amazing drink:

"Months later, I’d learn that iskiate is otherwise known as chia fresca—“chilly chia.” It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime. In term of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re super-packed with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet you could probably swim home. Chia was once so treasured, the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage. Aztec runners used to chomp chia seeds as they went into battle, and the Hopis fueled themselves on chia during their epic runs from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. The Mexican state of Chiapas is actually named after the seed; it used to rank right up there with corn and beans as a cash crop …

...the iskiate went down like fruit punch with a nice limey tang...I felt fantastic."
- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run. Random House, 2009. p. 43-44

Well, I can tell you, after reading that and like a lot of other folks, we went out, bought a bag of chia seeds (available at many health food stores) and gave it a try. Holy cow! For once, something you read about lives up to all expectations and we've carried this drink with us on runs and paddles ever since!

Our usual recipe for a typical 500 ml water bottle, as pictured above, is water, 12 grams of chia (two tablespoons), a squeeze of lime juice for taste and a squeeze of agave syrup for a little sweetening. Agave syrup, by the way, is preferable to sugar because it is a low-glycemic sweetener and, therefore, it won’t cause a sharp rise or fall in blood sugar.

The seeds quickly hydrate and the gel-like texture is very pleasant. The drink is wonderfully refreshing and our experience over the past year has been that it energizes like no other "energy drink", gel, or bar. So, there you have it, an energy drink has been proven ultra-effective by generations of the world's finest long-distance runners, easy to make, and super-nutritional.

But are you going to try it the next time an activity such as running, kayaking, or anything else for that matter, requires sustained energy? I'll bet you don't, though I can't imagine why. Now come on, show me that I'm wrong about that! :-)


PS We use Wholesome (the brand name) organic blue agave syrup (it has a golden colour), a product of Mexico and widely available, at least here in North America. ReaLime, a bottled lime concentrate, is great but the juice from a fresh lime (or lemon) is extra super-tasty!


  1. Well hey I did try it and it tasted pretty good but then when I mixed it myself you didn't tell me about the syrup and it wasn't as great....so haven't tried it on a run yet but just maybe I will... and it will energize me to go further???

  2. I'll give it a go If I can find it in backsticks ontario!

  3. Hey L, good for you. And you want to go further than the Great Lake event?? And why not!


    I knew you'd try it, my friend. If you can't find it in your area, email me here. D.

  4. i like this drink, but i use use mojoboost.net to find mood drinks. is this anything like that

  5. Hi Lawrence,

    Thanks for dropping by. I'd never heard of the product you mentioned but I'd say, no. Chia isn't about "mood". Having said that, when you have a great run and finish with lots of energy left, that does make for a pretty good mood!

  6. We get the Salba brand here, great sprinkled on breakfast cereal too!

  7. Well, as I'm always looking for an energy booster, you bet when next I go shopping, I'll look for it and try it.

  8. And you'll find it, J. Let me know what you think. D.

  9. For more information about chia seeds, and some recipe ideas, check out my website: www.chiativity.org

  10. Thanks for dropping by, Margaret. Be sure to check out Dr Margaret Conover's site folks - lots of info!

  11. Ok, so I mixed it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow. We have a full days paddling symposium, this will be a great test.

  12. I found it at the bulk barn! really nice drink, however I didnt notice the energy increase...but healthy and darn tasty!

  13. Please let me know, Steve, how you found it...and thanks for stopping by. Hope it energized you! Duncan.

  14. Hey Lee, healthy and tasty for sure. Did you try it in your water bottle during, for example, a run? I used to eat a banana prior to run and take a GU or dates with me for an hour on the road or trail. I find now that chia in my water bottle is sufficient. "Mileage", of course, differs. Keep experimenting - worse case scenerio is that it's just healthy.