Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homemade chia seed energy gel for endurance running

There are countless energy gels for running and endurance sports on the market, and they all make my stomach hurt. The fake flavors are gross and the artificial ingredients do more harm than good. This chia seed energy gel recipe is easy to make, all-natural, and goes down easy. 

Chia seeds really gained popularity in the running community after being featured in the book Born to Run as the running fuel of the Tarahumara "running people" tribe in Mexico. These little seeds are extremely nutritious for their size, with lots of fatty acids, protein, calcium, iron, and other vitamins an nutrients. When placed in water, they become gel-like and thus are perfect for making energy gels for endurance sports. Their water-retaining properties are also thought to help regulate electrolytes and the absorption of sugar. So a gel with chia seeds paired with sugar and electrolytes is really the perfect running fuel.

I have been working on this gel recipe throughout my marathon training this year and I think I've perfected it, finally. The recipe is based on gel recipes found in Brendan Brazier's Thrive book (speaking of which, enter my Vega giveaway going on now!) and other recipes I found online. The recipe is quite flexible because you're just mixing a bunch of sugary items and the dates will take over the taste, so don't worry if you're missing an ingredient. The taste is sweet and quite bland so it goes down easy on the run. You can make it chocolate flavored by adding cacao powder. You can also add tart cherry juice concentrate to help reduce inflammation while running, this is good for longer runs and if you're injured. Grinding the chia seeds makes it go down easier but you don't need to grind them to get the nutritional benefits (unlike flax seeds).


3-4 dried dates
1 Tb chia seeds
1 Tb coconut oil
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 Tb honey or agave nectar
1 tsp dulse flakes or 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. cacao powder (optional - to make chocolate flavored)
1 Tb. tart cherry juice concentrate (optional - to reduce inflammation and make cherry flavored)


Soak the dates in water for at least a couple of hours (overnight works too), also make sure they are pitted. Grind the chia seeds using a simple coffee grinder. If you can't grind them, they can just be left whole. Add all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Put the gel into small plastic baggies or re-usable gel containers. This recipe makes 1-2 gels, depending on how big your container is. I usually double or triple the recipe and place the extra in the freezer. The night before your run, just place the gels you will use in the fridge to thaw. They may still seem a bit hard because the coconut oil is in a solid state in the fridge. The coconut oil will melt in room temperature and the gels will be soft enough to take, especially after being on your warm body while running.

I know my picture of the gel is ugly but that's what it looks like...just a brown gel.

How do you fuel your run?

What's your favorite way to eat chia seeds?


  1. Do you not like the vega one gels?

  2. I do like the Vega One gels and use them as a back up if I don't have any of these made. These are actually almost the same recipe but have the added chia seeds. Homemade gels are also less expensive.

  3. Wondering how long they will last if they were to vacuum seal them, and not refrigerate?

  4. They could probably last a while, none of the ingredients spoil easily. I run with them and then place the ones I don't use back in the freezer and they don't spoil.

  5. I made some today and used it on a long run today, around the 50 minute mark. Seemed to really help power me through the second half of my run!

    However, I think it's too salty. I used the recommended amount of salt and afterwards realized that dulse flakes and sea salt are likely not equivalently salty. I would suggest that you cut the salt in half if you are using sea salt rather than dulse!

  6. Thanks for letting me know. I've always used dulse so I will make a note to use less salt.

  7. I think I'll pick up some dulse and try it... it's probably got more minerals anyway. :)

  8. I do not have dates or cherry juice, do you think I could try it with some raisens and dried cherries?

  9. That would probably work! Really, mixing anything that is sweet will taste good and provide energy for running.

  10. Tried it and all I can say is FANTASTIC!

  11. I have been experimenting with natural fuels, getting away from Gatorade and other energy gels, like this for long runs and marathons. Lately I've been on the treadmill because of the weather, and I've been eating bananas, fruit & veggie juices mixed with chia seeds, etc. This has been easy because I just keep all my nutrition in my gym bag right next to the treadmill. However, these items are not easily carried on an outdoor long run. How do you package and carry your homemade gels on long runs? Also, how do you eat/drink them on the run?

  12. Yes I use the baggies linked to in the post. I freeze the gels but they thaw as I run and then I just squeeze it out of the baggie while I'm running. Let me know how it goes!

  13. Hi, there. Would you happen to have the nutrition facts?

  14. Angela St. CyrilMay 5, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    I made this and used it this past weekend for the Broad Street Run - it was great!


What do you think?