Are chia seeds a complete plant-based protein for athletes?

Chia seeds provide a complete protein.

How much protein do chia seeds have per serving?

Chia seeds are 18% protein. 100g of chia seeds contain 18.3g of complete plant-based protein.[1] Protein from chia seeds contains all 9 essential amino acids, helping you maintain lean mass while losing weight or even building muscle mass!

Most people need only 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight (or 0.36g per lbs). So, a 150 lbs person needs only 55g of protein per day. If you’re an athlete you should increase your daily protein dose, though, according to your activity level:[2]

Acivity levelProtein dose
(g/kg BW)
none0,8
minimum1
moderate1,3
intense1,6
Daily intake of protein.

What’s the amino profile of chia protein?

If you want to build muscle mass, you should consume high-quality proteins. Proteins from all animal sources are complete. Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids. We depend exclusively on food for these 9 amino acids, as the human body can’t synthesize them.

Plant-based food also contain protein but in most cases, plants don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids. Only a few vegan foods are complete proteins. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, soybeans, spirulina, and amaranth are all vegan foods containing complete protein.

Chia seeds contain all 9 essential amino acids:

Chia seeds
(g/100g)
Histidine0,53
Isoleucine*0,8
Leucine*1,37
Lysine0,97
Methionine0,59
Phenylalanine1,02
Threonine0,71
Tryptophan0,44
Valine*0,95
Chia seeds contain complete protein.[3]

If you’re a vegan or you’re following a whole food plant-based diet don’t worry about your protein intake. Plants contain lots of protein. Just eat a variety of food to consume all essential amino acids from different sources. You can combine beans with whole cereals or nuts with vegetables to create complete proteins!

Does chia protein contain BCAAs?

In fitness, there are 3 amino acids that are particularly important for building muscle mass. These are isoleucine, leucine, and valine. There’re known as BCAAs. Chia seeds contain all BCAAs. 100g of whole chia seeds contain about 3.12g of BCAAs!

Nutritional value of chia seeds

Chia seeds are more than protein. Chia seeds are extremely nutritious. They’re high in minerals and antioxidants. Moreover, chia seeds are particularly high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Certainly, consuming chia seeds daily is good for your health.

chia seeds
per 100g
calories534
protein (g)18,29
total fat (g)42,16
fiber (g)27,3
sugar (g)1,55
calcium (mg)255
iron (mg)5,73
magnesium (mg)392
phosphorus (mg)642
potassium (mg)813
zinc (mg)4,34
copper (mg)1,22
selenium (mcg)25,4
lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)651
omega-3s (g)22,8
Nutritional value of chia seeds.

Chia protein promotes muscle recovery

Furthermore, chia seeds contain a high antioxidant content. Antioxidant compounds are necessary for neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are natural byproducts of the metabolism. Air pollution, sun radiation, toxicants, or even intense exercise boost synthesis of free radicals.

So, eating foods high in antioxidants is important for an athlete. As intense workouts increases free radicals in the body, you should eat food that neutralizes them, as soon as possible. Less free radicals in your muscles can help you recover faster!

All plants contain antioxidants. On the contrary, food from animal sources has a small antioxidant content. Therefore, eating plant-based may help you train harder.

Other food supplements, that can help you boost your athletic performance are maca powdermoringa powderwheatgrass powder, and ginger powder.

Most noteworthy, amla powder is the richest food in antioxidants! By far…

Fiber & protein in chia seeds keep you lean year round

One of the greatest health benefits of chia seeds is its high content of dietary fiber. Chia seeds are 27% fiber. This is huge! Just a tbsp of chia seeds contains about 3.3g of fiber, or 11% DV (Daily Value). Chia seeds are among the richest foods in fiber.

We need about 28g of fiber per 2000 calories.[4] Consuming adequate amounts of fiber decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke! Unfortunately, most people fail to consume the recommended daily intake of fiber.

Moreover, foods high in protein and fiber tend to be the most filling ones.[5] As chia seeds are particularly high in fiber and protein, it can keep you full for a long time. Therefore, you’ll consume fewer calories throughout the day. Caloric deficit is the best way to lose weight fast.

Furthermore, protein in chia will protect your lean mass. Chia seeds are an excellent food option for preserving muscle mass while losing weight.

Calcium in chia seeds boosts muscle performance

Adequate amounts of calcium are required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, and hormonal secretion. Also, calcium deficiency may cause muscle cramps!

Chia seeds are a good source of calcium. 100g contains 255 mg of calcium. Furthermore, just a tbsp of chia seeds provides 31 mg of calcium.

You don’t need dairy for calcium. There are many plant-based option for calcium. See the whole list here.

Omega-3s in chia seeds are important for athletes

Most noteworthy, chia seeds are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 23% of chia seeds are omega-3s! Just a tbsp of chia seeds provides about 2.7g of omega-3s. Actually, chia seeds along with flaxseeds are the best plant-based sources of omega-3s.

Consuming high amounts of omega-3s daily is vital for athletes. Omega-3s can increase athletic performance in sport, as omega-3s:[6]

  • regulate the nervous system & blood pressure,
  • have powerful antioxidant & anti-inflammatory action,
  • influence skeletal muscle metabolism,
  • may increase power & delay fatigue,
  • help muscles recover faster after intense exercise.

Moreover, athletes should eat chia seeds regularly, as omega-3s seem to reduce joint pain and pain stiffness. Knee or shoulder pain in pretty common in many sports. A common reason for joint pain is inflammation. Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation.

Above all, the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s should be low. Modern western diets have a ratio of 15. This ratio increases significantly the risk of inflammation and chronic disease. Data from the most healthy diets, such as the diet of Crete or the Okinawa diet shows that the healthiest omega-6s to omega-3s ratio is lower than 2.5.

Besides, chia seeds, try to consume other foods containing omega-3s, such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. See the whole list here.

Is chia protein digested easily?

Chia seeds contain soluble fiber which seems to improve digestion and also helps to absorb more nutrients. The compounds of chia seeds are so easily available for intestinal absorption that there is no need for grinding or boiling before consumption.[7]

Another property of chia seeds is that they absorb high amounts of water. They can absorb up to 12 times more water than their mass.[8] 

Chia protein vs whey protein

Whey protein is the golden standard in fitness industry. It’s the cheapest source of protein. Just 1 scoop contains about 24g of protein and only 130 calories.[9] On the other hand, even eating 100g of chia seeds won’t provide more than 20g of protein.

chia seeds
100g
whey protein
100g
whey protein
32g or 1 scoop
calories534400130
protein (g)18,297524
fat (g)42,167,82,5
fiber (g)27,300
sugar (g)1,556,252
calcium (mg)255438140
iron (mg)5,731,250,4
Nutritional value of Chia seeds vs Whey protein.

Certainly, eating chia seeds is good for bodybuilders and athletes, as chia seeds provide more than protein. They provide omega-3s, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. All these compounds are vital for building muscle mass, improving athletic performance, and helping your muscles recover much faster after a hard workout.

Chia protein vs hemp powder

Another great source of plant-based protein is hemp powder. Hemp seeds are also complete protein. Hemp seeds contain more protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus than chia seeds. On the other hand, chia seeds contain more omega-3s, fiber, and calcium.

Certainly, both seeds are great plant-based sources of protein. Additionally, they’re nutrient-dense foods. Both contain phytochemicals and other compounds that fight inflammation, decrease recovery time after a workout, and also improve athletic performance.

chia seeds
100g
hemp seeds
100g
calories534553
protein (g)18,2931,6
fat (g)42,1648,7
fiber (g)27,34
sugars (g)1,551,5
iron (mg)5,737,95
magnesium (mg)392700
potassium (mg)8131200
zinc (mg)4,349,9
phosphorus (mg)6421650
calcium (mg)25570
copper (mg)1,221,6
Nutritional value of Chia seeds vs Hemp seeds.