Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iskiate: Home-brewed Red Bull???

I began training for my first marathon in January 2006.  I struggled with nutrition for my runs.  I generally only carry water and eat peanut butter on bread before a run.  The reason being that in almost every race I've struggled with food and drink.  In my first half marathon I was over-hydrated, felt bloated and wanted to vomit.  In my first marathon I was dehydrated and dry heaved every other mile or so.  In my second marathon I had a cold/cough.  I took cold medicine the morning of the race and dry heaved from mile 7 to 25.  To say I've had it rough is understating it.  I freely admit that I don't have a cast iron stomach.  However, I'm not one to quit. 

The training groups I was a part of suggested things like Power Gel, GU, Clif Shots, and others.  These supplements do not agree with my palate no matter the flavor.  The only supplement that I've had some level of success with was Jelly Belly Sports Beans.  I would describe them as jelly beans with Gatorade in them.  One problem I did have with them was that after running 20+ miles the sweetness factor would overcome me and make me want to heave.  I had to counteract the sweetness with pretzel sticks.  As for drinks, I tried drinking Cytomax.  Cytomax works great for me as a recovery drink, but on a run it sometimes, well, gave me the runs.  GU20 is a little better, but not much.

So, what to do?  Water and peanut butter sandwiches?  Why not try Iskiate?

Iskiate, also known as chia fresca, is a drink that the Raramuri of the Copper Canyons in Mexico use for energy.  It is comprised of water, chia seeds (yes - as in Chia Pets), lime juice and agave nectar (or sugar).  Christopher McDougall describes it as home-brewed Red Bull in his book Born to Run.  Couldn't be any worse than anything I'd already tried.  Besides, it was natural, not engineered.

After I had begun barefooting for a couple of weeks, I got curious about iskiate.  I did a quick websearch to see if there was a recipe of some sort.  On the blogsite  for the No Meat Athlete he discusses the recipes for both iskiate and pinole.  I went to my local health food store and bought a small pouch of chia seeds.  It was a bit pricey, but I didn't want to buy a large supply unless I knew it was worth it.

Prior to my next run I mixed up a small batch of iskiate and downed it.  I went out on my run.  I don't know what I was expecting.  Was I going to go and run 100 miles like the Tarahumara?  Was I going to vomit?  What would happen?  Well, nothing overly dramatic really happened.  I felt great on the run.  At the end of the run I still had a lot of energy to spare.  My stomach felt fine.  I wasn't weighed down by the drink.  My first impressions of this drink are highly positive.  The drink appears to give me energy to last my run with more to spare.  It also does not appear to give me any issues with my stomach.

I plan to continue to use the drink before runs.  Since my barefoot mileage is a little more than 3 miles per run, I can't say if the iskiate will prove to be a true "home-brewed Red Bull" on a long run.  In the coming weeks, my mileage will be increasing due to my preparation for my first barefoot half marathon.  I will keep you posted as to the success/failure of iskiate on my sensitive stomach.  I also plan to start making pinole (recipe from No Meat Athlete) as a food source on my runs.

The recipe for iskiate from No Meat Athlete is as follows:
  • about 10 oz of water
  • 1 Tbsp dry chia seeds
  • a few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
  • honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)


  1. Good sharing, for healthy purpose, Chia seeds offer the highest volume of Omega-3, as well as addition fiber (soluble and insoluble) along with vitamins or perhaps minerals you don’t usually get whenever you take sea food oil. Chia seeds giving you long lasting energy during the day moving in deep, restful sleep during the night time. May read this article about Chia seeds at:

    1. Check out my latest blog post - 33Shake Chia Energy Gel Review. This is a much more practical way to utilize chia on the run than iskiate!