Bananas are as Beneficial as Sports Energy Drinks, Researchers Find

Consumers don't need to buy sugary sports drinks in order to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes during or after exercise, says a new study. Instead, just grab a banana. The super-fruit not only offers the same performance boost as sports drinks, but additional advantages as well. Bananas provide antioxidants not found in the man-made beverages, plus a greater nutritional boost, including fiber, potassium and vitamin B6. Bananas also contain a healthier blend of natural sugars than sports drinks at a much lower price tag!

Bananas Health Energy Study
Bananas have long been a favorite source of energy for endurance and recreational athletes. Bananas are a rich source of potassium and other nutrients, and are easy for cyclists, runners or hikers to carry.

Research conducted at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) has revealed additional benefits.

“We wanted to see which was more beneficial when consumed during intense cycling – bananas or a carbohydrate sports drink,” said Dr. David C. Nieman, director of the human performance lab and a member of the College of Health Sciences faculty at Appalachian.

“We found that not only was performance the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas,” he said.

The bananas provided the cyclists with antioxidants not found in sports drinks as well as a greater nutritional boost, including fiber, potassium and Vitamin B6, the study showed. In addition, bananas have a healthier blend of sugars than sports drinks.

The study, funded by Dole Foods, has been published in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS ONE published by the nonprofit Public Library of Science (PLoS).

For the study, trained cyclists consumed either a cup of carbohydrate drink or half a banana every 15 minutes during a 75-kilometer simulated road race lasting 2.5 to 3 hours. Blood samples taken from the cyclists before and after the exercise were analyzed at the NCRC Metabolomics Laboratory for more than 100 metabolites – molecules associated with metabolism.

“Bananas come prepackaged with fiber, nutrients and antioxidants,” said Nieman, adding the research translates to any exercise.

“The mode of exercise is not the issue. I think there are a lot of athletes who don’t like the thought of drinking carbohydrate sports drinks, which are essentially flavored sugar water,” he said. “This type of research shows that you can have healthier carbohydrate sources before and after exercise that will support athletic performance just as well as a sports drink,” Nieman said.

Article by Adam Camara

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