Do you reach for a banana or sports drink before or after you exercise? A new study has found that bananas are the favorite fruit of athletes everywhere for very good reasons. Bananas affect athletic performance as well as sports drinks, plus they offer numerous nutritional advantages.
Bananas vs. sports drinks
Bananas and exercise go hand in hand because the inexpensive fruit is easy to carry, comes with its own biodegradable packaging and is rich in carbohydrates and potassium. But does paying much more for sports drinks buy a greater boost in athletic performance? To answer that question, researchers from Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis, N.C. compared the impact of bananas and sports drinks with athletic performance, inflammation, oxidative stress and immune function.
Cyclists bleed for science
For the study, published in “PLosS ONE,” the online journal of the Public Library of Science, researchers recruited 14 cyclists who consumed either one cup of a sports drink or half a banana every 15 minutes during two simulated 75-kilometer time trials.
Blood samples were taken before and after the races, and again one hour after the cyclists finished pedaling. Each blood sample was analyzed in the laboratory for immune function, oxidative stress, exercise-induced inflammation and levels of 103 metabolites. Metabolites are molecules produced by the body when it burns energy.
More potassium, healthier sugars
Bananas and sports drinks had the same positive effects on exercise-induced inflammation, oxidative stress and immune function. However, cyclists eating the bananas had higher antioxidant levels and dopamine levels than the cyclists consuming the sports drink. Other banana advantages included more fiber, vitamin B6 and 10 times the amount of potassium—a key compound that reduces dehydration, cramping and fatigue. Bananas also had healthier sugars in the form of fructose and glucose, instead of the sucrose or high fructose corn syrup used in sports drinks.
Reach for a banana
The ASU study used trained cyclists, but the research proves that bananas outperform sports drinks for people who exercise or compete on any level. Bananas are a cheap natural food loaded with important nutrients, while sports drinks are nothing more than expensive flavored sugar water. Plus, the acid in sports drinks dissolves your teeth. What’s your preference?