Nutrition

Bananas and Fitness – A Match Made in Heaven

The banana is the quintessential recovery food. Bananas are offered up after all kinds of athletic events. They’re also popular for providing energy before and during tough workouts, competitions, and races.

But why bananas? We’ve got the rundown for you on why this is one of the most perfect foods for fitness, health, and working out. Encourage your clients looking for healthier eating habits to add in more bananas and help them understand when to eat them relative to training. 

10 Reasons to Combine Bananas and Fitness

What is it about bananas? Yes, they taste good, but they are also nutritionally dense, easy to eat, and full of easy-to-digest sugars and more complex carbs for both quick and long-lasting energy. Here are the top reasons you need bananas in your life. 

1. Pre-packaged and Easy to Eat

Bananas are the ultimate packaged food. They come in a handy, all-natural carrying case. You can easily drop one in your bag without worrying about it making a mess. You know the actual banana will stay clean until you peel and eat it. You won’t even need a napkin. Bananas are tidy. 

2. Yes, They’re Sweet, But Bananas Won’t Spike Blood Sugar

If you’re following a keto, paleo, or other low-carb diet, bananas may be off the list, but they shouldn’t be. Bananas are fruit, and that means they naturally contain a significant amount of sugar. But whole fruits, and bananas in particular, are also rich in fiber. The fiber slows the absorption of sugar, so you get energy but not an unhealthy spike in blood glucose levels. 

3. Bananas are Easy on the Digestive Tract

Digestive issues can arise when you work out, especially during a vigorous training session or a competition like a race. To fuel those workouts, you need something easy on the stomach. Bananas are easy to digest. 

Bananas also have fiber that promotes gut health. The greener a banana is, the more resistant starch it contains. This is starch you don’t digest but that feeds beneficial gut bacteria, improving overall digestive health. 

4. Reduce Cramps with Bananas

Muscle cramping is painful. Cramps also cause a setback during a workout or event. Cramping isn’t completely understood, but it may be related to electrolyte imbalances. Bananas can replenish your sodium and potassium levels. 

Bananas are especially good sources of potassium, which is important for good muscle function. Just be sure to eat one with water because dehydration can also trigger cramping or make it worse. 

5. The Perfect Recovery Food

There’s a reason you see bananas after every 5k and even marathons. The banana is a great recovery food, for so many reasons: it replenishes energy and glycogen stores; the fiber prevents a spike in blood sugar; there are electrolytes as well as carbs; and when you’re feeling a little sick after pushing your body so hard, a banana is easy to eat and digest. 

6. A Good Source of Energy for Endurance

For any workout, but especially for long sessions or endurance events, you need regular replenishment of nutrients for energy. Without it, you’ll hit a wall and your performance or results suffer. Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates that help replenish fatigued glycogen stores. They’re fairly easy to eat, even in the middle of an event or workout. 

7. Get More Manganese to Access Energy

A banana has 15 to 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance for manganese. This trace mineral is necessary for metabolism and energy access. You need adequate manganese to get more out of the food you eat. Bananas support this process. 

8. Bananas are Cheap

This is one of the most affordable yet nutritionally-dense foods you can buy at the grocery store. They may sell for as little as 29 cents a pound, depending on the market and location. Organic bananas will cost more but are still reasonably priced if you are on a budget. 

9. Stimulate Dopamine to Protect Muscles

Fruit, including bananas, stimulates the release of the brain chemical dopamine. This is important during a workout because dopamine protects against free radicals, which are increased when the body is doing something physically demanding. Dopamine triggers increased antioxidant activity to battle muscle-damaging free radicals. 

10. Get Much More Than Potassium

Bananas are great for carbs, fiber, and potassium, but you also get many more nutrients from this tidy little package of food. Each banana also contains significant amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C. 

When to Eat Bananas – Before or After a Workout?

Your clients may be happy to hear they should eat more bananas, but they’ll probably have some questions about incorporating them. Before workouts or after? Should they eat bananas during a workout? Here are some simple guidelines. 

  • Eat a banana about 30 minutes before a workout for easy-to-digest fuel. 
  • Have one banana after workouts or events, immediately or up to 30 minutes later, for refueling and recovery.
  • During a long, challenging workout or an endurance athletic event, eat half of a banana every 15 to 20 minutes. 

Of course, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. Bananas are great for fueling and recovery, but you can overdo it. Remind your clients that this is a sugar and carb source, so limit bananas on rest or recovery days to avoid gaining weight. One or two bananas per day is plenty, although more on an endurance day is acceptable. 

How to Eat More Bananas – Recipe Ideas 

A plain, raw, unprocessed banana couldn’t be a simpler snack. When you’re working out or recovering right after an event, a banana is all you need. Bananas can also play a bigger role in your overall, healthy diet. If you’re tired of eating just a banana, there are plenty of ways to mix things up and still get the health benefits: 

  • Blend up bananas and freeze them. The consistency is like ice cream and it’s naturally sweet. 
  • Add fresh or frozen bananas to smoothies for a thick, rich texture. 
  • Try substituting bananas for sugar in baked good recipes.
  • Bake make-ahead breakfast muffins using bananas as the sweetener for a quick, healthy meal. 
  • Make banana-peanut butter whole-grain toast for a tasty snack with protein and healthy carbs. 
  • Dip bananas in melted dark chocolate and freeze for a healthier sweet treat, especially on hot workout days. 

It’s hard to go wrong with bananas. They may just be the perfect workout food. Use them for your own sessions and competitions and show your clients just how great this fruit is. Even your clients who are afraid of carbs should be prepared to embrace the banana. 

The ISSA’s Certified Nutrition Coaching course is a great way to learn more about diet, health, nutrition, fitness, and how they interact. Help your clients make better food choices and even add nutrition coaching to your list of services! 

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