The banana gets such a bad rap. Just the other day, a woman in my cycle class stopped me after class. She was befuddled as to what to eat pre-workout. When I suggested a banana, she cringed. “They are so fattening,” she said. I’ve been told to stay away from them – I only allow myself one per day.”
I wish she were the first person I ran into with such a misconception of bananas. If you are active, bananas are one of the best foods out there. Yes, an average-sized banana has about 110-125 calories – but you’ll down an energy bar or recovery drink with 250-300 calories without thinking twice. That’s two or three bananas right there. And, bananas come with naturally-occurring nutrients – they weren’t stripped, processed and reinserted with chemically-made “nutrition”-like products.
Yohan Blake, the Jamaican sprinter and 100-meter world champion, is my new hero when it comes to banana eating. He reportedly eats as many as 16 of the yellow bad boys a day. I may be far behind his record (I think the most I’ve eaten in one day is six) – but he’d also leave me in the dust when it comes to sprinting.
A study conducted by Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab found that bananas were as effective in enhancing cycling performance as a carbohydrate sports drink when consumed every 15 minutes during exertion. Athletes consumed either ½ of a banana or a cup of the drink, which is essentially sugary water. The researchers noted that the bananas had the advantage of providing the athletes with antioxidants not found in the sports drink and offered a healthier blend of sugars.
One medium banana contains 27 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not the enemy – especially to movers and shakers. Bananas, especially those on the greener side, contain resistant starch which is all the rage in the endurance energy and weight-loss world. Resistant starch is supposed to resist digestion in the small intestine and get passed along to the large bowel. The process of digesting resistant starch promotes fullness and increases fat burning, so proponents say. (The popular sports drink UCAN is resistant-starch based, but isn’t without added colors, flavors and processing.) I can’t promise you that resistant starch will make you lose weight, but wouldn’t it make sense to get it from natural sources rather than a processed powder?
Bananas are a great source of potassium, with 12 percent of your needs for the day. Potassium is essential in regulating your fluid and mineral balance and can help your workouts go more smoothly. One medium banana also offers 17 percent of your daily needs for vitamin C and 22 percent of your needs for vitamin B6.
Potassium can also help lower blood pressure – which would have helped my cycling participant who is battling baffling high blood pressure despite a healthy, active lifestyle. So next time you need a snack – grab a banana. What else is so cheap, portable and available?