Bananas Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery in Cyclists
Athletes, listen up! If you’re preparing for your next long-distance race, you may want to throw a few bananas in your gym bag. Researchers at the North Carolina Research Campus, including Dole Nutrition Institute and Appalachian State University scientists, have provided even more evidence as to why bananas may be the ideal fuel for endurance athletes.
For the study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, 20 seasoned male cyclists participated in three 75-kilometer rides while consuming bananas and water, pears and water, or just water every 15 minutes. Blood samples were taken before and after each ride. Participants also rated their physical and mental states after each ride.
Compared to just drinking water, eating banana or pear while cycling improved trial times by 5% and 3.3%, respectively. Participants also reported enhanced energy, ability to focus, and overall well-being when eating fruit while riding.
Researchers used metabolomics, the study of metabolites, to investigate how eating fruit may have also improved the athletes’ post-exercise recovery processes. Looking at these intermediary metabolic compounds gives a specific fingerprint as to what cellular processes have occurred.
Blood analyses showed that eating bananas helped calm inflammation and enhance antioxidant capacity post-exercise. These benefits derived from specific antioxidants and phenolic compounds in bananas. Eating bananas also reduced fat breakdown by providing carbohydrates to working muscles, a benefit to athletes in competition. Pears provided similar advantages but to lesser extents.
One medium banana provides 105 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates. Bananas contain a 1:1 ratio of glucose to fructose, a sugar profile our previous research has supported as ideal for athletic performance. Pears contain a much higher amount of fructose (about 1:2.5 ratio glucose to fructose) and have a different phenolic profile than bananas, a likely reason bananas were the more effective energy source during exercise.
Next time you participant in an endurance event such as cycling or running, choose fruit, specifically bananas, to potentially improve your race time and post-race recovery.