Are Bananas Good After A Workout?

Overview

Bananas are said to be an excellent fruit to have after exercise, particularly after a vigorous workout. They are a high-energy source that aids muscle recovery and athletic performance. To increase the benefits, combine protein powder with the banana to make a post-workout smoothie.

The nutrient profile of bananas

Bananas are abundant in fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and a range of antioxidants.1

Carbohydrates

Bananas are rich in carbohydrates, which appear mostly as starch in unripe bananas but sugars in ripe bananas. The carbohydrate makeup of bananas varies dramatically as they mature. Green bananas have up to 80% starch by dry weight. During ripening, the starch is converted into sugars and amounts to less than 1% when the banana is fully ripe.2 The significant quantity of resistant starch and fibre in bananas explains their low glycaemic index (GI). The GI measures how quickly carbohydrates in food enter your system and elevate your blood sugar.3

Additional plant compounds

Bananas, in addition to being rich in carbohydrates, are high in important chemicals such as dopamine. Dopamine from bananas does not pass the blood-brain barrier to alter mood, despite being a key neurotransmitter in your brain. Instead, it functions as an antioxidant.4 Bananas contain a variety of antioxidant flavonoids, the most notable of which are catechins (a natural antioxidant). Catechins help prevent cell damage and provide extra benefits. They've been linked to several health advantages, including a lower risk of heart disease.5

Vitamins and Minerals

The mineral potassium is abundant in bananas. Potassium controls the passage of nutrients and waste items into and out of cells and helps to maintain fluid levels in the body. It also aids muscular contraction and nerve cell response, maintains a regular heartbeat, and helps minimise the effect of salt on blood pressure.1 Vitamin B6 is abundant in bananas. It is required for the development of the brain, nerves, skin and many other body components. Vitamin C can be found in abundance in bananas. 

Fibres 

Unripe bananas have a high concentration of resistant starch, which passes through the intestines undigested. This starch is digested by bacteria in the large intestine to generate butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that appears to be advantageous to gut health. Bananas are also high in other forms of fibre, such as pectin. Water-soluble pectin is found in bananas. The quantity of water-soluble pectin in bananas rises as they mature, which is one of the key reasons why bananas soften with age.6 As pectin and resistant starch ferment in the large intestine, more healthy bacteria are produced, improving your overall gut health. Because of the rise in beneficial bacteria, constipation and the likelihood of experiencing gas pains will decline.

According to a 2017 study, those who eat a high-fibre diet had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease than those who eat a low-fibre diet.1

Bananas have extremely little protein and fat.

Benefits of eating a banana after a workout

Bananas are a good source of protein. They are high in water and carbohydrates, both of which have been proven to boost workout performance and recuperation time after time. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods after exercise stimulates the production of the hormone insulin, which aids in the transportation of sugar from your blood into your muscle cells, where it is stored as glycogen.7 It also makes muscle cells more insulin sensitive, making it simpler for them to replace glycogen reserves after exercise.7 Regardless of how fast they eat carb-rich foods after exercise, most people can fully restore their muscle glycogen reserves before their next activity by just eating a carb-rich diet.

If you have less than 24 hours between workouts, you benefit from consuming carb-rich meals, such as bananas, as soon as possible after exercise and in the hours following it. This accelerates muscle glycogen production, allowing you to begin your next session with completely or almost totally regenerated glycogen reserves.8 Bananas, in addition to being high in carbohydrates, are high in important chemicals such as dopamine and polyphenols. The combination of carbohydrates and several other chemicals may aid in preventing post-exercise inflammation. This impact is supposed to facilitate faster healing.

Eating a banana

Before a workout 

Whereas eating a banana after a workout might aid with recuperation, eating it before or during a workout can also be beneficial, albeit in different ways. Eating a banana 30-60 minutes before a workout may be most effective for improving performance. While eating up to 2 bananas with other food sources can help with recuperation after an exercise or throughout a longer one.8,9

During a workout 

Some people may have sensations of fullness or bloating after eating bananas while exercising. If this is the case for you, consider substituting dried fruits or sports gels for carb-rich meals. If you intend to reduce inflammation and speed recovery, consuming a banana following your workout may be the best option.10

Other food to eat after a workout

Following an exercise, your body attempts to refill glycogen stores as well as repair and regenerate muscle proteins. Eating the correct nutrients shortly after exercise can help your body complete this task more quickly. It is extremely crucial to consume carbohydrates and protein following an exercise.

Proteins aid in muscle repair and growth, whereas carbohydrates aid in restoration. Muscle protein is broken down during exercise. The pace at which this occurs is determined by the activity and the degree of training, although even highly trained athletes undergo muscle protein breakdown. Consuming enough protein after exercise provides your body with the amino acids it requires to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also provides the building elements needed to develop new muscular tissue. 

During exercise, your body's glycogen reserves are utilised as fuel and eating carbohydrates afterwards helps refill them. Your workout level determines how quickly your glycogen reserves decrease. Endurance sports, for example, cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance sports. Furthermore, when carbohydrates and protein are ingested together, insulin production, which increases glycogen formation, is boosted more effectively. Consuming both carbohydrates and protein after exercise can thereby enhance protein and glycogen production. People who exercise often should consume lots of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen storage.

Other carbohydrates to consume besides bananas are sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal and quinoa. Protein and fat suggestions include eggs, Greek yoghurt, salmon, poultry, avocado, almonds and trail mix. If you're seeking something sweet for a post-workout snack, consider drinking chocolate milk. Various studies have discovered that consuming chocolate milk post-workout is beneficial due to its protein content.

What to avoid after a workout 

Sports drinks 

Although energy drinks are a typical post-workout remedy, they are not meant to replenish fluids lost during activity. A sports drink's added calories may lead to weight gain. Over time, the excess salt may raise the risk of high blood pressure. The evidence for the benefits of sports drinks is minimal, and the beverage industry has utilised commercialisation to advise more than the research has.11

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs 

Because ibuprofen might irritate digestive processes, doctors advise against taking it soon before and after endurance activity. Another study found that using NSAIDs after exercise impaired the repair of muscles. Consuming anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen) after an exercise will slow down the recovery process.12

Summary

Bananas are good to eat after working out. They are abundant in beneficial compounds (such as dopamine) and also have a high concentration of antioxidant flavonoids (catechins). Bananas are a rich source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and a variety of fibres. More good bacteria are formed in the large intestine as pectin and resistant starch ferment, enhancing overall gut health. While eating a banana after a workout may help with recovery, eating it before an exercise may be more useful for enhancing performance. It is advised to avoid energy drinks after your workout because they are not designed to restore fluids lost during exertion. The extra calories in a sports drink may cause weight gain. Furthermore, avoiding ibuprofen use before and after will save you from having interrupted digestion.

References

  1. Ware M. Bananas: Health benefits, tips, and risks [Internet]. www.medicalnewstoday.com. 2020. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271157
  2. Zhang P, Whistler RL, BeMiller JN, Hamaker BR. Banana starch: production, physicochemical properties, and digestibility—a review. Carbohydrate Polymers [Internet]. 2005 Mar [cited 2019 Mar 21];59(4):443–58. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144861704004023?via%3Dihub
  3. Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI News [Internet]. Available from: https://glycemicindex.com
  4.  Kanazawa K, Sakakibara H. High content of dopamine, a strong antioxidant, in Cavendish banana. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry [Internet]. 2000;48(3):844–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10725161
  5. Someya S, Yoshiki Y, Okubo K. Antioxidant compounds from bananas (Musa Cavendish). Food Chemistry. 2002 Nov;79(3):351–4. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0308814602001863.
  6. ‌Duan X, Cheng G, Yang E, Yi C, Ruenroengklin N, Lu W, et al. Modification of pectin polysaccharides during ripening of postharvest banana fruit. Food Chemistry. 2008 Nov;111(1):144–9. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0308814608003440.
  7. Murray B, Rosenbloom C. Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. Nutrition Reviews. 2018 Feb 10;76(4):243–59. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/76/4/243/4851715.
  8. ‌Beck K, Thomson JS, Swift RJ, von Hurst PR. Role of Nutrition in Performance Enhancement and Postexercise Recovery. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine [Internet]. 2015 Aug;6(6):259. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540168/
  9. Mata F, Valenzuela PL, Gimenez J, Tur C, Ferreria D, Domínguez R, et al. Carbohydrate Availability and Physical Performance: Physiological Overview and Practical Recommendations. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 May 16;11(5):1084. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566225/
  10. Nieman DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science [Internet]. 2019 May;8(3):201–17. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005
  11. Cohen D. The truth about sports drinks. BMJ. 2012 Jul 18;345(jul18 3):e4737–7. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bmj.e4737.
  12. Warden SJ. Prophylactic misuse and recommended use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2009 Jan 9;43(8):548–9.‌ Available from: https://bjsm.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bjsm.2008.056697.

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Ambria Pearce

Bachelor of Science - BSc, Neuroscience, University of Sussex, England

Ambria is currently a BSCs Neuroscience student at the University of Sussex. She has a particular interest in the brain-gut connection; where the brain has a direct influence on the stomach and intestines and the neural processes of mental disorders. She intends to further study neuroscience at a Masters's level.

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