Runners love bananas! My pre-race breakfast usually consists of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices. And, after the race, there are almost always banana halves available for runners. So, what does the banana offer runners in terms of nutritional benefit? Quite a lot actually.

runners and bananas

Health Benefits of Bananas

Bananas are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. But, did you know they can help your heart and cardiovascular system? The potassium in bananas will lower blood pressure and help prevent hypertension naturally. The sterols (type of fat) in a banana will block absorption of dietary cholesterol and help keep blood cholesterol levels in check. And, the fiber content in bananas is associated with decreased risk of heart disease.

The fiber also aids with digestion by keeping things well regulated, including the slow release of digested carbohydrates (sugars) into the blood stream. And, bananas contribute to the friendly bacteria that the body needs to aid digestion in the lower intestines. This means that people who regularly eat bananas are less likely to develop gastrointestinal problems and will have more regular bowel movements. Ew.

Athletic Performance Benefits of Bananas

Endurance athletes love bananas because they are tasty, easy, and cheap. Nature’s wrapper, the banana peel, makes it a very convenient pre-packaged snack. And, according to researchers, one-half of a banana every 15 minutes during exercise is just as effective at keeping energy levels up as the equivalent carbohydrates and minerals provided in a sports drink.

“We found that not only was performance the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas.” – Dr. David C. Nieman, College of Health Sciences faculty at Appalachian State University

Many athletes believe that the potassium in bananas (400 mg in a medium-sized banana) will help prevent muscle cramping. Low potassium levels will cause muscle cramping, but there are many factors that contribute to cramping during exertion. So, the jury is out, scientifically speaking. But, if it aint broken, don’t fix it.

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Recovery Benefits of Bananas

After a race, or a workout, it’s a good idea to replenish lost carbohydrates and electrolytes and eat something high in protein content. Bananas are a good recovery food for runners because they contain easy to digest carbohydrates (30 grams), potassium (400 mg) and magnesium (34 mg). Bananas are especially good when coupled with a protein source such as peanut butter. Or, they can be combined with a protein powder in the form of a delicious smoothie.

Helpful Tips

When shopping for bananas, consider color and size. Green bananas are not ripe and will need time to ripen, whereas yellow bananas are ripe and yellow bananas with brown spots will need to be used right away. Bananas should be left out in room temperature to ripen.

If you want to speed up the ripening process, you can put the bananas inside a paper bag with an apple. If you want to stop the ripening process, you can put bananas in the refrigerator, but the skins will turn a dark nasty brown color. Freezing is also an option. Bananas keep frozen for up to two months. This is  a great option for frozen smoothies in the hotter months.

Recipe Links

A few suggested recipes:

SaltmarshCooking_HummingbirdMuffins3

Hummingbird Muffins – Soooo good! A great pre-run snack.

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Banana Cinnamon Chia Pudding

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/421985-why-is-eating-a-banana-after-jogging-good/

Thoughts?