Bananas are probably one of the most convenient, easy to carry and available fruit around. They are also one of the favorite athletes' snacks .
Who doesn’t remember Michael Chang’s run to the French Open title in 1989? Down two sets to none to Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, Chang rallied to claim one of the most improbable victories in tennis history.
Chang began cramping in the fourth set. He had to employ some very unusual tactics to defeat the world’s top-ranked player. Chang used moon balls, an underhand serve and quickly ate many bananas to help with his cramping.
Because bananas are, among other things, rich in potassium and other precious nutrients that make them one of the preferred snack of athletes around the world.
And a recent research conducted at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) has revealed additional benefits.
In the study the researchers compared bananas to carbohydrate sports drinks in order to assess which one were more beneficial. And, not surprisingly, they found out that even though performance was the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas over sports drink, as they provided in addition:
(2) greater nutritional boost;
(5) Vitamin B6; and
(6) healthier blend of sugars.
For the study, trained cyclist consumed either a cup of carbohydrate drink or half a banana every 15 minutes during a 75 kilometers simulated road race lasting 2.5 to 3 hours.
Blood samples were taken from the cyclists before and after the exercise and were analyzed at the NCRC Metabolomics Laboratory for more than 100 metabolites (i.e., molecules associated with metabolism).
"Bananas come prepackaged with fiber, nutrients and antioxidants," said Dr. David C. Nieman, director of the human performance lab and a member of the College of Health Sciences faculty at Appalachian, adding the research translates to any exercise.
"The mode of exercise is not the issue. I think there are a lot of athletes who don't like the thought of drinking carbohydrate sports drinks, which are essentially flavored sugar water," he said. "This type of research shows that you can have healthier carbohydrate sources before and after exercise that will support athletic performance just as well as a sports drink," he added.
The study, funded by Dole Foods, has been published in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS ONE.
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