Sunday, April 8, 2018

Going Bananas?

Ready to go riding with my bananas
I've written before that sports drinks cannot  totally replace your electrolyte losses during exercise. Moreover, sports drinks are manufactured and may contain flavorings and chemicals that you may want to avoid.

And if you're like me and prefer eating real food and drinking lemon water (or just plain water) rather than sports drinks while exercising, then you may be doing enough to replace the carbohydrates to fuel your exercise and even speed recovery.

A preliminary study in 2012 found that cyclists performed better for a strenuous bike ride if they had a banana or sports drink compared to water. The cyclists also had lower levels of inflammation after the ride. That study did not show why and how the carbs were aiding recovery.

The same authors did a new study that was recently published using more sophisticated techniques to track molecular changes inside the cyclist's bodies.

The subjects' underwent a intense 75 km bike ride inside the laboratory. In one ride, they drank only water while in another ride, they had water, eight ounces of a sports drink or half a "Dole" banana every 30 minutes.

The subjects' blood was tested before during and immediately the ride and even 45 hours after the ride. Inflammatory blood markers and metabolites were assessed during and after to test how much stress was taken by them.

When the cyclists' drank only water during the ride, relatively high levels of inflammatory markers were found. These same markers were much lower if the cyclists' had consumed the banana or sports drinks. Metabolite profiles were less stressed regardless of whether they had the banana or sports drink compared to without.

One obvious difference was those cyclists' that ate the bananas had blood cells that produced less COX-2 (a genetic precursor of an enzyme). This was not seen if they drank only water or had the sports drink.

For those interested, COX-2 enzyme stimulates prostaglandin production, which increases the intensity of inflammation. Those of you who take inflammatory medication like Arcoxia or Celebrex tablets note that they are COX-2 inhibitors. They help reduce inflammation.

This study suggest that bananas might perform comparably although it is unknown how bananas affect the cells' gene expression. So instead of popping pills like Arcoxia and Celebrex prescribed to you, you may want to eat more bananas and ginger.

It was calculated by the researches that half a standard banana provided similar carbohydrates as a cup of sports drink and the cyclists' had half every 30 mins. Bear in mind your needs may be different. Some cyclists' also complained of feeling bloated after eating that amount of bananas.

So be warned before you go bananas over ingesting bananas in your next long ride or race.


Nieman DC, Gillitt ND et al (2012). Bananas As An Energy Source During Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PlosOne. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0037479

Nieman DC, Gillitt ND et al (2018). Metabolic Recovery From Heavy Exertion Following Banana Compared To Sugar Beverage Or Water Only Ingestion: A Randomized, Crossover Trial. PlosOne. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0194843

*Note that Dole Foods which sells bananas funded both studies. However, they company did not have any involvement in study design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish or preparing the article.

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