Bananas are one of the most popular and widely eaten fruits in the world, yet the majority of people are likely unaware of just how effective and beneficial consumption of them can be.
A medium-sized banana contains just 105 calories, making it an ideal healthy and guilt-free snack at any point in the day. While the majority of these calories come from carbohydrates, and in particular sugar, this is not a cause for concern.
The natural sugar fructose, found in fruits, is much better for you than the sucrose in table sugar. Bananas are relatively low on the glycemic index, meaning that they will provide slow-releasing energy over a sustained period, rather than processed sugars which can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate rapidly.
This naturally has a benefit for athletes and sportsmen, who need to have high stores of energy to perform at their optimum level. When you perform physical activity your body uses glycogen, a form of carbohydrate, to fuel your muscles.
Eating sources of carbohydrates will increase exercise endurance and they are generally more effective than using fats or protein as the basis for energy, making bananas an ideal fuel source to enable people to perform harder and for longer.
Consumption of a banana before a workout or match/training can be an ideal time, to prevent the negative effects of low blood sugar levels which can lead to fatigue. The relatively low GI of bananas means that blood sugar levels will rise gradually and give a sustained source of energy rather than a spike followed by a crash as some other sources of carbohydrate could cause. After eating one you should wait a short while before exercising or playing sports for maximum effect- at least half an hour.
They also make a great post-workout snack. Their natural sugars are used to rebuild muscle glycogen stores, your muscles’ main energy source, to make sure energy levels are not depleted and your body can perform at a high level for the next workout. Combined with some protein to help repair muscle tissue this can make an effective snack after strenuous exercise such as resistance training.
Bananas also contain a number of vitamins and minerals, with a host of health benefits to those with an active lifestyle. These include a range of B vitamins, vitamin C, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. They are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.
An average banana contains around ten percent of the recommended daily allowance of potassium, considerably more than the majority of other fruits including apples and oranges. Potassium is essential for muscle, brain and nerve function, as well as lowering blood pressure due to vasodilation effects and giving protection against loss of muscle mass. Increased potassium intake combined with low sodium is also an important factor in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin C consumption has been linked to a reduction in cancer-causing free radicals, consumption of fiber can improve digestive health and a study at Imperial College London even found that children eating just one banana a day had 34 percent less chance of getting asthma!
All in all bananas are cheap, tasty, available year-round and have a host of benefits both health-wise and in terms of sporting performance. Adding them to your diet is easy and above all a smart move!