A Dietitian Just Shared the Actual Reason Bananas Are an Ideal Workout Food

Plus, a chef shares the banana-eating hack we bet you've never tried!

Ever wonder why so many marathoners eat bananas during their races? Maybe you’ve heard that it’s because bananas are great for fueling physical activity, which Brittany Lubeck, RD, a registered dietitian, explains: bananas are “full of low-glycemic carbohydrates, which provide an excellent quick energy source to keep the body moving during exercise,” Lubeck says, adding that they “don’t spike your blood sugar.” This perk helps prevent your energy from crashing, she notes.

Lubeck also nods to a post-workout benefit of bananas that’s less often discussed: “Bananas are rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that are known to have health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties.”

Why this matters for your workout? A study published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS One, demonstrated that bananas reduce inflammation. Inflammation can occur for a number of reasons, such as when the immune system is fighting off a perceived illness as well as from eating dairy, wheat, or processed foods. But also, inflammation can be one of the body’s natural responses to physical activity.

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Bananas help calm inflammation thanks to their essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help sustain your energy during a tough workout, as well as help you recover faster. As Lubeck explains, “The antioxidants in bananas play an important role in reducing free radicals that can induce oxidative stress if not removed from the body.”

On a related (and fascinating) note, chef and registered dietitian Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, breaks down the findings of a new study on the antioxidants that may be available from an unexpected part of the fruit: the peel. “Banana peels, especially red peels, also demonstrate surprising benefits against oxidative stress,” Newgent explains. “A 2022 in vitro study showed banana peel extracts may be effective in helping to combat oxidative stress, making them potentially suitable for biopharmaceutical uses or enriching UV protection creams.”

So, workout or no workout…should you be eating banana peels? “Banana peels can be worked into a recipe!” says Newgent, who’s also a classically trained chef. She says a few options might be banana peel “bacon,” as well as banana peel fajitas or carnitas—although, Newgent says, “I would generally advise using it as a minor ingredient, like finely diced and sauteed along with peppers in a chili recipe or burrito filling. Also, I advise using organic peels to avoid exposure to synthetic pesticide residues.”

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Think we may have a few recipes up our sleeve to share with you soon? Of course we do. Get The Healthy @Reader’s Digest newsletter for healthy eating adventures in your inbox daily. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and keep reading:

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Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for TheHealthy.com and “The Healthy” section of Reader’s Digest magazine. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.
Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. In addition to The Healthy, he has published with outlets such as The Beet, Livestrong, and others. With his wife and their two kids, Adam lives in British Columbia, Canada. That’s where you can usually find him running mountain trails, working out in his home gym, or writing in a coffee shop.