A Dietitian Just Shared the Actual Reason Bananas Are an Ideal Workout Food
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.
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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Brittany Lubeck, RD: Registered dietitian and nutrition writer.
Plos One: "Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach”
Food Quality and Safety: “Bioactive compounds in banana fruits and their health benefits”
American Journal of Physiology: “Renal inflammation is modulated by potassium in chronic kidney disease: possible role of Smad7”
World Allergy Organization Journal: “Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant Defense”
Processes: “Functional Compounds from Banana Peel Used to Decrease Oxidative Stress Effects”