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Bananas Beneficial During Exercise

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a fresh bunch of bananasI am a huge believer in the fact that every athlete should have a banana a day and I preach this constantly to all of the athletes I work with. Bananas provide numerous health benefits and have been a long favorite source of energy for endurance as well as recreational athletes.

A recent study conducted at Appalachian State University's Human Performance Lab in the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) has revealed additional benefits to consuming bananas during exercise. The study is the first to directly compare bananas to sports drinks as an energy source while exercising.

For the study, trained cyclists from the Charlotte, N.C. were recruited for two 75-kilometer cycling race trials. In randomized order, cyclists either ingested specified quantities of a sports drink or bananas. Specifically, the cyclists drank one cup of sports beverage every 15 minutes during one of the race trials and one-half a banana every 15 minutes with water during the other race trial.

The study showed that performance was the same for the cyclists, however the bananas provided the cyclists with antioxidants not found in sports drinks as well as a greater boost in potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fiber. I am all about food first and love that this study supports the use of whole foods. As a marathon runner, when I am on my long runs, I always use sports drinks.

Sports drinks are a great way to hydrate and replenish sodium (the electrolyte you lose the most of through sweat). This is a very interesting study and think both can still be incorporated into your training regimen. I know I often get tired of gels and sports drinks, especially if I am on a run lasting over 2 hours, so bringing a banana with me to have at that point will be a nice alternative to help my with that last 5 or 10K of my training run!  All athletes or active people, endurance or not, can benefit from bananas either during exercise as outlined in this study, or before or after exercise as well.

Since bananas are such a great energy source loaded with potassium, antioxidants, and resistant starch, this would a fantastic option to add to a smoothie post workout to help you recover.  For recipe ideas on how to incorporate bananas into more recipes, check out www.dole.com/bananas.

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Nutrition Trends , Sports Nutrition

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MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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