Is It Okay to Eat Bananas Before Exercising?

The foods you eat play a key role in your ability to perform at your best during exercise. Bananas represent a healthy source of carbohydrates and give your body the fuel that can help you stay active for longer periods, including during swim competitions or weightlifting or other physical activities. While snacking on a banana before workout is unlikely to hinder your performance, TeensHealth suggests limiting your intake in the 60 minutes prior to activity. Obtain your doctor's opinion before starting any exercise plan.

Is It OK to Eat Bananas Before Exercising? (Image: TinasDreamworld/iStock/GettyImages)

Nutritional Benefits of Bananas

One medium banana supplies low-fat energy from 105 calories. The 14.5 g of sugar in a ripe banana is comprised of glucose and fructose, at a ratio of 1:1 ratio, a sugar profile that is ideal for athletic performance, which is the kind that is easily digested. Bananas are packed with healthy vitamins and minerals but the most important ones that are beneficial to athletes are magnesium and potassium, which act as electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes influence how muscles contract. When your body loses electrolytes through sweat from exercise, an imbalance can result, which may cause muscle cramping and fatigue. Eating a banana is a good way to replace those electrolytes.

Bananas and Exercise

Fruits such as bananas are rich in carbohydrates; they contain sugars and starch that serve as primary sources of energy for your body. Ripe bananas contain 27 g of carbs, useful to fuel muscles and reduce post-exercise stress. Your body converts the carbohydrates from bananas into sugar during the natural digestion process. The sugar then travels to your bloodstream and eventually to your cells to provide energy.

Eating Before Your Workout

You can eat a balanced meal that includes bananas or other fruit before a workout at least two hours prior to physical activity. Your body will benefit from a meal that includes protein, such as lean meats or fresh fish, carbohydrates and good fats. Eating too much in the hour leading up to your workout puts you at a greater risk for stomach cramps and diarrhea. A large meal too soon before exercise also makes you more likely to feel tired, since digestion requires energy. However, if your busy schedule necessitates a pre workout snack, a banana would be a good choice. Bananas are low on the glycemic index and are optimal for pre-workout fueling and may be of benefit to ward off hunger from their satiety effect. Foods high on the glycemic index, are optimal for post-exercise recovery.

Post Exercise Recovery

Bananas contain phenolic compounds which have antioxidant capacity and have proven to help with post-exercise recovery in athletes. Researchers studied the effect of eating bananas and pears as compared to just drinking water on both performance and recovery in athletes. Results, published in the Journal of Proteome Research in 2015, found the cyclists in the study who ate bananas were the fastest in performance times with an improved rate of recovery compared with those who just drank water.

Exercise Exhaustion

An effective workout drains your body of energy and weakens your muscles. Avoid unhealthy sources of carbohydrates — including soft drinks and candy bars. By consuming these products to gain a short energy boost, you face a greater risk of suffering exhaustion before the workout ends. Help your muscles recover — and restore energy to your body — by eating a banana or even drinking a sports beverage as soon as your exercise ends. You'll also reward your body by carving out time at least two hours after your exercise to eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates like bananas.

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