Bananas are sweet, readily available, portable and one of the most popular fruits in the United States. The dense, yellow fruit is also very nutritious, filled with essential nutrients that support heart health and digestion and make a healthy addition to any diet, even one focused on muscle building.
Yes, bananas make a healthy addition to your muscle-building diet, and when included as part of your post-workout meal, may help reduce muscle-recovery time.
Bodybuilding Nutrition Basics
Even if you spend hours in the gym lifting massive amounts of weight, you may not make any gains if you're not eating food that's good for muscles. In order for your body to build muscle, you need to eat enough calories and get the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates to support growth. Additionally, your calories and nutrients should come from a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups to help maximize nutrient intake.
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Muscle building is an anabolic process that requires energy, which comes from the calories in the food you eat. Your exact calorie needs vary depending on your age, gender and level of activity.
For training athletes, University of Nevada's nutrition center recommends the following calorie intake per pound based on activity:
- 13 to 15 calories per pound: little to no exercise, or injured
- 16 to 18 calories per pound: work out 30 to 60 minutes, five to six days a week
- 19 to 21 calories per pound: work out up to 90 minutes, five to six days a week
- 22 to 24 calories per pound: work out up to 120 minutes, five to six days a week
- 25 to 30 calories per pound: work out up to three hours, five to six days a week
Read more: Diet Plan for Beginner Bodybuilders
Macronutrients for Muscle Building
When you're engaged in heavy workouts with a goal of building muscle, you need to make sure you get a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fat. Because muscle is made up of protein, you do need to up your daily protein intake in order to meet the increase in demand. Like your calories, how much protein you need may depend on your activity level and your muscle-building goals.
- 0.36 gram per pound: little to no exercise (recommended dietary allowance or RDA)
- 0.63 to 0.81 gram per pound: work out regularly and want to maintain muscle mass
- 0.9 gram per pound: work out regularly and want to build muscle mass
- 1.36 grams per pound: intense, regular workouts and want to build muscle mass
Depending on your protein needs, about 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from this muscle-building nutrient. To make the gains you want, and in order for your muscles to be able to use the protein from the food you eat, you also need to include a healthy balance of carbs and fat, with 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates and 20 to 35 percent from fat.
Carbohydrates provide your body with energy and, if you're not getting enough carbs in your diet, your body may turn to protein — or even your muscle — for its supply. Fat also serves as a source of energy and helps ensure you get essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Getting more fat in your diet may also up your testosterone levels, which supports muscle growth, according to the 2018 exercise, nutrition and sports review provided by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Best Foods for Muscle Gain
There's no single, best food for muscle gain, but you should eat a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups to ensure your body gets everything it needs to help you build muscle.
Power Up With Protein
Protein food that's good for muscles includes:
- Milk, yogurt and cheese
- Seafood and fish
- Lean red meat
- Soy and tofu
Eat Carbohydrates for Energy
Carbohydrate-rich food that's good for your muscles includes:
- Fruits, such as bananas, oranges, apples and grapes
- Vegetables, such as potatoes, broccoli, spinach and carrots
- Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and oats
- Beans, lentils and peas
- Milk and yogurt
Consume Healthy Fats
Healthy fat-rich food for your muscles includes:
- Vegetable oils, such as olive, soy and canola oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna
Maximize Nutrition in Every Bite
Certain foods contain a healthy mix of protein, carbs or fat, making them some of the best foods for muscle gain. For example, tuna is good for muscle building because it's an excellent source of protein and healthy source of fat. Greek yogurt also makes a good muscle-building food because it's an excellent source of protein and energy-producing carbs.
Read more: 20 Best Muscle Building Foods
Nutrition in a Banana
Now that you have a basic understanding of what your body needs to build muscle, you may be wondering exactly how bananas fit in. Well, bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrates and they supply your muscles with the energy needed for your workouts.
But, they offer your body much more than energy. Bananas are also an excellent source of other nutrients your body needs for health and function.
One medium banana has:
- 105 calories
- 1.3 grams of protein
- 27 grams of carbs
- 3 grams of fiber
- 9 percent of the daily value (DV) for potassium
- 10 percent of the DV for copper
- 14 percent of the DV for manganese
- 11 percent of the DV for vitamin C
- 25 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
Read more: Top Ten Health Benefits of Bananas
Bananas: Good for Muscle Building
In addition to providing your body with energy, the nutrients in this yellow fruit also make the banana good for muscle building. Manganese is a trace mineral that supports numerous, chemical processes in your body, including the metabolism of protein. Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that you need to consume on a daily basis. This vitamin, like manganese, also supports protein metabolism and assists in creating the energy that gets stored in your muscles.
If you're waking up in the middle of the night with muscle cramps, you may blame your intense set of calf raises. But it could also be due to an imbalance in electrolytes, namely potassium. Adding a daily banana to your diet may help prevent the excruciating pain.
Your Post-Workout Meal
Your post-workout meal is one of the most important meals of the day when your goal is to build muscle. This meal, which you need to consume no more than two hours after your workout, should contain a mix of carbs and protein. This mix helps restore muscle energy levels and assist in the repair and building of your muscles. The easily digested carbs found in the sweet fruit of the banana makes it good for muscle building after your workout.
In addition to serving as a perfect carb for your post-workout meal, the unique mixture of nutrients in the carb-rich fruit may also reduce muscle inflammation and help you recover from your workout faster, according to a 2018 study published in PLoS One.
Adding Bananas to Your Diet
Bananas are one of the easiest foods to incorporate into your diet. You can easily peel and eat them as you're walking into work or add them to other foods for a touch of sweetness, such as:
- Blending them with your post-workout protein shake
- Slicing them into your oatmeal
- Mixing them in with your yogurt
- Using the banana as replacement for jelly in your peanut butter sandwich
- Adding them to your whole-grain pancake batter so you can skip the syrup
You can also freeze your bananas and blend them to make a low-calorie, fat-free frozen treat. Or, blend them with eggs and touch of cinnamon to make low-carb, high-protein banana pancakes.
- Statista: Most Consumed Fruit in the United States in 2017
- University of Nevada at Las Vegas: Determining Calorie Needs
- ExRx.net: Dietary Guidelines
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: ISSN Exercise & Sports Nutrition Review: Research & Recommendations
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass
- MyFoodData: One Medium Banana
- MyFoodData: Greek Yogurt and Canned Tuna
- MedlinePlus: Manganese
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B6
- PLoS One: Metabolic Recovery From Heavy Exertion Following Banana Compared to Sugar Beverage or After Only Ingestion: A Randomized, Crossover Trial