Banana in your pocket.
Forget using an expensive proprietary brand energy drinks – the humble banana, delivers just as much, maybe a smidgen more, than a fancy sports drink. Plus it really is natural and costs a fraction of the price.
The banana race
Researchers from Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab pitted the banana against a carbohydrate sports drink in “the banana race”.
The show down was tough 75 km time trail, requiring the participants to dig deep into their energy reserves. Lining up at the start of the “banana race” were elite cyclists – they actually had to line up twice, one ride was fuelled by banana bites, the other by sips of carbohydrate drink. In both rides, they got to load up with 0.2g/kg carbohydrate every 15 minutes.
NOTE : These guys were eating A grade bananas that were “just” ripe.
And the race winner was…..
If you’re expecting me to say the banana – you’re wrong, it was in fact too close to call.
The team could not pick up a discernable difference in the overall performance of the banana boys. Both the carbohydrate sports drink and the banana delivered on their promise, to keep the muscles fully fuelled.
But there is more to a stellar sporting performance, than just getting to the end. Exercise puts a host of stresses and strains on body chemistry – creating oxidative stress and inflammation. Too much can compromise health, in the long run.
So the team delved a little more into the “benefits” of the different fuel systems, to see if the banana or the sports drink, caused these athletes to slide over the finish line in better shape ?
A 100 metabolites later
A before, at the end of the ride and 1 hour after the ride, blood sample was taken from each participate in the “Banana Race”.
The blood was picked through systematically by a metabolomics lab. Metabolomics labs are able to detect a range of chemicals, known as metabolites, which form as the body goes about the business of converting “food” into cellular energy. In addition to the metabolite measurements, the team also assayed the blood samples to assess the level of inflammation and oxidative stress.
The blood work confirmed, a 75 km ride is not a ride in the park, it is seriously hard work, burning carbs, fats and proteins to supply the muscles with enough energy and creating a lot of oxidative stress in the process. But the lean mean cycling machines, mopped up the oxidative stress efficiently, primarily via the glutathione system, but the banana’s natural supply of anti-oxidants also contributed.
At the end of the day, all the metabolites and things , were pretty much the same between the banana boys and the carbohydrate riders, except for one notable exception.
Banana boys were stoked
The bananas delivered a wopping dose of dopamine, the ultimate “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Unfortunately, the dopamine in the banana probably did little to make the banana boys motivated as their tired legs pushed through the final kilometres. Regrettably the rewarding feelings associated with dopamine, depend on dopamine inside your brain, not in your body. For the most part, body dopamine is not very good at getting inside your head.
The banana boys may not have experienced much more than the runners high, but they did all report feeling a little fuller when they crossed the finish line. The research teams suspect it is the 3.1 g of dietary fibre locked inside an average banana which serves to fill up the tummy.
So fill up with a banana
A banana is a natural cost effective energy source, which will allow you to slip across the finish line – ahead, at least in terms of dollars and cents.
One medium banana will give you about
- 27 g carbohydrate (half as sugars) – the sugar mix is 5.9 g glucose, 5.7 g fructose and 2.8 g sucrose
- 3.1 g dietary fibre,
- 105 kilocalories,
- 422 mg potassium
- 0.43 mg vitamin B6
- Anti-oxidants to the value of 1,037 µmol TE
- 3.33 mg dopamine
Future bananas may also include a healthy dose of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (5): e37479. David C. Nieman, Nicholas D. Gillitt, Dru A. Henson, Wei Sha, R. Andrew Shanely, Amy M. Knab, Lynn Cialdella-Kam, Fuxia Jin.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind peak performance ?
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