We’ve all heard the adage “an apple a day” but what about “a banana a day”? Turns out that the fruit you turn to for muscle fatigue also has a long list of potential health benefits. The all-time favorite fruit of cyclists is the banana because it is easy-to-peel on the bike, rich in carbohydrates, tasty and easy-to-eat. Bananas are high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. They are also high in fiber and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium, making them a great heart-healthy choice. One medium-sized banana is around 105 calories. (source: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2)
Some of the outstanding benefits of bananas include:
Reduced Muscle Fatigue – the magnesium and potassium in bananas provide a 1-2 punch against muscle fatigue. Magnesium helps the body synthesize proteins and slow the effects of muscle fatigue while the glucose in potassium increases the energy output to muscles, allowing them to recover faster.
Heart Health – according to Mark Houston, MD, MS, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St Thomas Hospital in Tennessee, “An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease”. Good thing bananas are packed full of fiber, potassium, and vitamins and low in sodium. (source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271157.php) There is also the added benefit of reduced blood pressure and lower risk of stroke.
Depression – bananas contain tryptophan which has been known to reduce stress. The vitamin B6 in bananas also helps the body to secrete norepinephrine and melatonin which improve mood and regulate our hormone levels. Keeping our emotions in check.
Eye Health – vitamin A and beta-carotene are key components for good eye health, and the banana is a primary source for both. “These compounds help to maintain the structures that bring light into the cornea so you can see more effectively.” (source: http://www.md-health.com/Health-Benefits-Of-Banana.html)
Brain Function – the B vitamins in bananas can improve nerve function while the potassium improves our cognitive function. Together these two things can help increase mental alertness and boost brain power.
Digestion – bananas are rich in fiber and we all know that fiber helps keep us regular. Bananas can also help reduce an overly acidic stomach or intestine environment and improve symptoms from ulcers.
We’ve just scratched the surface on the benefits of bananas but it’s clear that eating a banana a day can help improve your training by keeping your heart, muscles and eyes healthy, your brain firing on all cylinders, and keeping you regular. So go ahead, have a banana before or after your workout. Either way will be beneficial.