bananas workplace wellness

Have a Drink… Or Bananas to Support Fitness?

This is not bananas: From well-run workplace wellness programs (and other sources), we know that fitness is a key aspect of maintaining good personal health — and helping manage overall health costs.

And after a workout, many of us reach for a sports drink to revive our energy. A new study shows that we may want to reach for an alternative energy source.

It’s well-packaged, easy to carry, natural and delicious: Bananas.

The study was published in PLOS One and is titled “Metabolic recovery from heavy exertion following banana compared to sugar beverage or water only ingestion: A randomized, crossover trial.”

Here’s how it worked: “Using a randomized, crossover, counterbalanced approach, cyclists engaged in the four 75-km time trials while ingesting two types of bananas with similar carbohydrate (CHO) but different phenolic content, a 6% sugar beverage, and water only. CHO intake was set at 0.2 g/kg every 15 minutes.”

The New York Times reports: “The scientists drew blood before the workout, immediately after, and at several additional points, stretching out to 45 hours later. They then checked the blood for markers of inflammation and levels of hundreds of molecules, known as metabolites, that can change during and after exertion and signify how much stress the body feels.”

Are Bananas Better Than Sports Drinks?

The NYT continues: “As they had expected, the scientists found that swallowing only water resulted in relatively high levels of inflammatory markers in the riders’ blood. These markers were much lower if the cyclists had consumed fruit or the sports drink. But there were differences in the activity of some genes. In particular, the scientists found that the riders’ blood cells produced less of a genetic precursor of an enzyme known as COX-2 if they had eaten bananas during their workout. This effect was not seen if they had drunk the sports drink or only water.”

The study concludes: “This study confirms and extends the findings from previous investigations showing that the primary nutrition-based strategy to attenuate exercise-induced metabolic perturbation and inflammation is acute carbohydrate ingestion of either sugar beverages or banana fruit… these data support the combined intake of sugars and phytochemicals from banana fruit by athletes during heavy exertion as an efficient strategy to improve metabolic recovery and diminish post-exercise inflammation at the cell level.”

Or, as the NYT states in quoting one of the researchers: “For exercisers who might prefer a natural, inexpensive and neatly packaged alternative to sports drinks, ‘bananas look pretty good.’”