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Workout Pro Tip: Banana Proven To Work Better Than Sports Drinks And Pain Killers

You don your favorite gym clothes, hit the gym, do a few reps, and then you take out a sports drink. Did you know that you could have so much more good stuff in your body with the same amount of energy and muscle-repairing benefits with a piece of banana and water?

If you’ve started a workout regimen, then you would have already stumbled upon so many suggestions on the internet on what to eat or drink before, during, or after your workout. Maybe you’ve been investing so much on a bottle of your favorite sports drink to aid you through your exercise, or a chalky protein shake after to recover and refresh yourself. But why bother with all of these fancy drinks when you can have a banana and water—and have the same, if not better, effects?

Bananas have always been a suggested pre- and post-workout snack. But in a recent study by Dr. David Nieman, director of the Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Laboratory on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, he actually proved that bananas work just as well as a bottle of sports drink to refuel your body and a tablet of pain killer for the post-workout pains.

In his study, he put 14 male athletes, who cycled a 75-km road race, to the test. During their cycle, some would intake half a banana plus water, while some would drink a cup of sports drinks, every 15 minutes. Three weeks after, the athletes did the same race, but switched to whatever they did not intake the first time.

Nieman found that there were no changes in the performance times of the athletes, nor in their physiologies, no matter what they ingested throughout their race. In fact, those who ate the banana saw that the fruit’s inherent serotonin and dopamine chemicals even improved the body’s antioxidant capacity and helped with oxidative stress.

Bananas are packed with high potassium levels, vitamin C, and even 3 grams of fiber. Although many people shy away from eating bananas because of their carbohydrate levels, these are actually “good carbs” and can easily be set off with a fat like peanut or almond butter.

So yes, the bananas did not only work as well as the sports drink when it comes to refueling—it also comes with all the good stuff that doesn’t come with a sports drink, and you get less of the chemicals and food dye that could be harmful to your body. 

On top of its refueling powers, bananas are actually good to combat muscle inflammation, as well. Those who are into heavy lifting and strenuous exercise regimens would find themselves taking a tablet of ibuprofen or two every so often to combat the pain and inflammation. But these over-the-counter drugs are actually bad for the intestines if taken regularly and for a long period of time.

This is why Nieman wanted to test whether bananas would make for a great substitute to pain killers—and he found that they are. The fruit’s high levels of potassium combats post-workout cramps and soreness, and its metabolites mimic ibuprofen almost identically when it comes to blocking inflammation.

Apart from its post-workout effects, Professor Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York says that consuming enough potassium a day lowers your risk of stroke.

So, the next time you work out, eat half a banana and drink water before or midway your training, and then eat the other half as you finish. Sure, it doesn’t look as fab as your colored sports drink, but with all the benefits you’re getting, what’s there to lose?