After a sweat-filled cardio session, most women are likely to reach for a sports drink such as Gatorade or Vitamin Water, with an ingredient list full of unpronounceable words. And with an average of 100 calories per 16 ounces, a sports drink can easily cancel out a good percentage of your calories burned.
Although doctors and sports nutritionists recommend the drinks for endurance and pro athletes, who undoubtedly need the extra calories, sugars and salts, the fact is, the average gym-goer doesn’t need all of that extra stuff. Research shows that athletes don’t deplete their electrolyte and glycogen stores for more than an hour-long sweat session.
For a lighter workout (think 30-45 minutes) you could easily stick to plain water. But if what you’re doing requires a bit of a pick-me-up, there are options beyond sports drinks. Bananas surpass mainstream sports drink as a sufficient energy source for endurance athletes, according to a new study.
While I have a hard time stomaching real food during long training runs or marathons, bananas are one of the few things I can get down (which is funny considering that I don’t really like them in “real life”). Along with sips of water and Gatorade almost every two miles, I took frequent bites of bananas from spectators in the second half of my third marathon this past winter. I waited too long to start fueling during my previous races, which likely contributed to a hard bonk at the very end.
The fruit, which is rich in potassium among other nutrients, is a longtime favorite among runners and cyclists alike, which is why you’ll more than often see it handed out at long distance races. Scientists are now confirming that in addition to maintaining the same energy levels as carbohydrate (and sugar)-laden drinks, in the end, bananas also possess healthier and more natural sugars.
The study also noted that bananas contain various antioxidants that are not found in sugary sports drinks, thus having a more significant nutritional boost, and proving that healthier energy sources can still fuel an athletes peak performance.
Not only can bananas be just as effective for sustaining the performances and electrolyte balances of hard-working athletes, they provide extra benefits like fiber, vitamins and antioxidants and fit into a complete nutrition and fitness plan better than a Gatorade.
So next time you’re looking for a more natural boost during a workout, reach for the yellow fruit in lieu of the yellow juice. Your body will thank you in the long run.