The health benefits of bananas

Introduction

Bananas are the most

popular fruits produced and consumed in the world due to its wide range of

health benefits. It contains some of the essential nutrients that have a

protective impact on an individual’s health. Bananas are essential sources of

potassium, vitamin C, carbohydrate energy, and vitamin B6, among other

micronutrients. There exist a hundred different types of bananas around the

globe, and among them is the Cavendish banana, which is the most exported and

consumed and contains a high level of sugar with unique secondary metabolites

(Nieman et al., 2018). Most athletes use bananas for endurance since it the

most cost-effective source of energy, potassium, and carbohydrate. For most

athletes, food means more than just pure nutrition, as it is fuel to their

body. Every athlete always questions what and how much to eat and drink before,

during, and after training. This paper parses the importance of bananas in the

pre and post-training diet of athletes, and with the use of studies carried out

to compare the use of bananas and other food substances, the outcomes of the

trials provide the bases of whether bananas improve endurance among other

health benefits for the athletes.

Bananas as a source of

energy

One medium of banana

contains about 105 kilocalories, 422 mg of potassium, 27g of carbohydrate, 3.1g

dietary fiber, and 0.43mg of vitamin B6 (Nieman et al., 2012). This medium of

banana also contains 14.4g of sugars, which is a combination of 5.7g of

fructose, 2.8g of sucrose, 51 glycemic index, and 5.8g of glucose. Bananas have

an antioxidant value of 1037 in ORAC units, which are similar to orange juice

and kiwi fruit. Therefore, it is evident that bananas have a unique mixture of

nutrients, antioxidants, and carbohydrates that provide nutritional support to

athletes during intensive and prolonged exercise.

The Cavendish, which is

one of the commonly consumed bananas, has 13.8g of sugar per every 100 grams.

It also contains secondary metabolites such as carotenoid, phenolic, and

catecholamines (serotonin and dopamine) (Singh et al., 2016). On the other

hand, there is a different variety of banana that is the mini yellow banana and

is known to contain higher sugar and phenolic components as compared to

Cavendish banana. Therefore, all of these components have several health

benefits and boost energy levels, which promote endurance among athletes.

Bananas versus

carbohydrate beverage

During prolonged

exercises, fatigue is only natural and is contributed by several factors,

including depletion of endogenous carbohydrates and dehydration. Dehydration is

avoided by consuming fluids throughout the training period. Therefore, the

depletion in endogenous carbohydrates primarily becomes a limiting factor

during endurance from moderate to high-intensity training and prolonged sessions.

According to Murdoch et

  1. (1993), studies have shown that plasma glucose is typically the predominant

source of carbohydrate energy during the post stages of prolonged training, and

reduction of this glucose is associated with fatigue. Towards the last stages

of intense training, the oxidation rate of the blood glucose is estimated to be

between 1.1 g and 2g per minute. Therefore large amounts of carbohydrates have

to be ingested during prolonged training since the endogenous carbohydrates get

depleted long before the conclusion of the training. These carbohydrates are

essential in maintaining the rate of energy output and intensity of the

exercise. Most athletes are required to have a well-constructed diet that

provides sufficient energy to achieve energy balance (Rogerson, 2017).

Ingestion of solid

carbohydrates such as bananas and intake of carbohydrate drink has raised

several debates on which one is better during pre and post-training sessions.

Several commercial companies have emerged from manufacturing concentrated

drinks with around 23 percent carbohydrate targeting athletes’ endurance during

training. The ingestion of solid carbohydrate has been prevalent over the years

among athletes during prolonged training.

A research was conducted

to compare the effect of a 6 percent carbohydrate beverage and ingesting

bananas on a 75km cycling training performance. This training was sure to

induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and functional changes in the immune

system. It was discovered that among the 14 athletes who ingested either banana

or carbohydrate beverage, supported the cycling performance and the metabolic

processes to a similar degree (Nieman et al., 2012). When oxidative stress,

inflammation, and changes in immune functions were compared between the two,

bananas recorded a higher capacity of antioxidants and levels of serum dopamine.

Despite the subtle

difference between liquid carbohydrates and solid carbohydrates such as banana,

solids have more benefits and serve as a fuel source in terms of blood glucose.

Solid food stays in the track for more prolonged periods ensuring a continuous

supply of carbohydrates; they provide more carbohydrates per unit weight,

cost-effective, and are more physiologically and psychologically satisfying

(Murdoch et al., 1993).

It is reported that

there is an increased blood glucose level when ingesting carbohydrate liquid

during endurance training as compared to intake of water only. Therefore

ingestion of either solid or liquid with a carbohydrate profile is equally

effective in maintaining high levels of plasma glucose concentration in the

body. However, solid foods slowly empty from the stomach as compared to

liquids; hence absorption rate is quite slower. Conversely, due to the moisture

content with approximately 75 percent water content, it is more semisolid than

solid.

Banana versus sugar

beverage or water only

Similar research was

conducted where cyclists ingested two different types of bananas but with a

similar concentration of carbohydrates (CHO), water only, and a beverage with

six percent sugar (SUG). The purpose of this research was to compare muscle

damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress among cyclists who consumed water

only, sugar beverage, and two different types of banana during the 75 km trail.

The participants included six females and 14 males within the same age bracket

and did not vary in body composition and training capacities. Each of these

participants retained their usual training regime and shunned away from the use

of mineral supplements and vitamins, which could alter the trial.

The result showed that

the performance, heart rate, oxygen consumption, plasma volume shift, and RPE

did not fluctuate for the water trials compared to the sugar beverage and two

bananas trials. However, the relative and absolute power was slightly higher

for the Cavendish banana as compared to the water intake. The ratios in

respiratory altercation were expressively higher in banana and sugar beverages

as compared to water trials. During post-exercise, the sugar beverage and two

bananas had significantly elevated plasma glucose compared to water.

Additionally, they reported bloating and fullness and less cramping muscles as

compared to water intake trails.

Clearly, bananas contain

bioactive compounds, including the carotenoids, phenolic, and biogenic amines,

which help in the metabolic processes and influence measures of inflammation.

(Singh et al., 2016). Irrespective of the sources of carbohydrate, whether

bananas or sugar beverages, intake of 0.2 gram per every kilogram every 15

minutes is related with higher plasma fructose and glucose, lower inflammation,

cortisol levels reduced and diminished lipids metabolites. Carbohydrate intake

of around 30 grams every hour during prolonged and intense training attenuates

inflammation hence the glucose level in the blood and tissues increases and

lowers lipid mobilization (Nieman et al., 2018).

Additionally, the

increase in plasma HODEs during the post-trail was attenuated for the sugar

beverage, and the two bananas compared to the water only intake. Consequently,

the two bananas and the sugar beverage trials were able to post a short

recovery period and less cramping of the muscles after the cycling trial. On

the other hand, there was an indication of abnormally low respiratory capacity

to stimulate monocytes which launch the pro-inflammatory oxidative response in

the water only trial. It is a clear indication of the importance of monocytes

from metabolic stress, which was countered when athletes ingested carbohydrates

from the sugar beverage and the two bananas. Therefore higher levels of plasma

sugar are essential in maintaining oxidative metabolism in mitochondria, which,

as a result, boost energy and improve endurance.

Bananas and Pears

According to the

Metabolomics-Based Analysis of Banana and Pear Ingestion on Exercise

Performance and Recovery, the performance times were five percent faster and

three percent faster when bananas and pears, respectively, as compared to

consumption of water only (Nieman et al., 2015). Therefore, it proved that there

are several benefits in exercise recovery and performance from sugar intake,

especially from fruits such as banana and pears. Each of the participants

reported to the lab for observation, and after overnight fasting, some consumed

bananas with water, others water and pears, and the rest drank only water

before the cycling trial. The metabolite shifts were measures in the blood

samples in pre and post cycling, and a one-day recovery was monitored. The

results showed that the ones who ate bananas or pears had faster performance

times and had an improved recovery rate. Moreover, these participants reported

increased ability to focus, and improved energy which proves pre-training

intake of bananas improves endurance.

Evidently, bananas and

pears have natural advantages despite the fact that they differ in phenolic and

sugar concentration content. Due to the natural sugars in bananas, which

include vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6, it is more advisable for athletes

to consume bananas before training or exercising. These favorable sugars in

bananas such as phenolic are responsible for reduced free oxygen radicals that

are usually produced during an intense workout. Ingestion of bananas after

training is also essential since those sugars help reduce the inflammation

hence enhances the recovery period. Moreover, these sugars improve the ability

of the athlete to tackle oxidative stress experienced during training. Pears

are reported to perform a similar function and work best as an alternative to

bananas.

The potassium in banana

also plays a significant role in the functioning of the muscles. Muscles

cramping and discomfort during and after intense and prolonged training is

mainly caused by a deficiency in potassium. Therefore, prolonged exercises

significantly lead to reduced levels of potassium in the body, which is lost

through body sweat. The intake of bananas boosts the potassium level in the

body. With reduced, cramping, and muscle discomfort, the athlete can train for

more extended periods and still shows signs of mental activeness, thus

improving endurance.

Bananas act as

stimulators, as it improves efficiency in training and helps mobilize the fat

in the body to produce energy which in return improves endurance. Besides the

umpteen minerals and vitamins, banana is an excellent digestion booster in the

body. Moreover, it initiates exercises and workouts. Since the glycogen store

breaks down during consistent training, bananas replenish glycogen levels in

the muscles, which prolong the endurance rate of an athlete.

The fiber-packed in

bananas helps keep the athlete fuller for more extended periods, and due to low

calories, it is more appealing to those trying to lose weight but also has

enough energy for training.

As much as bananas serve

an essential role in endurance activities in the life of an athlete, a

well-balanced diet is essential. Bananas need to be associated with other foods

that can be more beneficial to the body of an athlete hence boost performance

and improve endurance during training. It is very crucial that all the other

food components be represented in the diet of an athlete. Vegan diet athletes

are at higher risk of suffering from malnutrition due to lack of specific

components in their diet, which can only be found in dairy products or animal

proteins. Therefore, more focus is achieving both macro and micronutrients

required for health-related issues and maintaining the efficiency of the

athlete (Rogerson, 2017).

Conclusion

Banana is an essential

component of an athlete’s diet in pre and post-training. In summary, bananas

have a wide variety of health benefits during training and after training. The

research conducted has shown that there are higher performance and energy

during the trials when bananas are consumed or other sugar beverages containing

similar content as bananas as compared to trials without bananas or sugary

beverages. Therefore, even though it is cost-efficient, it is rich with very

healthy nutrients such as potassium, vitamins, and carbohydrates that provide

energy for athletes and helps reduce recovery time. The lack of study on

bananas solely is one of the identified gaps within this research; however,

with the comparison with other foods, the unique characteristics of bananas are

still evident. Generally, bananas should be included more in the dietary of all

athletes, especially in track athletes in both pre and post-training or

competition.

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