The fruit may prove even more beneficial to athletes than we thought

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated April 02, 2018
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Credit: Photo by GOSPHOTODESIGN via Getty Images

When looking for a post-workout snack, a banana is hard to beat. Rich in potassium and fast-acting carbs, bananas can help rebuild muscles damaged while exercising; plus they taste way better than a chalky protein shake. Incredibly, new research has shown that bananas may actually help athletes fight inflammation and boost energy, equally as well as ibuprofen and Gatorade.

These findings were made by Dr. David Nieman, director of the Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Laboratory on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Dr. Nieman was inspired to begin the study after recalling the sugar-filled sports drinks he used to guzzle during his time as a marathon runner. Seeing drinks like Gatorade as effective, but pretty unhealthy, he decided to dig into alternatives as he studied athletic performance. He decided to put bananas to the test.

“We did the first study and showed that a half a banana with a cup of water every 15-20 minutes compared to a sports drink,” Nieman said to Spectrum News Charlotte. “The performance was equal and both knocked down inflammation just as well.”

After finding that eating bananas worked just as well as Gatorade when it comes to fueling athletes, Nieman decided to explore a step further into the power of the fruit. He put bananas up against ibuprofen, the anti-inflammatory drug behind Advil and Motrin. Knowing that athletes use ibuprofen (which can harm the intestines after continued long-term use) to fight pain and swelling on a regular basis, Nieman wanted to find a safer alternative. Miraculously, bananas worked to solve this problem too. Nieman’s team found that banana metabolites mimic ibuprofen almost identically when it comes to blocking inflammation.

“This makes bananas close to the perfect athletic food,” Nieman told Appalachian Today.

While this study could be extremely beneficial for the nutrition and performance of athletes (as well as regular people trying to make the most of their workout), Nieman says it’s difficult to go up against large companies that make anti-inflammatory drugs and sports drinks. At this point, he hopes to simply continue this type of research. Eventually, the results will speak for themselves.