Should you eat a banana before or after a workout? A question that is widely pondered when it comes to optimising the effects of a workout.
Therefore, we will explore and compare the advantages of eating bananas after exercise or before, as well as look at who should be looking to add bananas into their workout routine and other FAQs; we’ve covered everything you need to know.
In this article we will cover:
- Banana Before a Workout
- Benefits of Eating a Banana Before a Workout
- How Long Before a Workout Should you Eat a Banana?
- Who Should Eat a Banana Before a Workout?
- Banana After a Workout
- Benefits of Eating a Banana After a Workout
- How Long After a Workout Should You Eat a Banana?
- Who Should Eat a Banana After a Workout?
- Should I Eat a Banana Before or After a Workout?
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Banana Before A Workout
Bananas are widely favoured as beneficial pre workout snacks; the advantages of eating a banana before exercise is linked to everything from increased endurance, to higher energy levels.
Bananas are a versatile snack. They can be incorporated into smoothies and beverages, as well as fruit salads or oats, making it easy to add them into your routine and enabling you to gain the undeniable lift that eating a banana pre workout provides. And since they're so easy to digest, you won’t have to wait long to feel their benefits.
As well as containing large quantities of important nutrients like potassium, bananas are also rich in carbs, which are the building blocks of energy. This is why you’ll often see professional athletes loading up on bananas before they compete.
This is especially true of tennis players, who start a match with a banana, and then continue to snack on them between sets; this provides a vital stock up of nutrients.
There are many fruit options that will give athletes an additional burst of energy, but consuming a banana before a workout is beneficial because they’re also fibre dense. This is relevant as fibre moderates how sugars are absorbed.
Whatsmore, when sugar hits your bloodstream all at once, it leads to a sudden and intense energy spike that fades quickly and leads to a crash. Fibre slows down the release of sugar, making the energy release more sustained. That, along with a set of other benefits, is why bananas are one of the most popular pre workout snacks.
You can also check out our list of the 17 Best Pre Workout Supplements to maximise your workout performance.
So first off, let’s take a look at the benefits of eating a banana before exercise in more detail.
Benefits of Eating a Banana Before a Workout
#1 High In Carbs
Bananas contain a substantial amount of carbohydrates, in fact they're one of the best carb sources you’ll find, with an average sized banana containing around 27g; making them a fundamental source of energy.
Your body breaks down carbs to produce sugars and glucose, which are needed to produce energy. This is a fundamental process and it’s why a pre workout banana produces a sufficient energy burst.
Even more importantly, consuming enough carbs helps to replenish your glycogen stocks; glycogen is a type of stored glucose that's accumulated in the liver and muscles. It is used for energy production and depleted glycogen stores can lead to fatigue and cramps.
Glycogen stores typically run low during long duration workouts, putting the likes of runners and cyclists particularly at risk. That’s why eating a banana pre workout is ideal for athletes in this field and can help them sustain their energy for longer. And since bananas are an exceptionally convenient snack, many choose to carry a few additional fruits with them to see them safely to the end of the race.
On a keto diet? Check out the 17 Best Keto Drinks: Diet & Nutritional Guide here for some guidance.
#2 Easy To Digest
Energy foods are less efficient if they’re slow to digest or release their nutrients erratically, which can be the case with many commercially available energy drinks and even powders.
These can unleash dramatic bursts of energy that don’t last very long, however eating a banana before a workout is beneficial because the fruit digests efficiently. Not only will you feel the benefits quickly, but they'll be long lasting. You can find a full list of the best foods for energy in our report.
This is because bananas are rich in fibre, which has a dramatic effect on digestion. This is owing to fibre moderating how your body processes nutrients from food, and how quickly those nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.
With regards to bananas, glucose is released much more slowly; therefore, due to their high fibre content and slow glucose release, eating a banana before a workout can feasibly help you throughout.
Bananas are often recommended for those with dietary problems also. The high fibre profile aids digestion and can help people who suffer from nausea or constipation - this is due to fibre easing the process of waste to pass through the digestive tract. These problems can preclude a person from taking other pre workouts like powders, gels or energy drinks before they exercise; so, a banana pre workout is gentle on the stomach and digestive tract, making it ideal for everybody.
For some help on gut health, take a look at our article on L-Glutamine here.
#3 Rich In Potassium
Potassium is a crucial component in bodily functions. It’s used to maintain proper nerve function and blood pressure, as well as fluid balance. Beyond this, potassium has some special benefits for athletes due to its role in muscle maintenance.
Too little potassium is associated with muscle cramps and soreness, something which has been borne out by several studies. One study looked at a sample of 230 women and found that those who suffered from muscle cramps typically consumed less potassium than those who were able to exercise freely without developing cramping symptoms.
One of the great benefits of consuming a banana before a workout is that it offers around 10-14% of your recommended daily intake of potassium. This is especially important for athletes, as potassium is effortlessly lost during exercise; it’s excreted via sweat, so the harder you work, the more potassium you’ll lose - just when you need it most.
It is easy to understand why so many energy drinks contain potassium now; the mineral is needed to replenish electrolytes efficiently. However, before you reach for the energy drink, eating a banana before a workout can have the same effect, ensuring that you’ve got enough potassium to see you through the exercise, while eliminating the caffeine, added sugars and other harmful substances that are often present in the beverages.
Lack of potassium is associated with sudden - and sometimes violent - muscle cramps, which can be enough to put an end to a workout. To combat this, potassium helps to moderate muscle contractions; though energy drinks and gels are a useful way to get some additional potassium, the slow and sustained release offered by a banana before a workout is unparalleled.
For another option for a potassium rich fruit, take a look at our article on coconut water: benefits, nutrition & side effects.
How Long Before A Workout Should You Eat A Banana?
When considering how long before a workout to eat a banana, then you’ll be pleased to know that fruits release their energy fairly rapidly. So, timing isn’t a huge issue.
Between 30 minutes to an hour prior to exercise is a good time to consume your pre workout banana. This gives your body ample chance to begin digesting the carbs, while helping you stock up on potassium before you get started. Of course it’s a good idea to try out different timings and see what makes you feel comfortable and increases your performance the most.
After that, you can exercise safely in the knowledge that the banana is releasing its energy and nutrients slowly and steadily. You won’t experience the effects as dramatically as you would with an energy drink or cup of coffee; however, eating a banana before exercise provides a gentle release of energy that will last longer.
Timing is important, but due to the high fibre content of bananas and their steady energy curve, it’s not detrimental. Even if you eat the banana a little earlier or later, the benefits won’t be entirely lost.
Of course, while eating a banana before a workout is a great way to set yourself up for exercise, many people choose to consume more bananas on the move. This helps to stay topped up on glucose and potassium.
Overall, 1 hour prior to exercise is the ideal time to consume a banana, and it’s important to note that It doesn’t really matter how you do it either. Some people will eat the fruits whole, others will blend them into smoothies; as long as you’re getting your banana pre workout, any way is the good way!
Looking for some additions to your smoothies? Check out the best super fruits to add to your diet here.
Who Can Benefit From Eating A Banana Pre-Workout?
The answer to this is simple; everybody!
However, there are groups of people who may feel the benefits of a banana before a workout more than others. Athletes, such as long-distance runners, will benefit a great deal as they are at a higher risk of potassium deficiency and need to stay fueled for longer.
Potassium is lost through sweat, and a deficiency or lack of it can lead to muscle soreness, and even cramps. The risk is increased the longer and harder that you exercise, so eating a banana before a workout is highly recommended for endurance athletes.
Runners and cyclists are big beneficiaries, but bananas are also great for people who don’t tolerate energy drinks well. While useful, these drinks are often loaded with added sugars and caffeine; too much sugar can have a detrimental effect. Further, an abundance of caffeine can cause jitters and even anxiety, not to mention the fact that many people are caffeine intolerant.
Eating a banana pre workout provides a much slower, prolonged release of energy, so it eliminates the risk of jitters or crashes. They’re suitable for anyone who can’t tolerate energy drinks, and also great for individuals who want a boost but suffer from digestive complaints. In this case, the additional fibre in a banana can work wonders on the digestive system, even aside from its many workout benefits.
A pre workout banana is a great choice for everybody from casual gym goers to serious athletes - they’re even popular amongst professionals. Anybody in search of a sustainable, long term release of energy will benefit from the dense nutritional profile of a banana.
Need an extra boost? Find the 17 best energy bars to boost your workout here.
Banana After A Workout
There is no denying that eating a banana pre workout carries an array of benefits, however eating a banana after a workout can have some great effects too.
Many people opt for sports drinks to replenish their electrolytes, with painkillers surprisingly also being a common go-to for people to combat any muscle soreness. However, replacing a sports drink with a banana removes the additional additives, and choosing a banana instead of painkillers means no side effects.
The unique nutrient profile of bananas holds promise in many areas; for example, bananas are great for soothing inflammation, so they can get you back to your training quicker all the while replenishing your glycogen stores too.
Bananas are extremely versatile, so it’s easy to incorporate them into your post workout routine. They're a staple ingredient in smoothies, especially when paired with other fruits accompanying the likes of protein, yogurts or oats, enhancing its effect further.
Nonetheless, it still can be as easy as eating your banana after a workout with a fruit salad, or simply taking one down to the gym to eat the moment that you finish working out.
Bananas are an excellent choice for athletes who want to take a more natural approach to their post workout recovery phase. They’re a healthy addition to any diet, so let’s take a closer look at how eating a banana post workout can make a real difference.
For sufficient recovery after a strenuous workout, find our rankings of the best recovery aids here:
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Benefits of Eating A Banana After A Workout
#1 Helps Utilise Protein
As we know, bananas are rich in carbs, as well as water too; both of which your body needs to recover after an intense workout. Though that’s not all, because eating a banana post workout can actually help your body to better absorb protein.
Protein is an essential post workout recovery assistant and being able to absorb it more effectively can dramatically shorten your recovery times.
Carbs are the driver behind this process of efficient protein absorption, as bananas are one of the most carb dense foods and certainly one of the healthiest. Carbs, in conjunction with protein, can release insulin - this elevation can help absorb the all-important amino acids, particularly in muscle building exercises. So, the more carbs before working out, can result in elevated protein absorption.
Getting carbs from a healthy source is important; you need carbs to fuel your body but getting them from unhealthy diets will negate the benefits of exercise. That’s why bananas are so popular with athletes, as they offer all the carbs - without any of the downsides.
Bodybuilders often consume protein supplements to get muscular gains faster, which is why a banana after a workout for bodybuilding enthusiasts is so popular, but nonetheless all athletes benefit from boosted protein absorption.
Bananas can be added to protein shakes or simply consumed alongside a protein dense food like Greek yoghurt. The quicker you can get protein into your system post workout the better, so eating a banana post workout is a fantastic way to speed up the recovery process and get back to your exercise sooner.
To maximise gains on a vegan diet, find the best vegan protein sources here.
#2 Promotes Replenishment Of Glycogen
Glycogen is one of the crucial building blocks of energy, however it is naturally depleted during exercise. Under normal circumstances, most people will be able to replenish their glycogen levels simply by eating a carb-rich meal as part of a normal diet, but anyone undergoing intensive training may struggle.
The same is true for people competing in sports or partaking in several events over a short period of time. In those cases, a normal diet isn’t enough to top up glycogen stocks between exercise, which is why eating a banana after a workout can be so beneficial.
Bananas are one of the best foodstuffs to eat to get glycogen stores back up to normal levels; this is due to their carb dense nutrient profile, which makes a huge difference to glycogen levels.
Eating carb rich bananas stimulates your body to release insulin; insulin encourages the process of moving sugars from your bloodstream into your muscles, where they’re converted into and stored as glycogen.
That same glycogen is then ready for use in your next workout, where it will help you feel more energised and boost your stamina; few other foods are as effective at a banana post workout.
This is particularly important if you intend to exercise again within 24 hours, as eating a banana after your workout, can encourage glycogen levels to restore to normality in time for your next exercise.
For an extra boost of glycogen, find the best running gels to fuel your workouts here!
#3 Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a big problem post workout, as after difficult exercise, your muscles can be subjected to everything from small tears to oxidative stress.
Inflammation leads to soreness and will make recovery times much longer; worst of all, inflamed muscles are more susceptible to damage during future workouts, increasing your risk of developing an injury.
Athletes take precautionary measures often to combat inflammation, including: ice baths, antioxidant consumption to prevent oxidative stress and taking painkillers. While all of these can be effective, it might surprise you to know that eating a banana after a workout is one of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation.
A protein shake with banana after a workout is a snack of choice for everyone from long distance runners, to bodybuilders because of the banana’s super ability to soothe inflamed muscles. The anti-inflammatory effect is linked to a specific enzyme called COX-2 mRNA. Bananas limit the action of this enzyme, which is exactly what anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen do.
A banana after a workout won’t treat the pain of a serious injury, but it will help to soothe the inflammation associated with arduous workouts. Best of all, it will do so without any of the associated side effects of heavier duty medications. So, whether you eat a banana before or after a workout, you’ll obtain these anti-inflammatory benefits.
For other substances that can help inflammation, take a look at the benefits of green tea here.
#4 Speeds Up Recovery
Amongst the most desired benefits of a banana before or after a workout, post workout bananas can encourage the speed up your recovery process.
Bananas have the unique ability not to only replenish your body's stores of depleted nutrients, but to help it use those nutrients too. Lower levels of glycogen, especially when paired with inflammation, can have a real impact on your recovery time and make it harder for you to get back to work. However, eating a banana after exercise takes care of both of these issues, so you’ll wake up feeling fresh the next day.
Potassium richness makes eating a banana before or after a workout a fantastic snack, but if you’re encouraging recovery, after is best. Pairing a banana with a protein source supercharges the process, as not only will you get the anti-inflammatory benefits of the banana; it will help you to use protein more efficiently as we mentioned before.
Rest days are vital for recovery too, find out in our article about the importance of rest days and how many you need.
How Long After A Workout Should You Eat A Banana?
Bananas are fast acting so you can eat one immediately after completing your workout, many people even take a banana to the gym with them. Of course, a banana smoothie is also a great option, and the quicker you consume the banana after the workout, the quicker it will get to work.
Many people ask, ‘is a banana a good post workout food?’ and the answer is a resounding yes - but it can be made even better if you pair it with a good source of protein as we spoke about earlier.
However, even if you can’t eat a banana after your workout has finished right away, it’s a good idea to do so within the first 30 minutes. If you skip a post workout snack altogether, then it’s likely that you'll sacrifice some of your gains and jeopardise your fitness goals.
This is because your body needs nutrients to replenish diminished stocks in order to make the most of the workout. Additionally, your blood sugar is inevitably lower after working out, and failing to top it up quickly leads to disorientation, weakness and even fainting.
Moreover, if you don’t give your muscles the protein they need, you’ll feel the wrath of DOMS the following day, slowing your progress and potentially preventing you from undertaking another workout. That’s why a banana after a workout is such a good choice, they offer all the nutrition you need and help your body to use it.
Who Should Eat A banana After A Workout?
Individuals who want to speed up their recovery times usually favour a banana post workout. This can include anybody from bodybuilders looking to gain fast or people in training for a marathon.
Eating a banana after a workout is particularly important for anyone who has a short turnaround time before their next session. If you plan to partake in physical activity within 24-hours, a banana is not only a useful post workout snack, but it might even be essential.
That’s not the only way that they shorten recovery times either. By reducing inflammation and helping the body to use protein for muscle repair, they can have you feeling in peak physical condition much quicker.
Runners, cyclists and long-distance swimmers will benefit from this, and anybody who uses the gym frequently will feel the effects of enhanced recovery. By eating a banana after a workout, weight loss can be easier too. You’ll recover more quickly and be able to exercise more frequently, helping you shed any extra pounds.
Having a banana after a workout for bodybuilding can be beneficial too. Weightlifters often load up on protein in the form of powders and shakes, however adding a banana to the mix can really help. Because, as we now know bananas assist the body as it uses protein, helping your muscles to develop quicker. All things considered; there is no reason why anyone couldn’t benefit from a post workout banana!
If you’re a weightlifter, find the best weightlifting chalk here to maximise performance!
Should I Eat A Banana Before Or After A Workout?
When considering eating a banana before or after a workout, both can be beneficial and an easy behaviour to factor into your daily lifestyle. However, when posing the question ‘is a banana good before a workout or after for me” the answer may vary.
Eating a banana pre-workout can be advantageous for those who are looking to gain muscle and strength - with the support of an energy boosting supplement. This is due to the nature of bananas providing a rich energy source through the minerals integrated, such as potassium and carbs, perfect for a slow release of energy.
Though eating a banana before a workout can assist in energy, eating a banana post workout can assist those who are looking to reduce the problems that come with an intense workout. These kinds of issues that can raise are the aforementioned inflammation and DOMS.
The rich protein substance can help recovery as we spoke about earlier, but there is another reason why you may want or need to avoid eating a banana before a workout and that is bloating. Bloating can be uncomfortable and going ahead with your workout may make you feel even worse; the uncomfortable nature of bloating can cause stomach cramps and it could potentially affect your performance.
Before You Go!
Now you know all of the benefits of eating a banana before or after a workout, we expect you to be popping one in your bag to accompany you on your next gym session.
By making more of an effort to prepare and enhance your energy before your workouts you will notice you are likely to increase your overall performance, thus increasing your results. If you’re somebody who wakes up and heads to the gym with no fuel, you may feel the benefits of eating a banana before your workout more than most!
If you enjoyed this article and find fitness and nutrition is your thing, you can find our personal training courses here to become qualified. Also, if you're already qualified and want the edge over your competitors, our level 4 advanced sports nutrition course might be for you!
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Written by Professional S & C Coaches