Americans spend over $10 billion a year on sports drinks. The manufacturers claim these products provide exercisers with superior hydration, performance, and recovery.1
But a new study shows there’s a better alternative. It provides greater athletic benefits. And, unlike most sports drinks, it doesn’t sneak in loads of sugars and food dyes.
Researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina conducted a simple test. They pitted common sports drinks against one common fruit.
They gathered 20 competitive cyclists for the experiment. First, they took baseline blood samples. They analyzed the cyclists’ blood for markers of inflammation and over 100 metabolites. These molecules show how much stress the body’s cells are experiencing and can predict recovery time.2
Then they divided the cyclists into three groups. All groups completed four grueling 47-mile bike rides over a two-day period.
One group drank only water. Another group drank water and eight ounces of a sports drink every 30 minutes. The third group drank water and half a banana every 30 minutes.3
Scientists retested the cyclists’ blood after each ride.
Bananas Beat Sports Drinks
The cyclists who drank only water had high levels of inflammation and more stressed metabolites than the other two groups. Their ride times were slower than the other two groups.
The sports drink group and banana group both had less inflammation, less-stressed metabolites, and they completed the rides in about the same time.4
But the banana group got many additional benefits:
- Higher levels of antioxidants, which fight inflammation.
- Higher levels of blood chemicals that speed recovery.
- Higher levels of blood nutrients.
- Healthier levels of the chemicals that break down glucose for energy.
- Higher levels of potassium. It keeps the heart functioning properly under stress and is can lower high blood pressure.
- More vitamin B-6, which is good for overall heart health.
- Lower levels of the enzyme cox-2. It’s linked to inflammation.
The study recently was published in the journal PLOS One.
Researcher: Bananas Are ‘the Perfect Athletic Food’
Dr. David Nieman was the lead author on the study. He is a professor of health and exercise science and director of Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Laboratory.
“Consuming bananas with water during exercise has several advantages for athletes and fitness enthusiasts above those linked to regular sports drinks,” he said.
Bananas and water have “a stronger anti-inflammatory effect, provide better nutrition, and improved metabolic recovery,” he added.5
Many people think sports drinks are healthy. But what they don’t realize is that many of these products are full of sugar. Gatorade and Powerade, for example, have 34 grams of sugar in each 20-ounce bottle.6
That’s not much less than sugar-sweetened soda, which has about 38 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can.7
And sports drinks often contain chemical dyes. Certain varieties of Gatorade, for example, have red 40 and blue 1. Red and blue dyes are both linked to tumors in animals.8
Dr. Nieman said that the study results translate not just to cycling, but to any exercise.
He said: “Bananas come prepackaged with fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. This makes bananas close to the perfect athletic food.”
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