Bananas are usually chalked up to be the best pre-workout snack, but what if we told you that you should actually stash the fruit in your gym bag for after your sweat session? It turns out that bananas contain a few key nutrients that are essential for post-workout recovery.
“Bananas are considered a simple, or quick-digesting, carbohydrate, which is perfect for a post-workout snack,” says Amy Goodson, RD, CSSD, LD, board certified specialist in sports dietetics and member of our medical expert board.
Here’s why: During exercise, you burn sugar (a type of carbohydrate) as a source of energy, and the longer and harder you train, the more you burn. This sugar comes from what you ate before your workout, but as you exercise, your body will begin to break down glycogen (or stored carbohydrates) from the liver and muscle, to help keep blood sugar stable and provide energy for working muscles, Goodson explains.
Bananas combined with a protein can help your body build muscle and burn fat
Simple carbohydrates can be found in foods like fruit and vegetables, but can also be found in more processed products like candy, baked goods, and sodas. Eating a banana after a workout is the perfect choice because it’s not processed, and it contains helpful vitamins and nutrients. They also provide around 30 grams of carbs to help replenish those glycogen stores.
Read on to learn more about how a banana can you help you after your gym time, and for more healthy eating tips, check out 5 Ways Eating More Plants May Save Your Life in 2023.
Pair your banana with a source of protein after a workout to help supercharge your muscle-building and fat-burning efforts.
Bananas can help with post-workout inflammation
“When you consume carbohydrates, your body produces insulin, which acts like a key, in that it unlocks the cell and lets nutrients from the blood into the cell for energy,” Goodson says. “While the cells are naturally more sensitive to uptaking glucose (sugar) and amino acids (protein) after exercise, consuming carbohydrates with protein causes insulin production and can help the muscles uptake the glucose and amino acids in the blood for recovery.”
So, after your workout, try blending a smoothie with a banana and your favorite protein powder for the perfect post-workout snack.
How long after a workout should you eat a banana?
“Not only do bananas contain carbs to help spur recovery, they’re also packed with several antioxidants, including flavonoids and amines,” Goodson says. “Antioxidants help fight or neutralize free radicals (aka the bad guys that can cause damage to cells) in the body, ultimately helping to reduce inflammation caused by cellular damage.”
In fact, a March 2018 study in the journal PLOS One found that the carbs in bananas helped lower inflammation levels after people biked about 46 miles.
“The ‘two-hour window of opportunity’ says that the body does a better job of utilizing carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your workout,” Goodson tells us.
Typically, sports dietitians recommend eating a snack with both carbs and protein as soon as possible after a workout— within about 45 minutes— to kick the body out of catabolism, or “breakdown mode,” and put it into anabolism, or “building/recovery mode.”
“It’s important to note that if someone eats a balanced diet with carbohydrates on a regular basis, it is likely that they will replenish their glycogen stores within 24 hours,” Goodson says. So, make sure to eat balanced meals that include healthy carbohydrates throughout the day, too.