All my life, I’ve said that my favorite fruit was an apple, but since becoming a long-distance runner, I think I need to stop living in denial…So here I go. My confession: I love bananas AND they are my favorite fruit.
Whew! I’ve refused to state that to anyone who’s asked (so really just my girlfriend, Val) for years now. I guess I felt that I’d be betraying apples if I moved them to 2nd place, so let me address apples directly: Your yellow, curved friends (or frenemies) are simply a bit more delicious to me now and way more important for my running. As much as I didn’t see it coming, I suppose it was inevitable that they upstaged you. I’ve stuck with you through all the bruises and the bad first bites, but I’ve come to a point in my life where bananas are more vital. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, my friend. But I thank you deeply for being my #1 fruit of choice for a clear majority of my life.
So. Bananas. I’ve probably had at least 7 since Monday…and it’s Wednesday. I just can’t get enough. Last week Val pointed out that we had gone through 8 bananas in two days. You can basically describe us as bananaphilic, and it’s not changing for me anytime soon. I’m actually typing this post as Val is out grocery shopping and you can bet that bananas are the first item on her list.
So let’s get right down to why, as a runner, these berries (Mind blown, right?) are my favorite fruit. Here are:
4 REASONS WHY BANANAS ARE GREAT FOR RUNNERS
With over 400mg of potassium in your average-sized banana, just one of these fruits already provides runners (and all consumers) with about 12% of the 4,000+ milligrams of an adult’s daily recommended (reference) intake for potassium. Potassium is one of the electrolytes that are absolutely essential for the human body to function properly. Runners require even more of these electrolytes due to the fact that electrolytes are sweat out when we run. One of the functions enabled by potassium is muscles’ ability to relax and reduce tension and cramping from happening among its many other functions. And runners know this for one thing: cramps are the worst (but, it takes a balance of the electrolytes to fully optimize muscle functioning).
I eat bananas on their own, yes, but I love pairing them with plenty of other foods (e.g. nondairy yogurt and pancakes) that I use to replace nutrients and electrolytes after runs. Plus…bananas and pancakes? It’s a no-brainer.
GET THE SWEET WITHOUT THE CALORIES
With a medium-sized banana having about 15g of sugar, this fruit is certainly on the sweeter side. That being said, this same banana will probably only provide about 100-120 calories which is not a lot for that sugar content. What does this mean? It means that with bananas, you get to satisfy your sweet tooth without the high calories that typically come with sweet, sugary foods. This is certainly a perk when it comes to runners and racers who are not looking to take in an excess of sugar which can lead to weight gain and a more compromised immune system.
This fruit can be frozen and then made into a deliciously sweet banana “nice” cream for a perfect dessert or healthy snack.
Simply put: fiber makes you feel full longer. Bananas have about 3g of fiber and are a perfect food to tell that ravenous appetite after a hard run to slowww. the heck. down. This is one of the primary reasons why I eat a banana after every run. Yes, I want to replace potassium and carbohydrates, but I also know that I can eat thirds of any meal after running 20 miles and bananas help me control my runger. And of course they keep my digestive system running efficiently which results in a healthy immune system and a healthier mental state. Speaking of digestion…
THEY ARE EASY TO DIGEST
Bananas don’t only improve a runner’s digestive processes, but they are incredibly easy to digest. It’s one of the reasons why banana halves are a popular food given out at aid stations at half-marathon race to ultramarathon races (and possibly some shorter distances, although I’ve never run a 5k or 10k with bananas at water tables). Sure the runners may need the sugar and potassium of the fruit while running, but if bananas were known for being too difficult on the digestive system, I highly doubt that you’d see them being passed out during a run…at least I’d hope this wouldn’t happen.
I’d top a banana with bananas if I knew how to do that. Tips anyone?
There you have it. These are my top reasons why I think bananas are a great food for runners. Sure there are other reasons, such as their versatility and great taste, but I’ll keep the list to 4. In my experience, bananas have only helped my running. During my 12 hour ultra in July, I must have eaten what totaled out to be at least 3 or 4 bananas and not once did I have any GI issues. Of course, everyone is different, but my personal experiences in this and other runs back up this claim. Again, I’ve started to eat a banana after every run and since my recovery has vastly improved over the past couple of years, there’s no reason why I should’t attribute part of the reason to bananas.
So next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t pass those yellow boomerang-looking fruits just waiting to be eaten! In most parts of the U.S., they are inexpensive and can do wonders for your running and your health.
Some sources that were read while writing this post: