When it comes to lifting, running, jumping, swimming, climbing, biking, or any other gym/workout related activity, all carbs are NOT created equal. It's common knowledge that our body needs carbs to fuel it during intense activity, and carbs to refuel it after that intense activity has been completed. Your body is like a high performance engine, which runs on carbohydrates. Without that fuel, you're not going to get very far. And with low quality fuel, you may be able to function, but just barely. You'll end up misfiring and running rough more than making all the power you could, if you want to continue with the engine analogy. There are many great sources of carbohydrates out there, most of which are natural and delicious. You might think of oats, whole wheat bread, vegetables, or brown rice, just to name a few. But all these are complex carbs, and while they'll fuel your body extremely efficiently in the long run, sometimes you need a faster digesting carbohydrate to really give you that kick in the seat of your pants. I'm talking about sugar. That's right, that dangerous thing that so many fitness enthusiasts avoid like the plague. I'm here to tell you that not all sugar is bad, especially right before and right after your workout. And where's a great source of healthy, natural sugar? Why...fruit, of course!
But guess what, when it comes to working out, not all fruits are created equal, either. Most fruits are comprised mainly of the sugar called fructose, which isn't bad for you, but isn't optimal for muscle glycogen fueling/replenishment. In fact, fructose can only be used toward refueling liver glycogen, not muscle glycogen. There are, however, a few fruits that are higher in glucose rather than fructose. Glucose can easily be used by the body to refill muscle glycogen stores, so these fruits would be a much better choice pre and post workout. And what's the most optimal choice as far as fruits go? Why, it's America's favorite fruit, the banana!
I personally love bananas. I recently added one per meal into my diet, just to increase carbohydrate intake. They're delicious, nutritious, and do wonders for your body. As mentioned above, a banana pre-workout can really give you an added energy boost as all the simple sugars are converted into immediate muscle energy, and post workout a banana is an excellent way to refill muscle glycogen. The glucose in bananas both spikes your blood insulin to encourage muscles to "suck up" all the nutrients you're giving them, and replenishes muscle glycogen levels at the same time so you'll be ready and willing to hit the weights even harder tomorrow. A good insulin spike after a workout is exactly what you want, which is why a banana paired with a whey protein shake is an excellent way to ensure proper recovery after a hard workout session.
And if you're already a fruit lover, and perhaps been curious as to their effects on your workout and recovery, but didn't really know which kind to pick, just know that a banana is probably your best bet if you want great results!
But good, natural glucose isn't the only thing bananas have going for them, oh no. In fact, they're absolutely loaded with all sorts of other nutrients that will do you a world of good:
-Bananas contain a decent amount of your daily vitamin C intake, about 11%.
-They also have a large amount of dietary fiber, about 3.5 grams for one large banana
-Bananas have no fat or cholesterol, and therefore are an extremely healthy snack choice, especially if you're looking for a little energy boost.
-Bananas are rich with potassium (16% of daily intake), which is the forgotten electrolyte. A balance of sodium and potassium can help your body remain adequately hydrated and energized, as well as ensure proper neural function (clear thinking.) Many people consume an excess of sodium, but not nearly enough potassium. Cut out the table salt, add a banana, and see how good you feel!
Potassium replenishment is also extremely important after a workout, as you've usually drained a good amount of electrolytes from your body.
Here are the nutritional facts for a large banana:
There it is, a little overview of my favorite workout fruit. If your workout diet is lacking, add one or two bananas, as I did. I can bet you'll see a huge improvement in your strength, stamina, and recovery. Plus, they taste amazing, why wouldn't you want to have one? And if you were merely confused on which fruit to choose for your workout goals, you can now feel secure in the fact that a banana will always be a better choice than an apple, a pear, an orange, etc, just because of its glucose-fructose ratio. Cool stuff, right?
Keep on eating that magic yellow powerhouse! GOOD LUCK!