Everyone who knows me knows how much I love bananas and how many I consume every day. As an elite athlete, I’ve always consumed lots of bananas from the time I was racing in cross-country skiing to when I switched to triathlon. As a triathlete, my consumption increased when my training demands grew. Now I’m a vegan and eat even more. I believe bananas are one of the best foods a triathlete can consume in training and throughout the rest of your day.
Here’s why bananas are one of the best foods for triathletes.
- Easy to digest. During high intensity training sessions and races, gels and sport drinks are usually the way to go. During long rides and races, when it’s much easier to digest food because your are going at a slower pace, bananas are a great fuel. You’ll often see pro cyclists eating bananas in the first hours of a flat stage when the pace is not too difficult. Then, when the teams are preparing for the final sprint, the riders will switch to sport drinks, gels and coke for a quick source of energy.
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- Source of potassium. When you sweat, you lose both sodium and potassium. Like coconut water, which is really popular lately, bananas are a great source of potassium, so they’re ideal after a hard session in the sun if you’re sweating a lot.
- High Glycemic Index. The glycemic index is an indication of the effect of a food product on the blood sugar level compared to the effect from the consumption of pure glucose. A food product like a gel has a really high GI compared to a food product high in fibre, like vegetables, which has a really low GI. For inactive people wanting to lose weight, we suggest eating food with a low GI, because you’ll full and have a constant level of energy. However, for an athlete, high GI foods are important during high intensity workouts and races and at the end of a workout/race. You should replenish your glycogen as soon as you finish exercising — you can efficiently do this by consuming high GI foods, like a banana. The glycemic index of a banana is 62 compared to 39 for an apple, 63 for a coca cola and 78 for Gatorade.
- It’s the healthiest option in a convenience store. When you stop during a long ride in a convenience store, the healthy options are usually limited. You either have the choice between some chips, ice cream, chocolate bars and candies but if you look carefully, usually hidden behind all these junk food are some bananas. This is usually what I buy at a convenience store when I’ve eaten all of my bars that I brought with me during my ride (I like Kronobars). Next time you stop to buy food during a long ride, take time to look for the bananas!
Besides the nutritional benefits, there are also some practical reasons why triathletes should favour bananas.
- Bananas are really easy to carry in a cycling jersey during a ride or to bring with you in your swimming or running bag. They’re the perfect mid-workout snack.
- Contrary to gels and energy bars, which you have to keep the empty and messy packages in your jersey, you can simply throw away your banana peel while riding.
- They’re cheap! Bananas are really cheap and if you shop smartly you can save lots of money. Indeed, every time the bananas go on sale at the grocery store I buy tons of them and I either make banana chips by dehydrating them or I unpeel and freeze them.
I always keep frozen bananas in my freezer because I make delicious banana ice cream by blending two to three bananas in a blender with a little bit of almond or soy milk, a spoonful of almond butter and some dark chocolate. It’s similar to a smoothie but the texture is much creamier, like real ice cream. This is a great dessert and even a good snack when you’ve just finished training in the warm weather and are craving something cold and sweet.