For those who read my post on energy drinks and are wondering how to replenish metabolites during exercise without damaging their teeth, you can eat a banana instead. David Neiman of Appalachian State University and his colleagues compared eating bananas with drinking sports drinks during heavy exertion. They found no differences in performance outcomes between the two energy sources.
Fourteen male volunteers who were experienced bicycle road racers were asked to compete in a 75 km time trial on stationary bikes. Half the men were given a carbohydrate drink and the other half were given bananas. The drink contained 26.2 g carbohydrate (11.0 g glucose, 9.1 g fructose, and 4.6 g sucrose), whereas the banana contained 27.0 g carbohydrate (6.4 g starch, 5.9 g glucose, 5.7 g fructose, 2.8 g sucrose, and 3.1 g dietary fiber). People who got the bananas also got water to equal the amount of fluids received by the drink group. Three weeks later, the men biked a second 75 km race, but this time the drink and banana receivers were reversed.
The subjects began ingesting their product ten minutes before beginning to cycle and consumed a portion every fifteen minutes once they’d started. Participants provided blood samples just before starting, an hour into the cycling, as soon as they finished and one hour after finishing.
Of the 103 metabolites that were tested for, only one differed between the banana group and the energy drink group: banana eaters had much higher levels of dopamine. Those levels continued to rise even an hour after exercising. It seems that not only was the banana just as good at replenishing athletes during intense exercise, but it made them feel better too.
The authors did not comment on the feasibility of peeling a banana while riding a bicycle. I imagine that once you learn how to do it, you never forget.