Did you know that bananas deliver the same energy boost as sports drinks, and a much bigger nutrition bang, for a lot less money? Those are just some of the conclusions of a 2012 study, performed in partnership with the Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory, by one of our favorite scientists, Dr. David Nieman, Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University. As those who watched our immunity video with Dr. Nieman know, he’s discovering some of the most exciting findings at the North Carolina Research Campus. His latest study — published by PLoS ONE  — is no exception.

As a leader in nutrition — as well as the world’s largest grower of fruit and vegetables — Dole sponsored the study to further explore why bananas are relied upon by athletes of all calibers. Currently, the sports drink industry has grown to $4 billion. Typically, these beverages contain processed sugar, artificial ingredients — even salt and caffeine. So how does the all-natural banana perform against the sports drink in a head to head match up? To find out, Dr. Nieman fed 14 trained cyclists one or the other during 75 km race trials. A post-ride blood analysis found that bananas provided the same “fuel” — e.g., energy for performance — while offering a superior nutrition profile, which in turn helps athletes with recovery.

Now, not all of us exercise for medals or even that biker’s high — quite a few of our readers hop on the bike to burn calories! In that regard, bananas also beat sports drinks. While one medium banana contains roughly 100 calories, a 20-ounce bottle of sports drink can contain nearly double the calories and upwards of 40 grams of sugar! “Bananas contain resistant starch, whose by-products block conversion of some carbohydrates into fuel, forcing your body to rely on fat stores as well,” adds Dr. Nick Gillitt of Dole’s Nutrition Research Laboratory.

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