Bodybuilders turn to certain fruits either because they’re rich in micronutrients, and therefore good for optimal health, or they’re high in natural sugar, which provide energy for workouts.
However, not all fruits are created equal. Some fruits are better for bodybuilders than others.
So, are bananas good or bad for bodybuilding?
Bananas are good for bodybuilding. They are a great source of carbs, which means they are good to have before or after a workout. Bananas are also high in potassium, which helps replenish electrolytes lost during a workout, in addition to other micronutrients, such as manganese, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about bananas and bodybuilding.
Here’s what I’ll discuss:
- Nutritional value of bananas: calories and macros.
- Pros and cons of eating bananas for bodybuilding.
- Whether you can eat bananas before or after training.
- If bananas help muscle growth.
- How to do a delicious muscle-building banana split.
Bananas For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutrition Content of Bananas
One large banana (136 g) has the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 121
- Carbs: 31 g
- Fiber: 3.5 g
- Fats: 0.5 g
- Protein: 1.5 g
Select the size that goes according to your daily caloric intake. For example, if you are in a cutting phase and want a sweet snack, you can go for the extra small or small banana. However, if you are in a bulking phase, you can probably go for the medium to extra large size.
The best way to track your calories is to weigh your food on a food scale and use a calorie-tracking app like MacroFactor.
- Related Article: Bananas made our list of best low calorie high carb foods.
Bananas are a great carb source to have if you are looking to boost your energy levels during the day. Do keep in mind that it only provides carbs. The amount of fat and protein it provides is not significant for a bodybuilder.
One of the frequent questions I get asked is if green bananas are the same as ripe bananas.
While the calories are pretty much the same in them. The carb content does vary. Green bananas are mainly composed of starch. This means that they are similar to oats or potatoes. They provide longer and steadier energy release.
On the other hand, bananas that are ripe tend to have higher sugar content. The higher the ripeness found in a fruit, the higher its concentration in sugars.
The bottom line is choose whichever banana you like, either green or ripe.
Each has its benefits. One has a steadier energy release (green bananas) and a quick energy release (ripe bananas). They both are high in carbs, so I recommend adding a protein source (like Greek yogurt) and healthy fats (like nut butter) to balance the macros.
Bananas are a great source of several micronutrients. They are high in vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Each of these nutrients has more than 10% of the daily recommended intake. Some nutrients, like manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, have more than 30% of the recommended daily intake.
Here are some reasons why you should pay extra attention to these nutrients.
- Vitamin C. It is a potent antioxidant. This means you have a greater muscle recovery making you all set and ready for your next training session.
- Riboflavin (B2). Allows the body to use oxygen. More oxygen during your training means a more effective and efficient workout. This increases your aerobic capacity during your cardio sessions.
- Vitamin B6. It aids in the process of turning food into energy. Without this essential vitamin, you wouldn’t be able to have the necessary energy for training, let alone moving during the day.
- Potassium. It aids in muscle contraction. Without sufficient potassium, it means that you are more likely to have muscle cramps during your training session.
- Magnesium. Along with potassium, magnesium helps prevent muscle cramps. It also helps in the production of proteins, and blood glucose control.
- Manganese. Plays a role in the metabolism of fats and carbs. This means that you are able to use them for fuel.
Remember that each fruit provides different characteristics and nutrients. Variation is key to a healthy diet. Make sure to have other fruits along your day, and don’t stick to the same one.
- Check out my complete guide on the Best Fruits For Bulking.
3 Pros Of Eating Bananas For Bodybuilding
Bananas are a very easy-to-obtain food, and you can find them almost everywhere. They are cheap and easy to carry along.
Here are other benefits you might find of eating bananas if you are a bodybuilder.
1. Manages Sweet Cravings
If you are in a cutting phase, you might be trying to avoid sugars at all costs.
However, bananas are a great way of managing your sweet cravings. Even if they are high in sugars, they are high in nutrients as well. They are also high in fiber which makes them a perfect fruit to add in case you want something sweet and satiating at the same time.
Pro Tip: If you are looking for something sweet but are in a cutting phase, try the following recipe:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder, one egg, one teaspoon of vanilla, and one small banana in a coffee mug.
- Place it in a microwave for one minute or until it’s cooked.
- Now you have a mug brownie that is less than 150 kcal!
2. Improves Muscle Recovery
Bananas help muscle recovery in several ways.
Since they are a carb source they replenish muscle glycogen (the fuel found in muscles). This allows for proteins to be for muscle building instead of energy.
Potassium and magnesium prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.
Therefore, since bananas are high in both of them, it is a great food to add either before or after training to help improve muscle recovery.
- Want a high-protein banana shake recipe? Check out my Banana Pudding Protein Shake.
3. Improves Mood
Bananas are high in vitamin B6, an important vitamin that helps regulate your mood.
Vitamin B6 is responsible for creating the messengers that regulate hormone emotions (serotonin, dopamine, and GABA)(1).
Some studies have shown that low levels of vitamin B6 are associated with more symptoms of depression and anxiety (2).
In cutting phases, when calories are restricted it could lead to alterations in your mood, making you feel cranky or in a bad mood. Thus having a B6 food could help you improve your mood symptoms.
- Bananas are on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources
2 Cons of Eating Bananas For Bodybuilding
Even if bananas are very nutritious, it does have some cons. They lack the protein needed for a bodybuilder, which means you would have to add extra food to balance the meal.
Here are some other cons of adding bananas if you are a bodybuilder.
1. Triggers Migraines
Some foods are more likely to cause a migraine. Bananas are one of the foods that could potentially increase migraine symptoms.
Bananas are high in tyramine. People that are sensitive to tyramine could lead to developing a migraine (3).
Other foods you might want to avoid if you are prone to migraines are aged cheeses, processed meats, wine, soy sauce, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and tap beer. All of them are high in tyramine.
2. Raises Insulin Levels
Overripe bananas tend to be higher in sugars. Although it’s natural sugar, they still create a response in insulin levels. That is the reason why as a dietitian we normally recommend avoiding bananas for people with diabetes unless they are green and not too ripe (4).
For people that are sensitive to insulin, having a sudden insulin rise might make them have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) afterward.
This can be very dangerous, especially if you have a banana prior to training. Thus, if you are likely to suffer from low blood sugars, try to avoid bananas altogether.
Can You Eat Bananas Before Workouts?
Bananas are one of the top choices as a pre-workout snack. They are easy to digest and are high in sugars which makes them a perfect energy booster. If you are looking for a punch of energy, have it 15-30 minutes before a workout. Add a healthy fat (nut butter) or protein (protein shake) for a steadier energy release.
Carbs are essential to have before a workout to provide the necessary energy for training.
Bananas will not only provide for said carbs, but since they are high in potassium, they promote muscle function. Potassium helps in muscle contraction and helps prevent cramps. Thus, if you are likely to have cramps during training, adding a banana before is not a bad idea.
A small or medium banana will give you the necessary energy for your training if you are in a cutting phase. On the other hand, a medium to an extra large banana is the way to go if you are in a bulking phase.
Pro Tip: If you get hungry during your training, I normally recommend my client to eat a banana. Since they are easy to carry around and digest, they might calm your hunger during your workout.
Can You Eat Bananas After Workouts?
Yes, bananas are a great choice after your workout. Since it is a carb source, it helps replenish the energy lost during your workout. A banana will give you several vitamins and minerals essential for reducing inflammation, which leads to increased recovery.
Bananas are so nutritious that they have been widely studied in the sports nutrition topic.
One study compared a sports drink and a banana as a post-recovery for athletes. It concludes that bananas matched the recovery provided by the sports drinks—carbs and nutrients were equally achieved (5).
Since bananas are high in sugar, it raises insulin levels. Normally, we would want to avoid this. However, having an insulin spike allows for a better amino acid intake in the muscle cells after a workout.
Nevertheless, an optimal recovery for muscle building is achieved when there is a carb and protein. Bananas are only high in carbs, which means it lacks the other essential macronutrient.
To make it the ultimate post-workout snack, add a protein source like a protein shake or Greek yogurt to help you achieve those gains.
For a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, a medium banana will provide the necessary carbs for recovery. In contrast, for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, opt for the extra-large banana.
Do Bananas Help Muscle Growth?
Bananas have the ideal carbs for muscle growth. Carbs allow the protein to be used for muscle building instead of energy. It also has manganese and vitamin B6, nutrients vital for producing energy. However, bananas on their own won’t make you obtain those gains. Always add a protein source (like a protein shake).
A calorie surplus is always necessary for muscle building. Bananas are an easy way to increase your daily calories. They also provide the carbs needed to increase your muscle glycogen (the energy found in muscles).
Furthermore, they have nutrients that are vital in protein metabolism (6). Manganese is a mineral that aids in the metabolism of fats and carbs. Without it, we would be able to produce energy out of these two important nutrients.
Vitamin B6 is another vitamin found in bananas. They also help in macronutrient metabolism, and they help turn carbs into a usable energy source (7). If you can turn food into energy, you can have an intense workout, which leads to muscle increase.
Banana Recipe For Bodybuilding
If you are in a cutting phase or even in a bulking but are careful about what you eat, there might be some foods that you might be missing. Banana splits might be one of them.
Banana splits are often high in sugar, low in nutrients, and very low in protein. The opposite a bodybuilder needs.
This recipe will bring back banana splits into your life, making sure it’s within your gain goals. It is low in sugar, high in protein, and loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Muscle-Building Banana Split
- Calories: 129
- Carbs: 57.3
- Fats: 8.9
- Protein: 34.3
- 1 medium banana
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
- ½ cup chopped strawberries
- ¼ cup blueberries
- ¼ cup granola
- 1 tablespoon sugar-free chocolate syrup
- Cut the banana in half and place it in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix the Greek yogurt and the protein powder.
- Scoop the Greek yogurt mix on top of the banana.
- Add on top the strawberries, blueberries, granola, and chocolate syrup (or nutella).
- If you are in a cutting phase, go for a small banana instead of a medium one. Also, cut the granola in half.
- You can switch the sugar-free syrup for almond butter or peanut butter if you want to add healthier fats.
- Add sugar-free chocolate chips for extra chocolaty goodness.
Other Fruits For Bodybuilding
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Padayatty SJ, Katz A, Wang Y, Eck P, Kwon O, Lee JH, Chen S, Corpe C, Dutta A, Dutta SK, Levine M. Vitamin C as an antioxidant: evaluation of its role in disease prevention. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):18-35. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2003.10719272. PMID: 12569111.
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Hvas AM, Juul S, Bech P, Nexø E. Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression. Psychother Psychosom. 2004 Nov-Dec;73(6):340-3. doi: 10.1159/000080386. PMID: 15479988.
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Falcomer, A. L., Riquette, R. F. R., de Lima, B. R., Ginani, V. C., & Zandonadi, R. P. (2019). Health Benefits of Green Banana Consumption: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 11(6), 1222. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061222
Erikson KM, Aschner M. Manganese: Its Role in Disease and Health. Met Ions Life Sci. 2019 Jan 14;19:/books/9783110527872/9783110527872-016/9783110527872-016.xml. doi: 10.1515/9783110527872-016. PMID: 30855111.
Nieman, D. C., Gillitt, N. D., Henson, D. A., Sha, W., Shanely, R. A., Knab, A. M., Cialdella-Kam, L., & Jin, F. (2012). Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PLOS ONE, 7(5), e37479. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037479
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