When you’re training for a marathon or pushing your body hard in those HIIT classes, a post-workout ibuprofen might seem like best and fastest method of salvation to fight muscle pain and inflammation. Recently however, a number of studies have found that the common painkiller could be impeding muscle development and causing kidney injury, among other ailments. But, not to worry: A new study just found that when you’re feeling the burn, reaching for a banana might be a better alternative.
Published in Plos One, the study looked at a (very small) sample of 20 male and female cyclists after they completed four timed 75-kilometer trials (there was a two-week break between each trial). For the trials, the cyclists consumed one of two types of bananas (Cavendish and mini yellow bananas), water, or a 6 percent sugar drink (essentially a sports drink like Gatorade), and blood samples were taken from them before and after each event.
Ultimately, the study found that not only were both types of bananas useful in fueling the athletes through their journeys but also that there were post-workout benefits like reduced pain, swelling, and inflammation—AKA the same benefits brought about by popping a Tylenol. The positive results seen in those who consumed bananas during the trials overshadowed the lesser benefits of guzzling a sugar drink or water.
“Within an exercise context, banana metabolites that increase in the blood following ingestion have a similar effect to aspirin or ibuprofen.… This makes bananas close to the perfect athletic food.” —David C. Nieman, study co-author
David C. Nieman, doctor of public health and co-author of the study, told the Salisbury Post that “within an exercise context, banana metabolites that increase in the blood following ingestion have a similar effect to aspirin or ibuprofen.” He added, “This makes bananas close to the perfect athletic food.”
Despite the Nieman’s strong support, the study comes with a few caveats: It was co-authored by scientists who are part of the Dole Nutrition Institute—as in Dole bananas—meaning there could be financial motivation behind the findings. Also, the study only examined 20 cyclists, which is far too small a sample size upon which to base scientific fact.
But regardless, since the bananapocalypse is already under way, it might be best to enjoy the potassium-rich fruit while it’s still readily available.
If you’re trying to recover from a hard workout, try one of these natural pain relievers or these tips for turning your bathroom into a recovery zone.
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