Bananas are one of the most popular snacks in the fitness world. You’ve probably seen runners or athletes eating bananas before or during a workout. Have you ever wondered – are bananas healthy? How many calories are in a banana anyway? How many carbs are in a banana, and is that a bad thing for fitness or weight loss?
Bananas are actually packed with energy, fiber, and vitamins and make great snacks to eat before or during a workout. They do have a bit more calories than other fruits, but it turns out they may be healthier than you think.
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Banana Nutrition Information:
According to the USDA, a medium banana has about 105 calories. Here are the basic nutrition facts for a banana:
Medium Banana (7-8″) Nutrition:
- 105 calories
- 1.3 g protein
- 0.4 g fat
- 27 g carbohydrates
- 3.1 g fiber
Large Banana (8-9″) Nutrition
- 121 calories
- 1.5 g protein
- 0.5 g fat
- 31 g carbohydrates
- 3.5 g fiber
Why bananas are great for walkers
Compared to a sports drink or energy bar, bananas are relatively low in calories. They do have a fair amount of sugar compared to some other fruits, but bananas are also packed with fiber that can help keep you full and keep your blood sugar more stable. You can simply peel and eat them, which makes a banana easy to eat on the go (as opposed to something like an apple) and a single banana can give you the boost to finish up a long walk or jog.
Calories in a banana (plus comparisons)
As mentioned above, there are about 105 calories in a medium banana. There are around 121 calories in a large banana. That’s actually less than many popular snacks. Energy bars range from around 150-250 calories. Sports drinks have about 130-150 calories for a 20 oz bottle. Nuts are another popular snack, but 100 calories of nuts are only about 13 almonds or 17 peanuts.
Compared to other fruits, however, bananas are relatively high in calories. A peach is about 60 calories, 8 strawberries are about 50 calories, and a medium orange has about 80 calories. A large apple has about 130 calories, but weighs almost double the weight of a medium banana.
If you’re eating a banana before (or during) your walk, it can be useful to think in terms of how long you’d have to walk to burn off your banana calories. If you’re walking at a brisk pace of around 3.5 mph, here’s how long you’d need to walk to burn off the banana calories (based on your calories burned walking):
- 150 lb walker – 23.5 minutes
- 180 lb walker – 20 minutes
- 205 lb walker – 18 minutes
- 150 lb walker – 27 minutes
- 180 lb walker – 23.5 minutes
- 205 lb walker – 20.5 minutes
Carbs in Bananas
There are around 27 – 31 grams of carbohydrates in a banana, depending on how big the banana is. In comparison, a 12-oz can of cola contains about 39 grams of carbs and a 20-oz sports drink contains about 35 g of carbs (but all of that is sugar). Carbs aren’t necessarily bad, however.
Athletes who have to engage in extended physical activity often drink or eat carbs to fuel their workouts. Instead of sports drinks or energy gels, bananas have become popular sports snacks as well. You may have noticed tennis players eating bananas during breaks in their matches. A study (funded by Dole, a banana producer, for what it’s worth) found that bananas were just as good if not better than sports drinks during long workouts. Bananas can cause bloating in some people, so see how your body reacts before going on a long walk.
Fiber in Bananas
Bananas contain over 3 grams of fiber, which helps aid your digestion and keeps you regular. Fiber has several important health benefits. It helps you feel full longer, which can reduce feelings of hunger and help with weight loss. If you’re tempted to eat something bigger post-workout, a single banana may help you lose weight and burn fat in the long run. It also helps clear out your digestive system and supports bowel health and regularity. Many people take fiber supplements to increase their fiber intake, but a humble banana can give you the same fiber content as about 1-1.5 servings of a fiber supplement. Fiber pills or powder can’t help you hit your step goals and give you an energy burst like a banana can!
Fat in Bananas
Bananas contain very little dietary fat. That’s not necessarily good or bad, but does help to lower their calorie count.
Protein in Bananas
Bananas contain a little over a gram of protein. There are over 6 grams of protein in a single egg, so you won’t be getting your daily protein requirements through eating bananas.
Sugar in Bananas
Bananas contain between 14 – 17g of sugar. That’s about 1/3 – 1/2 of a can of cola (about 39g sugar). On the bright side, bananas have a medium glycemic index score of between 40-60 depending on ripeness. Riper bananas are sweeter and have a higher GI score. That’s compared to a GI score of about 58 for cola or almost 80 for sports drinks. When combined with the fiber content, a banana will keep you feeling more full than a sports drink with less of a blood sugar spike. We’ve already written about how soda is bad for you, so if you have a soda habit, try swapping for a banana instead.
Other health benefits of bananas
Packed with potassium
Bananas are high in potassium, which has several important health benefits. According to WebMD, potassium can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke. The potassium in bananas helps rid the body of sodium and eases tension in your blood vessels. Walking is also great for your heart as well, so don’t stop getting your steps!
Bananas may be good for digestion
Bananas used to be prescribed for people with stomach issues as part of an easy to digest diet. It turns out unripe bananas contain “resistant starch,” which is absorbed slower by the body. According to Harvard Health, resistant starch provides food for beneficial gut microbes which may help with certain digestive system ailments.
Should you eat a banana when walking
As with most things, the answer is “it depends.” For most short walks, you probably don’t need to eat a pre or post-walk snack. Even for longer walks, unless you’re going at a very brisk pace you probably don’t strictly need to eat a banana to get through it. Many people do walk further and feel better after eating a snack, and a banana is a great one to choose. They’re lower in calories than an energy bar, lower in sugar than a sports drink, and easy to grab and go!
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