Hey Coach, I’m in Judo and have to make weight to compete. Sometimes I need to count my calories… Question: are there a lot of calories in a banana, and should I count them?
No not too many. A medium banana has around 100 calories, so the maths are easy. A small one has maybe 70-80 and a big banana might pack up to 120 or so. Altogether 100kcal on average.
But you really don’t need to worry about bananas: they will not make you fat, and that’s for sure! You’d have to down a bucket full to gain any fat at all…BUT they’re great for carb loading!
Of course when you carb up, some water retention is unavoidable, so a 1-2 kg (2.2-4.4 lbs) weight fluctuation has to be expected.
That’s good to know before weigh-in. They don’t result in fat storage generally, but you might gain some water weight short term.
I’d say if you are cutting down on body fat, count them. If it’s a simple matter of maintenance, don’t think too much about the calories in one banana.
Bananas are a bit of a pet interest for me, since I keep seeing football players eat them before matches and in half time. That could be a mistake, and here is why.
The short story is that they’re great post workout/game, not necessarily before.
Read on for more background on bananas in sports…
So how many calories are in one Banana, exactly?
About 100 calories on average. Important to know is that they’re very low fat and a good source of quality carbohydrates.
Bananas have many valuable micro nutrients as well, such as potassium, magnesium, manganese and vitamin B6.
Some more nutritional information:
Let’s go into the detail…
Bananas are actually pretty practical, I call them Nature’s Mars Bar, because they come in this nice and convenient wrapper: perfect when on the go!
But there is one thing about bananas you should be aware of:
A lot of athletes eat them regularly. Nothing wrong with that.
The reason is probably the potassium content and the cramp preventing properties this mineral can have.
But many players have them before training or a match, and that can be bad. In fact, this is something I’d advise against.
Why you shouldn’t eat bananas before practice/before any rigorous training
I see a lot of football players load up on bananas before a game or during half-time, often they’re even provided by the soccer club, right in the dressing room.
There’s only one problem with that: bananas have a relatively high G.I. (meaning how much does this food raise insulin levels), the riper the higher usually, and a bunch of sugar is NOT what you want to eat right before or during strenuous physical activity!
Why? Because this can boost insulin and coupled with lots of physical activity that can ultimately result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).
These are the symptoms:
Cold Sweat, Dizziness, Cloudy Vision, Aggression, Weakness.
Not what you want at the best of times, especially not during an important sports competition.
Now I understand that this might seem counter-intuitive: how can you have low blood sugar just after eating something that’s high in sugar, right? Doesn’t seem to make sense…
Well this is basically how the body works: when ingesting sugar or anything with a high G.I., the body jacks up insulin to shuttle that sugar into the cells where it’s needed.
The problem is, the higher the G.I., the higher the odds that insulin kind of “over-shoots”: a little more is produced than you really need at the time, and too much of the sugar gets taken out of the blood.
The result can be low levels of glycogen: Hypoglycemia (LOW blood sugar)!
Add a lot of physical activity into the mix, which burns up glycogen/glucose at the same time, and you’re heading for disaster: the brain and central nervous system are not getting enough energy because there’s no sugar left in the blood at the moment.
Sure, this gets up-regulated again, with a hormone called Glucagon (that’s the antagonist to insulin, it releases sugar back into the blood out of the muscles and liver), but this process can take a while!
And if you’re running around a lot –just as in a soccer game- then during this crucial phase, energy supplies for the brain might run low… and the above described symptoms usually do result.
The long and short of it:
Bananas are great … POST workout/game, so after training/competition.
I have to strongly recommend against eating them, or any other high sugar/carb food with a G.I. above 40-45, before any kind of physical exercise.
One other reason: carbohydrates can make you drowsy and tired. That’s not the thing you want before training or a match.
What should you eat?
Right before a game? Best nothing. It’s good to have some complex carbs no closer than 1.5-2 hours pre-training: for example wild rice or beans, oatmeal, etc.
As far as fruit:
Apples, Oranges, Blueberries and pretty much any kind of other berries are fine pre-comp/training. Apples can actually give you a surprisingly good energy boost before competition!
For more on calories in foods, here is a good resource.
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