Are bananas good for muscle growth?

Bananas and muscle growth

Bananas are beneficial for muscle growth and are used by many bodybuilders and athletes looking to build muscle mass. They provide large amounts of energy, supplying carbs along with tons of potassium and other muscle benefiting nutrients like manganese and vitamin B6. These convenient, handy, and delicious tasting fruits offer some real benefits to those of us looking to fuel workouts and build muscle. 

The nutritional profile of Bananas

Before we can talk about how bananas can benefit bodybuilders and athletes looking to build muscle, we have to look at the nutritional profile of bananas and what nutrients these delicious yellow fruits contain. 

The nutritional facts for one medium-sized banana are listed below.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size1medium banana
Servings2
Amount Per Serving
Calories100
% Daily Value *
Total Fat0.4g
1%
Saturated Fat0.4g
2%
Trans Fat
Cholesterol0mg
0%
Sodium1.2mg
1%
Potassium422.4mg
13%
Total Carbohydrate27g
9%
Dietary Fiber3.1g
13%
Sugar14g
Protein1.3g
3%

The nutritional profile is nothing special and, at first, glance, does not scream muscle builder, but if we dive a little deeper into the nutrients, we will find a few benefits that can help athletes and bodybuilders.

Bananas for bodybuilding

Bodybuilders and athletes looking to become more muscular have to consume large amounts of calories and carbohydrates to fuel their training and provide the body with the energy to build new lean mass and recover and repair its tissues. This ease of use is where bananas come into the world of bodybuilding. They are nature’s prepackaged energy bars. They can be easily thrown into a gym bag, and the peel protects them. When you need some calories and carbs, just take it out, pull the peel back, and eat it. You do not have to heat it, cook it or do anything.

Often you will see bodybuilders packing a protein shake and a banana in their gym bag for their post-workout meal. Again it is quick, clean and simple. You get everything your body needs to grow in the post-workout window by doing this. You get your post-workout protein requirements, and with the banana, you get the extra calories and the carbohydrates you need.

Are bananas good for muscle growth?

Bananas are full of beneficial nutrients that can help support and boost muscle growth. They contain high amounts of carbohydrates, significantly increasing protein synthesis when eaten in combination with protein.[1] 

In addition to high amounts of carbohydrates, bananas are also an excellent source of potassium. Potassium is a crucial electrolyte for muscle contraction, and if it is low, it can hinder the ability of the muscles to contract maximally. The muscles cells require a delicate balance of potassium within the cell and sodium outside the cell for the electrical signals to be sent. This potassium and sodium balance inside and outside the cell is called the electrical gradient of the cell.[2] You sweat and lose sodium and potassium when you train and workout at high intensities. These electrolytes have to be replenished, or else you could negatively impact your ability to train at a maximum level, and this decrease in intensity could lead to negative impacts on your efforts to build muscle.

Another nutrient that bananas supply is manganese. Manganese plays an essential role in the metabolism of several substances, including cholesterol, amino acids, and carbohydrates. An enzyme that contains manganese called pyruvate carboxylase and a manganese-activated enzyme called PEPCK is required in gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the process in which non-carbohydrate precursors produce glucose.[3]

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is another nutrient found in bananas that is crucial for skeletal muscle. Vitamin B6 is essential in the metabolism of amino acids by the body. Without sufficient amounts of vitamin B6, your body will have a hard time metabolizing amino acids into energy[4]

When to eat bananas for muscle growth?

The best time to eat bananas for optimal muscle growth would be after a workout and in combination with a high-protein shake. This post-workout protocol of consuming high carbs with protein is backed by many studies. These studies show a significant increase in protein synthesis and ultimately muscle growth when protein and carbs are combined after a workout.[5][6]

The optimal ratio of protein to carbohydrate is 1 gram of protein for every 3 grams of carbohydrate. An example would be if you have a protein shake with 20 grams of protein in it, you would need to consume 60 grams of carbs to reach the optimal protein to carb ratio of 1:3.[7][8] Since an average medium-size banana has around 27 to 30 grams of carbs in it, you would need to eat two bananas with your post-workout protein shake to hit this protein to carb ratio and maximize protein synthesis and create an anabolic environment for muscle growth.

Another benefit of eating bananas after a workout is that they have been shown in numerous studies to help replenish muscle glycogen. Ingesting a large number of high-quality carbohydrates, like the ones found in bananas, after a workout helps to stimulate the release of insulin. This secretion of insulin helps to shuttle glucose into the muscle cells, where it will be used for energy, and the excess will be used to replenish the muscle glycogen stores that were used up during your workout.[9]

Banana before workout

Now that you know that eating bananas after a workout is beneficial, you might be wondering what about eating bananas before a workout. Eating bananas prior to working out does not provide any anabolic or muscle-building benefit. What it does offer is a substantial amount of carbohydrates that can be used as fuel for your training session. 

Summary

Bananas are not going to turn you into a bodybuilder with massive muscles overnight, but they will help you supplement your diet with muscle benefiting carbs, vitamins and minerals. The best part is they are easy to take anywhere. They are not messy; they require no thought or planning. As we mentioned already, they can be just thrown into a gym bag or lunch bag, and you have your carbs for the day or your post-workout meal.