Do bananas give athletes the same amount of energy as gels?

New study finds bananas offer similar, if not better, benefits as energy gels, says James Witts

Athletes receiving bananas at Ironman New Zealand

Should you replace energy gels with bananas? Bananas have been found to offer similar, if not better, benefits as energy gel scientists say.


Commercial energy gels supported by reams of science and studies are omnipresent in triathletes’ performance larders up and down the country. Bananas, on the other hand, are seen as parochial fuelling of times gone by. Which, according to a study led by Professor David Nieman of Appalachian State University, North Carolina, is a mistake.

Nieman and his team had 14 trained cyclists complete two 75km time trials, consuming 0.2g/kg carbohydrate every 15mins from bananas or energy gels. Blood was taken before and after exercise. What did they find? “Banana and energy-gel ingestion resulted in similar performance, blood glucose, inflammation, oxidative stress and innate immune levels,” said Nieman.

In fact, arguably the banana had more going for it than the gel with antioxidant values, perhaps surprisingly, up there with kiwi fruits and oranges to ease post-exercise inflammation (but not to levels that threaten adaptation).