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I am very much an old school cyclist and I always carry a banana with me when I go on rides longer than an hour. In the past I have found them ideal - they easily fit in my jersey pockets, the wrapping is biodegradable (if I accidentally drop it when riding), high source of potassium to stop muscle cramp.

Should I change my ways and ditch the bended yellow pill for a more modern fare?

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I've been told that a Banana can take up to two hours to digest but I didn't believe this is true. Why is it that Pro Tennis players are always eating Bananas? –  Greg B Nov 18 '10 at 11:34
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I'd say, whatever the "modern wisdom" may be, if it works for you, stick with it. –  Jefromi Nov 18 '10 at 15:37
    
Nothing old school about it, I still see lots of roadies with bananas in their back jersey pockets. –  darkcanuck Nov 18 '10 at 21:07
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If you like them, a baked sweet potato (yam) is also good for long rides. They have a lower glycemic index, so they will provide carbs for a relatively long period of time but not so long that you're already at home. –  Dana the Sane Nov 23 '10 at 17:05

4 Answers 4

up vote 21 down vote accepted

There is an interesting Q&A on independent.co.uk (though it dates from 1995) talking about bananas and tennis...

Q. Witnessing players at Wimbledon chomping their way through pounds of bananas between games prompts the question: who began this sporting food fad and are there sound nutritional reasons for the players' preference for bananas to other fruit or food. In what other sports (leaving aside lunch and tea breaks in cricket) do the participants eat during the course of play?

A. The sporting fad for bananas was started by sports nutritionists such as myself. The banana is rich in carbohydrate - an important source of energy for athletes and has significantly higher levels than any other fruit. Also, unlike most other forms of high-carbohydrate foods, it contains very little fat but is also high in fibre. The combination of fibre with the banana's three natural sugars - fructose, sucrose and glucose - means it provides a sustained boost to flagging energy levels, thus so many players at Wimbledon were seen eating bananas.

Bananas are also an excellent recovery food for replacing potassium lost in sweating, something most players must have been suffering from at this year's tournament. - Jane Griffin, Consultant Nutritionist to the British Olympic Association, London SW17

Sounds like it would be good for long bike rides as well.

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Real food like bananas are better than processed food any day. Don't ditch old school foods. Remember when they said that magarine was better for you than butter? 30 years later, the find out trans-fats are bad.

The banana stands the test of time. Gel packs and bars won't. Keep at it brother!

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They are easier to carry than coconuts (although two of you could carry one on a line)

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+1. I don't think we're supposed to give upvotes for humor, but I couldn't resist. –  Benson Feb 11 '11 at 23:14
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Ah, yes, but are they European or African cyclers? –  Paul Wagland Sep 3 '11 at 22:27
    
@paul African cyclists are non-migratory –  mgb Sep 4 '11 at 3:13

I'm not a nutrition expert, but I swear by bananas! I have always had issues with cramps and bonking on long rides (over 50 miles). I don't train a ton because I have young children, but I like doing the Palm Springs Century each year. The way to prepare for this for me is to ride my usual 20 mile loop around town first twice, then 3 times, and yesterday I did 4 laps for a total of 80 miles. I had 4 bananas, one each hour, along with 2 large water bottles and felt great! I have tried the GU Packs, sports drinks, sugary chomp bites, and none of them seemed to work. From now on, it's just electrolyte water from Trader Joe's and good old fashioned bananas!

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