Bananas prevent cramps? See if it’s myth or truth | nutrition

Banana can prevent cramps: myth or truth? In fact, the fruit has several benefits that help in the proper functioning of the body, in the practice of high intensity physical activity and can be a great ally for the health of our body. But no, bananas alone are not able to prevent or treat muscle cramps. What it can do is be part of a balanced food program that provides all the vitamins and minerals needed by the body, and that can help prevent the problem, often caused by an imbalance of mineral salts in the body.

That’s because cramps have more to do with a joint deficiency of fluids and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and sodium, in addition to potassium, also related to muscle weakness. That’s why good hydration and electrolyte replacement is so important during physical activity, when we lose fluid and mineral salts.

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Banana provides energy before exercise and collaborates with the recovery of liver and muscle glycogen after physical activity — Photo: Istock Getty Images

Banana has a low glycemic index, is an important source of potassium and carbohydrates, in addition to iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. In addition, it is rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that regulates sleep, according to nutritionist Stephani Cardoso. But despite the banana being a good source of potassium, alone it has no effect, but associated with a diet with different foods that are also fundamental in the fight against cramps, such as:

  1. Foods rich in magnesium such as dark green leafy vegetables (kale, arugula, spinach, watercress), oats and Brazil nuts;
  2. Sources of calcium, such as nuts and walnuts, sunflower seeds and dairy products;
  3. Whole grains: beans, lentils, chickpeas;
  4. Whole grains.

Regardless of the issue of cramps, the banana is an excellent choice of pre, intra or post-workout snack for those who practice high intensity physical activity due to the amount of carbohydrates present in the fruit, according to sports nutritionist Daniela Seixas. Banana consumption can be done before, during or after training: before and during it helps to provide energy and after exercise it collaborates with the recovery of liver and muscle glycogen (energy reserves of carbohydrates, present in the liver and muscle).

– In pre-workout and post-workout food, we need to ensure a good recovery of the body and energy stores, where the consumption of carbohydrates is essential for the resynthesis of glycogen (glucose) – explains sports nutritionist Stephani Cardoso .

Preparing the body before physical activity is essential to help prevent cramps — Photo: iStock photos

A cramp is a normally acute and involuntary contraction that can occur in just one or several muscles in a certain part of the body, in movement or at rest.. The problem is quite common among athletes and people who practice high-intensity physical activity, but it can also occur with anyone without good physical conditioning and lack of a healthy diet. Although the calf is a place where the most discomfort occurs, the problem can also affect the abdominal region, thighs, feet, hands or neck and cause pain that can last seconds or even minutes.

There are muscle cramps, usually induced by physical exercise, and night cramps, usually linked to some systemic disease or hormonal imbalance.

According to Gustavo Torres, some of the main causes of cramps are:

  1. Intense or long-term physical exercise: the production of substances in muscle metabolism to obtain energy (lactic acid) can unbalance the normal pH of the muscle fiber, impair its functioning and the contraction-relaxation mechanism, and can cause muscle spasms, a typical symptom of cramps. In addition, in the practice of physical activity (intense and/or long) there may also be a hydroelectrolytic imbalance (loss of mineral salts such as magnesium, sodium and potassium, and of body water);
  2. Dehydration: often happens in very hot and high humidity environments. With the increase in perspiration and the loss of fluid through sweat, it can cause a hydroelectrolyte imbalance due to the large amount of fluid lost;
  3. Vascular (circulatory) changes: in situations of peripheral arterial disease (disordered blood circulation in the legs), the low amount of blood reaching the muscles also decreases the available oxygen. This deficiency compromises functioning and can cause cramps;
  4. Medicines: some diuretic drugs can lead to loss of renal fluid and, depending on the type of medication, there may also be a greater elimination of potassium, generating a hydroelectrolytic imbalance and causing cramps. Other drugs can also have the appearance of involuntary muscle contractions as a side effect, as they interfere in different phases of the contraction mechanism, including its neural control;
  5. Other factors: sedentary lifestyle, poor physical conditioning, muscle shortening, diet low in vitamins and minerals, vitamin D deficiency and high temperature environments
  6. Some diseases and hormonal imbalancessuch as diabetes, anemia and kidney failure.

When experiencing cramp pain, some care is essential to relieve symptoms. Sports doctor and exercise physiologist, Gustavo Torres indicates:

  • Stretch and massage the affected region with circular movements, always carefully to avoid breaking the muscle fibers that are in contraction.
  • Seek medical advice in some cases: cramping is usually not a serious problem and when it does occur it is often short-lived. But it’s important to seek evaluation from an exercise and sports medicine specialist if muscle pain and episodes are repetitive and persistent. According to Gustavo Torres, it is necessary to seek help when:
  1. The pain lasts for about three days or more and/or is very severe, with no improvement after several minutes (over 10);
  2. Have no obvious cause;
  3. If the person has swelling or redness in the surroundings or in the region of pain itself (which could be an inflammatory, infectious and/or local circulatory process);
  4. If you present, together, itching, vomiting, shortness of breath, fever and intense pain (we may be facing a systemic infection).
  1. To avoid cramps, it is essential to know and respect the limits of your own body. Sports doctor and specialist in exercise physiology, Gustavo Starling Torres explains that it is important to understand that excesses are not healthy, they can generate imbalances in water and mineral salts, excessive production of undesirable substances in the metabolism, causing loss of performance, muscle fatigue and , consequently, cause cramps;
  2. Having a healthy and balanced diet can also help prevent cramps, as it guarantees a good supply of minerals and vitamins;
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and ultra-processed foods, which are rich in sodium but low in micronutrients and can cause dehydration and consequently increase the rate of cramps;
  4. Maintain good hydration, remembering that the ideal is to ingest 35 to 40 ml of liquids per kilo of weight per day;
  5. Do a good warm-up before exercise;
  6. Maintain a physical activity routine;
  7. Consult a sports nutritionist to make a good replacement of fluids and mineral salts during physical activity. Sports drinks are important for long, intense activities.

– The best thing to do is prepare the body for physical activities, because when we improve our physical conditioning, we manage to make our body better adapted to the blood supply of energy substrates and oxygen to the musculature, as well as the adequate removal of metabolic products that can harm its functioning – explains Gustavo.

Sources:
Gustavo Starling Torres is a medical specialist in Exercise and Sport Medicine and Exercise Physiology, Coordinator of the Health and Performance department of the High Performance Laboratory of CEFIT.
Stephani Cardoso is a sports nutritionist and postgraduate in Sports Nutrition and Physiology. Daniela Seixas is a nutritionist from UFPR, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Physical Education and Sport at USP and a postgraduate professor in Clinical and Sports Nutrition.