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Myth: To optimize cardio exercise, you need a carbohydrate supplement

running raisinsTRUTH:  Research that looks at the ingestion of whole food carbohydrates is seriously lacking.  Now that the local, organic, and whole food industries are taking off, the research is quickly following.  There’s been a recent influx of information about using whole foods instead of sports drinks and chews (or goos).  However, two very important studies were recently published that prove that foods are just as good as our lab-synthesized supplements.

First, I think we can all agree that prolonged cardio exercise requires carbohydrates for energy.  So, with that in mind, here are a couple good suggestions:

  1. Bananas (with water) are as effective as sports drinks.  If you’re a competitive cyclist or a cyclist for exercise, bananas were shown to be as effective as Gatorade in providing the energy required.  The only draw back: tolerance.  The extra fiber resulted in test subjects feeling more full and bloated.  This could be a good thing: fiber promotes a slow, steady update of carbohydrates however (as always) you should test the theory before using it in any race.
  2. Raisins are just as effective as sports chews.   Sports chews also have less fiber (just like the banana/Gatorade study), but the fiber in raisins was a non-issue for the runners in the raisin study.

BOTTOM LINE:  Whole foods can provide just as much energy as the supplements commonly consumed.  However, industries stand to gain less if people turn to whole foods rather than supplements.  These two studies were both conducted by Dole and the California Raisin Board (respectively), not the supplement industry.

Just as someone weight training and building muscle can get more BCAA’s from a piece of chicken than the standard amount provided by a supplement, endurance athletes can get enough energy for exercise from whole foods.



  1. Medical Daily: Bananas are just as good as sports drinks
  2. One Green Planet: Raisins as effective as sports chews for fueling workouts

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