Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Celebrities get plenty of camera time in the Super Bowl from Paula Abdul and Tom Petty to Gisele Bundchen and Peyton Manning…but celebrity bananas? Fox television gave the bunch primetime exposure during the game telecast, as they sat on the Giants bench waiting to help the team in their upset of the Patriots.

Athletic performance generates significant heat and the main way the body cools itself is with sweat. Just like a swamp cooler cools a building, sweat on the skin evaporates and cools the body. Sweat isn’t just water, though. It contains a variety of electrolytes like sodium and chloride (salt) and potassium. In hot enviroments, you can even see salt crystallize on the skin. Replacing only the water loss dilutes the electrolytes within the body and leads inefficient cell function. Potassium is a key chemical that allows muscle fibers to contract and bananas (among other fruits and veggies) are a good source of potassium. That’s why bunches were on the bench and called to duty.

Most of the body’s potassium is within cells, with much less in the plasma (the part of the blood stream that is not the red cells, white cells or platelets). When the body loses potassium through sweat or in the urine, it tries to rebalance itself and draw potassium out of the cells. This makes the cells function less efficiently. Add a few million cells together in a muscle fiber, make them irritable and cramps happen. When cells fail, muscles fail, And the body can’t perform at an elite and sometimes at any other level.

All the electrolytes in the body are inter-related and have a very narrow range of normal. A little more or a little less and the body’s coping mechanism can deal with it, but in elite athletes, the shifts in fluid and electrolytes from the intense activity may be huge and can overwhelm the body’s ability to compensate. It’s why in warm or humid weather, you see players on the field being stretched by trainers or heading back to the locker room for intravenous fluids. And from the Gatorade commercials, we know that replacement fluids should contain sodium and potassium in concentrations similar to what is found in the body.

And it’s why Fox reminds that the there is always a place reserved on the bench for a bunch of bananas.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.