KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- When it comes to athletes, performance drinks like Gatorade, and taking ibuprofen seem to go hand in hand. And they have for decades.

"I remember when I was running marathons, there was a new focus way back in the 70s and 80s on taking these sugar beverages during exercise," said Dr. David Nieman with the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab.

But Dr. Nieman says the combination never seemed healthy to him, which is why he continued to research athletic performance when he joined the North Carolina Research Campus team back in 2009.

"We did the first study and showed that a half a banana with a cup of water every 15-20 minutes compared to a sports drink -- the performance was equal and both knocked down inflammation just as well," said Dr. Nieman.

This led them to take the research one step further, to see how something as simple as a banana, matched up to ibuprofen against the gene that causes inflammation.

Dr. Neiman said a treatment plan like that can cause long-lasting damage.

"Seven out of 10 runners use that drug," says Dr. Nieman. "The runners don’t realize it actually harms the intestines and causes extra inflammation."

And for athletes or just people trying to go to the gym, the research shows that using a banana instead of ibuprofen can give you some of the same results when it comes to inflammation.

"Ibuprofen, like Advil and Motrin, will knock down that gene. We found that these banana metabolites knocked down that gene almost completely, I mean it almost completely blocked it," said Dr. Nieman.

But even with the research, Dr. Nieman says it's hard to go against companies such as Advil and Gatorade to change athletes’ minds.

But he hopes by publishing this research more athletes will catch on to the natural, healthier alternative.

"You just never give up trying to help people do what’s better," said Dr. Nieman. "You just don’t let it get you down."