Fruits for runners are both delicious and convenient, but did you know they are hydrating and can help give you energy before a run too? There’s a reason that fruits are a major staple in most runner’s diets.
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You’ve probably heard that, “you are what you eat.” And while that statement may be extreme, we do know that what you eat makes a difference.
Not only for your running performance but also for your recovery – whether that be half marathon recovery, or simply, recovering from the in’s and out’s of the daily grind.
As a runner, you are likely pushing your body to go faster, longer, or both.
Fruits for Athletes Provide Ample Nutrition
In order to exceed those limits and improve your training runs, you’ll need to focus on giving your body the energy it needs, which is why fruits for athletes are important.
That often means pre-workout AND post-workout meals and snacks.
To optimize your nutrition, you need to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. We often say that a nutrient-dense breakfast for runners is a great “warm up” for your day.
Selecting food with a wide range of colors and flavors will help you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to perform its best.
That’s where fruit comes in. Most fruit is portable—which makes it great for on-the-go snacking. And each fruit has its own nutrient profile—so variety is key.
If you’re looking to improve your overall diet, fruit is where it’s at.
Today, we’re talking about the benefits of fruit for runners, and the fruits you should stock up on ASAP.
As a team of sports dietitians, here are our picks for the best fruits for working out.
Why Should Runners Eat Fruit?
Some research shows that endurance athletes do not get enough required nutrients from their diet. While supplements can be a temporary option for nutrient replenishment for some, it’s better to optimize your diet.
Fruit can help fill some nutritional gaps you may experience when you are logging in extra miles.
Polyphenols and Antioxidants
In addition to boosting your calorie consumption, eating fruits will significantly enhance the quantity of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols you take in.
Furthermore, the phytonutrients and carbohydrates in fruit may help reduce the inflammation that is caused by endurance exercise.
For instance, having tart cherry juice for recovery may decrease muscle soreness following a hard or long bout of endurance exercise.
Many fruits are high in Vitamin C, which plays many roles in the body. Vitamin C acts as a natural antioxidant, and can help with iron absorption, skin health, collagen formation and more, to name a few.
Adequate intake of potassium is even more important if you’re a salty sweater, since you likely tend to lose more in your sweat than normal sweaters.
So, yes, fruit will give you the energy you need AND the energy to help your body recover.
While not all athletes need to follow a gluten free diet, those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease do.
Best Fruits for Runners and Athletes
Here are 10 different fruits that can benefit you as a runner.
Are bananas good for runners? This is one of the more common questions I hear as a sports dietitian.
Yes, bananas are great for runners!
Bananas are one of the top foods you’ll see on any pre-workout snack list. Because bananas contain more carbohydrates than other fruits, they provide instant fuel for your run, making them one of the best carbs for runners.
And carbs aren’t the only thing bananas have to offer. They also contain potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and other polyphenols.
Furthermore, the prebiotic fiber in bananas is an amazing fuel for healthy gut bacteria. When your gut bacteria are thriving, your digestive and immune systems work better.
With their high water content, pears can help you hydrate. Pears also contain vitamin C and copper. Copper aids in new blood cell formation and iron absorption—which may be reduced in distance runners.
Healthy blood cells carry oxygen to your muscles all over your body—which helps a runner with each stride. Pears may also help your body fight inflammation.
Additionally, pear consumption has been linked with diabetes prevention, lowering cholesterol, and protection against infection.
Make sure you don’t skip the peel—which contains most of the nutrients.
Remember the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, there may be some merit to it. Apples are rich in nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Intake of apples and apple products, like applesauce and juice, can improve metabolic markers like HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
And here’s some more you can add to that list of benefits: improved cognition as you age, prevention of diabetes, and improved bone and respiratory health.
Clearly, there are many reasons to eat apples any time of year.
A well-known source of vitamin C, oranges offer multiple benefits for runners. Not only can vitamin C help your body absorb iron to prevent anemia, but it can also boost your immune system.
Oranges also contain soluble fiber, which can improve heart and gut health. And, oranges contain powerful antioxidants that help guard your cells from damage.
Another benefit of oranges is that as a high source of Vitamin C, they aid in collagen production—which is an important protein for healing and strengthening bones.
High in vitamins A, C, E, and folic acid, mango is a tropical fruit that should be added to your pre-game snack list stat.
While we typically think of folic acid as a nutrient during pregnancy, it is always important! Folic acid is involved in red blood cell production and protein metabolism.
While high in sugar content, mangos also contain dietary fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar. This fiber also helps healthy gut bacteria do their job.
Like other fruits, mango contains a variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants—all protective against disease and cellular damage.
Melon is another fruit that has a high water content—which can be an easy way to get in fluids after a run, or even an example of what to eat before a long run.
On top of hydrating, melon also can help improve skin health, digestion, and immunity.
It has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure.
Watermelon, canteloupe, and honeydew are just a few of the varieties of melon you can add to your grocery list.
Eat them on their own, in a smoothie, or even atop a salad.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries…they’re all tasty! And good for you, of course!
Like bananas, berries are some of the best fruits for athletes because they are so portable and enjoyable.
Have a handful here or there – add them to your oatmeal, smoothie, yogurt, etc.
The natural pigments that give fruit their colors contain flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for their ability to neutralize oxidative damage and protect your body’s cells.
Don’t sleep on raisins – raisins are great for athletes!
Does it get more portable than a box of raisins? Not only can you put raisins in your bag for an on-the-go pre-workout snack, but they also can serve as fuel DURING your run.
In addition, raisins contain fiber that can improve digestion. They also contain phytonutrients that improve blood pressure and bone health.
Because raisins are small but nutrient-dense, they are especially useful when you aren’t feeling hungry, or if you’re carb loading before a big race.
This juicy fruit will help you stay hydrated and satisfied. Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Bromelain can also aid in digestion, which may be helpful for runner’s gut.
Enjoy pineapple’s tangy sweetness on its own, over tacos, or in a smoothie or salad.
Rich in carotenoids, apricots can help fight free-radical damage that occurs in our day-to-day exposure to stress and exertion.
Apricots are one of the best sources of beta-carotene. That means apricots are an excellent snack for strengthening immunity and preventing diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Dried apricots make a convenient snack to chow down before a run. And fresh, juicy apricots may help rehydrate you after a training session.
If you’re extra sweaty, make sure to hydrate appropriately. Make sure to check out our hydration guide for runners.
Fruit Before a Workout
Should you eat fruit before a workout, or after?
The answer is both. Since fruit is high in carbohydrates, it can be a great option to eat before a workout or half marathon, as well as to replenish after a workout.
Fuel before your workout is necessary for optimal performance. Eating a snack 30-60 minutes before a run or exercise session can give your body the energy you need.
Pre-workout snacks should be centered on carbohydrates. Fruits make the perfect pre-workout food since they are mostly carbs.
General Rule of Thumb for Carbs Pre-Workout:
|Timing Before Exercise (Hours)||Carbohydrates (g/kg body weight)|
How Many Carbs are in Fruit?
Fruit has on average 15 grams of carbohydrates per small piece or 1 cup serving.
Some have more (like bananas and mangos) and some have less (such as blackberries and raspberries).
Fruit After a Workout
After your workout, you’ll want a source of carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores. Your glycogen stores get depleted when you’ve had 60-90 minutes of medium to high-intensity exercise.
Glycogen makes it possible for you to power through your training runs and races. To fully replenish glycogen stores, it’s recommended you eat 8-12 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight.
Fruit is a terrific way to get in both carbs and antioxidants. That way you’re ready for your next run and your body can repair any damage that occurred during training.
Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Dried Fruits
How you eat your fruit is entirely up to you. Fresh, frozen, and dried fruits all contain the same nutrition benefits.
While dried fruits are more nutrient-dense and may pack in a lot more calories per serving, this can be a good thing when you are looking to refuel or carb load.
Fresh fruit makes for a convenient snack. It also has a greater water content than dried fruit, which would be better for rehydration.
Keeping frozen fruit on hand is a wonderful way to enjoy fruit when it’s out of season. Whatever way you like it, fruit makes a fantastic food for runners.
Tasty Fruit Recipes for Athletes
You don’t have to just eat fruit by itself. Fruit makes for a yummy ingredient in many different recipes. Here are some high-carb recipes you can try:
- Fruit pizza
- Blueberry donuts
- Strawberry banana smoothie bowl
- Sweetpotato apple muffins
- Orange and mango smoothie
- Banana chia pudding
Fruit is an awesome source of carbohydrates for runners and athletes.
Fruit for athletes is a great option that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and is linked with disease prevention and improved health.
While we highlighted our favorite 10 fruits, you are not limited to just those. All fruit makes good pre-workout and post-workout food.
Whether you choose frozen, fresh, or dried fruit, you will reap the health benefits of eating these nutrient-packed foods.
Fruit can be eaten on its own, on top of yogurt or oats, or in a recipe. Enjoy!
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