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The 10 Best Fruits for Runners

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.

Food sources of Vitamin C

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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.

woman runner hunched over on knees while running

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.

Whether you’re training for a 10K or following an ultramarathon diet, carbs and other nutrients are required to replenish your body.

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.

bowl of oatmeal with fruit on it

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, such as long runs, track meets and more.

In fact, fruit is a great part of a diet plan for sprinters who have to spend a large part of the day at a track meet, but may only be competing in a few events.

Dried fruit can also be a great example of what to eat for a marathon. Additionally, 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. Fruit is also a great carrier or pairing food for other nutritious foods, like nuts/seeds!

See more about the chia seed benefits for runners.

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.

Polyphenols act as powerful antioxidants and have been proven to reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Furthermore, the phytonutrients and carbohydrates in fruit may help reduce the inflammation that is caused by endurance exercise.

glass of tart cherry juice in smoothie

For instance, having tart cherry juice for recovery may decrease muscle soreness following a hard or long bout of endurance exercise.

Vitamin C

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.

oranges on cutting board

Potassium

Most fruit also contains potassium, which is a mineral and electrolyte essential for maintaining hydration.

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.

Gluten Free

While not all athletes need to follow a gluten free diet, those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease do.

Fruits are a natural gluten-free carb for all kinds of athletes. And dried fruits can help with carb loading since they are more concentrated.

Best Fruits for Runners and Athletes

Here are 10 different fruits that can benefit you as a runner.

1. Bananas

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!

bunch of bananas

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.

2. Pears

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.

two pears next to leaves

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.

3. Apples

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.

bunch of apples in clear bowl

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.

For athletes, we love apple overnight oats for a post-workout snack, or pumpkin apple baked oats for a warmer option.

4. Oranges

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 on cutting board

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.

5. Mango

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.

group of mangos with some cut open

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.

To eat more mango, try adding it to a grain salad, like this mango quinoa salad or toss it in a cantaloupe mango smoothie.

6. Melon

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 and cantaloupe on tabletop

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.

7. Berries

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.

combination of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries

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.

8. Raisins

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.

spoon spilling raisins out on surface

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 for a marathon.

9. Pineapple

This juicy fruit will help you stay hydrated and satisfied. Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

chopped pineapple slices on cutting board

Pineapples contain an enzyme, bromelain, which can help reduce inflammation and swelling. Perfect for recovery after a long run or cross country race.

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.

10. Apricots

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.

bunch of apricots on wooden table

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)
11
22
33
44

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.

woman eating an orange on track after a workout

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:

girl sitting on sidewalk with sports bag and water bottle

Key Takeaways

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!

References:

  • Moss K, Kreutzer A, Graybeal AJ, et al. Nutrient Adequacy in Endurance Athletes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(8):5469. Published 2023 Apr 11. doi:10.3390/ijerph20085469
  • Carlos Kusano Bucalen F. Antioxidant and anti-atherosclerotic potential of Banana (Musa spp): A review of biological mechanisms for prevention and protection against atherosclerosis. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2023;13(3):240-254. doi:10.22038/AJP.2022.20616
  • Sun W, Shahrajabian MH. Therapeutic Potential of Phenolic Compounds in Medicinal Plants-Natural Health Products for Human Health. Molecules. 2023;28(4):1845. Published 2023 Feb 15. doi:10.3390/molecules28041845
  • Passos BN, Lima MC, Sierra APR, et al. Association of Daily Dietary Intake and Inflammation Induced by Marathon Race. Mediators Inflamm. 2019;2019:1537274. Published 2019 Oct 7. doi:10.1155/2019/1537274
  • Barney DE, Ippolito JR, Berryman CE, Hennigar SR. A Prolonged Bout of Running Increases Hepcidin and Decreases Dietary Iron Absorption in Trained Female and Male Runners. J Nutr. 2022;152(9):2039-2047. doi:10.1093/jn/nxac129
  • Hong SY, Lansky E, Kang SS, Yang M. A review of pears (Pyrus spp.), ancient functional food for modern times. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 Sep 1;21(1):219. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03392-1. PMID: 34470625; PMCID: PMC8409479.
  • Kim SJ, Anh NH, Jung CW, Long NP, Park S, Cho YH, Yoon YC, Lee EG, Kim M, Son EY, Kim TH, Deng Y, Lim J, Kwon SW. Metabolic and Cardiovascular Benefits of Apple and Apple-Derived Products: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Front Nutr. 2022 Apr 5;9:766155. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.766155. PMID: 35449537; PMCID: PMC9016272.
  • Kim H, Castellon-Chicas MJ, Arbizu S, et al. Mango (Mangifera indica L.) Polyphenols: Anti-Inflammatory Intestinal Microbial Health Benefits, and Associated Mechanisms of Actions. Molecules. 2021;26(9):2732. Published 2021 May 6. doi:10.3390/molecules26092732
  • Manchali S, Chidambara Murthy KN, Vishnuvardana, Patil BS. Nutritional Composition and Health Benefits of Various Botanical Types of Melon (Cucumis melo L.). Plants (Basel). 2021;10(9):1755. Published 2021 Aug 24. doi:10.3390/plants10091755
  • Zhang L, Zhang Q, Li W, Zhang S, Xi W. Identification of key genes and regulators associated with carotenoid metabolism in apricot (Prunus armeniaca) fruit using weighted gene coexpression network analysis. BMC Genomics. 2019 Nov 20;20(1):876. doi: 10.1186/s12864-019-6261-5. PMID: 31747897; PMCID: PMC6865023.
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