Bananas have been touted as a natural source for nutrients and fast energy in the running community. They say this because bananas are thought to offer an excellent bang for your buck, and are packed with the stuff runners need, but is this actually true?
Bananas are a great source of nutrients for runners because they are loaded with natural sugars easily absorbed by your body, and plenty of Potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6.
So there is a lot of upside to eating bananas, but we will talk more about how bananas can best fit into your meals in regards to your running, and cover some of the less obvious benefits of eating bananas as a runner.
How Are Bananas Good For Runners?
Let's dive into the reasons!
When Should Runners Eat Bananas?
The simple answer to this question is: Whenever you want!
There is little downside to a banana at any time of the day, as it is a nutrition snack and source of energy.
That being said, the optimal time to eat a banana would be about 30 to 60 minutes before the start of your training session.
The primary reason for this is that bananas are an excellent source of natural carbohydrates and sugars. This makes a banana perfect as a pre-workout snack, and pairs well with complex carbohydrates like oats or whole grain bread.
In fact, a great pre-run breakfast could look something like oatmeal, with a banana, nut butter, and some ground cinnamon for more flavor.
With the combination of simple and complex carbohydrates, and protein this combines just about everything you’ll need for a successful run. Try to eat something like this anywhere between 1-3 hours before your run.
Some people are not into eating so much before a run, so that’s why you could always just grab a banana for some more instant energy before your run.
Here is a great science based video on bananas:
More Benefits of Eating Banana as a Runner
Bananas are a good source of natural electrolytes that help your body absorb more water. If you did not know, most people are chronically dehydrated, and this can hinder recovery, especially for those who break themselves down with running.
Just one banana can help you optimize your hydration, just make sure to also be drinking water throughout the day. If you are feeling thirsty, then you are already dehydrated.
A banana also compliments any of your favorite electrolyte drinks as well. So feel free to grab your favorite flavor of Nuun Hydration and sip it alongside your banana.
Vitamin B6 & Vitamin C
This is one that most people do not give bananas enough credit for. It provides an excellent source of Vitamin B6.
Some of the benefits of Vitamin B6 include:
- Produce red blood cells
- Metabolise carbohydrates and fats (turn it into energy)
- Metabolise amino acids
- Helps your liver and kidneys process out chemicals
- Aids in nervous system function
Contrary to popular belief, most people do not get enough B vitamins in their diet alone, but a single medium sized banana includes over 20% of your daily value in vitamin B6.
The best part is that Vitamin B is water soluble, which means you don’t have to worry about overconsuming them.
Although bananas are a great source of Vitamin B6, you might still want to think about supplementing with a B-complex pill to fill in any possible gaps that you could miss with your diet alone.
If you are a runner, then you need even more vitamin B because you are metabolizing everything at a much higher level and probably sweating out a lot of essential vitamins and minerals as well.
As we said earlier, even if you take more than your daily value, your body will easily process out the unabsorbed vitamins.
There is on average 10.3mg on average of Vitamin C in a single banana. One average sized bananas can provide your 33% daily value of Vitamin C. Bananas do not have more vitamin C that oranges.
This one is a little more well-known, but one medium-sized banana will provide around 320-400 mg of potassium, which meets about 10% of your daily potassium needs.
Potassium is one of the more essential minerals for your body, as it is one of the important electrolytes we mentioned earlier, but it has so many other benefits besides hydration.
Some of the benefits of potassium are:
- Managing blood pressure
- Aid in normal nerve impulse function
- Maintain normal water balance
- Assist in muscle contractions
- Regulate a normal heart rhythm
What’s more, the body does not produce potassium naturally, so you NEED to get it from external sources. A banana is a perfect way to get one step closer to reaching your daily needs for potassium (which are even higher as a runner).
You lose potassium when you sweat as well, so make sure to top your potassium off with a banana before or after your run.
All of that said, it is possible to over consume potassium, but for most people (runners in particular) this will be very hard to do.
Fun fact: Around 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, and one medium-sized banana gets you about 13% of your daily manganese needs.
Magnesium shares many of the same benefits as potassium, but it might almost be more important for runners and athletes because of its essential part in aiding nervous system and muscle function.
Some of the benefits of Magnesium are:
- Helps convert food into energy.
- Assists in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
- Helps create new proteins from amino acids.
- Aids in creating and repairing your DNA and RNA.
- Regulates neurotransmitters, which send impulses throughout your nervous system.
Yet again, most people do not get enough magnesium in their daily diet, so having a banana or two will help you get a good start on reaching your daily goal.
Are you starting to see how big of a nutritional bang for your buck you get from bananas? We sure are.
But wait, there's more!
Aid digestion and gastrointestinal issues
A medium banana will get you around 10-12% of your daily fiber needs. You body processes bananas faster than most other fruits and it contains important nutrients your body needs to recover.
As a general rule, most people should aim for a daily fiber intake of around 20g for women and 26g for men. Bananas are definitely a great place to start for this. It’s just so easy.
General information about fiber is that fiber cannot be broken down into sugar, so it passes through the body undigested. Fiber help will help regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
Furthermore, it will aid in your digestive health and keep you more regular (although most runners probably don’t have an issue with that).
The importance of fiber remains the same, and a happy and healthy GI only aids in running and recovery.
To review, bananas check many nutritious fruit boxes in a relatively small and inexpensive package. Some amazing benefits of bananas for runners and support guy health.
You can get a lot out of your running if you include a banana or two into your diet every so often. On top of that it tastes great and pairs well with an array of other foods like toast, oatmeal, peanut butter, and many other fruits.
As far as optimal timing for your runs, aim to consume your banana between 60-30 minutes before your run to see the best hydration and energy benefits.
On the other end of your run, eating a banana with a protein shake or nut butter is a great way to refuel after your running effort. It is a great carbohydrate source to pair with a protein to rebuild and refuel at the same time.
So after all of that, we can confirm that bananas are indeed good for runners! The benefits of bananas are tremendous for runners and should be a staple in a runner's diet.
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Me.