Bananas For Running

August 31, 2023

Bananas for Running

Are Bananas a helpful food or are we eating them because our running buddy said so? Bananas are an easy everyday food and runners seem to love them.

You’ll see them being eaten in abundance and the start and end of many races!

But why are they the pre-race snack of choice?

Today we are shining a light on their nutritional properties and discover how they can support pre/during and post fuelling, we’ll cover:

  1. The nutritional properties and health benefits of a banana
  2. A look at how bananas can be used for pre/during/post fuelling
  3. Foodie suggestions for eating bananas – over and above the simple approach of just peeling one and eating it whole!

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Bananas For Running


Bananas are a Real Food Option for Runners.

An encouraging move towards a FOOD FIRST approach is highlighted in a recent study published in 2023. Many athletes are interested in a food first approach, because food is seen to be a more cost-effective choice than sports products. Also carbohydrate whole foods offer wider nutritional benefits, as they include other nutrients e.g., vitamins, minerals and fibre. READ MORE …

Carbohydrates and Endurance Exercise: A Narrative Review of a Food First Approach


Nutritional properties of a banana.

Most runners would know that a banana contains Carbohydrate and Potassium. However they also contain other vitamins and minerals.

An average medium-large banana according to the USDA weighs approx. 118g and contains approx:

  • 30g CHO and includes a combination of glucose/fructose/sucrose
  • A banana is low in protein only 1g per 100g of banana and practically no fat with only 0.5g fat in a 100g banana and they also contain some minerals and vitamins as well as fibre

Nutrient Value of 100g Banana

More about bananas


GL Rating of a Banana

The GL rating of an average banana is around 13 which is considered moderate. The GL is a measure which factors in both the food glycaemic index plus amount of carbohydrate in one serving of food. A score of 10 or less is regarded as LOW GL so it’s less likely to cause a spike in blood sugars. We’d regard a banana as a QUICK RELEASE CHO.


Carbohydrate and sugar content of a banana.

Bananas are a great example of REAL food having multiple functions! There are combination of sugars in a banana glucose/fructose/sucrose … these are three types of sugar that are absorbed differently and have slightly different effects on the body. Studies suggest that consuming a mixture of both glucose and fructose can improve endurance exercise performance compared to equivalent amounts of glucose only. A 100g of banana contains 4.9g glucose and 2.4 g of fructose.



An average banana contains 400-420mg of potassium which is approx. 9-12% of the recommended daily intake of potassium which ranges from 3500-4700mg per day for an adult. Most people get adequate potassium in the diet by eating a range of foods e.g., fruit, particularly bananas, and vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, and fish.

As an endurance runner we tend to sweat and as a result lose minerals (also known as electrolytes) such as potassium, sodium and magnesium which may lead to an electrolyte imbalance. This in turn can lead to muscle cramping in our legs or feet, or side stitches and can influence stomach cramps/diarrhoea.

So, it’s important to ensure your nutrient status of these electrolytes is optimal through your everyday food plan. Adding food and drinks to your pre/during/post nutrition plan to support electrolytes will be helpful. A banana will contribute to potassium status but don’t forget to include all the other foods we mentioned in your everyday diet.


Other vitamins and minerals

Bananas also include trace amounts of other minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. 100g banana includes 8.7mg Vit C, 0.4mg of Vit B6 and 9.8mg choline.  Choline is important for metabolism and is needed to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions. These nutrients are in small amounts but will contribute to overall nutrient status.


FOS, Fibre and FODMAPS

Bananas are a good source of FOS which is a prebiotic – they feed our gut bacteria so help us have a balance microbiome. Some people have difficulty digesting foods which contain FOS (from the oligo-fructan group of foods). For example, it may lead to symptoms such as bloating or diarrhoea. We talked about this in episode 87 IBS, Fodmaps and Running.

100g of unripe banana is low in oligo-fructans, making it safe to eat on a low FODMAP diet. A ripe banana is high in oligo-fructans, making it high in FODMAPs. However, a third of a ripe banana (33g) should be tolerated by most individuals with IBS-like symptoms.


Bananas as a pre run snack

At 30g of CHO in the average banana this sounds an ideal easy pre run snack … but how does it stack up against a sports product?

A 2020 study Iooked at various sources of pre-exercise CHO, including banana slurries, which was 54g CHO mixed with water (not sure how tasty that is!).

They observed 10 trained runners in a hot environment, running 10k on a treadmill one hour after ingesting one of six different test solutions. The outcome was the different types of carbohydrate had no influence on 10 km running performance with no differences between any condition. Although they noted that this isn’t surprising as when running less than 1 hour pre exercise carbohydrate fuelling may not be necessary for performance. But of course it may have been a different outcome on a longer run duration including during run fuelling.

Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fluid ingestion: influence of glycemic response on 10-km treadmill running performance in the heat.


During Run fuelling

General guidelines would be to consume carbohydrate at the rate of 30-60g per hour for exercise that is of 1-3 hours in duration.

From a practical point of view to reach 60g of CHO/hour that would mean 2 bananas every hour which for most runners just wouldn’t be feasible!

But perhaps some runners could consider carrying a banana as one of their during run snacks and use alongside other snacks. Also, bananas are not an easy food to carry on a run… you may prefer a banana based pre made snack. We like Ella’s fruit pouches which are baby foods but easy to use as a snack. Their banana pouch has 14 g of CHO and their banana & coconut has 21g CHO in one pouch.


Post run fuelling

Eating a banana as a post-run snack would be easy for most runners on arrival home or at the end of a race. We suggest having a QUICK RELEASE CARBOHYDRATE snack within 30 minutes of completing your long endurance run. Guidance is to consume Carbohydrate at 1-1.2g/kg/bw post exercise. So if you were a 70kg woman, then you’d be taking on board 70-84g CHO. Most people wouldn’t want to eat 3 bananas, but you could have a mixture of Quick Release Carbohydrate to hit your target.


Karen’s favourite post run banana snack

Two brown rice cakes topped with nut butter, slices of banana and drizzled with honey.


Adding honey to your banana snack or eating it alone as a post run fuel

Honey includes both glucose and fructose. You may eat it straight off the spoon at home but you could take it in sachet to the end of a race or add it to warm water. It is considered a FODMAP food and also not suitable for vegan athletes (maple syrup is an alternative). It is another everyday store cupboard food which can easily be used.


Adding Banana to you food plan

Our banana FOODIE suggestions include adding to smoothies, homemade banana ice cream, as a topping with porridge or overnight oats or yoghurt, on toast or in a sandwich or made in to banana bread or muffins.

Simple Green Smoothie … as a pre run smoothie blend 1 frozen banana along with 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves, 200mls of almond milk, a chunk of fresh ginger and ¼ cup of oats or 1 tbspn of chia seeds – put all the ingredients in a jug blender and blend until smooth.


Key Take Aways (see below)


Bananas for Running

  1. Bananas are an everyday nutritious fruit which include Carbohydrate, Potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Choline and a wide range of trace minerals.
  2. There are lots of different ways to use them as either a pre or post run snack and perhaps even as a during run snack alongside other foods.
  3. Whether you choose to eat bananas or not please don’t neglect your pre/during/post run fuelling using Carbohydrate strategically to support energy, performance and recovery.
  4. Always consider REAL FOOD as it has multiple benefits!

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The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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