Here's Why Raisins Are So Beneficial To Runners

Looking for the perfect snack to fuel your runs? Whether you're a sprinter or a long-distance runner, you may be tempted to grab an energy bar. Some folks prefer energy chews or electrolyte beverages, which are just as convenient. The problem is that many of these products contain added sugar, artificial flavors, and other fillers. "It's better to get your nutrients from whole-food ingredients because they also supply a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds," nutritionist Ellen Klosz told Consumer Reports.

With that in mind, you might be better off eating a handful of raisins before your next run. These small, wrinkled fruits are rich in natural sugars and pack a hefty nutritional punch. A 1-ounce serving has roughly 85 calories and over 22 grams of carbs, including 1.3 grams of fiber and 18.5 grams of sugar. You'll also get small amounts of copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins.

As you might have guessed, raisins can benefit runners and other athletes due to their high carb content. Plus, they are easy to grab on the go and can be used in a multitude of recipes, from homemade power bars to energy balls. Moreover, these fruits will give you the same energy boost as a traditional pre-workout snack. 

Fill up on raisins to power your runs

Like power bars and sports drinks, raisins are rich in simple carbs and, therefore, can fuel your workouts. In a 2012 study, researchers asked 11 male runners to fill up on sports chews, raisins, or plain water before training. Athletes who ate either raisins or sports chews had similar improvements in running performance, reports the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN), Those who ingested raisins actually completed their run 60 seconds faster than the water-only group.

A 2007 study featured in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research had similar findings. Cyclists who ate raisins 45 minutes before training performed similarly to those who consumed a sports gel. What's more, these tiny fruits are comparable to Sports Jelly Beans, according to a 2011 study published in the same journal. As the scientists note, both foods were equally effective at fueling athletes during extended exercise.

Raisins are also high in anthocyanins, a class of antioxidants linked to improved exercise performance. These flavonoids protect against exercise-induced oxidative stress and, therefore, may aid in recovery, according to 2021 research presented in the journal Nutrients. On top of that, they can delay fatigue and allow you to train harder for longer. Potassium, another key nutrient in raisins, supports post-workout recovery and may help prevent muscle cramps. This mineral also helps your body convert sugar to glycogen, leading to increased energy.

Add raisins to your favorite pre-run snacks

These naturally sweet fruits can add flavor to trail mixes, homemade granola, oatmeal, quinoa salad, or even smoothies. For example, you can mix them with peanut butter, vanilla protein powder, and oats to make a healthy protein bar. Another option is to sprinkle them over oatmeal or porridge for an energizing breakfast. Make sure you also try these cinnamon oatmeal raisin cookies but skip the sugar to cut calories and carbs.

As a side note, try not to eat more than a handful of raisins in one sitting. Like other dried fruits, raisins are high in sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with laxative effects. This natural compound may cause bloating, diarrhea, and digestive distress when consumed in excess. The runners who participated in the JISSN study experienced abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, gas, and burping after eating raisins. Such symptoms are more common in people with irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive ailments.

Apart from that, raisins can be a great addition to most diets. These tiny fruits not only boost your energy levels but also support muscle function and cardiovascular health. "I recommend pairing raisins with some protein and fat," said dietitian Jenny Friedman in an interview with TIME. "The addition of something sweet to this combo results in something as satisfying as it is filling," she added.