What are ergogenic foods?

Ergogenic foods are foods that are considered to enhance sporting performance. They form part of the science related to sports nutrition and play an important part in the requirements of many training regimes. They are particularly popular with people who take part in strength training such as weightlifting and bodybuilding as well as endurance sports such as cycling, swimming, running and rowing.


Ergogenic foods are particular types of foods that contain nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the right balance to improve a person’s performance in their chosen activity. Ergogenic foods provide energy, increase endurance and help to aid recovery.


Many companies sell and promote supplements or sports drinks that are designed to improve your performance and increase your energy levels. However, they should not be thought of as a substitution for healthy eating. It is far better for your health to eat whole foods that provide optimal nutrition to enhance your performance in training rather than take artificial supplements.

There are many foods and drinks that are considered to be ergogenic foods. You can use these as part of your healthy meal prep to ensure that you get an ergogenic diet, some examples are listed below:


Watermelon Juice

Drinking 500ml of watermelon juice before exercise can help reduce recovery time and boost performance. Watermelon is a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that can be metabolized to arginine which is an essential amino acid for humans. It has an essential role in cardiovascular and immune functions by accelerating the removal of lactic acid. Preventing a build-up of lactic acid improves physical performance by enabling athletes to carry out more intense training. It also results in a faster recovery.


Beetroot Juice

Beetroot and leafy greens are excellent sources of nitrate. Drinking 500 ml of juice will increase your body’s nitrate levels. Nitrate has been reported to reduce pulmonary oxygen uptake during submaximal exercise and therefore increases your tolerance to high-intensity workouts.


Green Tea

Researchers in Japan have found that drinking 4 cups of green tea a day can improve endurance capacity by up to 24%. It increases the time you can train before reaching exhaustion and improves fat oxidation.


Coconut Water

In tests, coconut water improved whole body rehydration when compared to plain water and a beverage containing carbohydrate electrolytes. The researchers found that using coconut water to rehydrate, caused less nausea and no stomach upset after intense exercise especially after working out in the VO2 max range.



Peppermint is a popular herb that has many positive properties. These include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antioxidant properties. Adding 0.05ml of peppermint essential oil to a 500ml bottle of water had positive effects on students using a treadmill. It had a positive effect on oxygen levels in the body.



Protein from whole food sources such as eggs, meat, fish, poultry and dairy as well as vegetable protein can improve recovery and encourage greater gains in fat-free mass. Eating extra protein can help you to gain muscle mass when undertaking strength training.


Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Extra virgin coconut oil is a great source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). It provides about 10% fewer calories and is absorbed rapidly as fuel. This leads to less fat storage and the fast production of energy. Athletes can use this as an alternative energy source to increase energy and endurance in high-intensity exercise.


Low-fat Milk

There are many studies suggesting that drinking fat-free milk and chocolate milk after exercise provides carbohydrates that are better than commercial sports drinks, at promoting recovery from strength and endurance activities. There are added benefits to drinking milk as it contains additional nutrients and vitamins that are not in commercial drinks. There are also no nasty additives.



Bananas are a great option of providing healthy carbohydrates which can increase performance and reduce post-exercise inflammation. In many studies, they also beat the promises of sports drinks.



Raisins are another natural source of carbohydrates that work as an ergogenic snack before a workout. They perform as well as commercial sports gels in promoting your metabolism and performance.


Choosing to enhance your performance in exercise by choosing ergogenic whole food options means that you will also gain nutrients that promote your health. You can use them as part of your healthy meal plan and ongoing meal prep.