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Ever struggle to feel your best before, during, or after a workout? Whether you’re setting aside time to make a HIIT class after work or finding ways to move naturally throughout your day, there is no better feeling than conquering whatever goal you’ve set for yourself.

Some people have rituals surrounding their pre and post workouts, but others struggle to discover exactly what their body needs to get motivated before, sustain energy during, and experience the best recovery afterwards. If you’re someone who’s not quite sure exactly how to feel your best and get the best results from your workout, try experimenting with some of these research backed tips and tricks!

1.) Hydration is key!

We know, you’ve heard it a million times, but drinking enough water is crucial for fueling your workout and your health in general. Recent evidence suggests that the blood brain barrier could be compromised by dehydration, especially in increased heat. High temperature and dehydration during exercise also hinders performance because of its effect on the central nervous system.

If you frequently go to hot yoga or run outside in the summer heat, make sure you’re giving your body the fuel (aka water) it needs. Most studios and gyms have refillable water bottle fountains, so remember to bring a reusable bottle and drink up before, during, and even hours after your workout!

2.) Don’t skip out on stretching

People commonly skip stretching before and after a workout because A.) Who has time for that? And B.) Stretching doesn’t burn many calories so what’s the point? There is a point! And if you aren’t already, you should try and make time for it. According to Harvard Health, without stretching, muscles become short and tight and regular stretching keeps muscle long, lean, and flexible. A research study also examined that the health benefits of yoga might be as effective or better than other types of exercise at improving physical and mental health.

Stretching might not keep you as preoccupied as an energetic HIIT class, but even in these type of workouts, stretching is crucial to keep your bones and joints healthy and feeling good. Your body and mind will thank you for staying the extra five minutes of class (and the people rushing out the door won’t receive nearly as many health benefits as you)!

3.) Working out on an empty vs. full stomach

Some research suggests that working out on an empty stomach increases metabolism and fat-burning potential. In a study on individuals participating in aerobics in a fasted vs. non fasted state, the ones in the fasted state induced higher oxidation than those in the fed state.

BUT, this is not to say everyone should workout on an empty stomach. If you are someone who gets easily lightheaded or nauseous without food while exercising, you will still experience excellent results if you’re fueling your body with the right food. Just be careful of overeating before. A good rule of thumb is to finish eating a light meal or snack about an hour before your exercise. This will help ensure you don’t get side aches, feel overly weighed down, and most importantly, that the food you ate won’t come up during your transition between interval circuits…

Try experimenting with fasting and not fasting. There is no right or wrong method, but your body will tell you what it needs. The next time you’re planning to hit the gym in the morning try not eating anything when you wake up and see how you feel during your workout. If you’re about to pass out, ditch that method and have a small, healthy breakfast like a banana or plant based energy bar before you go!

4.) Eat foods that give you fuel

If you are going to eat before and after exercise, make sure it’s from nutritious foods that will sustain energy and not promote a crash mid or post workout. Natural foods with a combination of protein, healthy fats, fiber and carbohydrates will provide a good nutritious balance to keep you satisfied, but not leave you feeling weighed down. Some of our favorites before and after a workout are:

1 piece whole grain toast with almond butter and hemp seeds
A plant based protein shake with low sugar (Koia has 18g plant protein and 4g sugar!)
Carrots dipped in hummus
Berry and Chocolate Overnight Oats

5.) Listen to your body

There is no universal number of days you should workout per week. Everybody is different and the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. If you’re feeling energized and have the time, then go for it! But if your legs are overly sore from your cycle sesh the previous day and not even Beyonce’s “Run the World” could motivate you to pedal harder, try giving your body a rest or use your muscles in a different way by taking a low impact yoga class or going on a long walk outdoors. Pushing yourself too hard can result in injury, which will only set you farther back on your workout goals.

Exercise is a great way to release stress, get in physical shape, and overall, feel good! Make sure you’re getting the most out of your sweat sesh by figuring out what your body needs to gain its’ best mental and physical results.

P.S. Even if you can’t make it to the gym, on a run, or to a group class multiple times a week, check out these 10 ways to move your body naturally throughout the day!

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