Ramadan for Muslims begins this week. During this fasting month, they will not eat and drink between sunrise and sunset. Quite an ordeal, of course, especially when you are used to following a sporty lifestyle. Do you normally go to the gym several times a week to do fitness? Then you will find that this is difficult to combine with fasting. According to many, Ramadan and strength training do not go together. But what is the effect of fasting on your sports performance? And how can you best combine exercise and fasting? In this blog, I give you handy Ramadan fitness tips. This way, you can keep moving healthily during the fasting month!
What is Ramadan?
Before I give you my Ramadan fitness tips, let’s look at what this fasting month is all about.
Ramadan is an important month in Islam. It is one of the five columns and is prescribed by the Koran. By fasting, you will purify the soul, gain more appreciation for food and thank Allah for all he has given you. The whole month there is no eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. Smoking and sex are also among the abstentions. Lying and name-calling are also not allowed. Fasting is called Sawm (Saum) or Siyam. When you are allowed to eat, this is often extended and done with the whole family.
Not every Muslim participates in Ramadan. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempt from fasting. The sick and travellers also do not have to participate. However, the missed days must be overtaken at a later date. Ramadan ends with the Sugar Festival. An exuberant gives full of delicacies.
- 2020: 24 April to 23 May
- 2021: 11 August to 9 September
Effect of fasting on your body
Before I give you Ramadan fitness tips, I want to tell you more about the effects of fasting on your body. What do you notice by not eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset? Of course, the effect varies from person to person and is also highly dependent on your normal eating and drinking patterns.
Because you get less fluid, but also fewer sugars and caffeine, you can experience withdrawal symptoms. The first few days you might be a little nauseous and have a headache. Your body needs to get used to this sudden change in your eating and drinking behaviour.
Normally you eat several times a day, and your body uses the nutrients from this diet for all physiological processes (postprandial phase). Has your body processed the food and drink and all the nutrients have been used or stored? Then your body moves on to the post-absorption phase. During this phase, your body uses reserves from the stored stocks.
During a prolonged period of fasting, your body consumes mainly stored substances, such as glycogen, amino acids and triglycerides (fats). This depends on your diet. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates, your body will consume them first. During the end of the solid, your body will mainly burn fats.
With a long-term fix, your body is mainly in the post-absorption phase, and substances of your body are used such as glycogen, triglycerides (fats) and amino acids. This depends mainly on how your current diet looks.
Please note that fasting does not cause you to fall off. This still depends on energy balance. If you eat and drink too many calories when you are allowed to eat and drink, you will still be able to arrive.
Ramadan and sports performance
Exercising during Ramadan doesn’t seem like much of a golden combination. By not eating for a long time and (especially) drinking it becomes more difficult to deliver good sports performance. At least, that is what many people think. But is this really the case? For this blog with Ramadan fitness tips, I looked at scientific underpinnings.
For example, a study looked at the performance of footballers during, before and after Ramadan. During this investigation, the tax was kept the same. This means that they followed their normal training and competition program. The athletes were divided into two groups, namely fasting footballers and non-fasting footballers. Physical ability, such as sprinting capacity and endurance, has been looked at.
And as it turns out… no difference has been found in these physical abilities between the two groups. There was also no muscle loss or an increase in fat percentage. Because the footballers followed their normal training regime and maintained their healthy diet, their physical performance did not deteriorate.
However, another study shows that physical performance can deteriorate. This study looked at the running times of 5000 m of athletes. On average, the fasting athletes were slower and showed a lower maximum force. Also, the amount of lactate in the blood was increased (more acidification), and the difference between oxygen demand and oxygen uptake was greater (oxygen deficit) . This means that the effect of Ramadan on sports can be different from sport and individual.
The biggest “problem” is dehydration. Because you are not allowed to drink, dehydration can occur, which has negative consequences on your sports performance and cognitive functions. Moisture loss of 2% already leads to a significant decrease in endurance and concentration. Especially if Ramadan falls in the summer months, this is annoying. The temperatures are high, which makes you lose even more moisture.
Maintaining muscle mass during Ramadan
Many strength athletes and bodybuilders are afraid to lose muscle mass while fasting. And building more muscle mass seems completely impossible. However, with these Ramadan fitness tips, you can get the best out of yourself during the fasting month. It is important to make adjustments in your training program and your diet. However, be realistic and don’t ask more of your body than is possible.
- Stick to your healthy diet; just move your meals. That’s how you get what your body needs.
- Drink extra water in the morning and evening. This ensures that your body can better maintain fluid balance. This makes you less thirsty.
- Eat a good meal in the morning with complex carbohydrates (whole-grain products, corn rice), protein and healthy fats. The body slowly digests this. This makes you less hungry during the day.
- Take a source of slow protein at bedtime. These proteins are absorbed by your body during the night and contribute to the recovery. French lean cottage cheese or a casein protein shake is a good choice.
- Pay attention to your total protein intake, especially if you continue to exercise during Ramadan. Your body desperately needs these proteins to restore the muscles after a heavy workout. Assume about 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
- Eat slowly, patiently and chew well. This prevents you from being full too quickly and suffering from abdominal cramps or nausea during the day.
Ramadan fitness tips
In addition to the nutrition tips during Ramadan that I have given above, it is also important to look at your workout routine. Use these Ramadan fitness tips to keep working out during the fasting month. Without losing muscle mass and strength.
- Try to train in the evening, right in front of the iftar. You can then provide your body with the necessary nutrients immediately after your training.
- Is your gym open 24/7? Then you can train between meals to keep your performance optimal.
- Hold your fixed training frequency to keep your muscles stimulated. If you notice that your body is tired, then shorten your workout something. A training of around 60 minutes is easy to sustain, even during fasting.
- Do compound exercises and focus on the first work sets. This allows you to shorten the training and perform without getting overtired.
- Make sure you lose as little moisture as possible during the day. Stay out of the sun and don’t exercise at the hottest time of day.
- Ensure a good night’s sleep to recover sufficiently. During Ramadan, you often get up early and go to bed later. You may be able to catch up on the part of your sleep during the day.
When strength training during Ramadan?
The best time to do strength training is around the time you can eat. So often at the end of the fixed period (later in the evening/ late afternoon). Shortly after your workout, you can have a nutritious meal.
Ideally, it would be best to take some protein before your workout (about 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). After your workout, you will then have a big meal. Unfortunately, this rhythm is not feasible for everyone, as it often falls during the night hours. You don’t want to disturb your sleep patterns either, because this is bad for your recovery. Do you have the option to get enough sleep (think of sleeping during the day)? Then you can first have a small pre-workout meal and after your workout eat a big meal.
Don’t you have the opportunity to train around the iftar? Then make the most of it and accept that you need to adjust your workout volume down. If you are going to train during the day, reduce the intensity to reduce the moisture loss.
What does this mean for you?
Everybody is different, and everyone has a different daily rhythm. You probably know from experience what works best for your body and sports during Ramadan. So choose the time to train that is most practical for you. Continue to eat healthily and provide your body with all the important substances to recover. Provide a short strength training and try to minimize moisture loss during the day. This way, you can maintain as much muscle mass and strength as possible during fasting. And more importantly; so you get through Ramadan fit and healthy!