Many of us struggle on what to do with regards to our fitness during this holy month where Muslims fast from
dusk till dawn. Questions like “Do i exercise or not”?, “what kind of exercises should i do and what time”?,
“Will i lose muscle mass and undo all the hard work?”.
The truth is, like everything else related to health and fitness, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! Some things work for some and some things work better on others. The key is to know how YOUR body works and build on that.
Ramadhan is a time when your fitness regimen can be relaxed. The aim during this month is to maintain your current progress as opposed to attempting to progress further (which you can do but it will be very difficult given the short eating and drinking period available).
You don’t have to totally disregard your fitness routine, however it’d be impossible to keep up with your regular training regime due to the lack of food and water. Modify it to suit you for this month and still maintain your gains.
So what are the can’s and cannot’s during this month?
- EAT HEALTHY : This is one of the biggest mistakes that many people make. Just because they fast all day they think stuffing themselves with fried foods and sugary drinks in the evening is okay. NO it’s not. One of the core purposes of this holy month is self-control. Self-control in everything we do and is applicable to food too. Fried foods and sugars have more calories than we think and you will probably end up gaining weight from it. So keep your meals controlled and healthy, filled with lots of fibre (which will keep you fuller for longer) and make sure you get your healthy carbs and lean protein in too. Drink lots and lots of water. After not being able to drink all day, you’d get very dehydrated, so drink about 2-3 litres of water during the eating period.
- What to have for Iftar (dinner): I know we all love our fried samosas and bhajis for Iftar but this shouldn’t be a daily practice. Once in a while it can be okay but not daily. You want to ensure your dinner is packed with lots of fruits and veggies. You want two servings of fruits and two servings of veggies (one serving for each of the two meals) as recommended by the Health Promotion Board. Traditionally during Ramadan, dates are eaten at the start of Iftar to symbolise the breaking of the fast. They are excellent source of energy and are rich in potassium – helping muscles and nerves to function well. BUT dates are also super high in sugar so you have to consume them in moderation! I have about 3-5 dates depending on their size. You also want to include Complex carbs and low GI (Glycemic Index) ones to ensure you have a sustainable energy supply. Carbs like Wholemeal bread, brown rice or wholegrain noodles are great for energy supply, as are legumes i.e. lentils, beans etc. Protein is another food group that you don’t want to miss out on especially if you intend to keep those gains. Incorporate protein rich sources such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and low-fat dairy products (but double check to make sure the low-dairy stuff doesn’t have added sugar to it as many do to compensate for the lack of fat).
- What to have for Suhoor (pre-dawn meal): Again you want to have a portion of fruits and veggies each. These are rich in fibre which is essential during fast as they increase the feeling of fullness whilst you are fasting and help prevent constipation. They are also packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are vital for good health. High-fibre and complex carbohydrate foods like brown rice and wholemeal bread take longer to digest, helping to sustain energy levels longer. Oats with bananas are also also great as a pre-dawn meal as they will keep you fuller for longer. Even though we are not eating all day, we still want to limit our fat intake and protein from skinless chicken, fish and low-fat dairy products is great for it. We also need protein for muscle repair and recovery from the workouts as well as general health of your immune system. I will be posting my Ramadhan meals on a daily basis on here so keep an eye out for it!
- FORGET YOUR CARDIO: If you eat healthy then you are already in a calorie deficit. You don’t need to be burning even more calories. This will cause Catabolism and you don’t want that. So if you are a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) fan then this is the time to slow down with it else you can say bye bye to those awesome gains.
- STRENGTH TRAIN: Since maintenance is your purpose for this month, then keep up with your strength training routine. You will want to reduce the intensity though because naturally you won’t have as much energy as you do on a normal eating day. Reduce the intensity by either dropping your weights to lighter ones or stick to your weights and reduce your reps. Whatever works for you
- TRAIN AFTER EATING OR AN HOUR BEFORE BREAKING FAST: The best time to workout is really after you have eaten since you won’t be dehydrated and would have nutrients necessary to sustain your workout. Say a couple of hours after breaking your fast, however this is not possible for everyone since many go to Tawaraweh (evening Sunnah prayer during Ramadhan) for a few hours and may not have the time to workout. If this is the case then the next best time would be an hour or 45 minutes before breaking your fast. This way you can replenish your glycogen stores as soon as you finish training.
- FITNESS ON THE BACKGROUND: Keeping up with your workouts is important but don’t let this take over your Ramadhan. Ramadhan is a holy month and everything else other than prayers and worship should take the back seat during this time! So if you can stick to your workouts, then do but if they stress you out and you feel like your are jeopardising your prayers because of them then it maybe best to take a break from them. However, DO KEEP UP with your healthy eating as the outcome at the end of this month will mostly be based on how well or badly you ate during this month.