A common thing we notice people do during Ramadan fast is skipping their daily workout routine. There are possibly two reasons:
- Low energy to workout
- A false assumption that with less intake of calories, one might lose a lot of muscle mass/weight
Our Fitness Expert Shoaib Hussain says for overall well-being, it is important to stay active even when fasting and that with a little planning, one can workout the healthy way, without feeling exhausted. Read on for some expert advice from him on the best way to plan your workout and nutrition during Ramadan.
What Happens In Your Body When You Fast
Your body uses up the nutrients from the last meal, and starts to enter the fasted state (which is the process of complete digestion from the last meal. The duration of this varies from person to person, depending on factors such as one’s metabolic rate). Once the body exhausts its immediate fuel store, it turns to get energy from the body fat and stored proteins. But for the body to get to this state one needs to fast for longer periods of time. Since we do eat regularly, even though in prolonged intervals, it’s unlikely for extreme weight loss or loss of muscle mass to happen. So rest assured, it is safe for you to workout during the holy month.
Planning Your Work Out During Ramadan
Ramadan lasts for only 30 days a year. Since you dedicate a good amount of training before and after the festival, this period could be just about maintenance. Ramadan calls for less cardio training, high sets and low reps in weight training with a heart rate between 130 to 140 beats per minute. Do note that the heart rate is just a range and it will vary from person to person.
Given any day other than the month of Ramadan, you might generally train for 1 to 2 hours daily after consuming a lot of fluids and a small meal of Proteins, Carbs and healthy fat. During the month of Ramadan, the window for training after a meal is small. Either you can train after Iftar (post breaking fast at sunset) or early morning after Suhoor (pre-dawn).
With differences in weather conditions and zero liquid intake from dawn to dusk, you might compromise your health by pushing yourself too much. So it is advisable to not practice intense cardio workouts or heavyweight training exercises during this period.
Here are a few best options for working out during Ramadan:
Before Iftar (just before Sunset)
We suggest a low-intensity workout with lighter weights as well as lots of stretching during the cooler part of the day. Immediately after your workout, you can have a lot of fluids and benefit from exercising on an empty stomach. Exercising on an empty stomach is what’s known as fasted cardio. The theory is that your body first feeds on stored fat and carbohydrates for energy instead of the food you have recently eaten, leading to higher levels of fat loss.
While cardio can be difficult on a full stomach, around 1 hour after Iftar is a good time for resistance training. On the days you plan to exercise after eating, make sure you take in a little extra food to fuel your body and also drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
After Suhoor (Sunrise)
If you are a morning person, the best time for you to work out would be right after your morning food. This way you will still have enough energy from the previous nights’ meal and can try a slightly more intense workout. This method will also energise you for the day ahead. For example, you can work on strength training or cardio. Don’t forget to keep the heart rate close to 130- 140 BPM and nothing higher.
Planning Your Nutrition During Ramadan
The dietary requirements are different during different times of the day. But, what remains vital is to drink plenty of fluids and to consume fluid-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, yoghurt, and stews. It is extremely important to replace all the liquids lost during the day. This further helps in starting the next fast well hydrated. Keep in mind to check your salt intake as too much salt will stimulate thirst.
Here’s a gist of what you can eat at different times of the day:
At Suhoor (before sunrise)
Choose high-fibre or whole grain varieties wherever possible as these can help you feel fuller and also aid in digestion. Consume fluid-rich foods to make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day. Here are a few examples:
- Oats – A bowl of porridge will provide fluids as it contains milk or water and muesli. You can also try adding your protein supplement or coconut water instead of sticking to traditional milk or water combinations.
- Bread – Try eating whole-grain bread as it has a higher fibre content. It is advisable to avoid combining bread with salty foods like cheese or preserved meat during fasting, as they will make you feel more thirsty.
- Starchy foods like rice or couscous – You can get your hands on rice pudding with fruits or try couscous and other grains with dairy or fruit.
When breaking your fast, try to eat as many low-fat, fluid-rich and natural sugar containing foods as possible to aid with energy replenishment. Here are a few examples to help you out:
- Fruits – Fruits provide natural sugars for energy. Fluids from them contain some minerals and vitamins. Try mangoes, grapes and watermelons.
- Liquids – Incorporate a lot of fluids into your diet like fruit juices, smoothies, milk and water. Water provides hydration without any extra calories or added sugar while milk and fruit smoothies contain some natural sugars and nutrients. It is highly recommended to avoid taking any fluids with added sugar while breaking your fast as they contain high levels of sugar and calories. Try making your own smoothies with bananas, peaches or strawberries.
- Dates – They are a great way to break your fast as they provide natural sugar for energy. They are extremely rich in dietary fiber and further provide minerals like Potassium, Copper and Manganese which aids in digestion. You could also try other dry fruits like nuts, raisins or prunes which can provide fibre and other nutrients.
Trivia for you: It is said that consuming dates to break your fast is a tradition dated back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
After Breaking the Fast
Meals may vary between different cultures and traditions but try to make sure the foods you eat provide a balanced diet. For instance, instead of heavily consuming fried or oily food, you can try out a range of curries with vegetables, fish, meat and pulses served with rice, roti or chapati.
Do’s and Don’ts of Training & Eating During Ramadan
- Aim for strength maintenance.
- Consider the Ramadan month as a break month from the intense workouts. You can always increase your workout intensity after Ramadan.
- Try and keep your calorie intake somewhat consistent with the rest of the year.
- Stick to the program if it’s not working for you. You should base your workouts depending on how the fast is affecting your body.
- Skip eating at Suhoor especially if you plan to workout early in the morning or during the day.
- Make unrealistic goals – It’s OKAY to miss a workout and rest or spend time with family and friends.
While Ramadan is the month of celebration accompanied by self-discipline, it is important to not ignore your fitness journey. Doing light workouts and adding a fluid-rich diet to your list will help you maintain consistency and stay active. You can always use a trial and error method to understand your body better and schedule workouts accordingly.