By: Ahmad Abuleil
Every year, athletes experience the challenges of going to the gym and maintaining a proper diet during the month of Ramadan. If you are unfamiliar, the physical requirements during the month of Ramadan are no food or water during daylight hours resulting in loss of energy, dehydration, and lack of motivation. Sadly, we love to use these results as excuses along with our busy schedules to justify our month long absence from the gym. Subsequently, our family and friends have to listen to us complain about our muscles shrinking and how much we used to be able to lift pre-Ramadan. After seven years of training and fasting, I learned a lot of important habits that have helped me achieve peak performance results in and out of the gym.
Understand that your goal this month is not to grow, but rather to maintain. Overtraining this month can lead to injury due to lack of proper nutrients and dehydration. Try 45 min to one hour workouts, 3 to 4 times a week. Lift a little lighter than you normally would, but enough to be challenging.
If you’re lean, eliminate cardio during this time otherwise you risk burning muscle. If you’re interested in weight loss, light cardio is the way to go.
Should I train before or after breaking my fast?
Both work but it varies for every individual based on how you feel. If your energy level is good and you can handle working out fasted, then hit the gym an hour before iftar. If you prefer to have a little fuel in your system and the option to drink water during your workout, try breaking your fast with a few dates and then go to the gym. I recommend trying both and seeing which allows you to give the best performance. No matter when you decide to go, be sure you’re able to eat a post workout meal within 45 minutes to rebuild muscle tissues and improve recovery time.
During the first week of Ramadan, our bodies experience a shock due to the shift in our eating schedule. The first few days are crucial to rebuilding your new habits. Although it’s tempting to stuff our faces for iftar, picking up this bad habit early on can work against the results you see and will hinder your physical and mental performance. Even, the prophet advised us to fill our stomach with 1/3 of food, 1/3 of drink, and 1/3 of air. Overeating causes laziness, lack of concentration, digestion issues, fat gain, and many more negative repercussions. If you balance your portions right, you can eat three to four meals per night (including suhur), as opposed to two large meals. Be sure to select the right foods that align with your diet.
Supplements – Protein, casein, and weight gainers are a great way to take in a lot of calories. Casein is a slowly digesting protein that is best used at bedtime and at suhur. It produces a stable elevation of amino acids that lasts for up to seven hours.
Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
To my caffeine lovers, there is little mercy for us during this month. As much as I love coffee, this the one month where it will do more harm than good. Caffeine drinks dehydrate the body which is the complete opposite of how you want to feel during the day, and especially during your workout.
Late Taraweeh prayer and an early suhur make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Skip them… just kidding, time management is your new best friend this month if you want to be well rested. Your muscles grow and recover while you’re sleeping which is important to make sure you’re not sleep deprived. The minimal six hours should also help you stay focused throughout the day.
Training this month isn’t easy, so don’t beat yourself up if you lose some definition. Your well-being and spirituality are more important than looking super ripped. If you can just maintain your current level through the month, it’s honestly a great accomplishment. Don’t stress out about gains or weight loss because it’s just not fair to yourself. And don’t let bad habits and lack of motivation prevent you from training. Your life is shaped by your actions, and only your mind can take you or stop you from achieving your goals.
* Own picture added to article