I did this post after Ramadan last year, so thought I would repost it before fasting starts this year!
Q: Can I train during Ramadan?
A: Yes you can. Firstly I want to say that if you have any health problems, you should check with your doctor first. Everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for the other. These are guidelines that are general and fine to follow if you have no existing problems that need doctor’s clearance.
Exercising during Ramadan is actually good for you. Your body is storing food at hours that it isn’t used to, so you’re essentially storing the high calorie meals as fat. The best way to counteract this is to train, and use up that fat as energy. Weight loss is the simple equation of calories in versus calories out. So, the calories that you expend by training must equal the calories you consume by eating if you want to maintain your weight. If you want to lose weight then the calories you consume must be LESS than the calories you burn up during exercise. If you are not training during Ramadan, you are not using up those calories, therefore the calories you are eating are essentially not budging.
When you are fasting you will definitely be feeling tired and dehydrated. By fasting all day your muscle and liver glycogen reserves are reduced, causing you to experience low blood sugar. Whilst feeling this way I’m sure the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, but, it will actually help your energy levels as well. You really don’t need to keep your intensity level where it was before fasting, this month is very special and spiritual to you so make it more about reflecting and focusing on the health aspect of it. I would recommend it as a maintenance month and not a weight loss month.
I know many of the traditional foods to break fast are often calorie dense, pastries and sugary treats. These high calorie foods will be stored as fat due to the density of the calories. This is especially true when you aren’t exercising and working off the extra calories. Try enjoy these as treats once or twice a week instead of every night. You need a high intensity training session to work off such high density calories, and without the energy to exercise at such a high intensity you won’t be able to burn the calories off completely. So enjoy them, sparingly.
Here are my guidelines and tips:
- Exercise for maintenance, not weight loss
- Exercise at least 3 times a week 30-40 minutes
- Focus on weight training and body weight training instead of cardio
- Have longer rest between sets
- Do fewer sets per exercise
- Reduce your volume of exercise and intensity
- Strength training prevents muscle loss (so you keep that nice tone)
- Eat healthy, unprocessed foods
- Drink water when you break fast and keep drinking it to stay hydrated. The same in the morning
- Avoid junk food as much as possible and treat it as an actual treat
- Cardio will make you thirsty and even more dehydrated so stick to weight training rather
- Eat according to your appetite, don’t overeat. Remember it takes your body 30 minutes to realise how full it is. So eat until you are still comfortable then wait.
- Eat your protein and veg first so you don’t overload on pastries
- Dates are really high in sugar, so don’t overdo it every night
- Exercise 60-90 minutes before Iftar if you can, otherwise after you’ve had some dates is great too
- If you are working, speak to your boss about the possibility of working through your lunch break since you won’t be eating, and leaving work earlier. Then you could go straight to gym, get in your workout and straight home to break fast
- A lot of hunger is due to dehydration, so drink a glass of water first when breaking fast
- You can actually lose body fat during Ramadan if you watch your calories and exercise. You don’t need to go at your usual intensity but look at it as being healthy and happy
This is a special month but you also don’t want to undo all of your hard work over the year.
Enjoy your special time
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Sport Science (Bsc.)
Exercise Science (Hons.)