Whether you are fasting or not, the holy month of Ramadan provides an opportunity to embrace your training and maintain or improve your progress. It can also be used as a chance to spend more quality time with family and friends through exercise. With a small bit of planning and structure around your training and nutrition you can develop a routine that will work for you and ensure you stay on top of your fitness goals.
If You Are Fasting
Maintenance is key
Your normal training routine is not going to be as it was so my advice is to use the month of Ramadan to maintain your fitness. This doesn’t mean that you should take a step back and go through the motions each day. Instead, plan the month in advance and have some structure to your days and workouts. You shouldn’t be aiming to make personal bests, but instead you could work on some of your weaker areas, developing better form or even adding in some additional mobility work. The key here is to train your body enough so that it is primed and ready to go so that when Ramadan finishes you are ready to push hard again. Short structured workouts work best and you should not be spending longer than 45 minutes working out.
What types of exercise work best?
If you are a gym goer and like lifting weights, then my advice is to lift weights that won’t cause too much stress on the body as your body will not have the same energy that it is usually used to. Go for lighter weights that push your body to a 7 or 8 out of 10 in terms of exertion. If you enjoy your cardio, then I would advise sticking to low intensity exercises such as walking, cycling or jogging as these will not put as much stress on your body like higher intensity workouts.
Best times to train:
- 1 – 2 hours after breaking your fast (optimal)
You will have more energy to work out at this time as you will have eaten. My advice however is to have something light when breaking your fast so that you are not feeling sluggish.
- Early in the morning after first meal of day before sun rise.
Again, you will have more energy from the food you will have consumed. Aim to get your workout done before sunrise so that you can adequately hydrate and eat post workout.
- 1 hour or so before you break your fast.
You will probably find yourself lacking in energy for this workout so my advice here is to just focus on movement and lighter weights.
It can be very tempting to overeat when breaking your fast. Most Iftars are full of variety of mouth-watering and eye-catching foods. However, it is very important that you provide your body with the right nutrients and foods to keep your energy as high as possible while limiting your hunger while fasting. Although highly processed and sugary foods are very tempting, these are going to have a very negative impact not only on your waistline but also on your daily mood and energy. A total daily intake of calories is what determines fat gain and it doesn’t matter what time you have these calories. Be mindful that you can consume a full day’s worth of calories in one or two big food binges. Fatty and sugary foods have very little nutritional value and are not only really high in calories but also do not make you feel full for very long.
My advice is to aim for a wider range of smaller meals to keep your energy up and blood sugar levels stable. Slow digesting carbohydrates such as oats, whole wheat grains and healthy fats such as nuts, certain oils and avocados especially before your fast will provide you with much more energy throughout the day. Aim to consume lean proteins like chicken, fish, turkey and dairy as these will make you feel fuller for longer. Finally, ensure you are getting a lot of fiber in your diet so stock up on fruit and vegetables as again these will make you feel a lot fuller.
When breaking your fast, aim to eat something light especially if you plan on training shortly afterwards. If you have a large meal, you will feel much more sluggish and will lack the motivation to train.
What to eat before and after exercise:
If you are training after Iftar or before you start your fast, aim to eat a good complex carb source such as some oats, wholegrains or fruit as these will provide you with the energy you need to get a good workout in. Following your workout, you should aim to have a protein source which will help your body recover. Lean meats, eggs, Greek yogurt or even a protein shake all work really well.
The power of H2O
This is one of the most important aspects of your training during Ramadan and provides the biggest challenge for most. Ensuring you are well hydrated before you begin your fast is key. Aim to drink at least 2 liters of water or 10 cups between Iftar and Suhoor so that you are ensuring that you are replenishing the cells in your body.
Get the family involved
Ramadan is a time when families and loved ones come together. Why not incorporate some exercise into your evenings? Going for walks together or playing games are a great way to enjoy your family time but also make your exercise fun and enjoyable.
If You Are Not Fasting
More time to dedicate to your training
With work hours being reduced, Ramadan provides an opportunity for you to focus a bit more time on improving your fitness level. My advice is to set yourself a specific goal for the month. It might be to go for a walk every day, get to the gym 4 times instead of 3 or join a new fitness class. Having an extra hour or two in the morning and the evening provides a great opportunity to get out and about and remain active.
Some people may view the month of Ramadan as a chance to get an extra hour in bed. My advice is to keep your sleep pattern the same and use the extra hour or so each morning to getting your workout done. Not only will you be full of energy going to work each day but you will also have more time to yourself to spend with family and friends in the evening knowing that you have already smashed your workout. The holy month may actually develop a new habit of getting up earlier and working out.
It is important that you show respect to those who are fasting during the month of Ramadan. Be mindful of the rules of your gym and ask if you are unsure. Most gyms will have certain rules about drinking water in public and most will provide a small room where you can drink during your workout. If not, my advice is to drink your water somewhere out of sight away from the public eye such as the changing rooms. Furthermore, be mindful of playing loud music in public if you are working out outdoors. Plug your headphones in and you will be fine.
Join a new club or exercise with friends and family
As already mentioned, shorter working hours during Ramadan provides you with more time each day to spend with the people closest to you. Use this as an opportunity to make the whole family more active. Plan some outings, organise outdoor games or even go for more walks. There will be a lot of fitness classes around the city so why not join one and try something new!
Ramadan should be viewed as the month to enjoy and maintain your fitness. View it as a chance to do the workouts you like best and try to get your loved ones involved. Aim to keep your fitness levels up so that you are in prime condition and motivated to get back into your normal training routine once it has finished. With a little bit of planning and structure around your food and training, the month of Ramadan is a month you will look forward to in relation to your training and fitness.
Wishing everyone a blessed holy month.