4 Tips to Maintain your Fitness Lifestyle during Ramadan
With the month of Ramadan fast approaching, many Muslims in the fitness community are unsure of how to maintain their fitness lifestyle! How am I going to find time to train? What should I eat? How do I avoid undoing the hard work I have put in the rest of the year?!
For the unaware, Ramadan is the Islamic month whereby Muslims across the world are (from dawn to dusk) obligated to abstain from a range of day-to-day worldly pleasures. Importantly for us fitness fanatics, this also includes any forms of food and drink! With Ramadan now falling during Summer, this can often mean going 16+ hours without food or drink – depending on where in the world you are of course! Uh-oh!
Fret not, I come bearing my top tips to help you get through Ramadan with minimal damage and more importantly still on track to reach your goals once the special month leaves us!
WARNING: maintaining a fitness lifestyle during Ramadan takes a whole new level of willpower. Let’s get to it…
Tip #1: AFTER FAST OPENS, KEEP YOUR FOOD HEALTHY + IN REASONABLE PORTIONS!
It may amaze you but people actually GAIN weight despite fasting all day! I’ll put my hands up to this one too; I’ve definitely done this in the past. Now, I know, this is more often than not a cultural consequence of lavish post sunset meals (or should I say banquets) laid out on the table for us. But, let’s try to AVOID THESE at all costs, despite how much our mothers and families insist! 😉
Not only does this overeating defeat the spiritual objective of fasting, but it’ll also hurt your goals. So try to stick to what you would (or should!) eat on a normal day – a good wholesome meal with protein, carbs and some healthy fats. This is just as important if you are the type of person who loses their appetite from one date after fasting. It’s imperative that you provide your body with the nutrition it needs, so get your meals in people!
Meal example: Try some grilled chicken, rice, avocado and plenty of water…Done! Water throughout the night is super important. Keep a bottle with you throughout the eating period.
Ramadan is a great opportunity to lose some excess fat, even if you are bulking. Just roll your calories back slightly and put yourself in a caloric deficit to shed off a few unwanted pounds!
Tip #2 FOCUS ON CONSOLIDATION AND MAINTENANCE
Guys and girls… Let’s get this straight! Apart from the odd superhuman amongst us, the majority of us will struggle to make any significant progress towards our goals during Ramadan. If you’re a runner or a powerlifter, it is unlikely you will get a Personal Best after fasting, right? Similarly, if you’re a body builder, it’s unlikely that you will gain 10lbs of muscle!
With that said, it’s important from the outset that you see this month as an opportunity to consolidate what you have achieved so far – maintain what you have got and keep yourself ticking over. Trying to make significant progress during this month could backfire with the level of stress you will be putting on your body.
Roll back the volume of your sessions. Instead of 1-1.5hr sessions, drop down to 45mins. Reduce your weights to 70% of what you would normally lift and cut down on the number of sets. This will keep you in good shape and stop you from losing all your gains, without putting crazy levels of stress on your body.
Tip #3 TRAIN JUST BEFORE OR RIGHT AFTER OPENING YOUR FAST
Over the years as an amateur boxer and general physique training, I have tried training at almost every available time slot during Ramadan. From my experiences, the best times to train are either immediately before you open your fast or straight after you do but before you eat your main meal. I prefer the latter!
If you train too early in the day, your body will be desperate for nutrition after the workout and you’ll be unable to feed it until the sun sets! If you train late at night, after you have eaten, you are likely to be bloated after stuffing yourself (!!!). On top of that the majority of you will likely have other obligations such as night prayers and of course sleep, so you can wake up and carry on with your daytime commitments…
So you could; train one hour before sunset, get home, open your fast and carry on with your evening commitments.
Or alternatively; open your fast at sunset, get some protein and carbs in your body, complete your prayer, and then hit the gym! It’s important that you get this ‘mini-meal’ right. For example you can take a protein shake or some tuna along with say some porridge as a carb source. Not too much, as you need to get to the gym afterwards but enough to wake up your body and give it some nutrition. Once you finish in the gym you can get a full on meal inside of you then continue with your night schedule!
Note: Eating some porridge whilst your siblings and parents are tucking into samosas may prove challenging… don’t say I didn’t warn you!
TIP #4 GET INTO A ROUTINE
This is a big one! Try to get into a routine as soon as Ramadan begins. Find what time works for you to get your training and eating done and stick to it. That along with your prayers and no doubt other commitments will leave your days packed, so without a routine something will give.
Get organized, get your food options planned and ordered before the month begins and get cracking.
For those that have made it this far, you’re going to do well! Here are some extra tips I have picked up along the way.
Avoid processed carbs! By these I mean, biscuits, crisps, doughnuts etc. These foods lead to cravings, which will make your fasts and your diet a lot harder! Stick to wholesome carb sources such as rice, potatoes and pasta. Don’t get me wrong – after a long day of fasting, you may want to treat yourself to something you enjoy. Go ahead… just don’t overdo it!
Minimise your sodium intake! Excess sodium makes you even more dehydrated! This is the last thing you need when fasting.
Right, that’s it from me. Hopefully the tips above should make maintaining your fitness lifestyle during Ramadan a bit more bearable! Of course, let’s not make our fitness lifestyles overpower the true meaning of this special month. Get your training in, eat the right amounts of food and then focus on what you need to do for this month. Don’t let it just pass…