It’s that time of the year again for us Muslims… Every year people are not sure how to go about their training and diet so I have decided I’d clear some things up!
This is your COMPLETE GUIDE TO HEALTH IN RAMADAN.
The beginning will be my experience, advice and facts while nearing the end will be the Islamic view. Nearing the end of the article I have included a few of the benefits of Fasting for those who are not sure.
Training in Ramadan:
So to all the big babies, yes you can fast and train; no you won’t die. I remember when I was in high school; Ramadan was during the longest and hottest days. I walked to school, participated in all the usual activities, walked back in the heat and did everything as per normal. It was tiring yes but not impossible. You may throw the whole, “I was young,” thing in my face, but that really did not make a difference. When I was in high school I suffered from severe anaemia and heart murmurs.
What I didn’t suffer from, however, was feel-sorry-for-myself syndrome.
According to Health24’s Fitness Expert, Habib Noorbhai (Biokineticist): “If you don’t train for the 30 days of Ramadan it is equal to not training for four months.”
There is no progressive training in Ramadan; your training is simply maintenance. You don’t increase weights, reps, times, sets etc… You just carry on with what you managed before.
In my opinion I would keep all HIIT for after Ramadan, so any strenuous cardio type training should be avoided. Low intensity cardio is absolutely fine, in fact it’s great!
From my experience the best times to train would be before sahur, after sahur, 2-3 hours before Iftar and 2 hours after Iftar (after mosque for the men).
There is no rule here, if you have the energy then go for it. Why I say 2-3 hours before Iftar is because it really depends how long you will take to train and also one will have to clean and maybe cook as well.
You can play with the times but at least an hour after eating. If you are worried about losing muscle then training should be done after Iftar!
- Not only is it perfectly safe to train during this holy month, but it’s actually important to otherwise you will lose strength and endurance and in fact make fasting harder.
- I have found training during Ramadan a blessing, all thanks to Allah that training keeps my mind off the hunger.
- Fasting in fact gives you energy. This is a well-known fact that all Muslims learn while growing up but forget when they are fully grown that If you do not have energy you may want to re-think your diet or you may have a condition making it harder for you.
- The conditions which can prohibit you from training in Ramadan are:
- Type 1 Diabetes (type 2 is allowed but very low intensity)
- People who have chronic illnesses who do not take their medication properly in Ramadan as anything can happen, if you have chronic pain or an injury (your body uses energy to repair thus saving energy were you can is imperative)
- Low blood pressure (if you don’t feel dizzy then carry on)
- People with high blood pressure can train but with very low intensity.
- If you train properly and eat enough calories you should be fine, you won’t come out of Ramadan mal-nutritioned or with a lack of muscle. I have been doing this for years… Trial and error.
- If you are training before Sahur or after Iftar then I recommend throwing a blend of amino acids into your water.
- What type of exercises should you do? You can train any which way you like, it can be light-moderate-heavy all up to you! Although you should avoid Plyometrics, speed, agility and endurance training.
- There is nothing to do at lunch now so best would be to get to go home earlier, if that is not possible then try and be productive with fellow Muslims during that time and get naps in when possible as this will conserve energy. Also stick to a certain sleeping pattern and day-to-day schedule.
Remember Allah created your muscles with a good memory, after Ramadan it will literally only be a matter of days till you are back to what you used to be (only if you trained during Ramadan).
Ramadan teaches discipline, why then stop training? Use this time to learn how to balance your life spiritually, health wise, work wise and family wise.
Our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was a very active man and loved to exercise. He (pbuh) especially loved archery and is reported to have said (in a hadith narrated from Hazrat Ibn Umar (R.A)) “Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding,” making it clear that he wanted us to be physically fit and pass this way of life down to our children.
Diet in Ramadan:
Best way to eat and stay hydrated during Ramadan:
- Start with your date and water then eat your protein first before anything else.
- Aim for 2g of protein per kg body weight.
- Try to eat 6-10 grams of carbs per kg body weight but don’t fuss over macros and things like that. Best would be to eat your protein and veg first if you can fit a lot in your tummy.
- Its Ramadan let’s keep it as simple as we can. Stick to drinking water; don’t down your water sip on water throughout the night while you can! Depending on how you feel and your bodyweight, have between 1-2litres of water between Iftar and sahur. If you’re going to drink tons of dairy you will just get bloated and sick and not want to have more water or what your body actually needs.
- Avoid all salty and fried foods. These dehydrate and make you sluggish.
- Avoid tea and coffee these dehydrate and drain your body of minerals, salts and fluids.
- Steam or grill or bake your food.
- Complex carbs are better, choose foods higher in fibre. This will help with bowel movements and keep you fuller. Whole wheat roti, brown rice, daal, beans, bran, low GI bread, fruits and vegetables etc…
- Lean meats, vegetables and carbs for fibre!
- If you are stupid and using This Holy month to lose weight, you are just going to end up tired and losing muscle. Do not starve yourself. Eat! Eat! Eat!
- Don’t forget your multi vitamin and omegas in the morning! Try not to overload on pills as this is just going to end in an epic fail! Protein shakes are great for sahur as they give you adequate nutrition, can be delicious and fill you up.
- Split your meals as you would during the day. Having small meals through the night.
- The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to eat with your right hand, eat ONLY what is close to you, do not over eat (he very much disliked this!), do not eat very hot food and always sit while eating and drinking. The Prophet (pbuh) used to sit and drink three sips of water taking a breathe in between each one. It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) used to breathe three times when drinking, and he would say: “It is more thirst-quenching, healthier and more wholesome.”
- The Sunnah is to eat with three fingers; eating with more than three fingers is a sign of greed and is bad manners. Don’t be greedy and stuff your face in other words!
- Do not get too comfortable while eating, keep a nice posture and remember that your next salaah is coming so don’t get too cosy. This also aids with digestion- a problem many have in Ramadan!
- Only eat a third of your stomach full, keep a third for water and a third for air. This is the Muslim way. “A man does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat enough to keep him alive. But if he must do that, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink and one-third for his air.”
Benefits of Fasting in Ramadan:
- Lowers blood sugar.
- No eating and drinking during the day gives your body the unusual chance to detoxify your digestive system throughout the month. When your body starts consuming its fat reserves to create energy, it will also burn away any dangerous toxins that might be existing in fat deposits
- You will experience restored insulin sensitivity and nutrient segregating.
- Dates are one of the healthiest fruits known to man: Tons of fibre improving digestion throughout Ramadan. High levels of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins. Provides energy.
- Cardiologists in the UAE found that people fasting in Ramadan experience a positive effect on their lipid profile, which means there is a reduction of cholesterol in the blood. Lower cholesterol enhances cardiovascular health- reducing the risk of heart disease, a heart attack/ a stroke.
- The decrease in food consumed in Ramadan causes your stomach to shrink over time, meaning you’ll need to eat less food to feel satisfied.
- Improved mental discipline.
A study done by scientists in the USA discovered that the mental focus attained during Ramadan increases the level of brain-derived neurotropic factor, which triggers brain cell production, thus improving brain function.
- Fasting during Ramadan causes a distinct reduction in the amount of the hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland, means that stress levels are significantly reduced both during and after Ramadan!
- Higher growth hormone production during the fasts! Awesome.
- By not eating throughout the day during Ramadan your metabolism becomes more efficient, meaning the amount of nutrients you absorb from food increases. This is due to the hormone adiponectin increasing. This is produced with a combination of fasting and eating late at night, and allows your muscles to absorb more nutrients. Eventually resulting in more health benefits as numerous parts have improved absorption and make use of the nutrients they need to function!
South African Personal Trainer and fitness model, Neelam Effendi.
- Read the full article HERE.