As soon as the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar dawns, fasting begins for over a billion people around the globe. Obviously, fasting is not necessarily compatible with our lifestyle as strength athletes or bodybuilders, because a sufficient and regular supply of nutrients is essential for building muscle. In order for you to get through the fasting period in top shape, we would like to devote this article entirely to the challenges of Ramadan.
If you observe Ramadan, a lot changes for you, because from sunrise to sunset, food intake is forbidden according to the rules of the Koran. Incidentally, the same applies to sex, smoking and liquid intake. The only exception in this regard is for pregnant women and small children. This naturally brings some practical problems with itself, because at the time of the Ramadan of this year the sun goes in this country already at approx. 4:45 o'clock on and at approx. 21:40 o'clock under.
A chamfering period of approximately 17 hours faces only 7 hours, in which you may supply nutrients. The fasting phase of about 17 hours, however, also corresponds to the concept of popular interval fasting - the only difference is that you have to shift the 7 hours of food intake from daytime to nighttime.
Due to the long fasting phase, your body is already under a lot of physiological stress anyway, so you should avoid efforts like hard training throughout the day. In addition, despite the measures taken, which we will explain in the following, the nutrient supply is not the best, so your body sometimes has to access its fat and protein reserves.
Therefore, it makes little sense to continue the hard muscle-building program, as this would only further deplete your organism over the weeks. Nevertheless, you can also use the fasting period profitably: You can do a definition phase or a reduction diet. The bottom line is that you will have enough to do to maintain the muscle mass you have already built up during Ramadan.
The following nutrition and training tips in our Ramadan fitness plan are aimed precisely at this goal.
Nutrition after breaking the fast
As soon as the sun disappears behind the horizon, the first thing to do is to ensure that the organism is supplied with sufficient fluids. Only in this way can the metabolism get up to operating temperature, which is necessary for training and proper digestion in any case. Around one liter of water is recommended in this respect in the first hour after sunset. To additionally push the circulation, a cup of coffee, mocha or espresso with a little sugar is also worthwhile.
Since training is obviously not supposed to start at 2 a.m., but already at 10 or 11 p.m., only a small meal with 20 percent of the total daily calories should be eaten immediately after breaking the fast. To ensure that the body has enough energy during the workout, fast-digesting carbohydrates and lean protein sources are ideal. Of course, if you don't want to resort to a Whey shake with maltodextrin, you can also tuck into poultry and (in moderation) all the sweet treats that breaking the fast brings to the family circle.
Immediately after the workout, follow up with a big meal that comprises about 40 percent of your total daily calories. In principle, the same rules apply as outside Ramadan, so a good post-workout meal should always consist of high-quality protein sources, vegetables, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates from rice, pasta or potatoes. Sweets, however, are taboo after a workout to keep blood sugar levels stable through the night. Those who like can also rely on foods such as cottage cheese or low-fat quark, which have a high casein content and supply the body with proteins until the next morning, so that regeneration can be initiated efficiently.
Nutrition before sunrise
Breakfast is already the most important meal of the day for most exercisers anyway. During Ramadan, however, this rule should be taken especially seriously, because only those who eat enough breakfast will survive the next 17 hours without cravings. Early rising is announced, in order to take up in time before the sunrise again approximately 40 per cent of the daily necessary food quantity. Since the body has to make do with the available nutrients for a very long time, it is important to rely on foods that are digested slowly and keep you full for a long time. This is primarily important with regard to the protein supply, because if the amino acid pool is exhausted during the course of the day, the body will turn to muscle proteins. Slow-digesting proteins such as casein are therefore particularly important. Again, you can use the classic low-fat quark or a casein shake.
Saturation and stomach retention time can be additionally increased by an increased fat consumption. Use especially high-quality fats such as linseed oil or walnut oil. Alternatively, you can also prepare a few eggs, whose yolks contain valuable fats as well as other essential micronutrients such as vitamin D. Round off your breakfast with complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal or wholemeal bread, which also have a very long half-life. But before you start your day or go back to bed, remember again to drink enough to be ready for the day.
Workout according to the Ramadan fitness plan
As mentioned earlier, depriving yourself of food and fluids during the day can limit your performance, so avoid intense workout activities during the day. This applies to both strength training and cardio sessions, as both the lack of hydration and the usually warm outdoor temperatures mean that your organism is already in a rather dehydrated state anyway. In principle, however, you have two options as to how you can design your training. Either you train, as recommended by us following a snack after breaking fast, or you go to the gym shortly before breaking fast. In the latter case, however, there is a high chance that your performance will suffer extremely, as you are also not allowed to drink anything during the workout.
The amount of training is another crucial sticking point during Ramadan, because the more training days you have on your schedule, the more often you tend to have short nights with only around 4 hours of sleep ahead of you. Accordingly, a 3-, 4- or even 5-workout split is not exactly optimal for the month of fasting. However, since the primary goal is to maintain muscle, you can switch your training plan to a 2-unit split with four training days per week or to a full-body workout with only three sessions per week.
However, the reduced volume must be compensated by a certain intensity. You can achieve this intensity by focusing on complex basic exercises. You should also avoid the mistake of intentionally training too lightly, even if it is tempting. In this way, the load stimulus is unnecessarily reduced, which has a negative effect on muscle maintenance.
If you want to protect your muscles a little bit better from the arbitrary degradation caused by your stressed organism, you can additionally resort to BCAAs. It is best to take BCAAs in the form of powder, capsules or tablets both directly before training and immediately before sunrise. Five to six grams per serving is ideal for your purposes.
Also make sure that you take enough protein. Especially in this metabolically stressful phase, a lot actually helps a lot. Around 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and day should be enough to keep the amino acid pool sufficiently filled for the daily fasting phase.
Since you will often feel tired, not least due to the lack of food and the short nights, it is important that you take time out during the day. If possible, take a short nap after work or at least take a power nap during your lunch break, especially to recharge your batteries for training. In conclusion, we wish you a fair amount of mental strength, but we are sure that you will get through Ramadan in good shape with the help of our tips. To back up these statements, here are some more links to other articles and studies that have dealt with the topic of Ramadan and fitness.