Ramadan and Fitness

For those who don’t know; Ramadan is a period for mental resolve and spiritual benefit.

The physical requirements of Ramadan are simple: No food or water during daylight hours. (Yes, no water too)

Benefits of fasting:

– Improved mental discipline.

– A chance to rekindle your spiritual connection, shut away the distractions and dive inwardly.

– A chance to allow training/diet to run in the background and to focus on higher priorities.

– The potential for restored insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning.

– Higher growth hormone output during the fasts.

I’m frequently asked why? “Why do you fast?”

My answer: I’m not the most religious, however I do hold strong values. One of them being fasting. I find it necessary to sacrifice the things I love and sometimes take for granted for the other 11 months of the year. It builds the strong discipline and character I have. The mental challenge that comes with not giving in to thirst, hunger or pleasures allows me to strengthen my willpower and discipline more and more every year. It’s truly a humbling experience.

“How many times a week do you train/recommend?”

What works for me may not work for you. I try to train 4-5x a week, however I’m an advanced athlete and fitness professional so my chances for injury are less. I would recommend others to hit the gym 2-3x performing low volume sets. This means keeping the intensity low, to prevent injury. Remember, your body has been dehydrated all day and it takes time to replenish even after you break fast. You don’t want to pull a muscle, so avoid going heavier or hitting sets till failure during this month. Not worth the injury.

“Do you workout while you’re fasting?”

Yes, sometimes. I’m very mindful of my body and the way it feels. If i’m feeling energized then I’ll work out while i’m fasting. If i’m feeling extremely sore then I’ll wait till after I break fast.

“Don’t you feel thirsty or tired during your workouts?”

Yes, but it’s not enough to stop me from working out. Regardless if I am working out or not, I’m going to feel thirsty. It comes and it goes just as the hunger does. It is what it is, I know that it will be harder to continue training during Ramadan but I do it anyway because I know it will make me more disciplined with remaining committed and consistent to my training. Look at it this way: If you can get yourself to continue training during Ramadan, NOTHING can stop you from working out the other 11 months of the year.

“What is your eating schedule like?”

I eat every 2 hours and supplement each meal with Super Digestive Enzymes to ensure proper breakdown of my food since I have such a short eating window.

My schedule:

8:20pm Protein and Carb

I break fast on dates and water first. I eat my carbs first because they’ll break down the quickest. No specific protein; chicken, red meat, turkey, anything will do for me. I’m also not picky about the meat being lean. I increase my fat intake drastically during Ramadan to increase satiety.

Tip for those looking to maintain their size or even gain weight: Red meat breaks down extremely slow, so it’ll stay in your system the longest, preventing muscle breakdown.

9pm: Coffee and Gym

-It’s normal to feel tired after breaking fast because your body goes in parasympathetic mode after eating; which basically means tuning your body down and preparing for food breakdown.

-If coffee doesn’t help, I recommend any pre-workout to get your energy level up

-I’m signed to 24 hour however I don’t always go to the gym. Sometimes i’ll go to my garage and bang out a 30 minute plyometric/HIIT circuit.

10:30 Eat again. Usually, a banana and shake to replenish quickly. Then, i’ll prepare a plate of brown rice (1-2 cups) and a source of meat.

12:30 Eat again. This time i’ll go for more fats such as eggs and red meat.

I’ll nap for about 1-2 hours

2:30/3am 5 eggs and brown rice

Then I’ll get ready and head to work by 5am.

This isn’t easy for the average person who wants to sleep at 11. I make the sacrifice to stay up eating and catch up on my sleep after I get out of work which is usually around 9/10am.

 

We all have different lifestyles and honestly the best advice I can give you is to know your body type.

If you know carbs will not help you maintain your muscle mass but only lead to fat gain in your mid-section then perhaps you should increase your fat intake and minimize your carb intake.

Ramadan isn’t the month to strive for new personal records or your ultimate goal. It’s the month where you do bare minimum just to keep you from breaking down muscle and getting too out of shape.

TIPS:

  1. Be wise with your calories. You know your stomach is going to shrink to the size of a peanut so don’t waste your appetite on desserts or junk. Make real food the priority.  
  2. Sugary drinks are the enemy. Their high calories will get you full quick, providing zero nutrient. You’ll want to completely cut out sodas and instead hydrate with water and use your calories on actual food.
  3. Get enough sleep.  Your body repairs and breaks down food best when you’re sleeping. Stay mindful, it’s easy to lose track of our sleep with the schedule change.
  4. Avoid dairy. Dairy takes a long time to break down and will also create discomfort from bloating. Use dairy free milk instead.

Healthy Fats:

Olive Oil, Avocado, Nuts, Salmon, Red Meat, Eggs,

Healthy Carbs:

Brown Rice, Oats, Bananas, Quinoa, Cous-Cous, Vegetables, Beans

Proteins:

Chicken, Tuna, Eggs, Meat, Fish, Liver

For those in need of training guidance and a workout program to follow, you can click here to sign up for online training.

I hope you found this helpful, comment below with any questions/concerns.

Ramadan Kareem!

~Heba

 

 

Heba Ali

Responses

  • Jarrah05 Jun 2017

    Salam ,
    Dear Haba
    Thank you for your awsom
    performance during Ramadan, i
    have question how to maintain
    muscle size during this month , and
    can I gain muscle in this month .

    • Heba Ali25 Jun 2017

      I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Next time, focus on keeping your calories high during the hours we can eat. I recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes because they help break down the food rather than just storing it as fat or leaving you constipated or feeling discomfort. It’s difficult during the summer, you have to stay persistent. I consume 2 protein shakes because it’s easier to digest than meat. I also stay away from bad calories like drinking soda which can make you full in the moment and waste your appetite. You really don’t need to workout, just maintain what you have for the 30 days so when you return you don’t feel extremely weak.

  • Wish16 Jun 2017

    Awesome advice! Thanks for
    sharing!