One of the five pillars of Islam is siyam (otherwise known as fasting) during the Holy month of Ramadan. During this month, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from before dawn until after dusk. Each year, the time period of Ramadan changes. The duration of the fasting period is dependant on the timings of the sunset and the sunrise. This ultimately affects the overall duration of the fasting period.
In many Muslim countries, it’s normal for training and competition to take place during this Holy month. Many athletes (competitive or recreational) will continue training and participating in sporting events. However, the problem is many individuals, (including competitive and recreational athletes, coaches and weekend warriors) do not know of proper Ramadan practices. As a result, this may lead to a decrease in both mental and physical performance. Due to a change in schedules and fasting, your eating habits and training schedule may change during the month of Ramadan. Your overall daily calorie intake and the amount of nutrients you consume may be different than what you are normally used to. For these reasons, it’s important to know the 3 different training times and the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can know what to expect and how to structure your training!
1) Sunrise Training
- You may benefit from the food and fluids you consumed during suhoor (the last meal before beginning the fast).
- Having eaten two meals prior to this session, you will experience highest levels of hydration and muscle-glycogen concentration (carbohydrates stored in the muscle), which will prepare you well for training.
- You will go through many hours before being able to refuel and rehydrate, missing out on the post-training window for recovery.
- Sessions done this early in the morning may be tough on the body, so this may impact how hard you work later in the day
- The thought of going 6-8 hours post-training with no food or fluid may cause you to conserve your energy during this training session, decreasing your work effort and intensity.
Recommendations for sunrise training:
- Ensure adequate energy by eating a high-carbohydrate suhoor meal pre-training.
- For muscle maintenance and recovery, make sure to include a protein-rich food source at suhoor.
- Drink lots of fluids (i.e. water, laban, milk, juice, etc..)
2) Pre-iftar Training
- Training in a fasted-state may help the body to adapt to oxidizing (burning) fat for fuel.
- Iftar is a good opportunity to refuel, rehydrate and recover immediately after training.
- Since you know you will be eating soon after the session, this may give you a ‘psychological boost’ to exert greater force and intensity during training.
- Exercising later in day corresponds to studies showing peak athletic performance at this time of day (5-7PM).
- Since this training session will be done in a fasted-state, the body may not have the fuel needed to perform optimally, both mentally and physically.
- Going through many hours of fasting puts the body in a dehydrated state. This can leave you feeling fatigued, dizzy and result to muscle cramps.
- Not napping throughout the day, on top of fasting, may lead to a further reduction in performance.
Recommendations for pre-iftar training:
- Train no more than 1 hour pre-iftar.
- Consume a high protein and carbohydrate meal at iftar, and drink lots of water.
- You may have a protein shake to break your fast. To ensure enough protein for muscle growth, strength and recovery; have your main meal afterwards.
3) Post-iftar Training
Ideally, this is the best time to train. It allows you to consume foods and fluids before, during, and after the training session. This helps maximize performance and recovery.
- Training 2-3 hours after iftar is supported by foods and fluids you have just consumed. This provides the body with a good opportunity to fuel and hydrate for the training session.
- An early evening training session like this one is still close to the time of peak athletic performance experienced by individuals.
- Family and social events to attend after iftar may get in the way of your training.
- Feeling of laziness and fatigue may occur post-iftar, potentially leading you to skip training.
- Gastrointestinal issues may arise after iftar if the training session is scheduled too close to the meal.
- Training late in the evening, especially if intense, may interfere with your sleep schedule.
Recommendations for post-iftar training:
- Keep the pre-training meal low in fat, moderate in protein and high in carbohydrates.
- Consume a protein-rich snack or beverage (i.e. protein shake or low-fat chocolate milk) post-training to enhance muscle recovery, growth and strength.
- Eat carbohydrates post-training to refuel the body and ensure enough energy for the next day’s fast and training session.
- Stay hydrated pre, during and post-training.