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Maintaining Fitness During Ramadan
Your Guide to Staying Fit and Healthy During Ramadan
First, I want to state that I am not of the Islamic faith, but have worked with Islamic clients in the past. If anything here is inaccurate, please correct me in the comments below. I have done intensive research so this should not be an issue, but zero disrespect if I miss something.
Even if you don’t observe Ramadan, this post has practical application if you follow any type of fasting protocol.
Not many religious holidays are harder for the average gym bro than Ramadan. Not drinking water or eating from dusk to dawn poses a lot of issues for our fitness programming.
For a lot of people—especially us gym bros—they get worried about maintaining their muscle and strength in the gym during this month.
Fortunately, Ramadan can actually be a rather healthy period for us—especially beneficial if we want to lose weight. Simply maintaining our fitness is not all we can do either. We most definitely can still see and keep making progress by getting certain things right.
Let’s go over how we can set ourselves up for success during this sacred holiday, Inshallah.
1. HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION
You aren’t having any fluids all day, this runs the risk with the fact that muscle is comprised mostly of water.
We are in a dehydrated state which is going to make us prone to injury and greatly hurt gym performance.
After sunset, you’re going to want to pound water, at least 1 liter with electrolytes added to the water.
My suggestion would be:
1 Liter of water
10g Essential Amino Acids
1 Serving Electrolyte Blend
A lot of products actually make an amino acid + hydration formula and this would help greatly.
The logic behind this stack is very simple. You want to EAA’s because you’ve had no food/protein all day so you are in a muscle wasting or catabolic state. The EAA will put your body into an anabolic state and help spare muscle.
The glutamine is simply because it’s great for your gut and will help prepare you for digestion with the large amount of food you’re going to need to eat in a short time.
The electrolytes are going to replenish what you lose during the day—you need sodium, potassium, and magnesium if you’re going to have a safe and productive workout.
For electrolytes, something like Pedialyte, Liquid IV, or XTend or Amino Energy for EAA’s to knock out 2 birds with one stone.
Then as you can, continue to drink water, but beware not to drink too much before sleep because you will disrupt sleep to wake up and pee a lot, try to limit water 90 minutes before bed.
Since we are limited on time, we are going to want to focus on nutrient dense foods, ideally a light meal before the gym, and then the bulk of your calories after your workout.
Anecdotally some people sleep much better after eating a carb rich meal, so it’s fine to eat a heavy carb meal before bed. The idea that carbs before bed are stored as fat is a long debunked myth, don’t worry about this.
If we go off NYC/EST time we’ll assume you break fast around 7:30pm in the beginning of the month and closer to 8:00pm towards the end of Ramadan.
We will also assume you will try to be in bed by midnight or close to that, so we have 4 hours to get our meals in if we want to sleep proper.
For this I suggest 1 small meal for pre workout, carbs and EAA’s intra (during) workout, 1 large meal post workout, and slow digesting protein right before bed.
Not optimal or easy but absolutely will work.
Ideally, before the gym we want to get a light meal with higher carbs that is easily digesting and protein, limiting fat because it slows down digestion. Rice will work extremely well here, then whatever lean protein of your choice.
Shoot for at least 50g of carbs and 30-50g of protein.
During our workout we want to supplement with additional carbs, something that is rapidly digesting with a fast gastric emptying rate. Highly branched cyclic dextrin works well here.
We also want to consume additional Essential Amino Acids to further fuel our recovery and muscle growth during our workout. This will act very similar to how protein acts in the fact it will promote muscle growth. This is important because our feeding time is limited and we need all the protein/amino acids we can get.
25-50g of Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin
12-25g of Essential Amino Acids
After our workout, we want a very large meal. We want to get the bulk of our calories in this meal. We want over half our carbs and half our protein in this meal, we also want to include some healthy fats for hormone health.
The reality is this meal will likely need to be 1000-2000+ calories so it needs to be very nutrient dense. For this reason, things like olive oil, fatty cuts of meat, pasta, and other calorically dense/easily digestible food will be what we’re looking for.
Honestly, it might be hard to get all this food in “clean” so if you need to throw a little bit of some maybe not so healthy food in there, that’s fine. As long as our diet is at least 80% clean, that other 20% can be calorically dense “junk” if you will.
Right before bed, it’s a good idea to have some very slow digesting protein. Casein is a type of protein that is very slow digesting and will help us maintain an anabolic state longer + help recovery.
Things like cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of casein. Ideally, if you’re struggling with calories, whole fat is going to be your friend to help get more calories.
Mixing this meal with a fat source will also help slow digestion even more. Personally, I mix natural peanut butter with greek yogurt for my meal right before bed.
So the reality is our recovery capabilities will be lessened to an extent, so we should adjust our training accordingly.
I suggest running something like the 2-3 Day Full-Body Split. This will be time efficient and give us the minimum effective dose we need for growth and maintaining muscle.
By adjusting volume to our circumstances, we will be training intelligently which will yield us the best possible result.
At the end of the day, this is just a month and for you all that go hard consistently in the gym, if you’re on a more advanced program (like Push Pull Legs), then reducing volume for the month will likely give us the recovery we need and we can come back extremely fresh and push hard once Ramadan ends.
We want to keep our training session quicker since we likely are going to want to get to sleep at a decent hour.
For this reason, we could utilize a program like this, where our workouts will be around 30 minutes a piece and highly effective.
It’s extremely important we do not skip out on the gym during this time. We are already not eating as much, if we skip our lifts then we are giving our body more of a reason to lose muscle mass.
4. Daily Activity Levels
Since we are going to be without food and water all day, we want to keep activity lighter than usual. We do not want to be running around sweating and losing fluids.
We should still aim for getting enough steps and other activity, but should likely avoid doing anything too strenuous for prolonged periods of time.
At the same time, remaining active can help take our minds of the hunger and thirst.
My suggestion is to shoot for 7000 steps a day instead of my typical 10,000 steps a day suggestion.
You know your body better than I do, we want to walk the line of doing enough for health and not doing too much that we pay for it later in the day. We need to be cognizant of this.
Outside of what I’ve suggested with the other sections (aminos, glutamine, etc.) we want to ensure we are still meeting our other nutrient requirements during our feeding window.
We don’t need to go overkill, but there are some key considerations (will not list dosages, this is individual based on your needs):
Magnesium — This is one of the most important minerals we need in the body, and it will be depleted as we fast.
Zinc — This will also be depleted and this is crucial for hormones and immune health.
Fish Oil — We need at least 1 gram of EPA for brain health. The benefits of Omega-3’s are almost endless, so we want to ensure we’re okay there.
Multi-vitamin — Because our eating window is so small and we are depleted, a good multi-vitamin can ensure we are getting our micronutrient needs.
Greens Powder — This again will ensure we are getting the micronutrients we need and allow us the benefits from fruits and vegetables that might be hard to fit in with the large amount of food we need in a short period.
Protein Powder — This can help us reach our protein requirements in a fast and convenient way.
As you can see, nothing crazy, but these are going to be some supplements we want to consider given the circumstances of our fast.
Putting It All Together
Although you are not drinking water or eating from dusk to dawn, you can continue to maintain your fitness and can still see/keep making progress by getting certain things right during this time.
After sunset, pound the water! Drink at least 1 liter with electrolytes added to the water (10g EAAs, 10g Glutamine, 1 serving electrolyte blend). This will aid in muscle maintenance, gut health and replenish nutrients lost during the fast. Just remember to limit your water intake 90 minutes prior to bed.
Feeding time is limited to around 4 hours, so we have to be intuitive about this—focus on eating nutrient dense foods—a light meal before the gym and then the bulk of your calories after your workout. During your workout, supplementing with additional carbs can be beneficial (preferably 25-50g of Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin and 12-25g of Essential Amino Acids).
Before bed, be sure to eat something that is slow digesting - something like cottage cheese or greek yogurt with a fat source (peanut butter/almond butter). You want to get the most optimal sleep and something slow digesting will keep your heart rate down (digestion requires an immense amount of blood flow).
For training, it’s extremely important we do not skip out on the gym during this time. Keep your activity throughout the day light (7000 steps), so you can conserve energy for your lift in the evening. Whether you want to run something like the 2-3 day Full Body, Push Pull Legs, or the 30 Minute Workout, adjust volume to your circumstances. As long as we are training intelligently, we will be successful with our goals.
Though this is optional and just a suggestion, supplementing will enhance this fast for us—zinc, magnesium, fish oil, multi-vitamins, greens powder, and protein powder.
I hope this post serves as a good reference and helps you maintain your gains (and even make more) during this challenging holiday. Inshallah.
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.