Ramadan regarded as one of the five pillars of islam is observed annually by all able bodied muslims worldwide. It is marked by a month long fast (29-30days depending on the sighting of the crescent moon).
NUTRITION DURING RAMADAN
Ramadan, contrary to what you think is an opportunity to improve your health from a nutrition perspective.
Fasting presents an opportunity for your body to break the constant and near-vicious cycle of transporting sugars to the liver and muscles each time we consume carbs. The cheer frequency of this process leads inadvertently to a cessation of the production of the vital hormone insulin or unresponsiveness of cells that are normally insulin receptive. In plain language, fasting reduces your chances of developing diabetes and may also reverse damage done to insulin producing pancreatic cells thereby restoring normal insulin producing functions¹.
Fasting has been shown to reduce body fat (good news if you have fat loss goals). In the fasted state, insulin is low (while glucagon and growth hormone, opposing hormones to insulin, are elevated). The body starts mobilizing stored body fat from your fat cells and burning this fat for energy (instead of glucose).
Fasting has also been shown to help lower blood pressure² (good news if you’re hypertensive).
In Ramadan, there are two meals consumed. Suhur is the pre-fast meal consumed before dawn. We recommend high fibre, complex carbs based meal and plenty of water for this meal. High fibre foods make you feel full for longer and complex-carbs (lower glycemic index) are usually slow digesting which means the hunger will not hit as quickly as it would if you were on a lower fiber/high GI food. This meal should make up 30 – 40% of your total calories for the day.
For me I paired mixed veggies, black eyed beans and grilled lamb for suhur. Awesome taste, very filling. You get the picture?
The second meal is the Iftar (or Fatoor), the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. It’s traditionally done with 3 dates. I’ve seen people eat crazy amounts of empty calories this period which is just counterproductive. Sweets, confectionaries and junk foods usually lack nutrient density (hence the name empty calories). They also have zero to very little fiber which means you’ll not feel full and you’ll be left craving for more. You know what happens when you eat more calorie dense foods than your body needs – the excesses will be converted and stored as fat.
We recommend you stick with largely unprocessed foods and complex carbs, sizeable amount of veggies and some protein. This should also be your largest (not the whole pot glutton!) meal for the day (40 – 50% of total calories for the day).
For me I did whole wheat fusilli, veggies and chicken.
RAMADAN WORKOUT GUIDE
What’s the best time to workout in Ramadan? Well, it depends on a variety of factors. Your energy levels, the type and intensity of your workout.
Working out before Iftar
I recommend you stick to loads you can already carry. No crazy super intense sprints or circuits (you might get dizzy or really thirsty). More like a maintenance workout. If you have to up your training notch then make sure its just before the end of fast so you’ll have a meal and lots of fluids just after training.
Working out after Iftar (Preferred)
Train as you would normally, progress your workout, go hard or go home. My only advice here is resting 1-2hrs after eating before hitting the gym (or throw up after 10 pull-ups)
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no better time to lose body fat and gain lean muscle than Ramadan. This is basically intermittent fasting built into a culture/religion. It should NOT be an excuse to be inactive and eat lots of sweets.
By the way, I’m not selling medicine I don’t consume. I’m doing the Ramadan fast even though I’m not Muslim. Just 3 days in, it feels good. I’ve used the same methods above for my workouts and meals. I’ve taken body measurements (weights, body fat percentage, Fat-free mass, fat mass). I’ll compare this data to my new measurements at the end of Ramadan and I’ll share the results with everyone.