Exercising during Ramadan
Fasting month is here and my Muslim friends and clients are fasting from dawn to sunset during which they abstain from food and fluid intake. There have been concerns about working out and exercising as one is unable to replenish lost energy or rehydrate. Furthermore, one is more likely to feel tired during this period not only due to fasting but as well as the change in the sleeping pattern due to waking up early for pre-dawn meals.
It is possible to train without causing strain to your health by just tweaking a bit on your regular workout and diet. Instead of high-intensity exercises, try medium-intensity exercises with intervals. Instead of sweetened drinks, try calorie-free drinks.
Here are some ways that can help your workout during fasting month:
Maximise Your Workout!
- Be Realistic
Listen to your body – if, when y0u’re working out, you feel light headed and very weak – please STOP. Safety comes first always. However, it is highly likely that you’ll be thirsty and hungry – so if you are slightly parched, do know that it is normal for someone who works out when he/she fasts.
- Adjust fitness goals
If you want to lose weight this fasting month, make your goal simply to maintain where you are. Do not do a high intensity workout as it will cause your body a high reduction in energy as well as immune system. I would suggest a low to medium intensity workout to prevent yourself from going backwards.
- Workout timing
Perhaps the best time to workout during this month is at night – where you can eat and drink as much as you can. With enough energy and hydration, you should be able to maintain your fitness training levels as per non Ramadan sessions. But for those who have other priorities in the evening (such as Terawih and such), you may want to workout just before Iftar – as this is the later part of the day and energy may be at it’s lowest (considering no food no water throughout the day), you’d need to have a stronger mental strength in pushing through the workout. For me personally, I like to workout in the afternoon where my energy levels are still high, yet the waiting time to buka is only about 4-5 hours away.
- Mental Strength
There’s many reasons that we can churn out for not exercising during this month – prayer obligation, too hungry, too thirsty, etc etc. You’d need to be strong mentally to workout during your fast. As for me, I wake up every morning promising myself that my exercise session that day is non-negotiable. That cancels out anything that would stand in my way to workout.
- Super Short Term Goals
I usually plan an hour before making my way to my workout. When I enter a gym or my workout area, the first thing I do is to ‘Login’ with my intentions verbally to myself- such as “Today’s session will be a 60 minutes of workout comprising of 45 secs per set alternate full body push pull exercises with a rest interval of 2 minutes max per set” – I use a watch / timer to keep me disciplined.
Just before each set, I tell myself that I’ll complete 10-12 reps or 2 minutes swing (KB) of that particular exercise.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is very powerful.
Side Track: I’ve been using NLP much more during this fasting month due to obvious reasons (yeap, need to be mentally stronger as compared to times that I can eat and drink). As a result, I find myself doing more repetitions, longer duration and heavier resistance during this month. All this without feeling too hungry and thirsty at the end of the session (yeap you can prorgramme that to a certain extend too). It’s really amazing how much the mind can do. Try it and let me know!
- Cardio and Resistance Training
Combine both cardio and resistance training in your workout. It has been proven effective in burning calories in a shorter amount of time. Do a circuit of 3 to 6 exercises in a quick succession without stopping. It allows you to build muscle and increase cardiovascular endurance all in one workout.
- Be Consistent
It might be hard at first but maintain a fitness level at a 80% consistency. Try interval training as it has been proven to have an intense effect on metabolism and calorie-burning. Studies show that stimulus for cardiovascular improvement occurs during the recovery intervals between work periods rather than during the periods of activity, as the heart rate decreases from an elevated value.
- Workout in an air conditioned room
If you have a choice, choose an aircon environment – that’ll help a lot! The humidity and heat here in Singapore is crazy!
- Drink Plenty of Water
This is always the basic rule. You tend to get more dehydrated during fasting month and your main metabolic fuel source for bodily functions is none other than your fats. Researchers have came to a conclusion that there are no side effects on health that have been directly attributed on negative water balance at the levels that may be produced during fasting month. A study published inEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows cardiovascular benefits of fasting during Ramadan.
- Eat Right
Metabolism slows down due to less food intake. Make sure that the energy that comes out is more than the energy in. Energy out means the calories you expend each day whereas energy in is the amount of food you consume each day.
Eat moderate to small meals even after breaking fast. This means taking 6-11 servings of carbohydrates, about 2-3 servings of proteins and 3-5 servings of vegetables. Many are pulled into the myth that fasting would mean losing weight more but no studies have proven that theory to be true.
For those who are afraid of losing their hard earned muscles and body mass, try eating 4-5 meals after breaking fast and before your pre-dawn meal. For example, breaking fast at 7.18pm, have carbohydrates or proteins at 9.30pm and finally supper at 11.30pm.
With these tools, I hope you will take it into your consideration while planning your fitness goals for this month of Ramadan. If you’d like to join a ‘support group’ for your workouts – do check out our group workout sessions at http://fitnessbootcamp.sg For personal one on one training, we’re here
Happy fasting! (:
Yours in moderate thirst,