Common questions like “When should I work out?” and “What should I eat?” usually pop up during Ramadan. For most people, the answer is “never” and “a lot”, respectively. For the few who care, the resources to help answer these questions are scarce. On top of being a health issue, it is also a time management issue – for many, time will mostly be allocated to Iftars and Tarawih prayers at the mosque. How can one squeeze in a decent workout routine when Tarawih prayers are later in the evening, and Fajr prayer is earlier in the morning?
Let me start off by highlighting what fasting does to our bodies. Fasting is proven to be a very healthy habit. People from all around the world, not only Muslims, use fasting for various health reasons. Without getting into too much detail, it can help you lose weight if you are eating correctly because it does increase your metabolism which makes you burn more calories than usual.
Timing your workout during Ramadan depends on your lifestyle and schedules. And it really depends on one thing, what works best for you. It’s best to start off Ramadan with shorter workouts than usual and plan 3 workouts per week for the first 10 days, mainly because the body is still not ready for fasting and is still adjusting to the new regime. After the first 10 days, you can usually start splitting your training to include pre and after Iftar workouts throughout the week.
After a workout your body will need fast absorbing carbs (carbohydrates), as this type of food is used as energy during the workout. But it’s best to opt for high protein foods and slow absorbing carbs, followed by a quick snack (probably fruits that are high on water and electrolytes) for Iftar. For Sohour, have slow absorbing carbs like fava beans and oatmeal.
A key element to healthy fasting is to stay hydrated throughout the 8 or 9 hours you are allowed to have food and drinks. People tend to drink lots of water during Iftar and Sohour, but unless you are a camel, this will never benefit you. Instead, you should try to consume water regularly every 45 minutes throughout the non fasting period and definitely more during the workout.
Do’s and Don’ts of Ramadan Workouts
Going to the gym on an empty stomach, without any water and slightly sleep-deprived during the long summer days of May might seem a little loony. Yet all across the world, many Muslims choose to do this. It’s important to find out what works best for you. You may find that you perform better doing weight training on an empty stomach, or that you feel more energized doing cardio after a light Iftar meal.
Do keep workouts short, about 30 minutes to a maximum of 60 minutes.
Do light cardiovascular exercises – walking or cycling – to help burn calories and improve stamina, full body stretching to improve flexibility and detoxification, or mat exercises such as an abs workout and push-ups.
Do drink plenty of water between the hours of Iftar and Sohour. Drink water with sea salt or coconut water to increase the electrolytes in your body, which are essential for heart, nerve and muscle functions.
Do not do high intensity exercises like sprinting, stepper or heavy weightlifting (go for lighter than you would normally push) as it can cause joint or muscle injuries and also lead to complications such as low blood pressure, hypoglycemia and dizziness.
Do not continue training if you feel weak, dizzy or sick. Although you are training, lowering your usual exercise intensity is essential to staying fit and healthy.
Do not eat lots of fried and fatty foods as it will counteract the good work you do at the gym. Try to keep your hands off of those delicious Ramadan treats as well!