Guide to staying fit during the holy month of Ramadan
Now that we are in the course of the holy month of Ramada, (April 12 – May 12) there are pertinent questions fitness enthusiasts have with regards to maintaining their workout regimes while fasting.
Staying fit during this time of prayer and fasting can seem tough, but you can still manage it by strategizing.
Although those observing the fast are not allowed to drink water or eat from sunrise to sundown, fitness experts suggest exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be worked out.
The Independent asked three practising Muslim personal trainers to share their advice for keeping fit over the next month…
1. Hydrate in the morning
Drinking as much water as possible between Iftar (your sunset meal) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) can help reduce your risk of dehydration during the day — especially if you’re planning to workout at some point, says personal trainer Sunny Salique.
“It’s the only water you’re able to have until sundown, which means you’re fasting for well over 12 hours.
“I usually have around four big glasses of water just before sunrise, to make sure I’m hydrated for the day ahead.”
2. Find your golden hour
If you’re fasting, make sure you find a workout time that best suits you, as this differs for each person.
If you join a 24-hour gym for the month of Ramadan, it gives you the flexibility to work out as per your convenience.
“I personally train in the evening, several hours after I’ve broken my fast, as it means I can drink water during my sessions and not worry about dehydration,” says Salique.
On the other hand, Souad Gharib, owner of a women-only personal training service, says getting her workouts done early in the day helps her feel energised during the challenging afternoon hours, when hunger and fatigue can typically set in.
“In the evenings during Ramadan, I’m completely zapped out. Exercising before I break my fast works for me, as I personally feel like I have a bit more energy if I do it first thing in the morning.”
3. Join a 24-hour gym
If you like to pump iron in the gym, there is no need to sacrifice your preferred exercise mode.
“Most gyms close at 10pm, but if you join a local 24-hour gym for the month of Ramadan, it gives you the flexibility to workout after you’ve broken your fast or between prayer,” says Salique.
“You could work out at home of course, but I like getting outside and being in a new surrounding.”
4. Try strength training
You may be a fan of HIIT workouts, but it’s advisable to switch to workouts that aren’t so intense — with lower reps and more rest time.
“I like to take my workouts quite slow during Ramadan, and I usually choose to do strength training,” says Gharib.
“That way I can continue with my leg days, upper body days and split days, but I’m not working out in a way where I’m sweating lots and feeling thirsty. It’s slow and controlled for me — it’s not about smashing my personal best.”
5. Eat a filling breakfast
“Eat a good breakfast (before sunrise) with complex carbohydrates,” advises Salique.
“For me that includes lots of oats and nuts with dates and bananas, as this will give you slow-release energy through the day and keep you fuller for longer.”
6. Make time for recovery
Rest between exercises is essential for your body repair and for you to reap the benefits of your workout.
But when you’re waking up early to pray, and going to bed late during Ramadan, it can be tricky to get the sleep you need.
“Naps are so important for recovery. I usually go back to sleep after morning prayer at 5am and have a little nap, then exercise at 9am,” says Gharib, while Salique says he takes a nap from 5pm until it’s time to break fast, to re-energise himself.
7. Exercise, even if it’s only for 10 minutes per day
If doing your usual 45-minute session seems too arduous, choose to exercise for a shorter time, but resist skipping physical activity altogether.
“Stretch, do yoga, go for a walk — whatever kind of movement you feel up to doing, just do it,” says body transformation coach Nazia Khatun, (@fitnessrebornuk1).
“It will help your mental wellbeing, as sitting down all day long — or sleeping — can make you feel even more fatigued and tired.”
Salique adds: “I don’t train for longer than an hour, which is less than usual for me, and I keep my workouts very easy to sustain during Ramadan.”
8. Eat the foods you enjoy without cutting out any food groups
“Ramadan is not the time to diet,” stresses Khatun.
“If you eat in moderation and factor in good portion sizes, you’ll find yourself feeling better for every day of Ramadan — which will elevate your energy levels throughout the fasting period.”