Fitness & Nutrition During Ramadan

Written by Mustafa Gheith


Posted on May 22 2019

It’s that wonderful time of year. You’re starving and dehydrated but still want to catch a good lift or a good run before summer bod season pops up. You have questions, we have answers. Our special in-house fitness trainer and “expert” nutritionist and dietician has blessed us this holy month with some guidance. Welcome Raad! In between training professional athletes, measuring body fat composition, and enhancing olympic athletes ability to jump higher and ran faster, Raad spends his time answering all our annoying questions on the fastest way to lose weight and ignoring our requests for diet pills. Check out what he said when we asked him the most common questions during Ramadan.

Should I be working out during Ramadan?

Yes, fasting for a month does not necessarily mean you can’t keep your daily routine going, you just need to know where to adjust. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is an ideal time to alter your body composition, essentially perfect timing to lose fat (woohoo weight loss!).


When is the best time to work out? Sahoor/Iftar before/after?

Depends on your goals. There isn’t one answer that question. First off, we should not expect to set any personal records this month (You won’t be topping your bench press max or setting world records on box jumps). However, if you are looking to lose fat during this month, work out at any time of the day that you feel most energetic (and won’t pass out after at work). This can be early morning before sahoor, mid-day, it is all up to you. Now, if you’re looking to add muscle (get swole!), you want to work out as close to iftar as you can (ideally 1- 1.5 hours before). This is due to the need to replenish your calories within a 30-45 minute “window” post-workout for optimal gainz. 


What kind of workout is best?

The most important point here is that you do not overexert yourself. This does not mean you cannot push yourself a little bit to really benefit from a workout. With that being said, a hypertrophy based workout (body-building) is best in a fasted state. You want to keep the intensity low as your body is running on fat (high energy, low rate of usage) during this time and you may not be able to withstand high intensity workouts. With the lack of carbs in the body for quick energy, we should not be looking to set personal records on lifts or moving at high speeds. 


What length of time should I try keeping my workout limited to?

No more than an hour in length but this mainly depends on how you feel. If you plan on going long distance running don’t try and run to the other side of town chasing the earlier sunset time. Pace yourself, know your body.  


Should I be using pre-workout? 

Try and avoid pre-workout during Ramadan as the caffeine intake late at night can affect your sleep. A good amount of sleep can help one lose fat but an irregular sleeping pattern can cause loss of muscle mass. Truthfully, sleep is your best pre-workout. People can just as easily gain unhealthy weight just from the lack of sleep we get from trying to spend every waking minute eating. So no, don’t use pre-workout if you intend to get good results from your diet and routine.


Should I avoid certain activities during my workout?

You may look to avoid long distance cardio (i.e. running 5 miles) as this could lower your metabolic rate (i.e. slow metabolism) (amount of calories you burn in a day). This is due to an increase in metabolic efficiency, the body’s ability to carefully/steadily burn calories during the day, as long distance runners need a slow dose of energy for their runs. Sound confusing? For example, if you normally need 2000 calories in a day and eat 3000, you will be over your requirement by 1000, but if your metabolic rate is lowered to 1500 due to long distance running and you eat 3000 for the day, you will be 1500 calories over your requirement. The excess calories along with a limited exercise routine/active lifestyle will lead to increased fat. This may all sound like the science class you fell asleep in during high school, but essentially you don’t want to burn out with running and try to stuff yourself with carbs afterwards since your muscle mass is depleted and your need for calories as decreased. 


What should I eat for sahoor? 

High fat, moderate protein for satiety (that hunger, stomach rumbling feeling) and protein balance. The fat will be used by your body throughout the day for fuel at a slow pace. Avoid carbs for sahoor (put the bread down) but feel free to eat them for iftar. The carb intake will help control and prepare your body for sleep that night. This is caused by the small spike in energy the carbs give you but then followed by that “crash” we feel afterwards. Since we do not want to have that crashing feeling during the day it is best to start your day with fat and end it with a moderate amount of carbs.  


What’s a good way to pace yourself if you intend to keep your diet plan intact?

Focus on hydration first, with proper rehydration and a high in fat sahoor you can control satiety (feeling of hunger). Diet plans are a fad, they can come and go. Most recently, the popular plan is the ketogenic diet. If you are on the keto diet, the key will be to really focus on hydration and reaching your fat requirements for that day. 
If you are not on a particular diet plan, which is perfectly fine, the important thing is to reach your protein requirements for the day (1g of protein for every kg of body weight is minimum). For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68kg) you want to eat a minimum of 68g of protein per day (Porterhouse steak for 1, plate of chicken tenders, and a chocolate protein shake). If you workout that day, you will want to have more (about 1.2-1.5g per kg). Proper protein intake is important regardless of your diet!
If you’re a vegan, here’s a youtube video that may be able to help. Click here ...sorry we can’t help you any more there. 


Should I be avoiding certain food groups or particular sweets? 

We all want to gobble down the nearest tray of Knafeh or Katayef. There’s no harm in indulging a little but it really is all about balance. Don’t try to make up for lost time and cram all your sugar in one sitting. It is extremely important to maintain a balanced diet during ramadan with an emphasis on water and electrolytes (coffee doesn’t count as 80% water). 
We hope that this helped you gain a better understanding of how to maintain healthy habits during Ramadan. Enjoy your one way ticket to gainzville. Be sure to focus on your spiritual health as much as your fitness goals during this holy month. Spend as much time in the mosque as you do in the gym. Ramadan Mubarak!