Should you workout during Ramadan? What type of workouts should you focus on? Is it safe?
Whoever you ask will give a different opinion on how you should workout, and even if you should workout at all during Ramadan. Some believe this time should be dedicated solely to working on your inner self, others believe including exercise in your daily routine is a key addition to the process of resetting mentally, spiritually and physically. Though most people think they will lose muscle tone and overall fitness level during Ramadan, making a few simple changes can avoid this all together, allowing you to maintain or even improve your fitness over this period.
1. Fasting can improve muscle retention
During the month of Ramadan, you’ll be fasting anywhere between 12 to 14, and in some cases, even 16 hours. One of the key benefits of intermittent fasting besides fat loss and improved brain power is increased muscle tone and growth. Following a 14-16 hour fast, there are some pretty incredible things that happen to your body. Fasting jump starts your body’s natural clean up function, otherwise known as ‘autophagy’ which destroys the harmful, dead or old cells throughout the body including the brain, immune system, muscles, lungs and lymphatic system.
According to a number of studies, autophagy is a ‘required process’ of developing and maintaining muscle mass. A study from Italy in 2008 observed this process and found that subjects who were autophagy-deficit (or those who didn’t fast) lost “significant muscle mass” compared to those who did fast, over a certain period of time.
With this in mind, you should be incorporating weight training into your weekly workout schedule, but let’s be clear on the type of training…
2. Chose lower rep, higher-power, weight workouts
Because you’ll most likely be working out sometime during your fast, it might physically feel like you have less in your tank. But, with the benefits of fasting on muscle mass in mind, use this time to slow down your workouts, work on your form and up the weight!
Instead of completing high rep workouts that will get your heart rate speeding, cut your usual rep count in half and add 1/4 of your max weight to your set. Whether you’re pressing, lifting or squatting weight, power up your workouts and use the month of Ramadan to increase strength and smash your PBs!
3. Set realistic goals
Let’s be honest, if you’re not used to fasting and exercising, aiming for 6-7 workouts a week is just not going to work. You’ll be tired, and your body is working off a significantly less amount of protein, fat and carbs fueling your body.
How do you plan your workouts then?
Start slow – move your body every day with a leisurely walk, nothing too intense, and gauge your energy levels afterward. You’ll most likely find you have more energy after stretching your legs and getting your blood flowing.
Test your body – with as little judgment as possible, head to a gym session or weight training workout and LISTEN to your body. Your body is incredible the way it can find energy from fat stores, earlier on that day. With little comparison on your usual level of fitness, you’ll be able to workout easier and without dreading exercise.
After 3-4 days of, fasting you’ll have a good idea as to what your body can handle and THIS is the workout plan you should stick to for the rest of the month.
4. Explore the quieter side of exercise
If weight training is a little much for your body to handle, there is no better time to pick up a workout like yoga, pilates, barre or any other stretching-based, toning classes. GuavaPass offers hundreds of these class styles every week across your city, making it easy to pop into a class during lunch, early morning or just before dusk.
Yoga is one of the most frequently booked workouts during Ramadan being that members say it has the greatest positive impact on their energy, both physically and spiritually.
5. Be smart with your post workout meals
The meals you consume during your eating window is going to have to be nutrient, calorie, and protein-rich in order to sustain you for as long as possible, especially if you’re working out. Whether you’re from the Middle East, Malaysia, Australia, USA or other parts of the world, the suhoor (the pre-dawn breakfast meal) will look different to everyone. The size of your suhoor will also depend on how much you ate during the previous night’s iftar (the post-dusk dinner meal).
Nutritionists recommend filling up on meals full of protein, fats, and fiber, such as eggs, fava beans and smoothies, not to mention drinking lots of water. Have a look at some recipes for nutritious meals here:
If you’re working out after your meals make sure all that energy is going to good use. Directly after your meals, you should be pushing for a powerful class, aiming to build as much muscle as possible.