As many of you will know, Ramadan has come around once again. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and followers of the religion are expected to observe fast during this month. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ‘ramida’ or ‘ar-ramada’ which means scorching heat or dryness. (Pretty fitting with last week’s weather I am sure you will agree).
Fasts last from dawn until sunset for 29-30 days and followers are expected during this time to refrain from consuming food, drinking water and having any form of sexual relations. According to Islam the rewards of fasting are many, but in this month they are believed to be multiplied.
…Thank you Wikipedia
Outside of the spiritual realm, fasting for health and weight management interests the masses, with nearly 14% of U.S. adults reporting the use of fasting to control body weight. I have used regular fasting protocols varying from 16 hours to 24 hours myself and with clients to great success.
With a growing number of Muslim clients training with Xcelerate Fitness Marlow for body composition at the moment I thought that I would share the advice that I have given them during this holy month. Ramadan should not be a barrier erected between you and your results this year:
1. Ramadan Should Not Be An Excuse Not To Exercise
Many of my Muslim clients began closing their shutters and nailing their ‘out of action’ signs to the walls long before the month of Ramadan had even started. Many had already written off the idea that any results could possibly be maintained or even gained through such a time of restriction.
This is where they were wrong. This was their OPPORTUNITY.
To me, Ramadan acts as an opportunity to push harder, dig deeper and see the strength that really lies deep inside. Let’s face it, not eating and drinking for long periods of time is hard for most people, hell all people!
True, the catabolic environment created by long periods of not eating and drinking may not be optimal for gains in lean muscle tissue, however a lot can be done to maintain the hard work you have put into gaining that lean tissue in previous months to prevent metabolic slow down and resulting fat gain.
Exercise during the month of Ramadan should not be too strenuous in nature and careful attention must be paid to how the individual is feeling.
My advice would be to try and get in and out the gym in less than 45 minutes. Continue with your same exercise regime as pre-ramadan with more of a focus on strength based exercise to encourage muscular maintenance. Remember increased lean tissue means faster fat loss.
The best times that I have found for my clients to train will be in the mornings when it is typically cooler and closer to the last time you ate or after your first meal after breaking your fast with fresh fuel in the tank.
Random Note – I have actually found that my clients partaking in any form of fasting protocols whether it simply be for body composition or religious purposes often train a lot harder with more intensity when in the fasted state. Don’t ask me why, it is just an observation.
2. Ramadan Should Not Be An Excuse To Fall Off The Nutritional Wagon
The truth of the matter in my eyes is that those temptations are always there. They always have been. You have said ‘no’ in the past to yourself as well as your family and friends, why not now?
I even had one client show me an amusing video advertisement encouraging people not to turn the breaking of the fast into a once a day ‘binge fest’. – The fact there was a professional advertisement made for people not to do this scared me a little…
Binge eating will not and has never led to optimal changes in body composition. Full Stop. Knowing the difference between a mouth and a vacuum cleaner is a key lesson when it comes to getting the figure you have only ever dreamt of and one which should not be forgotten during Ramadan.
The point that I have reminded my Muslim clients of is that they still have the same goals, dreams and aspirations for their body composition that they had a month ago. Nothing has changed. Their timescales are still in place, as are their desires to better themselves.
They have shown hard-core dedication before Ramadan, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone to avoid tricky dietary decisions, navigate menus and deal with family. There may now be a hurdle in their journey, but this is just one of many that have already been claimed and conquered. If the will is there, then nothing will stand in their way.
Just because a fast has been broken after a long hot day, does not mean that your evening menu should consist of a few Domino’s Pizzas and a few tubs of ice cream. This is binge eating at its finest. If you felt bad and low on energy before the close of the fast, why on earth would junk/processed food be your first source to turn to make you feel better? Remember it is these types of foods that made you feel sick and tired in the first place!
My advice for those still striving for optimal body composition would be to carefully break their fast whilst sticking to the general protocols of their normal nutrition plan.
A great idea would be to initially break the fast by utilising an easily digested form of protein and, depending upon body composition goals, some complex carbs and essential fats.
After that small meals spread throughout the eating window focussing on food quality over quantity whilst avoiding common allergens such as gluten, wheat and dairy would be your ticket to controlling blood sugar, insulin response, cortisol and any other factors that will negatively impact your waistline.
3. Don’t Forget The Water
2-3 litres is my recommendation for everyone on a daily basis. During the times when eating and drinking is allowed aim to shoot for this number. Remember a little sea salt sprinkled will help with absorption of the fluid, if you are finding you are spending you’re eating window nipping back and forth to the loo.
Remember that water is not just important for fat loss, but for our general bodily function and cognition. I guarantee you will feel better during tomorrow’s fast from this one tip alone!
4. Try not to expect the month of Ramadan to be a time for hitting PB’s
Focus on positivity throughout the month of Ramadan. Keep training, but perhaps give a little more focus on technique work or trying new forms of training that will come of benefit after the month is up
Ramadan for most will not be a time when you will hit your personal bests when it comes to lifting, but it does not mean that you cannot learn new exercises, practise new techniques and most of all have some fun to take your mind off the remaining hours of fasting.
Fancy a bit of yoga? Why not!
Learn how to clean a kettlebell properly? Great!
Nail the ‘first pull’ in your Olympic lifts – Brilliant
This is a positive use of time that will not only act as a mental form of stimulation, but save time and boost performance in your next phase.
5. Believe that through Ramadan you can make positive changes to your physique
BELIEVE that you can make positive steps towards the physique of your dreams even when the going gets tough. Although I do not follow Islam so forgive me if I am wrong, but surely the month of Ramadan is to test yourself and prove your belief in God. This is fantastic piece of positivity that requires dedication to the cause.
Why not go a step further though and test yourself and prove your belief in yourself as well?
Personal Trainer Marlow