Doing exercise during Ramadan doesn’t have to be a total write off. In fact, with some advice from the experts, it’s still something you can do safely and sustainably over the thirty day period of reflection. The top line is not to push yourself. Your focus should be on three things: maintaining your fitness, creating a sustainable and safe exercise routine and concentrating on nutrient-dense and water-rich foods. We took advices from fitness experts on how to exercise safely during Ramadan and we’re sharing it with you so you can exercise the right way.
1. Find a time that works best for you
Exercising in a fasted state is not an easy feat, especially when you add in daily stressors and warmer weather. Finding the best time for you will be a major key to keeping your exercise routine safe and sustainable. Exercising just before iftar (breaking of the fast) or between iftar and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before the start of the next fast, are good times as you can eat and drink after you exercise and replenish and rehydrate your body. If those suggestions don’t work for you or your schedule, don’t worry. Experiment with exercising when you can, just don’t be afraid to try a slightly new routine.
2. Aim to maintain
Now is not the time to be trying to hit personal bests or 1 rep maxes. Instead, look to maintain what you’ve already achieved. Exercising whilst fasting can be a challenge and it’s important to do it safely. Most importantly, remember to be sensible and listen to your body. Aim to maintain your fitness levels rather than starting a new or intense exercise regime. This may mean you may have to adjust your usual regime to reduce the length and intensity of the exercise.
3. Double down on hydration between iftar and suhoor
Lack of water is something to be on the lookout for. It will make exercise feel more difficult and cause you to fatigue faster, as well. Fortunately, there are some tips to make the time you’re not drinking water a little easier. Keep yourself well hydrated between iftar and suhoor. Keep a water bottle with you and drink regularly throughout this time. This will ensure you are well hydrated before the start of the next fast. Another good point to note is that hydration doesn’t have to come only from the tap; eating fluid-rich fruits and vegetables when you break your fast will help to keep you replenished and hydrated, too. Some of the high-water content fruits and vegetables are watermelon, oranges, apples, blueberries, cucumber, tomatoes, and spinach.
4. Watch out for the warning signs of dehydration
If you’re doing everything to stay hydrated between suhoor and iftar but still experiencing any of the following symptoms, pull back on exercise and try to bring your heart rate down. Symptoms to look out for are dizziness, fatigue, light headedness, dark urine, feeling very thirsty, nausea, muscle cramps, and fast heart rate.
5. Don’t be afraid to scale back the intensity
It’s difficult to switch gears, especially if you’ve been getting after your workouts with progress on the mind. However, taking a few steps back might be the key to keeping your exercise sustainable during Ramadan. Moderate your intensity and volume by 30-40%. You can continue to train but you may want to focus on low-moderate training intensities and try to simply maintain your fitness levels. But, don’t worry you can still make progress. It might just be in the areas surrounding your fitness rather than the actual workouts themselves.
6. Focus on strength training
Ramadan might be the time to prioritise strength training over cardio workouts as it’ll help to slow down the process of muscle loss while fasting. It’s safe to strength train and it’s one of the safest training modalities during Ramadan. We would suggest doing it pre-Iftar but ultimately it’s a personal preference. If you train after Iftar keep your meal light and save your biggest meal for after your training session so you don’t feel uncomfortable when training.
7. Keep an eye on how much cardio you’re doing
The flipside of spending more time on strength training is pulling back on the amount and intensity of your cardio workouts. We wouldn’t suggest doing cardio that takes you over 60/65% of your maximum effort. It can be quite tough to do cardio as it increased thirst as your body is already in a state of dehydration. Always start and progress slowly if you’re trying things for the first time when fasted.
8. It’s fine to increase how many rest days you’re taking
Ramadan is not the time to push yourself to your limits physically. Taking more rest days into your routine is advisable. It is better to actually add one to two extra rest days. You could train one day and rest the next, alternating that throughout the week.
9. Go for high-fibre and protein-rich foods when you break your fast
Combining high-fibre starchy foods and quality sources of protein is the most important thing during Ramadan. High- fibre foods are digested slowly and release energy slowly. Some of the foods with the most bang-for-your-fibre-buck are bran, oats, cereals, whole wheat grains, seeds, brown rice, lentils, potatoes with the skin on, vegetables such as green beans, and almost all fruits, including dried fruits. Combine these foods with good sources of protein such as milk, yoghurt, beans, fish or meat. This combination will ensure a stable level of glucose in your blood so less likely to feel hungry the next day.
10. Skip excess salt, caffeine and foods that will make you thirstier
Some foods will naturally make you thirstier. It’s kind of their thing. Unfortunately, they’re some of the most delicious and widely eaten things in everyday life: salt and caffeine. It’s recommended steering clear of anything that’s going to affect how thirsty you are during your fast. Salt can have an immediate effect on thirst if eaten in excess. Eating salty foods, adding a lot of salt at the table or while cooking, can result in thirst and dehydration during the fast. We would encourage the use of herbs, spices, lemon and lime to add flavour to food, instead of salt. It’s best to avoid caffeinated drinks altogether in Ramadan, if possible. These drinks are diuretics, so will make the body lose water faster as well as interfere with nutrient absorption, particularly iron absorption, which should be avoided, particularly during Ramadan.