The holy month of Ramadan, a period of spirituality that tests one’s mental resolve.
I personally believe that it tests a person’s mental resolve as it is no easy task to fast for ~18 hours every day without even consuming water during the fasting period for a month straight.
In this article, I will discuss a few practical ways to maintain your fitness during this month. If you are someone who is going to observe a fast during this month, this is exactly what you need.
Even if you are not fasting, you can learn a thing or two by giving this a read.
Tip 1: Aim for maintenance
There are usually two kinds of people:
- Those who gain weight during Ramadan
- Those who lose weight during this time
Most of the time, people end up losing weight as the long fasts kill their appetite and they under eat.
The ones who gain weight are those who indulge in very high-calorie foods and let their training take a backseat.
It is a better idea to try to maintain your weight than actively lose or gain.
How many calories do you need for maintenance? Multiply your body weight in lbs. by 16 (for men) and by 14 (for women) and you will have your approximate maintenance calories.
For example, a male weighing 160 lbs. would need around 2560 kcals (160 x 16 = 2560) to maintain his weight.
Tip 2: Select foods based on your appetite
If you are someone who struggles to eat enough calories, aim for calorie dense foods.
Food options – Eggs, chicken, fatty cuts of meat, whey, rice, fruit, ice-cream, cake, whatever helps you get the calories in.
If you fall on the other side and are someone who feels very hungry, you should be aiming for low-calorie high volume food items first before you move to the naughty stuff.
Food options – Egg whites, lean cuts of meat, whey, fibrous veggies, fruits, etc.
Tip 3: Get your protein in
Aim to get anywhere between 0.7 to 0.8 g/lb (1.5 to 1.8 g/kg) protein of body weight. The same guy who weighs 160 lb. would need 110 to 130 grams of protein.
Protein options – Whey, Eggs, Chicken, Fish, Meat, etc.
If you struggle to eat a lot of food and rely heavily on whey protein to complete your protein intake, it is absolutely okay.
Tip 4: Do not aim for a caloric deficit
The reason I am yet again stressing on this point is that if you eat in a caloric deficit, your recovery would be compromised. You may feel worn out and lethargic throughout the day.
You might end up in a caloric deficit without intention, that is okay. But do not deliberately try to aim for it.
Tip 5: Stay hydrated
Dehydration can lead to decrease in strength, performance, and have counterproductive effects on your overall health.
Try drinking at least 2.5 – 3 litres of water during the eating window and spread it out evenly so that you do not flush it out completely.
Tip 6: Train during the eating window
Many people end up training at the end of the fasting window before eating a meal. Though it might be more logistical in some cases, I am not a fan of training when you have not consumed any food or fluids for the past 18 hours.
I often recommend my clients to train in the window between Iftar and Taraweeh. The workouts are usually very short during this month (intentionally) and you can wrap them up quickly before spending quality time with your friends and family.
If you decide to train during this time, have a light meal for Iftar. It is usually three dates and a protein shake with half a liter of water. During the training session, you can have some intra-workout carbs like Gatorade and then have a proper dinner after the training session.
In case you decide to train after Taraweeh, you can have a heavier meal for Iftar as you have a good window to digest that meal.
Tip 7: Full body splits
Your aim during this month should be to maintain strength and just do enough to maintain your muscle. For this very reason, I find full-body splits to be the best option.
Keep all your sets between 8-15 reps and lift no more than 70% of the weight you usually lift. Rest a minute between sets.
You can follow the above-given sample routine.
As you can see, train alternate days to ensure adequate recovery. This means no more than 3 sessions on a weekly basis.
Tip 8: Ditch the cardio
Unless you are training for an endurance event (which you should technically not be doing with 18-hour fasts), adding cardio to your routine can be a recipe for disaster.
It can leave you fatigued and also more hungry.
If you are someone who can absolutely not stay away from cardio, you could do some light walks and do low-intensity cardio. But do not go for high-intensity cardio.
Tip 9: Transitioning after Ramadan
After this month ends, you are in a really good position to make strength and performance gains.
Slowly push your calories a bit up and add more volume to your training. It is a period you might enjoy the most seeing dramatic improvements in your strength.
Tip 10: Focus on what is important
Do not be the one who wants to train 5-7x a week and overly obsess about training, dieting, occupied with thoughts about fat loss, muscle gain, etc. during this month.
Ramadan is a time to delve internally and find spirituality.
Spend time with your loved ones, enjoy the festive spirit and focus on the bigger picture.