Exercising in Ramadan
Every Ramadan, we will see a decrease in productivity and weather we like it or not, this unwanted culture has taken its roots and has effected many every since. As Muslims, we should not use Ramadan as an excuse for us to remain idle and rest (read lazy) through out the whole month. Instead we should strive to take advantage of this blessed month and achieve as much as possible, be it in the spiritual circle or even physical aspects of things.
One way to get me up and running at my optimum is by staying active and balancing between what needs to be done spiritually and also physically. I try to put as much effort on my worship and at the same time, i try to balance it out by becoming active with several exercise routines. Not only i feel energised, but i also feel much stronger in my focus at work.
Below is an article that i wrote in my previous blog many centuries ago (circa the year 02/06 i think) and every now and then, especially during Ramadan, it will be revisited for the knowledge that it offers. Not many people know that once upon a time, i had a professional Certification as a Physical Trainer and had obtained plenty of certification on Sports Science and also Nutrition, Alhamdulillah. How time flies.
Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib, is due. They eat before the sun comes up at a certain time and after a certain time during the night.
Its very obvious that the coming month (Ramadan) will create a buzz for those who would like to continue with their exercising routine. The common misconception is to cut back totally on our workout and resume only after Hari Raya (also Hari Raya Puasa, literally “Fasting Day of Celebration”, the Malay term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr).
However I would like to think of it differently. Please note that these steps that I’m going to suggest works well for me and it may not necessarily work as well for you. My best advice is to listen to your body.
For me, its not really a question of “Should I train?” or not but rather what kind of workout and at what time I should do it. It is as straightforward as that. Some would doubt if cardio workouts are advisable since the body lacks water (fasting can make us dehydrated, symptoms are like fatigue, dizziness & headache). I would think of it differently, since the absence of glycogen due to fasting, then the opportunity to burn some fat should not go to waste. The only thing that we should make sure is not to over strain and stop immediately if we feel light headed. If we time our workouts properly, i.e few hours prior to breaking fast, we will be able to refuel shortly thereafter. We should avoid high impact sports during the day as we are not in the condition to endure performance sports.
The other good time to workout is after breaking fast. However this is not applicable if you have just eaten a cow or something equivalent to it. Get the point? Be sure to consume small portions and stick to foods that are easily digested . Let me remind myself and all of you out there, that Mutton or Lamb are definitely not easy to digest. However, feel good to understand that digestion alone can consume up to 40% of our calorie output.
As for weight training, I would only do them after breaking fast. To draw rapid energy from what is already lacking will result in our body drawing energy from other muscle and if I were to do weights, I will make sure that I drown myself with a protein shake right after the workout. We should lose fat, not muscle instead. Some would disagree, but more protein can help to generate more muscle, and more muscle means more calories being used to maintain them, thus driving fat-loss into overdrive.
However if some of you decide not to train at all, you will definitely lose some size and strength just like the professional athletes who lose their stamina during an off season. The good thing is that we will regain it quickly if we work hard enough.
The key lesson here is simply to be smart. Listen to your body. If it tells you that it needs to rest, then do what is right and do it smart.
So, to summaries:
1. Decide on the type of exercise you’re going to perform – avoid high impact sports during the day
2. Exercise either few hours prior to breaking fast or after breaking your fast
3. Eat small portions, something light & easily digested if you plan to workout after breaking your fast
4. If you wish to weight train, it is better to do it after you break fast – don’t forget that post-workout protein shake!
5. Completely avoiding training during the fasting month will cause you to lose size, strength, and stamina.
6. Learn to listen to your body at all times – don’t exercise if your body is telling you not to!
I wish all Muslims a happy and productive fasting month! May you continue to be focused and never lose sight on your goals this 1 month.