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15 March 2022
The reluctance to work out during Ramadan is understandable as you’re running on very little energy from a 14-hour long abstinence of food and water. It’s only natural that you would want to take things slow and easy. However, I believe that fasting should not be an excuse for us not to look after our health and well-being.
As a fitness advocate and instructor, I’ve often been asked whether it is possible to work out while fasting. My answer is simple – if there’s a will, there’s a way! Whether or not to exercise during Ramadan really depends on your health condition and fitness level.
But it is important to remember that carrying out any physical activities while you are fasting merits a different strategy and pace compared to normal days.
Interestingly, there are benefits to working out while fasting – one of it is the ability to eliminate defective proteins. A study from the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School (HMS) shows that intense exercise, fasting, and an array of hormones help our bodies get rid of defective, toxic and unneeded proteins. In the long run, it helps delay the development of motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s.
Another study known as “Effects of Prior Fasting on Fat Oxidation during Resistance Exercise” from the International Journal of Exercise Science, demonstrates that a sessionof aerobic exercise performed when fasting reduces the body’s reliance on carbohydrates as fuel and hence burn around 20-30 percent more fat!
So, if you want to shed that few pounds in time for Raya, you definitely need to consider weaving in some workouts into your daily routine during Ramadan.
To prepare for your daily exercise regime, here are some tips on your food intake.
SAHUR (meal consumed early in the morning before fasting)
The most ideal food to consume in the morning will be complex carbs like basmati/brown rice, sweet potatoes and whole meal bread. This is to ensure you’ll have long-lasting energy for the day! This would also provide constant energy throughout your workout session.
IFTAR (meal to break fast)
To replenish your energy after a good workout session, consider simple carbs instead like eggs and white meat. These can be broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. Simple carbs can also be found in processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks. Personally, I feel it’s perfectly fine to have some leniency in your sugar intake because after all, our glucose levels will be lower than usual after a day of fasting. Just don’t go overboard with it; always practice moderation!
So when is the best time to work out during Ramadan? For me, there are no hard and fast rules, just what works best for you. You may exercise during fasting or even after iftar, whichever fits your lifestyle.
If you’re interested to work out before iftar, make a few adjustments to the intensity of your training and cut down your workout time. I would suggest training 1-2 hours before breaking fast for a faster post-workout recovery.
Keep training duration between 30-45 minutes and not more than an hour. Focus on pure strength gains and decrease the number of sets. Emphasis on the intensity of each sets, rather than volume because high volumes require more food, water and longer rest time for recovery. Personally, I like to focus on movements involving three muscle compounds. Here are two of my favourites:
Stand with feet wider than your hips. Lower your hips backwards and hold yourself in a squatting position while maintaining your chest and shoulders upright. Strive to reach a parallel level and straighten your legs to return to a standing-upright position.
Get down on all fours and place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Straighten your arms and legs (option knees down as shown in the photo), lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause and push yourself up.
There is also a plus point if you choose to exercise after iftar too - we’re able to drink water throughout the session. Even though your body has fueled up with food, that doesn’t mean we can do vigorous training. I always make sure to ease the pace to suit my energy level. Here are my recommendations you can try at home:
Keep your upper body straight, shoulders back and relaxed. Always engage your core. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips and knees bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure front knee is directly above your ankle, keep the weight in your heels as you push back to starting position.
Position your elbow directly beneath your shoulders. Maintain a straight body line from head to heels and make sure to squeeze your glutes and the front of your thighs. Brace your abs and hold your position for as long as you can. For a more simplified version, drop your knees down to the floor.
After a good workout session, doing post workout is equally important as the main workout. Always remember to do cool down exercises and stretches to relieve tension from your muscles and prevent feeling lightheaded and dizzy especially if you’re fasting. Personally, yoga movements are my go-to cool down exercises.
Don’t forget to take a shower! Our temperature rises when we work out and a cool shower lowers our body temperature, increases the healing process and decreases muscle inflammation after a workout. Reducing inflammation lowers your chances of soreness the next day!
In a nutshell, it’s all up to you to decide what’s best for you. Working out during Ramadan has its own set of benefits and though it may seem daunting, I strongly recommend everyone to give a try. Try not to quite your exercise routine during Ramadan.
It works for me because I am more energised, I can sleep better and feel happier (and less hangry).
I hope that with these tips and advice, you will be able to continue leading a healthier and better life. Salam Ramadan!
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.
Ain Ramli is a fitness advocate-instructor. Thanks to the years in the fitness industry - from rowing sports to individual training, she is passionate in educating people how to live a fitter and healthier life, using her own quirky ways, on her Instagram @ainramli.
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