With Ramadan 2022 set to begin on or around April 2, Muslims in Birmingham, across the UK, and around the world will soon begin a month of fasting, self-improvement, charity, and prayer. But of course all that fasting is going to have an effect on the body’s energy levels and may impact your daily exercise routines, especially if you regularly visit the gym or go running.
And while the ninth month of the Islamic calendar means more of a focus on the spiritual aspect, this can also mean looking at your life to create good mental and physical habits that make you a better person in mind and body, including fitness goals. But those following the month of fasting need to recognise that routines change during this period and going without food and drink most of the day can make working out more challenging, whether that’s cardio like running and cycling, or lifting weights to build muscle.
To help you achieve your goals during Ramadan, Mohsin Hussain, assistant gym manager at PureGym Birmingham, has put together some top tips to guide you through the month. He advises people to go easy on themselves in the first few days of fasting as they adjust to the new daily routine and then try to find a form of exercise that works best for them.
READ MORE: Ramadan countdown 2022 – see how long until fasting starts this year
For those looking to lose weight
Smoothies and protein shakes are a great way to get vitamins and macronutrients if you find yourself struggling to eat enough whole foods.
Many families celebrate Ramadan by eating tasty, but high-caloric fried foods. Enjoy these in moderation, and then consume protein and calorie-dense foods, fruit, and vegetables to ensure you’re getting a good balance of macro and micronutrients.
Aim to keep up your exercise routine, but bear in mind you will need to reduce the intensity of your workouts while fasting. If you find keeping up your training is too difficult, focus on walks or gentle exercises like yoga.
Resistance training can help to prevent muscle loss when in a calorie deficit.
Get enough sleep. Not sleeping enough can impact hunger hormones, which makes it harder to resist large volumes of high-calorie foods during your eating window.
For those looking to build muscle
Make sure you are eating enough protein and enough calories. Protein shakes with fruit and nut butters are a great way to get calories in if you struggle to eat enough during your eating window.
Continue to weight train, but lower the weight and increase the reps. This will help to preserve your muscle while avoiding too much stress on the body.
Focus more on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, than isolation exercises. Compound exercises train more muscles per exercise, so it’s easier to work out more of your body in less exercise.
Full-body workouts can also help you to hit all the muscle groups while spending less time in the gym. This is great if you’re finding keeping up activity levels challenging during Ramadan.
Focus on building mind-muscle connection and perfecting your form, rather than lifting as heavy as you can.
When should I work out during Ramadan?
During the first few days of Ramadan, your body will be adjusting to fasting. Where possible, pause or step back your workouts during this time to allow your body to adapt to this new routine.
Physiologically speaking, the best time to train would be during your eating window between sunset and sunrise. This is when your body will be refuelled from iftar (the evening meal after fasting ends), and you’ll be able to drink water, as well as refuel after. So a late-night gym session would work well.
But Mohsin cautioned: “However, it may not always be possible to train during this time; this is when your body would usually be asleep so it can be difficult to summon the energy to train, especially as the Taraweeh prayer requires a lot of energy.
“Training an hour or so before iftar is also a good option, as it means you can drink water and eat once you’ve finished working out. You’ll be hungry and dehydrated at this point, so step back the intensity – now is not the time for high-intensity cardio sessions or trying to get a personal best.”
Mohsin concluded: “Islam teaches us it is an act of worship to look after our bodies. During Ramadan, how we look after our bodies can be different to the rest of the year.
“There is a greater need for rest during the fasting month, and a lesser ability to focus on volume or intensity with our training. Use this time to listen to and become more in tune with your body, and take care of your mind – this will benefit you all year round.”
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Follow all our Ramadan coverage here and check what’s happening in Birmingham’s Muslim communities