Abstaining from food and water during the hot summer month of Ramadan might be challenging, however for most Muslims, the holy month presents an opportunity to increase the spiritual connection and physical well-being.
“The holy month of Ramadan is a perfect time to get strong – physically and mentally. By taking the focus away from food, you have room to focus on more enriching and important things in life. However, with the long hours of fasting, many question how to stay fit during Ramadan. While staying fit and healthy is no rocket-science, it gets easy if a set pattern is followed,” says Srividya Iyer, Specialist – Physiotherapy and Head of Burjeel Neuro Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Centre.
Structure your day
Meal: Wake up for Suhoor. If you know that breakfast is an important meal, so is Suhoor. The pre-dawn meal is mandatory—both religiously and for your diet—because it provides you with the fuel you need to stay energised and functional during the day. Eat a well-balanced meal which contains proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Water: Drink as much as water as you can during Suhoor to stay hydrated throughout the day. It is recommended to drink at least 500 ml of water to stay up and active. Electrolyte balance is important in order to avoid feelings of thirst. Before the Fajr prayer, have a banana or a few dates for their potassium content. Electrolyte drinks also serve well to stay fit.
Exercise: Although you should not be going to your regular spinning or kickboxing classes during Ramadan, you shouldn’t stop working out completely. To prevent a slump, do yoga early in the morning before your Suhoor meal. A modified yoga routine which consists of lots of breathing techniques and simple stretching exercises is the ideal way to start your day during Ramadan.
Rest: After the Fajr prayer, it is essential to get some rest such that the fast leaves you feeling good, strong and accomplished.
During the Day
Work: Staying busy is a key tool you can add in your daily routine during Ramadan. This will not only help reduce hungry cravings while fasting, but also take away the stress alert your body sends out and help you relax more.
Exercise: Create a schedule for each day, whether weights, yoga or a rest day. Keep exercise low impact and focused on strength to avoid becoming too thirsty.
Rest: Here you can do some stretching or mobility work. This will aid in your recovery from the long day of fasting and help you prepare for Iftar.
Meal: Break your fast with 1-3 dates and 500ml water. Settle down for a while and then have your meal. While it is good to be creative with your meal, ensure that it is healthy. Start with a soup and rely on wheat, lentils, steamed rice, grilled meat and green vegetables for an instant boost. Avoid getting caught up in all of the lavish hotel Iftars available at this special time.
Water: Drink around 1.5 litres of water between Iftar and going to bed. It is a good idea to drink water with sea salt or coconut water to increase the electrolytes in your body, which are essential for heart, nerve and muscle functions.
Exercise: The ideal time to train after fasting is approximately late in the evening, post Iftar. The most important thing is that you listen to your body and ensure that when you exercise it leaves you feeling good and not exhausted, hungry, thirsty and struggling. Do not indulge in high intensity training due to insufficient intake of food during the month.
A 15 to 20 minute walk is the best type of exercise during this month. It is best to focus on posture and simple warm-up moves. Also, do not exercise immediately after breaking fast/eating.
Always have a gap of min 2-3 hours because after we eat, blood circulation is diverted more towards the digestive organs so that maximum absorption of nutrients can take place. Therefore, there is less available circulation for exercising muscles. Additionally, always stay hydrated when exercising, so exercise during non- fasting times and take sips of water in rest periods in between workouts.
Rest: Recovery is important, hence go to bed early. Before you sleep, you can have a small snack – yoghurt with nuts or some fresh fruits to feel fit, healthy and strong.
“In Ramadan, the most important thing to do is to be able to plan your day and follow it with absolute dedication. As the saying goes, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’,” concludes Iyer.