Excercise and nutrition in Ramadan

How to keep your fitness regime going while fasting throughout Ramadan


Want to know how you can keep up your training regimen in a safe and healthy way while fasting throughout Ramadan? We asked personal trainers and nutritionists in the UAE for their advice.

Have a plan
‘If your goal is weight loss, having a plan devised by a professional for your regime throughout Ramadan is the best approach,’ says Blair Gunn, personal trainer at Warehouse Gym (www.whgym.com) in Al Barsha. ‘Break the fast with something fairly light and try not to binge eat. Have something upon waking before sunrise and prayer to fuel you throughout the day, for example, a protein shake with some fruit and oats. Aim to drink a minimum of four litres of water at this time. It may seem a lot for the morning, but it will help power you through.’

Choose your workout times carefully
Physique 57 owner and CEO, Maryam Fattahi Salaam (www.physique57.com), suggests scheduling a low-impact fitness session before iftar. ‘Our clients enjoyed taking a class just before or immediately after iftar last year. Working out prior to iftar takes your mind off that last hour on a long and hot day. Working out later after a light meal of a handful of dates and almonds and a tall glass of room temperature water can provide just the right amount of nutrients necessary for exercise.’

Gunn adds: ‘There’s nothing wrong with training before iftar, as long as you have planned your meals, had enough good food the previous evening and had a good meal before sunrise. Be aware that you won’t be able to train to the same intensity you normally would after iftar. Training in a depleted state can cause sugar crashes, so have isotonic drinks to hand for when you can have them.’

Reebok-sponsored trainer Linda Chambers-Cochrane (www.reebok.com) agrees that if you do work out before iftar, it’s best to take it easy. ‘Your blood sugar levels will be low and you may feel dizzy. Also, after fasting all day, your body will have depleted energy stores so you could be breaking down muscle instead of fat. Try walking or gentle yoga to stay on the safe side.’

Maintain weight training
If you’ve been building muscle, that doesn’t have to stop says Jonathan Mills, assistant club general manager at Fitness First, Dalma Mall, Abu Dhabi (www.fitnessfirstme.com). ‘Don’t worry you will not go catabolic and lose muscle mass. As long as the intensity of your session is reduced, you can continue to work out. I’d recommend a low-intensity regime before breaking fast – two to three sets of barbell squats, deadlifts, bent over rows and bench press, with four to five reps of each. Be sure to have three or four minutes rest in between sets so you can lift more efficiently with each set.’

Eat hydrating foods
‘When fasting, the body slowly dehydrates over the course of the day,’ says Maryam Fattahi Salaam. ‘Once the fast is broken and during non-fasting periods, eat foods that will replenish the body with water. Make fruit juices to give your body the additional water it needs.’

Load up on veggies
Anna Cortesi, personal dietitian and nutritionist (www.annacortesi.com), suggests that those who are fasting focus on eating greens during suhoor. ‘Vegetables are highly overlooked and underrated by bodybuilders. All too often, people who train focus solely on eating protein and carbs. This is a mistake, since the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables will help to keep muscles healthy, meaning you can have a higher quality work out. The extra fibre will help to stabilise your sugar cravings and sustain regular bowel movements. Vegetables can also add to the amount of liquids you should be consuming while training.’

Break bad habits
Carol Quelch, nutritionist at Bespoke Wellness at Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club (www.bespoke-wellness.com) advises steering clear of high sugar foods. ‘Choose whole grains and high fibre foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. They will satiate you for longer and give you more energy during the day to help control cravings. And go easy on dates. Maybe take a bite from one rather than consuming it all, since they are higher than glucose on the GI scale.’

Keep work outs varied
Omar Al Duri, nutrition specialist and co-founder of Platform 3 Fitness (www.p3dubai.com) advises fasting athletes to mix up their routine. ‘Just doing cardio doesn’t make sense, because the nervous system needs to be worked in a variety of ways. A combination of weight and circuit training would be more efficient. You won’t need to spend so much time worrying about burning off calories consumed the night before, as your basal metabolic rate will become active, resulting in the body burning calories 48 hours after exercise.’

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