Training and Dieting for Ramadhan
This post goes out to especially all my Muslim friends, gym-goers, Instagram followers, fitness enthusiasts who will be fasting in this holy month of Ramadhan. If you’ve been searching online for information about training during Ramadhan, search no more. P.S: After reading this long article, if you think it benefits the people around you, please share it with them.
This article is not supported by any research but years of experimentation and documentation. Hence, you can choose to disagree with me and do it your own way.
As an ectomorph, this plan works for me but it might not work for you.
Does This Article Apply To Females Training During Ramadhan?
This article is mainly for males who train during Ramadhan. However, for females, the game plan is almost the same in this article. I am not sexist but I don’t have the experience to write something which involves females in this situation. I am male but my wife has been following my plan. So if you’re a lady and have any questions, please feel free to private message me. My wife will reply you accordingly.
Is It Possible To Retain Muscle Mass During Ramadhan?
You can only retain muscle mass up to a certain extent. Overall, you will still lose some muscle mass no matter what you do. Why is this so? First, let’s talk about total calorie intake. Your total calorie intake is being cut tremendously when you’re fasting close to 15hrs with no food and water. About 2-3 meals are reduced. Common sense isn’t it? Secondly, when we break fast, most of the time around 5-6pm, we have built-up cravings and end up eating for desire and not for function. So we’re likely to consume less protein and instead, more carbs and unwanted fats. I still emphasize high protein intake during this month because we are still training and muscles need protein to repair (more on the training part after this). Hence, you have to stay on track to keep your protein intake high.
Is There Any Other Way To Minimize Muscle Loss During Ramadhan?
There is only one way; which is to reverse the whole lifestyle - meaning turning day into night and night into day. This means that you will eat throughout the night and train at night while you sleep in the day. As we all know, this is Singapore. Most of us work from 8-5pm so that may not be feasible. In my opinion, loss of muscle mass will still occur due to a high level of cortisol when staying up at night and the inability to stay focus if your body is used to sleeping at night and waking up in the morning.
How Then To Minimise Loss Of Muscle Mass?
As I have mentioned above, we cannot prevent loss of muscle mass but we can minimise it in 2 ways - diet and training. Let us talk about diet. First, you have to sit down and write down what you have been eating, eg. how many grams of protein, carbs and fats you are ingesting before Ramadhan.
Before Ramadhan diet: 1kg Turkey breast / beef – 200g protein 10 full eggs – 70g protein 450g of thai rice – 350g carbs Assorted nuts (3-4 handfuls) Total Protein: 270g++ Total Carbs: 350g
We break fast at about 7.20pm. If we want to sleep at 11pm to get a decent 5 hrs of sleep before waking up the next morning at4.30am to eat, we’ve only got a window of about 3+hrs to eat at night. So, how do we ingest 270g protein as shown above? We cannot eat that much in 3 hrs but we can eat to maximise the effects through nutrient timing.
Below shows a timeline and meal plans I have been using for several years and it works for me. You can try it and see if it works for you. All weight measurement shown are before cooking.
2 scoops whey/isolate protein – 50g protein
1 big banana – 33g carbs
4 arabian dates – 30g carbs
1-2 scoops of Greens
Total protein: 50g
Total carbs: 63g (mostly sugars)
200g of chicken breast / Dori Fish
1 cup of white rice
Wait for 1 hour for proper digestion of food and keep your training under an hour. Train with about 15-20g of BCAA + 1 litre of water. Possible, add a scoop of ‘carbo gains’ or any sugary drink like Gatorade to your mix. If you are using Myprotein products, you can add in 2 scoops of electrofuel. This will fuel you throughout the workout. Keep experimenting with the amount. If you feel sleepy during training, that means your carb/sugar level is too high. Simply reduce the amount you add during your next round.
After training, drink more water to prevent thirst the next day. Usually, my training(includes warmup and cooldown) is about 45 minutes. Nothing more than that. Hence, after training, I would recommend to rest and relax a bit until you are hungry then eat an epic meal.
What is an epic meal? It is the biggest meal before you go to sleep. I called it Ramadhan Baked Rice. 30 minutes after your training, eat the following:
250g of Ribeye beef / Salmon, Marinate with 2 whole eggs
2 slices of anchor grassfed butter
Rice (cook the usual portion you eat)
Chop your desired amount of capsicum, onion, mushroom
Put everything into the oven and bake it!
Below is a estimated breakdown of nutrition,
Protein: approx. 50g
Carbs: approx. 80g
Fats: approx. 50g
Calories: 970 cal. Close to a 1k cal!
Set alarm and wake up around this time to drink 1 serving of Isolate/Mass gainer.
Ramadhan Baked Rice (as above)
250-500ml of water mixed with Greens
With all the above, you are hitting almost the same amount of macro nutrients as you were before Ramadhan.
Why Can’t I Break Fast With A Big Meal Before Training?
That’s what most people usually do when they break fast. They will eat whatever they want and wait for an hour before workout only to realize that they cannot perform as expected. This is due to the fact that energy is needed to break down food before it can be used as fuel. Having an empty stomach for more than 12 hrs then suddenly having a whole lot of food in causes the digestive system to be in shock. The digestive system is like a car engine. It needs to be warmed up before it can function efficiently. That explains why I ingest small meals / shakes when I break fast and then slowly introduce solid food into the body later in the night.
I Noticed You Ingest So Much Sugary Food During Your First Meal. Why?
Good observation you got there. As an ectomorph, I know my body burns fat faster than regular ones so I need these sugars to fuel my training which is about 30-60 minutes later. Even though they appear to be the simplest form of sugar, they still need some time to be broken down to be used as fuel. Those are my dosages. If you keep yawning after that, reduce the amount accordingly.
Can I Have Mass/Weight Gainer Instead Of Whey Protein For Break Fast?
Personally, in my opinion, most weight / mass gainers contain Dextrin, Maltodextrin (long chain linear chain), pryrodextrins, isomaltulose, amylose etc which will make you bloat like a balloon for 2 hours and will hinder you from eating solid food. However, you can have your mass/weight gainer just before you sleep or consume it around 2-3am when you wake up to pee or just before Sahur.
What Is The Purpose Of ‘Greens’ Mentioned In Your Article Above?
These greens are categorised as super foods. They come in handy for people who don’t like to eat vegetables (I’m one of them) or do not have the time to chew. These greens are exactly the same as vegetables but in powdered form and contain fiber which will aid in your overall digestion and minimise constipation. You can easily find these Greens at www.iherb.com. Feel free to use my code, QUF327 for further discounts!
Do I Need Any Other Supplements To Aid Me In My Ramadhan?
Not really. Stick to the basic ones will do. Fish oil, multi-vitamins, Vitamin-C, Creatine, L-Glutamine. Drink lots of water after breaking fast. Your body is already getting less nutrients than before and needs water to function. Try to avoid pre-workout during the month of Ramadhan as I personally feel you don't need it because training is only about 30 minutes.
What Range Of Repetitions Should I Be Doing?
There should be a variety of rep range in your training. In my opinion, there must be a compound movement which is heavy in the range of 4-8 reps and some other exercises up to 50 reps. This will keep your cardiovascular health in check. Try not to reduce your weights too much. Keep up the intensity.
What Is The Best Time To Train During Ramadhan?
This is a tough one to answer. It all depends on your schedule and lifestyle. I would really recommend to have eaten a meal or two before training. And never go to bed with an empty stomach. I have seen people train at 2am and straight after that, to Sahur. I actually did that before but it was quite long ago.
Can I Train Before Breaking Fast?
I personally tried this for many years and it doesn’t work at all. The amount of thirst and mental focus I have to exert is crazy during and after training. You can’t drink water during training – how are you going to get a pump? Impossible. Water is needed to excrete waste toxins like lactic acid from your body. I would advise never to train before breaking fast. If you insist that it works for you, it could mean that you have reduced your weights too much or the training isn’t intensive enough.
Can I Train Before 'Sahur', around 4am?
Yes of course. I have personally tried this method on days I don't have to work. I will eat through the night and prepare for training at 330am and 'sahur' at 5am. Then, you will only be sleeping after 'sahur'. If you are sleeping 6am, that means you will be waking up at about 12-1pm. This would be an ideal plan in the month of Ramadhan. Unfortunately, we all have to work in Singapore. It is very difficult to do this plan.
Do I Still Train During Ramadhan?
Training during the first 2 weeks of Ramadhan can be easy for some Muslims but towards the 3rd and 4th week, it is almost impossible to lift the same weight you used to. So, how do you maximise muscle mass and strength? We will break it up into three parts: duration, intensity and frequency. It is not feasible to train more than 1 hour during the month of ramadhan. Speaking from experience, you will lose focus halfway due to insufficient food and especially water. With insufficient food yet still training long and hard, the body will slowly eat into the muscles for fuel and energy. This silently sabotages your effort without you knowing. On top of insufficient food, if not enough protein is being fed to the body, muscles cannot repair and this results in body fatigue. External factors like dehydration and about 4-5hrs of sleep every night, make matters worse.
So, How Do I Train With So Many Complications?
With all these combined factors, my best advice is to listen to your body. Only you know your body best. Hence, after years of experimenting and prudent documentation, 30-45mins of workout is enough to maintain muscle mass and strength. This can easily be achieved by having rest time (as short as 30 seconds). Try to have a 1 day training, 2 days off method or 2 days training, 2 days off. Each major muscle group workout must include a compound exercise where you can lift the heaviest and then the rest of the exercises to be 15-30 reps for 4 sets. Put your ego aside, drop the weights and focus on your form and activation of the respective muscle groups – muscle mind connection. During this intense moment, squeeze your muscles as hard as possible for maximum muscle activation.
Can I Stop Training For 1 Month Since It Is So Complicated?
Yes of course! It is your life, your choice! Just a note to remember, when you stop training, your body will return to its default state and this process is called Homeostasis. Watch out especially what you eat if you don’t want to train. Especially sugary drinks and fried food during Ramadhan. You can do some light stretching, mobility work, Pilates or Yoga if you really decide to stop training for a month.
Is It Possible To Gain Mass During Ramadhan?
Sadly, there is no way to build mass or muscles during Ramadhan. With insufficient food and water, the body is already in a catabolic state. How can it be anabolic to build muscles? The only way is just to hang on, stay positive and maintain for 30 days for the sake of Allah.
Why Do I Get Breathless When I Train During Ramadhan?
Training time is cut short and the only thing we do is weights. What about cardio? What about our heart health? Yes! Our cardiovascular system! Lifting is not enough to condition the cardiovascular system. For myself, instead of training legs, I would go for a quick 20 minutes sprint. This explosive movement will be enough to activate every single muscles located throughout your lower body under such a deprived situation (Ramadhan period). However, always monitor yourself as sprints are a strenuous exercise and can be dangerous with a lack of focus. By doing sprints, we are killing two birds with one stone. Training leg muscles and bringing our heart-rate up, conditioning our cardiovascular system up to its optimum rate. Another reason for feeling breathless is water. Without water, your body will function this way. It’s a sign of dehydration. I recommend the intake of coconut / coconut water to hydrate yourself after breaking fast. Drink 1-1.5 litres throughout the night.
I Hate Sprinting. Can I Do A Slow, Steady Jog Instead?
In my opinion, I don’t encourage too much running or jogging during this period due to dehydration. Unless you can replenish the water and feed yourself in time. If not, try to limit your running/jogging to once a week.
Can I Still Drink Pre-Workout During Fasting Month?
I don’t think you need the extra boost or L-Arginine for Ramadhan. Body is already in a catabolic state. Just drink your intra BCAA during training will do. You won’t wish to stay up at night. Save up and stock up the supplements for next month instead!
I Feel Sleepy During The Day. What Can I Do?
I would advise to take short naps like 10-20mins. It helps a lot for me – rejuvenates my body and makes me more alert after each nap. Do not sleep more than that. The sleepiness is due to many reasons and one of the main reason is dehydration.
What Should I Do If I Fall Sick – Sore Throat, Cough, Etc?
Calm yourself down and continue fasting if you can manage. Put training aside and relax. Don’t force yourself. If not, take 3 days off from fasting. Again, listen to your body. Once, I got a bad sore throat, running nose for 1 day and coughing for a week during Ramadhan. It was hell for me. Try to break fast with herbal tea and nothing else. Again, I am not Uztaz Amirr. I’m just typing from experience.
Why Are My Muscles Getting Tighter Towards The 2nd-3rd Week Of Ramadhan?
I personally experienced this strange tightness which I cannot explain or Google it about. I suspect it is caused by insufficient water in our body which causes muscle tightness and tension. What I did was just a simple 30 minutes stretch 2-3x a week. Nothing but stretch. It worked for me. You might want to try. Stretching is very important. Trust me.
I Do Hard Labour And By The End Of The Day, I Am Extremely Thirsty. Can I Drink Isotonic Drinks Like 100plus To Replenish My Salt And Quench My Thirst?
I would advice to stay away from all these ‘isotonic’ drinks which claim to have salt, especially those fizzy types. These drinks contain nothing but sugar. The amount of ‘salt’ per serving is not the type of salt your body needs. You can simply replenish them by eating bananas, dates, apples etc. Try Googling about dates and you will see that they have so many benefits. Lastly, as suggested earlier in this blog, drink plain water. You won’t go wrong. Stay away from fizzy drinks at all costs as it will bloat you up completely and make you eat less. Drinking fizzy drinks sabotages your efforts to eating at your optimum. Be wise. Think again. Is it worth it to drink it?
Why Do I Feel Extremely Fatigued And Have No Appetite To Eat Towards The 3rd And 4th Week of Ramadhan?
It is extremely common to be experiencing this. I felt the exact same way too. With the stress pouring in and insufficient sleep, calorie deficit and all, your body will only perform at its basic function. A simple analogy would be ‘extreme power saving mode’ in all android phones.
Lastly, I Feel So Small During Ramadhan. How Can I Motivate Myself?
It is inevitable for this process to happen. I feel the same too. Think of the Almighty Allah... You are doing this for the sake of Allah and Allah will reward you accordingly. Come on! It’s just 30 days out of 365 days! You’ve still got 335 days to mass up! Be positive no matter what! You can tell yourself the weight and size you’ve lost is just water, some fats and a little muscle loss. Just a little.
Heads up and keep moving forward! Selamat Berpuasa.
Your Fitness Coach,