I personally love the month of Ramadan. Let me make it clear I am not one of those people who find fasting easy, anyone who knows me knows that hunger does not look good on me. I am a grazer and a caffeine lover, and for a month I’m pulling the plug on both urges. But I’m a firm believer in the saying that nothing good comes easy, and as such the harder the thing, the greater its inherent goodness. Embrace the privileged hard ship, and make the most out of it.
In fact and in spite of its difficulty this month for me is oddly calming. It is a time of spiritual and physical cleansing, of more family gatherings, and less grumbles (not including the gastrointestinal kind). The things I do find difficult are my messed up sleep routine, I am an early riser by nature, so my circadian rhythm takes a beating in Ramadan. And more significantly, my fitness routine is turned on its head! So, in the past few years I’ve been experimenting with different Ramadan training strategies and I think this year, fingers crossed, I have an attainable one planned.
If you’re faced with the same predicament check out my guidelines to avoid spiking your insulin levels, and spiraling into slob status this month. One thing to remember though, your aim is to maintain and not gain. Do not look to set personal PRs, or ignore clear signs of fatigue and dehydration. Take it at your own pace, but everyone who can, should move. At a pace faster than sprawled out in your couch, blacked out from a food coma. Without further adieu here are my tips:
- Don’t fast to feast: Overeating at Futoor time will do you more harm than good. I know you’re ravenous, but just as you’re about to reach out for that nth piece of sambosa, remember that high fat foods are devoid of any nutrition and will lead to indigestion and weight gain. Instead, break your fast with a water flush. Drink at least .5 liters of water before you have your main meal. This curbs your appetite, will calm down the hangry, and strengthen your willpower to make healthier choices. Moderation is key, but nutrient density is the name of the game. By all means have a piece of the fried goodies, but don’t treat it as an appetizer. Keep it on the side, have a well-balanced meal, and if you still crave it have it. What is a well-balanced meal you ask? A meal that’s high in protein and healthy fats, and fiber rich; the fiber and fat will keep you satiated and the protein will help avoid muscle catabolism. Remember to load on the good fats- Your main metabolic fuel source for bodily function during fasting is mainly fat!
- Train, but nothing insane: Aim to do a 15 min to 60 min daily movement session at most 2 hours before futoor. I opted to call this movement and not a workout so it would not be discouraging. Fasted training is hard, as your carbohydrate levels will be very low at this time so you won’t have as much energy as you normally would. But it has a myriad of benefits including:
- Restoring insulin sensitivity
- Producing a calorie deficit which is ideal for those looking to reduce their body fat percentage
- An increase in growth hormones which is great news for those of us looking to increase muscle mass and build strength
- Lowering blood pressure, oxidative stress and even the risk of developing some cancers.
- Lastly, you get to burn a little more for that after futoor treat ;)
I have just discovered an amazing fitness app! Its such a wonderful motivator, and workout generator. Skyfit: an audio-based fitness app that gives you access to a one on one session with top -notch trainers in your earbuds. Their classes take the voice of a trainer and perfectly synchronize it with a standout playlist, so when you’re at home or an a treadmill wanting to work out, but at a loss of what to do- all you have to do is press play and your very own personal trainer awaits.
- Plan it out: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The best way to commit to anything is with a solid plan. Write down what you plan to have for futoor and suhoor, and what your workouts will be like. The appointed monthly planners are wonderful for this month.
- Say no to sodium rich foods: They cause greater dehydration plus increased thirst during the day.
- Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate: Aim for at least 2 liters of water a day. More liters for more intensive workouts.
Supplement with supplements: Fasting is tough on both your immune system and your metabolism. I like to make sure I am getting enough vitamins through both diet and vitamins. These work for me. Ask a nutritionist what works for you.
- Magnesium, Omega 3s, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Probiotics and a green powder.
- Sub green tea for you favorite caffeine fix
- If you can handle a little heat, I would recommend a light pre-suhoor walk.
- Snack often but snack smart. This will prevent you from overeating during iftar and suhoor, or going all out with sweets. In between iftar and suhoor, munch on nuts or an apple, or a protein shake with good for you amino acids.
- This might be unorthodox: But my personal trick is too limit dates to one piece when I break my fast, and saving a few with a sprinkle of tahini for after iftar. This sweet treat feels like indulging without breaking the caloric bank, like lets say a serving of molten chocolate pots would.
- Yield to your temptations every now and then: Again moderation is key. If you’re craving that molten pot of goodness, forgo the fried appetizers completely, lock in an extra boost of cardio and indulge.
- Finally, don’t under eat: It’s metabolism murder. Once you get back to eating normally, you’ll pack on the pounds faster than you can say “Eidkom Imbarek”. Instead, focus on nourishing your body with clean foods and avoid processed foods and refined sugar.
Enjoy this wonderful month, maximize your spiritual and family sessions, and make use of my tips to take a load off your mind when it comes to training and diet during this month. If you would like more specific meal and training plans, shoot me a comment and I’ll devote another post to that.