Fasting and fitness: how to safely exercise during Ramadan

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It can be hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle and build up your fitness. Even with access to the best gym in Dubai, normal nutrition and lifestyle patterns, people can struggle to keep on top of things.


This becomes almost insurmountably harder during a fast - when you cannot eat or drink for pretty much the whole day. This is what nearly 2 billion Muslims face every year as Ramadan comes around. Exercise during Ramadan can be tough and for many people, it can be non-existent during this period.


Ramadan shifts according to the movement of the moon. This year it falls in around the last week of March. For a full 30 days, during the middle of the summer when daylight hours are at their longest, those fasting cannot eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. This means many people will be fasting for around 18 hours a day. 


The gym in Ramadan

If you’re adhering to Ramadan this year, the following scenario could sound all too familiar. You like to go to your gym in Dubai, lift weights, go to a few classes, work with the best personal trainers, and eat a balanced, healthy, high protein diet for the whole year-round.


Then Ramadan arrives and suddenly you have to maintain your fitness whilst also fasting.


There are a few things that could hamper your workouts whilst fasting. Of course, the lack of food and water throughout the day will be a big deal. It’s hard to concentrate on anything when you’re without water in high temperatures for the majority of the day, let alone focussing in and gathering enough energy to get a good session in at the gym.


It’s also hard to train without sufficient blood glucose in your system, and it’s hard to recover properly without adequate amounts of fat and protein, all of which can be lacking during the Ramadan fast.


However, sleep deprivation will also be a big inhibitor to exercise in Ramadan. If you have to get up at four am every morning to prepare food, eat and pray, then have to go about your daily life, as usual, you will find exhaustion creeping in quite quickly. Exercising during Ramadan can be incredibly tough.


How to exercise safely

According to the best personal trainers, there are a few things you can do to make the process a little more palatable and to keep yourself safe as you exercise whilst fasting.


Try training early in the morning, before dehydration and exhaustion catches up with you. You will be more mentally alert and your risk of injury will be much lower, meaning that you can go through something similar to your usual routine without putting yourself in potential danger.


Also, make sure to get plenty of calories in both before sunrise and after sunset: emphasize healthy fatty foods, lean protein sources and mixed, complex, slow-release carbohydrates. These will keep you charged up throughout the day and will help prevent you from succumbing to heat stroke or exhaustion as you exercise.


Sleep should also take center stage. If you can, try to get in a few extra hours of sleep throughout the day, either after you’ve broken your fast in the morning or as a siesta in the afternoon. Chronic fatigue is nasty and dangerous: avoid it at all costs. If you cannot get the sleep in, you shouldn’t be pushing yourself hard in the gym - it isn’t safe.


Pick a lower intensity activity for your daily workout whilst fasting, even if you’re getting lots of sleep in. Walking instead of driving, gentle stretches and mobility work, and lighter gym session are in order: leave the intense training to the rest of the year when you have the caloric means to make the most of it.


Finally, hydration is key. Make sure to drink plenty when you can to stay safe and healthy. Water is good, of course, but electrolyte replacement is also important. You can either buy isotonic drinks or make your own by adding a dash of sodium (salt) and a spoonful of sugar to tea or squash. Be wary of trying to plug the gap in energy with caffeine, as it will only serve to dehydrate you further and will bring you crashing down in the middle of the day.