Exercising during Ramadan: the healthy way to work out while fasting
Muslims who choose to fast during Ramadan abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset each day for one month. It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks, along with time for prayer and reflection.
Although it may be a tiring month for Muslims, Ontario-based nutritionist Anar Allidina says it’s important they make time for exercise.
When should Muslims work out?
The best time to exercise in Ramadan is right before sunset, according to Allidina.
“You can push yourself a little more knowing that you’re going to break your fast soon.”
If a busy schedule doesn’t allow that, she recommends working out about one hour after eating. At that point, they’ll have digested some of the food and have more energy.
Allidina says the worst time to hit the gym is in the middle of the day, because those fasting will exhaust themselves and be unable to refuel. However, if that’s the only time they’re free, she recommends exercising for only 20 to 30 minutes, and doing low-intensity workouts.
How long should they work out?
If Muslims decide to work out directly before or after eating, they can push themselves and work out for a longer period of time. Allidina recommends starting off slow during the first few days of Ramadan by only exercising for half an hour.
Once they’ve tested their endurance, and are more accustomed to fasting, Allidina says it’s OK to work out for up to an hour.
What type of exercise should they do?
Fitness instructor Zehra Allibhai says Ramadan is not a time to push your limits or set personal records.
“You should treat it as a time to maintain,” she explains.
That means continuing exercise routines, as long as they’re not too physically grueling.
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Those fasting should stick to strength training and non-rigorous cardio, she says. If they do want to do high-intensity cardio, it should be done after the fast is broken.
Allibhai says if people are not accustomed to working out, it’s better to engage in lighter physical activity such as walks and stretches.
What should Muslims eat to have energy for exercising?
Eating right is imperative in Ramadan, because it helps ensure that the body will have proper fuel throughout the day.
Allidina says smoothies are a great way to get a lot of nutrients in a small amount of time. She recommends loading them with things like fruits, vegetables, hemp seeds, chia seeds and peanut butter.
“Protein is key,” Allidina says. “That’s what really is going to fill you.”
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Some easy protein options include meat, eggs, beans and lentils.
How to stay hydrated
In order to stay hydrated, Allidina recommends adding coconut water as a post-workout drink.
Soups, she adds, are also a good way to get in more liquid, while also packing in vegetables, meat and greens.
Allibhai suggests breaking the fast with a couple dates and two glasses of water. She explains that thirst is often confused for hunger, and drinking water first can prevent overeating.
Food that is high in water content is a practical way to consume more water, Allibhai says, giving the example of watermelon and salads.
What food should they avoid?
While Ramadan is a time for fasting, for many Muslims, it’s also a time for indulgence. Those breaking their fasts tend to give into cravings and overeat, but Allidina suggests eating something clean and light.
“You don’t want to negate your workout by eating unhealthy,” she says.
Allibhai says the smartest way to avoid unhealthy food is to have a “game plan.”
“Start off with one of the healthier options,” she suggests. “Save the fried and fatty foods as an end-of-meal treat.”
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