Maintaining Optimum Fitness During Ramadan


IFitnessTrainer Dr. Kareem Zahran Offers Top Tips


Ramadan falls in the hottest months of this year, so many of us will find challenges in maintaining our commitment to staying fit and healthy, while respecting the traditional aspects of the month. Cairo West Magazine went to Physiotherapist and Fitness Trainer Dr. Kareem Zahran to seek out helpful advice to help us balance fasting and fitness.

CWM: Dr. Kareem, does a change in the eating times require a change in the workout times?

KZ: Our blood has a normal level of sugar. While eating in a regular manner throughout the day the blood sugar stays in a steady state, which enables our brain to perform optimally, so our bodies subsequently work well physically. During fasting the blood sugar becomes low, especially during the last hours before iftar. This is a time chosen by many people for a workout aimed at burning off fat.

Our bodies burn glycogen when we fast or exercise. Glycogen is stored in both muscles and liver, and it is depleted if we exercise while fasting. So the changes in the eating times definitely require a change in the workout times.

What are the best types of exercises during the holy month?

Cardio exercises are the best option, to be made during the last hour of fasting immediately before iftar. There are two types of people who exercise in Ramadan. Some of them are already fit and want to maintain their muscular fitness. They can just wait awhile after iftar, (small meal or meal replacement drinks), and do their ordinary resistance routine.

The other type wants to use Ramadan to lose weight. Some of them work out during their fast because they think they’ll burn more calories, but that’s a mistake because they just end up burning muscle. From two to three hours after iftar till sohour they can break their workout routine into 2-3 full cardio days per week, (meaning between 45 minutes to an hour) and 2 days of resistance training, whether full body, or splits: one day upper body/one day lower body.

Can working out in Ramadan disturb your sleep patterns?

The overall effect of working out on sleep patterns is positive. It improves both quality and ‘deep sleep’, as the body is doing its maintenance of the trained muscle tissues and recovering. This year Ramadan is coming up in the summer, which means the stress on the body is more extreme. There is less time for eating, praying, and sleeping in the night hours, and completing required tasks during the day can be more difficult due to heat and extended hours without food.

Master your sleep: Sleep from 11 PM till 3 AM.

Master your power naps (20 min.): there’s a couple of time slots that are known from the Sunnah:

  1. Between Azan and Iqama of Fajr.
  2. Before/After Dhuhur.

What if someone decides not to exercise at all; will it be easy to pick up where they left off?

Our body will retain muscle mass for as long as it feels there is a stimulus and need. When you stop exercising, your body will slowly start disposing of what it feels is an unnecessary impediment, costing extra energy. Maintaining muscles requires calories/energy and a stimulus. During Ramadan you should strive to preserve what you have by continuing to train. Organizing yourself and your schedule will be the key to success in Ramadan training.


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