10 Helpful Tips to Exercise Safely During Ramadan Direct from A PT, GP and Nutritionist

Morgan Fargo
·8-min read
Photo credit: DaniloAndjus
Photo credit: DaniloAndjus

Doing exercise during Ramadan doesn't have to be a total write off. In fact, with some advice from the experts, it's still something you can do safely and sustainably over the thirty day period of reflection. The top line is not to push yourself. Your focus should be on three things: maintaining your fitness, creating a sustainable (and safe) exercise routine and concentrating on nutrient-dense and water-rich foods.

We asked three experts for their best advice about how to exercise safely during Ramadan. Scroll on for their top ten tips.

1. Find a time that works best for you

Exercising in a fasted state is not an easy feat, especially when you add in daily stressors and warmer weather. Finding the best time for you will be a major key to keeping your exercise routine safe and sustainable.

'Exercising just before iftar (breaking of the fast) or between iftar and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before the start of the next fast, are good times as you can eat and drink after you exercise and replenish and rehydrate your body,' advises GP Dr Sayyada Mawji.

If those suggestions don't work for you or your schedule, don't worry. Experiment with exercising when you can, just don't be afraid to try a slightly new routine.

2. Aim to maintain

Now is not the time to be trying to hit personal bests or 1 rep maxes. Instead, look to maintain what you've already achieved.

'Exercising whilst fasting can be a challenge and it's important to do it safely. Most importantly, remember to be sensible and listen to your body,' advises Dr Mawji.

'Aim to maintain your fitness levels rather than starting a new or intense exercise regime. This may mean you may have to adjust your usual regime to reduce the length and intensity of the exercise.'

3. Double down on hydration between iftar and suhoor

Lack of water is something to be on the lookout for. It will make exercise feel more difficult and cause you to fatigue faster, as well. Fortunately, there are some tips to make the time you're not drinking water a little easier.

'Keep yourself well hydrated between iftar and suhoor (between breaking the fast and starting the next one), keep a water bottle with you and drink regularly throughout this time. This will ensure you are well hydrated before the start of the next fast,' says Dr Mawji.

Another good point to note is that hydration doesn't have to come only from the tap – eating fluid-rich fruits and vegetables when you break your fast will help to keep you replenished and hydrated, too.

High-water content fruits and vegetables

  • Watermelon

  • Oranges

  • Apples

  • Blueberries

  • Cucumber

  • Tomatoes

  • Spinach

4. Watch out for the warning signs of dehydration

If you're doing everything to stay hydrated between suhoor and iftar but still experiencing any of the following symptoms, pull back on exercise and try to bring your heart rate down advises Dr Mawji.

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Lightheadedness

  • Dark urine

  • Feeling very thirsty

  • Nausea

  • Muscle cramps

  • Fast heart rate

Severe symptoms of dehydration also include confusion, weakness and loss of consciousness – if you experience any of these symptoms seek immediate medical attention.

5. Don't be afraid to scale back the intensity

It's difficult to switch gears, especially if you've been getting after your workouts with progress on the mind. However, taking a few steps back might be the key to keeping your exercise sustainable during Ramadan.

'Moderate your intensity and volume by 30-40%. You can continue to train but you may want to focus on low-moderate training intensities and try to simply maintain your fitness levels,' says Nike trainer Nesrine (Nez) Dally.

But, don't worry you can still make progress – it might just be in the areas surrounding your fitness rather than the actual workouts themselves.

'Use the time to work on a skill or something you want to get better at and otherwise do not make time for. This could be skipping, core work, push-ups or mobility.'

6. Focus on strength training

According to Dally, Ramadan might be the time to prioritise strength training over cardio workouts as it'll help to slow down the process of muscle loss while fasting.

'It's safe to strength train and, in fact, I’d say it's one of the safest training modalities [during Ramadan]. 'I would suggest doing it pre-Iftar but ultimately it's a personal preference. If you train after Iftar keep your meal light and save your biggest meal for after your training session so you don't feel uncomfortable when training.'

Brush up on your resistance training knowledge to get to grips with the different types of workouts you can do during this time. Or, grab yourself a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell to work with at home. The main takeaway is not to attempt anything overly strenuous or totally new.

7. Keep an eye on how much cardio you're doing

The flipside of spending more time on strength training is pulling back on the amount and intensity of your cardio workouts (and cardio home workouts, too).

'I wouldn't suggest doing cardio that takes you over 60/65% of your maximum effort,' says Dally. 'It can be quite tough to do cardio as it increased thirst as your body is already in a state of dehydration. Always start and progress slowly if you’re trying things for the first time when fasted.'

So, gentle jogs, light walks and cardio that doesn't take you into out of breath or exhausted territory. And, if you exercise outside, be careful of how warm it is – it's best to avoid exercising in high temperatures or in the sun for too long.

8. It's fine to increase how many rest days you're taking

'Ramadan is not the time to push yourself to your limits physically,' says Dally. 'Adding more rest days into your routine is advisable – I would advise adding one to two extra rest days. You could train one day and rest the next, alternating that throughout the week.'

But remember, 'Ramadan is a time of reflection so it's important we don't lose sight of the spiritual aspect. It's only 30 days and we want to make sure we make the most of the holy month,' reminds Dally.

9. Go for high-fibre and protein-rich foods when you break your fast

Combining high-fibre starchy foods and quality sources of protein is the most important thing during Ramadan says award-winning nutritionist Dr Kawther Hashem.

'High­ fibre foods are digested slowly and release energy slowly,' she explains, detailing the foods with the most bang-for-your-fibre-buck.

  • Bran

  • Oats

  • Cereals

  • Whole wheat grains

  • Seeds

  • Brown rice

  • Lentils

  • Potatoes with the skin on

  • Vegetables such as green beans

  • Almost all fruits, including dried fruits

'Combine these foods with good sources of protein such as milk, yoghurt, beans, fish or meat,' she advises. 'This combination will ensure a stable level of glucose in your blood so less likely to feel hungry the next day.'

'It's also important to have suhoor (pre-dawn meal), in order to feel fuller for longer, too. Suhoor is an important meal that provides you with energy and hydration for the next fasting day, so try to include high fibre foods to allow for slow energy release. Also, add protein to your meal to help curb any hunger.

'If you are unable to wake up for suhoor, then consider having a balanced light meal before going to bed.'

10. Skip excess salt, caffeine and foods that will make you thirstier

Some foods will naturally make you more thirsty. It's kind of their thing. Unfortunately, they're some of the most delicious and widely eaten things in everyday life: salt and caffeine.

Dr Hashem recommends steering clear of anything that's going to affect how thirsty you are during your fast.

Salt and salty foods

'Salt can have an immediate effect [on thirst] if eaten in excess. Eating salty foods, adding a lot of salt at the table or while cooking, can result in thirst and dehydration during the fast. I’d encourage the use of herbs, spices, lemon and lime to add flavour to food, instead of salt,' she advises.

Caffeine and fizzy drinks containing caffeine

'It's best to avoid caffeinated drinks altogether in Ramadan, if possible. These drinks are diuretics, so will make the body lose water faster as well as interfere with nutrient absorption – particularly iron absorption – which should be avoided, particularly during Ramadan.'

The main thing is to respect where you, your body and your exercise are now – as a period of reflection, focus on maintaining your health and sustaining good habits.

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