Ramadan Eating and training for fat loss and muscle building while fastingBy
Ramadan is upon us for our Muslim Brothers and Sisters
It can be a tough time to keep to a diet plan whether it is weight loss or muscle building.
For those of you who don’t know what’s involved with Ramadan, Ramadan is a month long dawn to dusk fast observed as part of the Muslim religion. This year it starts on 20th July and finishes on the 18th of August.
During the daylight hours which this year starts at 2.54 in the morning and ends at 9.15 PM at night, you do not drink any liquid (not even water) and you don’t eat any food. The origins of Ramadan are for increased spirituality and as a time to practice self restraint. Christians have a similar tradition with Lent where they are encouraged to give up something for 6 weeks.
As an exercise, restricting yourself from not eating for a period of time is a good one to go through, whether you are Muslim or not, it can help give you confidence that you can cope with hunger and stick to a plan and not give into any cravings you may have. If you are a Muslim and can go without food and drink for this length of time then you should have added confidence that you can stick to any diet plan at any time of the year.
This year Matt is working with a Premier League footballer who is going to be observing Ramadan in its entirety. Olympic rower Moe Shibi is making other arrangements. When he tried following Ramadan fully in the past his weight dropped by as much as 16 lbs in a day. He’s a large unit to begin with at over 100kg, even so it does take a rocket scientist to work out you are not going to be able to perform at your best with that level of dehydration.
Let’s look at 2 scenarios for Ramadan
The person wanting to lose fat and those wanting to gain muscle.
Weight Loss During Ramadan
On the face of it being on a fast you have a real opportunity to lose weight and get ripped if you really want to. However depending on your background and family situation you might be confronted with a lot of treat like foods when you break your fast. You need to have a mental as well as physical strategy of how you are going to deal with this, otherwise you could end up in trouble overeating. This is an opportune time to have a chat with a diet coach who can help you develop a strategy that can work for you if you have problems sticking to a plan.
The obvious thought process is that
‘I’ve been good all day I’ve stuck to the fast I can eat whatever I want can’t I?’
Not really, you still need to keep an eye on how many carbs you consume if you want to lose weight. So let’s assume you have free will over what you eat, and your auntie is not going to force feed you samosas and biryani.
What ideally are you going to eat and drink?
Think Hydration First
As soon as you break your fast, concentrate on getting rehydrated first. You are going to be thirstier than you are hungry and hunger often disguises itself as thirst. By rehydrating first you are helping to prevent yourself from overeating. Don’t drink water just by itself, it’s quite hard to try and drink a lot of plain water no matter how thirsty you are. As a minimum add some salt to it or get yourself some hydration tablets like High 5 Zero or Elete that endurance athletes use, you can add them to your water and it provides the correct salts and minerals to help you rehydrate and also helps you drink more. You can add some low calorie squash to give the salt water some flavour.
Another option to rehydrate is to have a whey protein shake, don’t add any extra carbs like fruit or the extras like cottage cheese and yoghurt as you may end up feeling full as a result of the shake, just mix whey with water.
Alternatively instead of a protein shake you could have an amino acid mix like Branch Chain Amino Acids or essential amino acids as soon as you break your fast, this will help you get protein into your muscle cells as well as help with hydration.
Food to eat to break your Ramadan Fast
Once you have rehydrated then its time to think food. Traditionally there may be a lot of lamb to eat during Ramadan. Lamb can be quite a fatty meat so if you are going to have this then make sure what you have with it does not have too much additional fat. If possible the best options are to have chicken and fish. You can have chicken and fish in a curry if that is available, its better to have it grilled. Eat it with the low carb vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower that are recommended in Four Week Fat Loss.
You can eat a slight larger meal but you don’t really need to. You may think ‘I need to overeat to help me get through the whole day without eating’. If you want to lose weight then what is the point of that you want to utilise your excess fat stores to fuel yourself through the day. If you overeat too much at night you could end up creating more fat that you then burn off during the rest of the day to get back to the same starting point. You are going to need to overeat to some degree so ensure the extra consumption comes from more protein.
There are 2 supplements that can help when you are overfeeding (having more food in one sitting than you might be used to they are CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) and Cissus Quadrangulis these help by causing more of the food to be stored in muscle rather than fat and are beneficial during Ramadan.
Another supplement that may help with fat metabolism and be of benefit during Ramadan is l-carnitine tartrate. Take 3 grams before you eat anything, this can help by getting fat metabolism moving. Ideally at times other than Ramadan you would take this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but during Ramadan we are taking it in the evening.
What to eat before daybreak
You have a second feeding opportunity before your daily fast starts this year in the UK the times vary but start around 2.50am in the morning, so you’ll need to get up early before daybreak and have something to eat and drink then either stay up or go back to sleep.
Again it is important to hydrate yourself fully as you are going to be going all day without a drink so I would make sure that you have a whey protein drink, this kills 2 birds with one stone as you get hydration as well as nutrition. A good option to eat is a chicken and spinach omelette, you could make this the evening before and have it ready to eat when you wake up. Eggs are a good option to have as they help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Exercise and training for fat loss during Ramadan
If you are involved in sport or want to exercise then you may have to reign in your intensity during Ramadam particularly if the weather is hot (some chance in England!). As you will already be de-hydrated by not drinking since 2.50 am, this could affect you especially if you exercise too hard you are likely to become more dehydrated which could result in dizziness and light headedness and lead to passing out. If you are going to do this train with someone or tell the trainer at the gym that it is Ramadan and you may be de-hydrated. Be sensible and listen to your body and stop at the first signs of any different sensations.
You have 2 alternatives as to the time that you train at.
1Train before you break your fast at 8.15
2 Break your fast drink and eat and then train.
If you are going to train before you break your fast then try to coincide the end of your session with the breaking of your fast. So if the fast ends at 9.15 then train between 8.15 and 9.15pm, you can obviously do shorter sessions if you like so adjust the timings. You should really take medical advice on this if you have not trained through Ramadan before.
It’s more beneficial to train closer to breaking the fast rather than at lunch time or 5 o’clock because you are then able to get food into your system that much quicker after training to start the recovery process and you will be dehydrated for a shorter period of time during the day.
Have a snooze after work
If possible a good strategy to employ is to have an early evening sleep from when you get home from work until you are ready to train. This will help you produce more growth hormone which will aid both fat loss and muscle gain, it will also help take your mind off not being able to eat.
When it comes to training for fat loss start with more gentle forms of training like treadmill, bike, rowing machine rather than high intensity intervals, to begin with at least, if you find you can handle the higher intensity then by all means do it but just be careful you don’t dehydrate too much.
When it comes to losing fat if you manage yourself properly particularly eating well then you could get really ripped during Ramadan.
5.30 pm sleep
8.15 pm train
9.15 pm rehydrate (water, salts)
9.20 pm whey protein shake (CLA, Cissus, l-carnitine tartrate)
9.25 pm chicken and fish with vegetables (big portion)
5.30 Pm Sleep
9.15 pm Break fast rehydrate (water salts)
9.20 Small Whey Protein Shake
10.30 (CLA, Cissus, l-carnitine tartrate)
10.35 Eat meal
2.30 wake up
2.35 whey protein shake
2.40 chicken and spinach omelette
2.45 Any additional fluids
If you’ve got any questions about this then please ask us by leaving a comment.
Gaining Lean Mass During Ramadan
It can be hard to make any significant gains during Ramadan, it’s not impossible to add mass but as long as you don’t go backwards then you will be in a decent position coming out of Ramadan. There are some different approaches you may want to take, you could look at the month as an opportunity to lean up a bit if you need to, you could focus on developing your strength so you will be stronger and be able to lift heavier weights and create a bigger training stimulus after Ramadan. Ramadan can be a time where you can sensitise yourself to the effect of insulin so that when you really bring carbs back into your diet after Ramadan you could get some spectacular gains.
One supplement that is beneficial during Ramadan is creatine it has well known anti-catabolic effects as well as being anti-fatiguing. If you are serious about adding bulk then you will probably already be using creatine, continue to do so during Ramadan.
A slightly different approach to gain mass during Ramadan is required than we do for losing weight for both eating and training, the important thing is that you need to cram in the amount of calories/food you normally eat during the course of the day into the 6 hour window between dusk to dawn.
Eating on your training days during Ramadan
The decision you need to make regarding when you train is are you going to train while still fasting or break your fast have something to eat and drink and then train. Both strategies have their merits. Ideally though from a performance point of view it would be better to rehydrate and have some whey and carbs before you train.
9.15pm Break fast with Whey Protein and Carb drink .
9.30 Train Continue drinking whey and carbs while you train.
Follow your normal body building routines, if you need some extra help here then look at 1 month muscle.
The major factor that is going to prevent muscle break down during Ramadan is to make sure you hit your target for protein consumption and overall calorie intake, in 1 Month Muscle we recommend 3g/Kg of protein so if you are 80 kg that means you need 240 g of protein. Look at the labels on the food you eat to ensure you are hitting the correct levels. You also need to take care of your carbohydrate levels to ensure that your total calories are up to an adequate level.
What to eat
The primary strategy to be aware of here is that not only do you hit your protein goal, is that you moderate the levels of fat you are consuming, so avoid anything deep fried or any curries that maybe swimming with fat. Go for rice and lentils and vegetables with chicken or fish.
Depending what time you go to sleep you might be able to fit in another meal at around 11.30 pm or at least get a whey protein shake in with added cottage cheese before you hit the pillow. Cottage Cheese is high in casein and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Choose a whey with no added sugars at this time.
On Non-Training Days to build mass
Break your fast with a whey protein smoothie, use plain whey and add cottage cheese and some fruits, make it quite runny so you can drink it down, you can use either milk or water to make the shake.
On non training days we want to avoid the sugars in the mass building whey protein drink you may be using.
Before Starting your Fast when wanting to build mass
As with weight loss have a big whey protein shake (plain whey and added extras) to help with hydration and also have a protein based meal like a chicken omelette you can have some extra carbs with it in the form of beans, chick peas or vegetables like butternut squash and a portion of cottage cheese.
Sample day during Ramadan for muscle building
8.15 pm train
9.15 whey protein shake with cottage cheese and fruits
9.20 drink more water with salts if you are still thirsty
9.25 protein and carb meal chicken/fish with lentils rice beans and veggies
11.30 Protein shake with cottage cheese or an extra meal
2.30 am whey protein shake
2.35 chicken omelette (add extra cooked butternut squash and beans if you like£
2.40 Any additional fluids you can drink before the fast starts.
Whatever your goals are whether they be fat loss or muscle building during Ramadan you have an opportunity to embrace the reasons behind Ramadan (self reflection, spirituality, and restraint) and use these to your advantage. As with any thing in life it’s your attitude that counts so be positive and proactive about Ramadan and observe the progress you make.
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