We asked five trainers from Dubai’s Ultimate Performance gym to offer their key nuggets of advice for keeping up a Ramadan fitness regime.
Stick to a manageable regime
James Appleton, head of UP Dubai: Ramadan shouldn’t be an excuse to put your fitness regime on hold and lose all your hard-earned progress. During Ramadan, you can still exercise, but as your body will be under increased stress from the fast, adding extra exercise stress on top must be done intelligently.
Workouts should be at a level you can recover from during Ramadan — stimulate your muscle, don’t annihilate it. We recommend sticking to three training sessions a week, which will give you ample recovery time. Full-body workouts are always best if you only have three sessions a week. Look to get 10-15 sets per muscle group over the week.
Remember, doing something is always better than doing nothing. But equally, Ramadan is a time for family and friends. Don’t sacrifice spending precious time with loved ones over a strict training schedule. Train with friends and/or family to bring you and those around you closer together over the holy month.
Try something new
Chris Beavers, deputy gym manager, UP Dubai: Fitness requires a little extra thought and planning during Ramadan. Generally the best times to train are either early in the morning after your first meal, or after your first meal after the fast – so you are well-fueled to train. Consider which time is going to be most optimal for you to train – you want to feel at your best and most energized.
If your gym doesn’t open late, or you struggle to sleep after a workout, you have a few options.
Either try and find a 24-hour gym or look to time two of your three weekly workouts on weekend days so you can stay up later without worrying about being tired for work the following day.
Regarding your actual workouts, don’t be looking to hit any personal bests (unless you really feel up for it) and don’t attempt to start any super-challenging new workouts or HIIT protocols if you’re not used to it.
Ramadan can, however, be a good time to pick some new exercises to work on and include in your program. Normally, learning new exercises can be frustrating as you have to lift lighter weights while you perfect the technique. But Ramadan can be the perfect time for this — starting light, focusing on technique and still feeling like you’re making progress.
Keep your protein intake high
Jaie Read, personal trainer, UP Dubai: Fasting for such long periods means you run the risk of muscle protein loss, especially if you’re engaging in exercise as well. This is why it’s vital to try and keep your protein intake high when you do eat to offset the negative consequences of the potential loss of muscle protein. Protein is responsible for the repair and regrowth of muscle tissue. Not only that, but it is satiating. This means it will help you feel full for a lot longer.
We recommend trying to consume 1.6-2.2g/kg bodyweight of protein between iftar and suhoor from lean meats, eggs, fish and dairy. With such a short eating window this might feel quite challenging, so protein shakes can be a good way of increasing your intake.
Rehydrate the right way
Tom Hutchinson, personal trainer, UP Dubai: Water intake is even more critical during Ramadan, especially if you are exercising. Without enough water intake, your liver will metabolize less fat as it has to take up some of the function of the kidneys during periods of dehydration. Strength and performance can also suffer in the gym as even dehydration levels of 3 per cent can limit your strength and power output.
Ramadan is a long period and as the days mount it is very easy to become increasingly dehydrated. If your total body water goes into an increasing deficit, it will affect every function in your body with potentially devastating consequences. Always look out for signs of dehydration. They include confusion, lethargy or drowsiness, low energy levels or unusual tiredness, fever or even seizures.
Aim to drink between 2 to 3 litres of water on daily basis. If you are exercising it can help to take in an electrolyte drink, which can help replace minerals lost through sweat including sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Be aware, however, if you are drinking close to bedtime, needing to get up for the toilet in the night can disturb your sleep. That can have a knock-on effect on your performance, cognition and even appetite levels the following day.
Get the right amount of sleep
Shokhruh Ergashev, personal trainer, UP Dubai: Quality sleep is critical for healthy hormone balance, as well as optimal production of testosterone and growth hormone. It also reduces cortisol which, when sleep deprived, is increased to keep your body going — resulting in lower ‘real’ energy, mental fog and hunger.
If you can, try to achieve a minimum of 6 to 7 hours during the day. Those working will more likely split sleep into two sleep periods to capitalise on the intake of water and nutrients, and social life between iftar and suhoor.
Ultimate Performance is a group of a no-nonsense gyms and personal trainers that spans the globe, from Sydney to London and many cities in between. The Dubai branch is located at Emirates Financial Towers.
Featured photo: Tom Hutchinson, personal trainer/UP Dubai
Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.