It was the first day of Ramadan when I set a new personal record in my weightlifting and a lot of people may wonder how that is possible after a 15-hour fast?
Here’s my experience and tips on getting the most out of your training during The Holy Month.
Training in Ramadan
The goal for many who train in Ramadan is to reduce body fat to maintain or gain strength through preserving lean muscle mass. If you thought that was not possible during Ramadan, you thought wrong. However, it is important to be in possession of all the information.
There are two schools of thought regarding training times in Ramadan; post Iftar (the first meal after fast) or during the fasting period. Personally, as an athlete, I have had success in the past three years training a few hours after Iftar and have not had any dizzy spells, loss of strength or weight gain during Ramadan.
I find training after Iftar has many more benefits, with no risk to health. The benefits of training after Iftar – either by an hour or three – allows your body to have the right amount of hydration and nutrition before a training session, which will not effect performance.
While training before breaking one’s fast can further dehydrate muscles, and research indicates dehydrating a muscle by three per cent can cause 10 per cent loss in strength, muscle preservation has many good effects on body composition as it mainly increases our metabolism at rest. And this leads to continuous fat loss.
The alternative would be training pre-Iftar with the only advantage that you can eat several meals post workouts, so there is more time to replenish your system. Although training while fasting does burn fat due to the lack of glycogen in your system, your body also uses muscles for energy, so there is a risk of muscle loss.
However, you must be careful if you choose to train before breaking your fast, as there is an associated health risk with training while in a dehydrated state, leading to dizzy spells, which may increase the risk of injury while exercising.
It is important to listen to your body when training in Ramadan, not push yourself too hard or expect major changes, but, with the right plan you can expect improvements.
Strength training and Cardio
Strength training in Ramadan should be limited to an hour or less, with compound exercises that target more than one muscle group so you can get more bang for your buck from your training sessions. Exercises such as the squat, deadlift, military press, chest press, and rows, for example.
When it comes to cardiovascular training, it is best to limit cardio to two times per week with short but intense sessions that can be as short as 10 minutes and not longer than 30 minutes, which provides the benefits of muscle preservation and fat loss at the same time. The best time to do cardio would be before Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal.
Nutrition in Ramadan
Traditionally, Muslims break their fast with dates, just like prophet Mohammed (S.A.A.W) did. The wisdoms in Islam are many, and by breaking one’s fast with two or three dates with water, it quickly restores blood sugar and hydration.
Dates have a unique nutrient content, as they contain a high level of potassium, they have minerals and carbohydrates that enhance hydration, and contain glucose and fructose for improving short-term and long-term energy levels.
Research published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition concluded that “dates may be considered as an almost ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits”.
Following breaking the fast, meals for both Iftar and Suhoor should contain high-protein, high-fat content and complex carbohydrate sources, preferably post workout for optimum use of nutrients.
Avoid eating processed foods, fried, sugary foods, and bingeing at Iftar time as it could lead to digestion issues. It is essential to keep hydrating throughout the night, with at least two litres a day.
My experience in Ramadan this past week following the information provided has been nothing but an absolute success. Training at night after having had a high-protein, high-fat, with carb sources from veggies and fruits has given me the energy to continue my strength training without dealing with any dizzy spells or lethargy.
Ramadan is a time not only to increase your worship, but to look after your health and improve your eating habits, rather than bingeing.
Amna Al Haddad is a freelance journalist and the first Emirati and GCC national to compete in the Reebok Crossfit Games Asia Regionals. Her blog is www.999fitness.ae.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lucy Kabuu plans to make her marathon debut at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday.
The 27 year-old Kenyan – winner of the 10,000m gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 – is making the move to marathon running after a hiatus that involved maternity leave.
And after storming to victory in last year’s Great North Run in Newcastle, England and winning the recent Kenyan Police Cross Country Championships, great things are expected of a runner who has twice been an Olympic finalist.
Kabuu’s Great North Run win in 67:06 over a half marathon distance was the third-fastest in the event’s 30-year history, and the Kenyan will certainly have the more established elites in her sights after going a further two seconds faster to win the New Delhi Half Marathon in 67:04 just two months ago.
“The Great North Run was only my second race after giving birth to my daughter Angel, and the whole way round I felt she was with me,” said Kabuu.
“I was so pleased to have a little girl and it was the name I always wanted. I called her that because all my life I have felt like angels have guided me during my races.”
At the recent Kenyan Police Cross Country Championships, Kabuu again underlined her ability by storming ahead of great rivals Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai to take the title – an impressive feat considering Cheruiyot is the World Cross Country Champion, while Masai is the World Cross Country silver medallist.
“My body has been responding well to training,” added Kabuu, who has spent over a month training for Dubai. “I have been doing 48km, then dropping to 40km, 30km and to 20km. I want to try the marathon and see what plans God has for me.”
Kabuu is expected to be one of the star performers in Dubai and even has ambitions of a sub 2hr 19min performance in an event staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council.
“Lucy Kabuu is certainly creating headlines in distance running so it will be exciting to see how she adapts to the marathon,” said event director Peter Connerton.
“Only nine women in the history of the marathon have broken the 2hr 20min mark so, naturally, we will be delighted if we can have one of our elite women break through that barrier when the event gets under way at The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai on January 27. It’s a hugely-talented field of women runners and should provide a fantastic race as Lucy and many others are targeting Olympic qualification.”
More than 1,000 youths representing 42 private and government schools in the UAE were in action at the Dubai Police Officers’ Club as the first Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) Athletics Championships for Youth came to a close.
In the Boys’ Under-12 category, Abu Hanifa Public School topped the podium, closely followed by Dubai National School and The German School.
Al Muhalab School was placed first in the Boys’ Under-15 section, with The German School second and Alshafe’e School third.
Dubai High School led the pack in the Boys’ Under-17 age grouyp as Hamdan Bin Rashid School and Mohammed Bin Rashid School finished second and third respectively.
In the Girls’ Under-15, The German School finished first, followed by Jumeirah College School in second and Nadd Al Hamar in third.
Held under the Patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, and organised by the Dubai School Agency and the UAE Athletics Association, Dh360,000 in prize money was shared among the top-three winning schools in each category.
They received Dh40,000 each, while those in second and third were awarded Dh30,000 and Dh20,000 respectively.
With the intention of boosting school sports and pushing the practice of athletics, these cash rewards were allocated to developing sports and athletics facilities at the winning schools.