It is that time of the year when many if not most people are discussing or considering workout best practices while fasting during Ramadan.
Jason Young and Hussain Al Ajmi,personal trainers at GymNation, share their tips and bust myths on the topic for workout veterans and first-timers.
What are some myths about exercising during Ramadan?
Myth 1: Exercise is a waste of time during Ramadan
Hussain Al Ajmi (HA) – It is really important to keep up your exercise routine as much as possible in Ramadan so that there is a lesser impact on your body due to any dietary or lifestyle changes.
Jason Young (JY) – maintaining your exercise regime combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle is scientifically proven to have an immense impact on improving energy levels, which would be beneficial for those who are fasting. On the contrary, to discontinue your exercise regime for a month can, in fact, have several negative side effects on the body such as mental and muscle fatigue, loss of muscle and fitness.
Myth 2: I can eat anything at all since I am fasting
HA – You have to watch what you eat during Ramadan, just because you are not eating during the day does not mean that you can eat mindlessly when and after breaking your fast. Try to maintain a healthy diet as much as possible.
Myth 3: I’ll lose weight because I’m not eating all day
JY – Just because you are not eating throughout the day, your body’s need for exercise does not disappear. You should still aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day to maintain and improve your mood, energy levels, and body and mind function overall.
During Ramadan, what should people avoid or include in the meal before working out?
HA – Before working out, it is important to have carbs, both complex and simple, which are the primary source of energy for the body. It is also important to include a good source of protein in your Iftar meal in order to avoid muscle breakdown during the workout. Foods that are high in fat (especially trans-fat) is to be avoided as much as possible before a workout.
JY – It is easy to indulge in food during Ramadan. However, Iftar and Suhoor meals should be a simple and well-balanced meal, not a feast, and should not differ substantially from your normal everyday diet.
To maintain a balanced and nutritious diet, a person should consume food from all the major food groups, equally distributed between the two meal times.
The major food groups are:
There are certain foods that should be avoided such as:
What is an ideal time gap to maintain between the meal and workout?
HA – An ideal time gap between Iftar/a meal and the workout should be 2-3 hours, which is enough time for your body to digest the food.
JY – As a general guide, all workouts should be kept between 30 to 60 minutes and cardiovascular exercises should be limited to twice a week. Ideally, the best time to exercise is just before Suhoor mainly because you should be energetic after Iftar as your body would have digested the food by this time.
Any tips for people who choose to work out during the hours of fasting?
HA – Tip 1: Keep the workout at medium intensity, and don’t try to break world records! Simply going to the gym and carrying out low-intensity exercise during the hours of fasting is a good goal in itself.
Tip 2: Try to work out a few hours before Iftar, that way Iftar can be your post-workout meal.
Tip 3: Track your calories and make sure you’re not in a severe caloric deficit
JY – Like Hussain said, exercise for maintenance rather than gains.
Is there a workout duration or goals that are ideal for people who are fasting?
HA – Workouts during Ramadan don’t have to be intense. If you are aiming to maintain your strength levels, then keep up the rest between your sets. If preventing fat gain is your goal then keep the workout short, sharp and at an intensity level that is comfortable with less rest between intervals. Remember that your body is not getting the usual nutrition, so listen to how it is reacting to exercise and adjust your goals accordingly.
JY – I would personally advise that all workouts for those fasting during Ramadan should be kept between 30-60 minutes per session. I recommend exercising at least three times a week and regardless of your fitness goals, I would also advise that the intensity of a work out to be reduced during this period.
Is it ideal to set new fitness goals while working out during Ramadan, especially if you are a beginner?
HA – Setting new fitness goals and habits in Ramadan can be tough but it is encouraged. Having said that, do what you feel is within your reach, don’t aim too high. Set small, measurable and realistic goals for yourself even if that is just walking for 30 mins per day. At the end of Ramadan, when you get back to your normal exercise routine it won’t be as hard on the body and you will be happy you made the effort.
JY – I believe it truly depends on each individual’s goals; however, for those who do already work out, in my opinion, maintenance is a realistic target during Ramadan. It is unlikely to add lean or mass muscle when not eating at regular intervals. For those who are looking to keep fit or are already on a weight loss regime then regular exercise will maintain energy levels and keep the individual on their path to reach their goal.
During Ramadan, GymNation will remain open 24 hours every day with classes starting at 6.30 am and running till late. Ramadan class timetable is available here.
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The fast of Ramadan is rigorous during the best of times.
During long and hot summer days, it may be required observe the fast for as many as sixteen or more hours at a time.
To ensure adequate nutrition and continued good health follow these tips:
1. Prior to Ramadan, a Muslim should always consult with a doctor about the safety of fasting in individual health circumstances.
2. The best time to work out is about just before Iftar (the meal that breaks the fast.)
3. Pick low-intensity activities like walking, and low-impact classes like yoga, Pilates, and Body Balance
4. Avoid intense endurance, plyometric, speed and agility training. Just aim to maintain, not gain.
5. Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy or nauseous.
6. Even if you are generally healthy, recognize that Ramadan will take a toll. Plan your schedule and meals ahead of time in order to make sure you get the nutrients, hydration, and rest that you need. Fruit and vegetables ensure a balanced diet and assist in keeping healthy.
7. Eat suhoor just prior to dawn. Yes, it’s hard to get up at that hour, which is why it has many benefits and rewards. It will help you to wake up for the Fajr prayer. The suhoor meal is Sunnah. And this morning meal is generally recognized as the single most important meal of the day. Do not overeat, though. Focus on taking in foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, fruits or vegetables, and plenty of water. For example: an egg on whole-grain toast, a few crackers with peanut butter, some orange slices, and two glasses of water.
8. During the hottest part of the day, stay in cool areas (indoors or in shade) and limit your physical activity. Rest if possible.
9. Avoid gorging yourself when breaking the fast at sunset. Follow the Sunnah: break your fast with dates and either milk, water, or fruit juice. After the maghrib prayer, continue with a light starter such as soup and crackers. After a long period of fasting, you need to bring your fluids and blood sugar level up without overdoing it.
10. During the early evening (after maghrib), have a healthy and balanced dinner. Do not overeat, and be sure to drink a few more glasses of fluids.
11. During the evening hours, resist the temptation to drink tea, coffee, and soda. When visiting friends or family, ask for glasses of water.
12. Serve yourself, your family, and guests a “dessert” of fresh fruit and nuts. There are lovely choices available in this season, and they are much more healthy than chocolates and candy.
13. Sip on water throughout the evening. Aim for 8 glasses by bedtime. To help you keep track, fill and refill a water bottle with a measured amount of water, and be sure to finish it.
14. Light exercise, such as walking for 15-20 minutes, is best done in the evening hours.
15. Avoid fried and spicy foods as they may cause heartburn or indigestion.
16. Speak to your doctor about an appropriate multi-vitamin.
17. Continue to brush and floss your teeth several times a day.
18. Wash your hands regularly, and avoid those who cough or sneeze. This is important to prevent the spread of viruses (such as seasonal flu and H1N1) and bacteria which may cause illness.
19. Quit smoking.
20. Organise your schedule so that you get enough sleep.
If you ever thought good health is something achievable with the vastly sedentary nature of modern life, then you’d be surprised to know according to Yoga and Ayurveda, the key to a healthy body is, quite literally, in your hands.
Mudra, a Sanskrit word for ‘Seal’, is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism and is often dubbed as yoga for hands, which is meant to lock and guide the energy flow of the body by curling, stretching and crossing the fingers in a certain way.
The practice of Yoga and Mudra are similar and the hand positions are considered to amplify the energies around the practitioners, allowing them to enter a deeper meditative state.
UAE-based Indian HR professional Sujit Sukumaran has been a mudra coach for nearly a decade and possesses a strong passion for spiritual and alternative medicine, given his own experience of being a Cerebral Palsy survivor.
The 34-year-old is a strong proponent of the benefits of this simple exercise and has conducted various workshops at House of Om to promote it.
“The origin of Mudras can be found within the treatises of yoga, most specifically Patanjalis Yoga Sutras (a collection of 196 Indian aphorisms on the theory and practice of yoga),” Sukumaran said.
“While Yoga in its more popular form of Asana deals with postural exercises, mudras on the other hand deal with the five fingers on each hand and the attribution of each of the five fingers to an element across the five elements, which are: Fire. Water, Ether (Space), Earth and Water.”
“The science behind it is that at the tips of our fingers there are thousands of nerve endings. Additionally, there is a bio-charge we have within our body which forms part of an internal body circuit. The scientific assertion of Mudra in therapy is that when the nerve endings are connected and held in certain combinations, over a prescribed period, it results in desired effects.”
According to Ayurveda, illnesses are caused as a result of an imbalance of these elements in our body. Through various mudras, the elements can be brought back in to balance and harmony.
Sukumuran has championed the benefits of this therapy for years, but refuses to endorse a super-inferior paradox when it comes to comparing its effectiveness to other treatment methods.
While he has found mudras to be very effective in maintaining ones overall health, he insists it will not give you an overnight cure and should be paired with traditional treatments to stabilise an existing ailment.
“The main issue is people think it’s a magic pill or an antidote to all pre-existing anomalies. While mudras work, you must first stabilise the chronic ailment or imbalance before attempting therapy as a base, without which a superimposition will only complicate matters or have simply no results. Secondly, people expect overnight miracles,” he said.
“(Through my workshops) I hope to achieve greater awareness across three groups in specific. Teachers, Children and Corporates. Teachers because those who are in the field need greater awareness on therapeutics rather than making training courses a certificate granting exercise. Children and students, because there is a need for self, assured young people given the stresses they endure. Corporates, because in the rat-race, we are losing health, wealth and attention spans.”
Sujit Sukumaran currently manages a WhatsApp group where aspiring Yoga teacher and Mudra practitioners can communicate with on another regarding upcoming meetups and courses. Contact Sujit on [email protected] and mobile on 050-5669494.