Nutritional Consideration for Ramadan
During the Holy month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims practice daily fasting from dawn until sunset for religious and spiritual reasons. Traditionally, one breaks the fast at sunset with a meal called Iftar and then eats again pre-dawn at Suhoor. Depending on what part of the World you are in, this can mean fasting for anywhere from 12-20 hours per day. This period can pose challenges for athletes and those engaging in physical activities for a number of different reasons. Following some basic principles outlined below during Iftar and Suhoor can help to alleviate some of these challenges.
Research has shown that people can maintain their levels of performance during Ramadan if physical training, sleep, food and fluid intake are well controlled during this time. During periods of extended fasting, the body will use its stored energy from glycogen and fat.
Our bodies will also try to converse water but becoming dehydrated is hard to avoid as we regularly excrete water through urine, sweat and breath. Drinking plenty of fluids where possible and also utilizing fluid containing foods such as yoghurts, fruit, vegetables, soups, smoothies and stews is a good way to help support hydration levels.
Periods of fasting and lower intake of fluids can also contribute to the possibility of gastrointestinal discomfort and/or constipation. Consuming fibre rich foods during Iftar and Suhoor, such as wholegrains, cereals, beans, lentils, chickpeas along with lots of fluids can help support a healthy digestive system. Going for a short walk or during light physical activity post feeding can also help.
Try to avoid the temptation of indulgent foods containing high amount of fat and processed sugars during feeding times. Aiming to have a balance of complex carbohydrates, fruits & vegetables, proteins and fats will help provide everything you need. Foods such as oats, museli, fruits, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soups, rice and breads are all popular choices when breaking the fast.
Preparing meals and snacks in advance can be a useful strategy during Ramadan to make sure that you manage to consume nutritious options during Iftar and Suhoor. Utilizing casein protein, which is digested more slowly than other forms of protein may also be a useful tip during this time. Casein protein is found most commonly in dairy based produce and can also be supplied as a protein powder.
Some light activity such as a walk can be helpful post feeding to help digestion. For high performers, where possible, it may be beneficial to move training times to either the morning or evening time, closer to the consumption of food. Each person will react differently so managing individual expectations is key to ensuring a successful approach to Ramadan.
Some people may have disrupted sleep pattern sduring the Ramadan period. This is influenced by the actual time that Iftar and Suhoor occur. Research has shown decreases in total sleep time and sleep quality in athletes during the Ramadan period. Encouraging an afternoon nap and practicing good sleep habits where possible are both additional strategies that can help manage sleep during this period.