Keeping in Shape During Ramadan


The following is an email I received during my practice as a personal trainer in Los Angeles:

Being a Muslim, I adhere to the holy month of Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset every day, for 30 days. Living in LA, this meant no food from around 5AM – 8PM. Yes, it seems extreme, but having done it for over 15 years, it’s become a regular part of my life, and something I plow through.

However, 3 years ago, I started training consistently and Ramadan would always wreck my training and nutrition program. It’s hard to train with intensity when you have no food in your system. It’s also hard to train after eating at sunset because I’d devour everything in sight, get bloated, and quietly retreat into my bed for the night.

This year, I decided to do things different. Working with Nick for the last 4 months, I knew his help would be critical to my success during Ramadan. In my first 4 months with Nick, I’d lost 23 pounds, going from 17% body fat, to a little over 9%. Who wants to kill that kind of progress? Not me, so we went to work.

First thing we decided on was training. We shifted things around to really capitalize on what energy I had. We reduced our rep counts, but keep the weight consistent, even moved weight up. Nick also kept with my goals of a more athletic physique by breaking our program into almost 50% core functional movements that benefit me athletically. Over the first couple of weeks of Ramadan, I felt myself getting stronger, the careful planning of Nick caused all of it.

Beyond training, we had to make sure the right nutrition was in place. Unlike previous years, where I would devour everything in sight, we fine tuned not just what I ate, but when I ate it. After training, I’d come home right in time to eat. But instead of breaking my fast with a larger portion, I’d split that portion into 2. Eating half then, and the other half a hour or so later. This frequency helped my metabolism, ensured I didn’t bloat, and kept me feeling great. The food was simple, a lean protein, 4 oz of brown rice, a little salad, and that’s it. I’d finish the night off with some almond butter, a pear, or a peach.

The result, it’s week 3 of Ramadan and I’ve lost 3 pounds. This might not seem like much, but last year, I gained 12 pounds during Ramadan from eating the wrong foods, and training poorly. Also, most people tend to gain weight during Ramadan because of the slowed metabolism and binge eating.

Overall, I’m thankful for Nick and his help. He already got me into the best shape of my life, but the ability of him to keep my progress during Ramadan really made me appreciate his efforts even more.

Ramadan Assignment

I have been in the health and fitness business for 17 years, and about a month ago was informed by a client that he will be beginning a month of fasting commencing August 1st – August 30th. Not having experienced or be requested to do this before, i saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to grow in my field, and be able to serve better.

So i went to work, built and structured an exercise and nutritional modal that would work around the new, all be it temporal circumstances. i took into account goals, windows for eating and training during this time, and various physical and emotional limitations.

I want to share this with anyone who would one day be asked to do this, in either PERSONAL TRAINER or client capacity- as follows;

Ramadan is a month long annual Muslim fast, this year 2011 starting August 1st – 30th. Ramadan is on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, it being 12 days shorter than the Lunar year, therefore varies in exact time from year to year. It’s intent is to example less ego more Universe.

During this period, practicing Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. In observance of this fasting period, Muslims neither eat or even drink water during this time period, other than between dusk till dawn.

Mistakes often made during Ramadan. Lack of planning is the biggest mistake you can do during Ramadan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Make a plan for your diet, training, lifestyle, and maintaining your regular daily schedule.
Things To Plan To avoid;

Unhealthful Eating Choices;
People can usually gain 12/15lbs of weight during Ramadan, due to making poor food selection, often eating foods high in sugar,fat, and high glycemic carbohydrates. The traditional soup (Harira) is eaten with bread products and dates, therefore making it a meal consisting of almost 100% carbohydrate and little protein..

Not Eating A Balanced Meal

There is a window of opportunity between 8pm and 5am to replenish your body with all the nutrients from the various food groups. It is crucial during this time to select low glycemic carbohydrates, and proteins to build and sustain muscles broken down from training. Failure to ingest the right amount of protein will result in muscle breakdown (catabolic). It is also important to take on slow burning carbohydrate, for sustained energy.

Effects On The Body When Fasting And Remedy:

It takes about (2) weeks for the transmitters to the brain (Leptin) to send signals to the body that it is not being feed regularly, causing a decrease in the body’s metabolic rate. To remedy the situation eat high quality protein food sources during the window period.

Muscle Atrophy And Strength Loss:

Protein is the building block of muscle, so if you consume enough during the window while fasting it will prevent any muscle loss (Atrophy).

Low Energy/strength. You’ll have energy if you eat enough during your feeding window. The slow burn carbohydrates will give your muscles the glycogen reserves, to have sufficient strength to get through your workouts.

When To Lift Weights During Ramadan. Train fasted: at (6pm) 2 hours before you break your fast. This will enable you to have only a short gap from the end of your workout to the time you can eat (8pm). You will also be able to eat several times, enabling you to get more quality nutrients into your system, as your body can only intake around 30 grams of protein per meal. You also maximize your feeding window since you don’t spend it training.

Losing Body- Fat During Ramadan

It is possible to lose body-fat during Ramadan, as your body will turn to burning stored fat for energy, metabolizing it into Glycogen (muscle fuel).

Strength Increases

By keeping your weight training workouts shorter than normal, say 30/40 minutes, and rep range 6/8 you can retain muscle mass and in some cases increase strength. Keep your sets to 3 per exercise maximum. Put the focus on Core/ functional movements that will aid your fitness and athletic balance.

Clean Eating. Eat whole foods, including lean protein, egg whites, fish, tofu, turkey, whole grain carbohydrates- brown rice, sweet potato, oatmeal and multi-grain breads. Avoid processed foods, as they are mostly empty calories that will give you poor nutrients and energy.

Hydrate. Make certain to drink pure water, aiming for about 100oz during your window 8pm – 6am (dust/dawn), this will ensure that your are fully hydrated for the day ahead. Try to drink the bulk of your water in between meals, and not too much all at once. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages during this period, as they will only undo the hydration that drinking the water has achieved.

Avoid Fast food. Make a point to avoid fast food during your fasting period, as it is high in empty calories, meaning that there is not much nutritional value, which will make you want to eat more to stay satiated, hence gain body-fat.

Moderate cardio. Be sensible with the amount of cardio you do during this time, as you glycogen reserves will be limited and you want to ensure that you will have enough to get you through your weight workouts. It’s all good just catch up on your cardio after the Ramadan period.

Sample food plan

  • 8pm Protein source; 4-7 oz ( depending male or female)
  • Carbohydrate; 8oz yam- brown rice (cup)
  • Mixed greens/ steamed veggies- as much as you can eat
  • (2) tablespoons almond/peanut butter. ( no sugar/salt)
  • 10:30pm same as 8pm.5 or 6am same as 8pm.

    August 24th 2011,

    The experience with my client has been great, and i feel that we have both grown during the past 3 weeks or so. I would recommend to anyone that is faced with this set of circumstance, to view it as a way that you can get better, lose body-fat and enjoy the journey using the circumstances for your benefit.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and you would like a complimentary one-on-one assessment with Personal Trainer in L.A. Nicholas Barrett, please don't hesitate to get in touch! Personal trainer Los Angeles. Los Angeles personal trainer. Personal trainer marina del rey.