Those who wish to exercise while fasting must maintain a high-quality protein intake to support their training, according to Fitness First trainer Abhinav Malhotra.
Muslims fasting during Ramadan can continue to exercise without causing any harm to the body, according to Abhinav Malhotra, Elite Master Trainer at Fitness First Middle East.
He claims that exercise not only helps elevate energy levels during the fasting period, but also has neurological advantages like increased brain cell production and enhanced mental strength.
He stresses, however, that those who wish to exercise while fasting must maintain a high-quality protein intake to support their training and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Here's Malhotra's own guide on the best (and worst) workouts during Ramadan.
If any form of exercise is the best to do in Ramadan, it is resistance training, which can be done using either free weights or your own bodyweight, and include movements like squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups and presses.
Because the body is mostly in a catabolic state during the holy month, making it is easy to lose muscle mass and feel weak, resistance training is recommended as it helps preserve vital muscle mass and improve the hormone profile (testosterone, cortisol, insulin, growth hormone).
Resistance training can also help with borderline diabetes, improving insulin sensitivity and stabilising blood sugar levels by increasing the size of muscle cells and number of insulin receptors on muscle cells. This makes them more available for carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen, accoridng to Malhotra.
He adds that the movements can be done with your own bodyweight at home or free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells to add resistance and make them harder. If you don't have weights, improvise by adding resistance in the form of heavy bags, heavy water bottles or suitcases. He recommends keeping the total training time to 45 minutes.
Avoid high intensity cardio
This form of training relies heavily on stored glycogen as an energy substrate, which is not readily available due to prolonged fasting. This can lead to loss of muscle mass, as protein is converted to glucose, via the process of gluconeogenesis to support quick energy demands. This form of training also leads to more sweating, resulting in loss of water and electrolytes - which is not ideal during Ramadan.
Schedule your training
Malhotra recommends training right before iftar or 1-2 hours after iftar.
Training before iftar might be challenging but helps develop mental focus and intensity tolerance, according to Malhotra, because insulin levels are low and lead to the production of more neurotransmitters, which help you focus better while utilising stored fats more efficiently during the workouts.
Exercising while fasting also leads to better partitioning of nutrients which are consumed during iftar, since the body will be hungry for nutrients, therefore consumed carbohydrates will be easily stored as muscle glycogen and proteins will quickly go to the damaged muscle fibres to kickstart repair and growth.
Training after iftar also has its advantages. Because of the presence of more glucose and amino acids circulating in the blood after you've eaten, the body is more able to support high volume training. And the higher the number of workouts, the more calories you will burn and the more you will build muscle hypertrophy.
But regardless of when you choose to exercise, make sure you remain consistent. Those most important tip, according to Malhotra, is to not miss a workout.