Exercising and Working Out During Ramadan
Making sure you’re fuelling your body correctly is an incredibly important step of any fitness journey. Whether you’re building strength, boosting your endurance or losing weight, you’ll need your daily food and drink intake to support and energise your workouts. Which is why Ramadan can pose a challenge to your daily exercise routines - with a fasting period between sunrise and sunset, it can be difficult to balance refuelling with your activity levels.
We spoke to PureGym member and fitness inspiration Uns Khatib for her top tips for working out during Ramadan, and have answered some of the most popular questions regarding fitness during this month.
Should you exercise during Ramadan?
Can you exercise during Ramadan? Absolutely yes. Should you exercise during Ramadan? Well, that’s very much up to you and your body. A month can feel like a long time to simply stop working out completely, so you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t necessarily need to give up on your fitness journey.
Many people do keep up a workout routine during fasting hours and some report feeling even more energised during this time.
One of the key considerations when exercising during Ramadan is how your body feels in a fasted state. Exercising on an empty stomach can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure, which can, in turn, may lead to light-headedness and fainting. To find out how your body will react, try lowering the intensity and volume and see how you feel first and then adjust this if necessary. If at any point you feel woozy, make sure to take a step back and avoid exerting yourself.
If you do choose to work out over Ramadan there are some key guidelines to stick to:
- Plan your workouts carefully and don’t overdo it - consider just maintaining your current level (or even dropping slightly for a few weeks) rather than pushing to improve
- Be gentle with yourself - it’s okay to lower the intensity of your exercises and stop if you don’t feel well
- Be mindful of when you’re choosing to work out, so you can plan this around your daily meals
- Choose nutritious, energy-rich foods when you do eat
When is the best time to exercise during Ramadan?
One of the many benefits of gyms that are open either very late or 24 hours hours a day (like most PureGym gyms), is that you have the flexibility to shape your workout plans around your eating windows. Likewise, if you work out at home, you can trial exercising at a few different times throughout the day to see which works best for you.
During Ramadan, I continue with my training as normal but just make sure I go around late afternoon (anytime between 3pm-5pm) so it’s closer to the time I can break my fast. I do make my sessions slightly shorter so I’m not over-exhausting myself@unskfit
If, like Uns, you know you’re likely to want to refuel soon after your workout, then late afternoon sessions could suit you best. This means you’ll have plenty of opportunity to rehydrate and help your body recover once you break your fast. If, however, you perform better with a full tummy, then you can try a morning session after Suhoor, when you’ll have more energy following your pre-fast meal.
Another excellent option (if you don’t mind exercising late at night) is to fit in a session after Iftar. You’ll be able to fuel and hydrate both before and after exercising, meaning you can ensure your body is fully energised. Just make sure you have time for your body to wind down ahead of bed time, as sleep is a key part of your body’s recovery.
What type of exercise is best during Ramadan?
The exact type of exercise you choose to undertake during Ramadan will depend on your needs, preference, goals, and how you feel while fasting. Whether it’s going for a walk, a light jog, doing yoga or weight training, all types of exercise are valid. It’s about finding what is best for you. Start at an intensity lower than you usually would so you don’t exhaust yourself. As we’ve already mentioned, if you find yourself feeling lightheaded with your usual exercise routine, then ease it down a notch.
My training routine during Ramadan is pretty much the same. The only thing I would do is reduce the amount of exercises I will do in a session, lighten the intensity and make sure that I’m giving myself longer rest period.@unskfit
Can I build muscle during Ramadan?
There are nutritional considerations for anyone building muscle - plenty of protein and enough calories to stimulate muscle growth, for example. If you’re fasting between 11-18 hours a day, keeping up an increase in strength and muscle mass can be a serious challenge. This is why it’s generally best to focus on maintenance of your current status for the month, rather than battling for those gains.
Consider pausing any moderate to high intensity cardio work for the month, instead focusing your conserving your energy on stimulating muscle. This will ensure that you have the energy to fuel your training properly, without leaving you overtrained or exhausted.
I like to make sure to give myself enough time to rest and recover so I’m not overworking myself.@unskfit
What food is best to eat during Iftar and Suhoor if you plan on working out?
When you only have two opportunities to re-fuel each day, it’s important to make sure you’re consuming enough nutrient-rich calories to keep you energised throughout your workouts, as well as through the rest of your day.
I make sure to eat enough carbs so I have energy to do my workouts. I also make sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated.@unskfit
Calorie-dense, healthy fats such as oils, eggs, nuts and avocados will be packed full of energy and help fuel you and keep you feeling fuller throughout the day. Add in whole grain carbs, like whole-wheat pasta, oats or quinoa and plenty of proteins such as eggs, beans, cheese and meat for muscle maintenance and you’ll be able to create a range of different healthy recipes that are packed with nutrients to keep you energised.
As noted by Uns, hydration is also incredibly important, especially if you’re sweating in the gym. Make sure to meet your recommended water intake throughout the night and try to consume plenty of water-filled fruits and veggies such as cucumbers, melon and tomatoes. Shakes, smoothies and juices can be an excellent way to meet both your calorie and hydration targets for the day.
Discover some recipes and healthy food ideas over on our nutrition and diet pages.
Thanks to Uns Khatib for her fantastic tips - you can see some examples of fasted workouts over on her Instagram page. Find a 24 hour gym near you or download the free PureGym app for workout plans that suit your needs - it’s perfect for planning either gym or home workouts to fit around your schedule. Our blog also includes plenty of workout ideas, like these HIIT workouts you can try at home or this beginners’ marathon training guide.