Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Athlete Performance - TIPS for Exercise, Training During Ramadan

>> August 04, 2011

During the month of Ramadan it's estimated that around 500 millions of adult Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to sunset. Generally, 'fasting' means you can't drink, eat, smoke, and have sex during the daylights. That will require those who fast to change the timing of food and fluid intakes, as well as sleep cycle.

One day of fasting seems to have no or a little effect on performance. However, thirty consecutive days of fasting may affect various performance factors including strength, speed, and endurance.

Previous studies have mentioned that Ramadan fasting contributed a fall in aerobic capacity, endurance, and ability to perform exercise at 75% of maximum vo2 max. There was also study that reported some decrements in general fitness components (speed, agility, endurance) and skill test (dribbling) following the fasting (1). The reasons of aforesaid decrements might be lack of fluid and food intake and sleep loss , in which subsequently increase fatigue.

However, recent study demonstrates that there were no clear effects in speed, power, agility, endurance and dribbling skill following Ramadan fasting (7). A study found that Ramadan fasting did not affect the physical performance of athletes, in fact improved performance (2). 

A study was carried out to investigate the effects of Ramadan fasting on anaerobic power, anaerobic capacity and the removal rate of lactate in sprinters, thrower (athletics), and wrestlers (3). Results from this study suggested that Ramadan fasting may not produce adverse effects on body composition, anaerobic power, anaerobic capacity, and LA metabolism during, and after high intensity exercise if there is no change in total daily caloric intake (food and fluid), and no change in total sleeping hours or if everything are maintained as before Ramadan (3).

During Ramadan fasting, proper periodisation of training is important for maintaining and optimising the performance of athletes. Adjustment of training can have a remarkable effect on performance. High-level athletes can maintain performance during Ramadan if physical training, diet, and sleep are well-controlled (9).

Recommendation / Tips for Exercising During Ramadan

  • First of all, there is no reason to stop your regular exercise during Ramadan;
  • Exercise in the morning is okay as long the neuromuscular is already activated and ready to practice;
  • Exercise in the afternoon/evening (normally 2 hours before break fast) is okay but you may control  the training variables (volume, set, repetition) to adapt the physiological change occurred during Ramadan;
  • From the scientific research, experienced athletes may be able maintain the normal training loads (with some adjustments) when fasted in Ramadan's month;
  • Heavy gym session or weight training is preferably be done 1 and a half hour after first meal of post fasting so you can lower the risk of muscle damage;
  • Other reason to exercise at evening is you can consume your supplement foods as usual;
  • If your aim is to lose weight, the best time to perform the workouts is 1 - 1.5 hours prior to break-fast (evening);
  • You may drink heap of waters during sunset to dawn (not dawn to sunset, of course !!);
  • Maintain the daily calorie intake (food & fluid) as before Ramadan (very important);
  • Make sure that you consume protein with the pre-fasting and post-fasting meals;
  • Taking extra multivatamin, protein shake, protein bar are also very helpful;
  • You should ensure adequate sleep and good nutrition to preserve performance and general health.

  • It's clear that you don't really need to make an excuse regarding your practice or training during Ramadan. However to keep your body (and mind), fit and healthy, good diet, sleep etc as mentioned above should be adhered, or your training's performance may decline as reported from the scientific studies. Kindly remember that training impact from week 1 to week 4 of fasting month may be different (increase), thus adjustments of diets and workouts are vital.

    (1) Impact of Ramadan on physical performance in professional soccer players
    (2) Influence of Ramadan fasting on physiological and performance variables in football players: Summary of the F-MARC 2006 Ramadan fasting study
    (3) Influence of Ramadan fasting on anaerobic performance and recovery following  short time high intensity exercise
    (4) Effect of Ramadan fasting on 60 min of endurance running
    (5) Effect of Ramadan intermittent fasting on aerobic an anaerobic performances
    (6) Is diurnal lifestyle altered during Ramadan in professional Muslim athletes
    (7) The influence of Ramadan on physical performance measures in young Muslim football
    (8)  Effects of Ramadan on physical performance: chronobiological consideration
    (9)  Influence of Ramadan fasting on anaero bic performance and recovery following short time high intensity exercise

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