I manage a health club in Jordan, and Ramadan is soon approaching (where the Muslim community fasts for four weeks, only eating after sun down). I am not familiar with how this can affect the body with regard to exercise, energy levels, muscle growth and performance. Can you please provide me with some clear guidelines as to what should be prescribed and followed to maintain a healthy body and mind while maintaining a relatively low intensity exercise schedule during Ramadan?
Fasting would be expected to decrease energy levels, inhibit muscle growth and reduce overall levels of performance. As everyone is different, there would be a large variation between individuals and how they react.
Some people would be expected to do very poorly when going all day without eating (protein metabolic types), while others would have little trouble going without food for such a duration (carb metabolic types). For more on metabolic typing, see “related articles” at right.
Whether to train in the morning or evening is dependent on the individual. Hormonally, training in the evening would most likely be the best option for clients during Ramadan as the body can quickly be refuelled. This is especially true for any strong protein metabolic types. For these individuals, training in the morning and then going many hours without eating would cause great discomfort.
In terms of exercise, it would be advisable to use a maintenance training phase. In keeping with traditional periodization, this four week training block would be focused on maintaining current levels and abilities. To do this, the volume of the exercise can be reduced while still performing your aerobic and resistance training activities.
An example of reduced volume may be performing your usual 30 minute jogging pace for just 10 minutes instead or performing one set per exercise instead of three sets. This will allow you to maintain your fitness levels without draining or breaking down your body excessively.
The reduction in time focused on aerobic and resistance activities gives you a great opportunity to focus on static stretching to restore ideal posture, core activation/strengthening and balance training. These three things in combination can result in increased performance on return to full intensity training due to biomechanical improvements.