Siraaj's Ramadan Fitness Plan Updated

You may remember last year I wrote a post entitled Ramadan Fitness Plan in which I outlined the program I was following for fat loss, a plan which helped me lose 8 lbs during Ramadan '09.  I continued training until my net weight loss was 48 lbs, alhamdulillah.

Since that time, I've both trained people in person and online, and I'm continuing my education in nutrition and training. While it's obvious that the majority of people don't train, what is less obvious is that the advice you've received over the years from fitness professionals is better geared towards people who are themselves already in the habit of being active.

What about the rest of us who never work out, who start and stop programs every 6 months, who have families, jobs, and kids to take care of, and now have the additional 'ibadah from Ramadan upon us? I know a lot of you feel compelled to try to lose some weight now because you'll be fasting, and what better time to lose weight than when you're not eating, right?

All wrong. Ramadan is not the time for changing your physical fitness habits. Your focus and priority is 'ibadah, not fat loss. A fit and healthy body will definitely help you with your 'ibadah, but starting a fitness program on top of fasting and late night prayer is a train wreck waiting to happen.  Instead, what I suggest is looking at your level of fitness, and incrementally adding tweaks to your eating and physical activity to begin the process.

The Food Plan

What food plan? You're fasting, right? There's just one problem – you're fasting. Slower metabolism.  And then at night, you're eating more than what you normally would to make it back up. And, since we're in Ramadan, every variation of samosa and bakhlava is served before and after the main course. Every night. And then to add insult to injury, you eat again after taraweeh, and then go to sleep.

Without exception, the most important fitness activity you can do this Ramadan is please Allah by following the Prophet's advice:

On the authority of Al-Miqdam ibn Madiy-Karib who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying, “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.”

Whenever anyone asks me what training regimen they should do, the first question I ask them is about their eating, and it never fails, they're overeating. In most gatherings I've attended, I see well-circumferenced plates with food stacked vertically and horizontally.

What follows is a simple system for you to use, according to your level of discipline

Level 1: No Discipline / Control Over the Menu

For those of you eating indiscriminately throughout the year, let's not talk at all about food quality, and let's focus solely on quantity.  You know best-tasting foods will be placed in front of you everyday, you know you won't resist it, and you know if you try to discriminate and eat one item and not another, someone will harass you about it.

Go ahead and eat a little bit of everything, but make sure the quantity stays low. Meaning, take slow measured bites, and keep checking if you have that gnawing feeling in your stomach you had earlier when you were fasting. If it goes away, stop eating immediately and save the rest of your food for later.  Snack a little on dessert, and you're done.  Have some tea, and eat just a little bit after taraweeh.

Make sure you have suhoor in the morning, and make sure it's simply a normal sized meal, and don't worry about stuffing yourself for the day – it doesn't work. Do make sure you're well-hydrated, though.

Level 2: Some Discipline / Say in the Menu

If this describes you, then focus on bringing some balance to your plate – instead of piling on rice or naan, take much smaller portions of rice and naan, and add more meat and vegetables. Don't worry too much about fat, it'll be out and about. Make sure to keep the quantity of food reasonable, as described in Level 1.

Level 3: Total Control

  • Proteins: Lean, complete proteins from chicken, turkey, beef, egg-whites or whey protein shakes of your choice.
  • Carbs: Slow carbs like lentils and hummus, fruits, and veggies. No starchy carbs like pasta, rice, or bread, unless it's within 90 minutes post-workout. I'd definitely recommend whole grain bread over white rice, for example, but not over lentils or hummus.
  • Fats: Get at least 5 grams of fish oil as well as olive oil (uncooked), almonds, and peanuts.  Avoid saturated fats and trans fats.
  • No Processed Foods: Foods should come from whole food sources. Salad dressing and twinkies are not whole food sources. Samosas are the enemy.

Ramadan Fitness: Training Regimen

Before we talk about what to do, let's talk when you do it, and why. I advocate working out one hour prior to breaking the fast because the body is primed and ready for more carbohydrate consumption (from starchy sources). There's debate as to whether whether working out in a fasted state is good or bad for the protein synthesis (meaning muscle loss), but I consider it irrelevant, one way or another.

I say this because the proposal of working out after taraweeh prayers is just a tad impractical – in Chicago, 'Isha prayer starts at 9:30pm approximately, so you're looking at 11pm before you get out of the masjid, and 1am in the morning is around when your work, shower, and post-workout meal are completed and consumed. And then you can wake up for suhoor at…4am, just 3 hours later. As it turns out, studies also show inadequate sleep is also harmful for muscle-protein synthesis and fat loss. I would guess most people would not handle that beyond 2 – 3 days tops before crashing and burning.

So while working out an hour before the fast concludes is potentially not optimal, it is sustainable, and more than idealized tweaks that are optimizations at best, I prefer that a person who's training build a program that's sustainable.  A sustainable, consistent program will any day, hands down beat an optimal, impractical program. This is particularly important for those of you who always get going on a fitness program earlier in the year and are then sidetracked by Ramadan. Having said that, let's get to the specifics:

Level 1: Absolute Beginner

Get yourself a pedometer and some Vibram Five Finger shoes (they're funky looking and neat feeling) and work on getting between 6000 – 10,000 steps daily. Climb the stairs, and play with the kids if you have any. Set aside 1 – 2 hours before breaking the fast, and work on making that your “training” hour. If you can build that into your day, and follow what I outlined in Level 1 eating, you can expect to lose a fair amount of weight, provided you're consistent with this on a daily basis.

An MM reader, Amy suggestions for the absolute beginner: getting 6k-10k steps a day, some ideas: walking around the block, in shopping malls, taking 15 minutes during lunch or breaks to walk (especially since you won't be eating in Ramadan) can add up at the end of the day.

Level 2: Intermediate

If you want to do cardio, keep the pace moderate on the treadmill. For weightlifting, go with heavy weights, and lift them fast. I would say whatever you can lift 4 – 6 times, aiming for a total of 25 reps on exercises that are compound movements (bench, deadlift, squat, bent over rows, shoulder presses, dips, pull ups, lunges, etc). By lifting heavier weights, you'll help protect your muscle throughout Ramadan.  Aim to do this at least 3 times weekly.  And make sure you do what the Level 1 guy is doing as well.

Level 3: Advanced

You'll do what Level 1 and Level 2 is doing, but in one of your workout sessions, choose weights you can only lift 2 – 3 times, and aim to lift it a total of 15 reps. Or, if you're feeling a little crazy, you can do an all-out athletic training program like P90x (wouldn't recommend it unless you have a death wish).

Workout Template

You can choose the exercises you want to do like so:

  1. Upper Body Push
  2. Upper Body Pull
  3. Lower Body Movement
  4. Isolation Movement

For example:

  1. Weighted Dips
  2. Wide Grip Pull ups
  3. Hack Squat
  4. Bicep Curls

All of this can be found in greater detail in Chad Waterbury's book “Huge in a Hurry” (which I've used and benefited greatly from). By the way, the advice above was for sisters as well. If you don't have equipment, then focus on the moderate-paced cardio and at the very least, Level 1 Eating.

Conclusion

I've tried to keep this program as simple and practical as possible for as wide a number of people as possible. However, if you have specific questions you need addressed about the program, the comments section below is a great place to start =) As always check with your doctor first before starting any sort of program.

Nezro, a commenter had the following suggestion:

Another way for people to control quantity is to use smaller utensils and plates and drink some a decent amount of water with your meal. This is the first Ramadan that I've been following the Paleo diet (no sugar/wheat/gluten) and I feel awesome. Suhoor consists of a 2 egg omelette with some chicken and sunflower seeds for extra fat along with a protein shake. Dinner is usually something similar (protein+fat source) and I'll have a nectarine/peach with some walnuts as a snack. So far I\'m able to maintain close to my regular workouts (Olympic lifting and crossfit) though I'm paring down the heavier conditioning days. Working out close to iftar is key and works pretty well. I'll supplement my dinner on workout days with sweet potato to help replenish glycogen levels.

 

Reader question: For a sister on level 1 what is the best thing to eat during suhoor? What is the best thing to eat when you open your fast- after the date and water? Should it be fruit, carbs, protein etc?

Siraaj: I just don't want you filling up so much that you\'re bloated. If you can control your dietary choices, a couple of scrambled eggs and a slice of whole grain toast, and a few dates to keep it Sunnah style :)For dinner, after the dates, I think a scoop of whey protein mixed in a bit of skim milk is a great start (I go with Optimum Nutrition Whey). If shakes aren't your thing, though, a little bit of everything is ok, just don't overdo it, pray, and then come back looking for more for the 'actual' dinner, if you know what I mean.

Sally, a reader asked : My challenge so far has been getting full quickly and not being able to eat enough to support my metabolism. With only 3 hrs of active eating possible for me, getting in all the water and proper nutrition is a chore! I eat clean and would appreciate any tips!

Siraaj : If intensity is too high, try decreasing it and using Ramadan as the time you work out to keep yourself in maintenance mode. For eating, you might try waking up at night and having protein shakes and BCAAs throughout the night (bodybuilder's qiyaam ul layl to prevent muscle loss:) ) At the very least, have a good dose of protein, maybe even a serving and a half, before bed.

Question from a  sister who is a level 2 as far as controlling quantity but not having enough quality foods, and recently started cardio in the evenings after work, when would you suggest is the best time for me to continue doing that during Ramadan?

Siraaj: There's this raging debate among fitness enthusiasts about fasted cardio- essentially, some of the most successful gym enthusiasts wake early in the morning, don't eat anything, and do their cardio first thing, essentially on an empty stomach.

Some claim that it's going to burn fat more than other times due to being in a fasted state, others claim it makes your ripe for muscle loss. Somewhere in between is a group that says it's beneficial provided you don\'t go too hard and supplement with some BCAAs to mitigate muscle loss.

And then, how does all this apply to someone who's fasting and awake? The only way to really know for sure is to pick a particular way of doing it, measure your bodyfat  girth and other essential markers for your specific goals, and see how it works out over a two week period. Then change the variable of eating before the workout, and measure that effect for two weeks (assuming intensity remains the same), eating with your regular eating pattern (because you'll probably not change that pattern).

Most people don't care enough to do this (including me). The best way to choose your workout time is choosing one you can do while still prioritizing your worship. The good news for you is that if you pray isha at home, you get more reward.  I prefer the time before iftar because practically speaking, the time between iftar and isha is about an hour and a half, which isn't enough time for me to eat, relax, then go to the gym and workout, shower, and then hit isha at the masjid (and the gym and masjid about 5 and 10 minutes away, respectively).

So bottom line, decide what you want out of Ramadan worship first, and fit the work out into a spot that will accommodate that, and which you can do consistently. If it ends up that working out before isha and taraweeh is best for you and you can't catch the isha prayer on time, maybe pray at home and do taraweeh on your own, and use it as an opportunity to read more Qur'an, insha'Allah.

Suggestions for a male reader who has been overweight all his adult life:

If you're willing to spend money (about $99 / month), I would recommend precisionnutrition.com's lean eating program for men. They'll teach you how to eat, provide you with the work out plans to do in the gym, and you'll have a coach to answer all your questions.

The most important factors in fat loss programs are two: consistency and intensity, and those are both on you ;). You must consistently get to the gym or do your program, and you have to be sweating bullets in the first 10 minutes all the way to the end of the hour, otherwise, yo\'re a cardio bunny on a treadmill / elliptical / exercise bike.

Every weight loss program and eating program will have it's strengths and weaknesses. Don't get caught up in all that, you'll just give yourself a headache pick one, follow it to the end, and make sure to be consistent and intense, and insha'Allah you'll see the benefits.

As far as programs go, I recommend Men's Health Book of Muscle (no nutrition program here), P90x (also comes with nutrition program), and Lean Eating from Precision Nutrition. If I had to recommend a diet program to choose that's separate from the weight training, I'd go with the Zone's recommendations:

http://www.zonediet.com/RESOURCES/ZoneDietHints/tabid/79/Default.aspx

Reader suggested audio: How to have a healthy Ramadan by fitness expert Mubarakah Ibrahim

33 Responses

  1. Haleh

    JazakAllah khair Brother Siraaj for this post. I have been on a very good program the past 2 weeks by walking on the treadmill for 2 miles( about 20 min.) and then working out on the machines. It’s been great and I was thinking about how I was going to maintain my exercise program during Ramadan. You inspired me to continue inshaAllah!

    Haleh

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    • Siraaj

      Walaykum as salaam,

      Glad to hear it, alhamdulillaah =) I’ve found the key is to keep the intensity medium and the timing realistic and sustainable according to the priorities I have. I think its also important to alert family members of any schedule changes so they’re not caught by surprise. These days I hit the gym in the afternoon, but will have to change to evenings once Ramadan starts, so had to work that one out with the wife :)

      Siraaj

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  2. Abez

    Samosas are the enemy

    Ramadan is not the time for changing your physical fitness habits. Your focus and priority is ‘ibadah, not fat loss.

    Ameen!

    I’m packing about ten kilos of post-baby weight at the moment, though in the past my sister and I managed to lose over 50lbs each, and it was done through moderate exercise and no dieting- just eating according to the Sunnah- one third food, one third water, one third air. +10 for the statement that Ramadan is not a month of dieting, but Ibadah. Discipline of one’s stomach is an act of Ibadah and submission to Allah when undertaken for His sake and for following the Sunnah, InshaAllah.

    Great Article

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    • Siraaj

      And perhaps the greatest act of discipline during Ramadan is not gorging oneself for suhoor and especially iftar =)

      Siraaj

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  3. Zubair

    Overall I’d say this is a good article and your diet tips are right on, especially because of the over endulgence during Ramadan. Your workout recommendations are good, and I think these are good plans for people to follow if they don’t have a plan they are already using.

    However, it’s really a bad idea to workout in a fasted state, especially after the very long days of this Ramadan InshaAllah. Not only will it cause muscle atrophy (muscle loss, that will then lower the metabolism even more) but it could also cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that could reach dangerous levels. Also, aerobic activity will add to dehydration that already occurs while fasting. I would suggest nothing more than very low intensity non exercise physical activity before breaking the fast (walking at a very slow pace).

    Rather than working out right before breaking the fast, I would suggest working out right AFTER breaking the fast and praying Maghrib. This means you eat a small, light iftaar (not a full meal) but dates and protein before salaat and then do your exercise right after the Maghrib salat. Your empty stomach will digest the food faster and you don’t need to wait a whole hour before exercising as long as you keep the portion small. You should have about an hour before Isha salaat, so you can squeeze in a 30 to 45 minute workout with time to get ready for prayer, with a hefty protein shake right before Isha. Then eat a healthy whole food meal after Taraweeh and make sure to eat more for sahoor. This strategy has worked amazingly for me for the past 2 Ramadans, where i’ve hit my leanest of the year at this time, while maintaining strength and muscle by just doing 30 minute workouts before Isha.

    I understand this might not be possible for everyone as the timing between Maghrib and Isha is usually when chai and socializing come out, but another option is to do a short, intense workout after taraweeh. This could include a 15-minute circuit of body weight exercises (push-ups, pullups, squats, lunges) that don’t require any equipment and can be done in your living room. That way you still get a workout in but are not up until 1 am.

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    • Siraaj

      Salaam alaykum Zubair,

      As I mentioned earlier, there is some debate in the scientific community about whether it truly is harmful to work out in a fasted state or not. For example:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837645

      This study demonstrated that working out in a fasted state was better for people on high calorie fatty diets than first ingesting a meal and then training. There is little doubt that less access to carbs and sugars to pull for energy, there is a the chance the body will turn to muscle for energy, but studies also demonstrate that the body will more readily oxidize fat for energy as well, so myself, I’ll be sure to have a whey protein drink with either CGT or simple sugars to quickly start up muscle-protein synthesis post-workout and hopefully minimize any losses.

      Thus far, I haven’t experienced any loss during Ramadan in terms of strength or performance. However, you make a good point about hypoglycemia for those already having low blood sugar, which is why before embarking on a training plan, it’s good to check with the doctor first (which is also recommended in the article).

      Siraaj

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      • Zubair

        WS Br. Siraaj

        As saying goes “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” If you are successful with this method then I can’t argue with that. I personally have never been successful with the method you described, and always seem to crash and burn during a workout. But everyone’s metabolism/recovery ability/work capacity is different. I would suggest if you have a chance, to try the method I outlined as well, just to compare the work capacity that’s capable in both methods.

        As per the study you mentioned, you can usually find a study to back all the scientific opinions, and in this regard I would pay close to attention to the diet and type of training done in the study. It’s hard to tell all of that exactly from an abstract but they specify a hyper-caloric high-fat diet (excess calories and excess fat, with 50% of calories coming from fat) and also doesn’t mention how long the fasted state is. Just a guess would be that the excess of (slow digesting) fats have to do with muscle sparing whilst training fasted. Also note that they mention that this was the FIRST study to ever show these kind of results. If you have a copy of the full study I’d love to read it.

        Thanks for the information, and I enjoy this topic so glad to see your article and response.

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      • Siraaj

        As per the study you mentioned, you can usually find a study to back all the scientific opinions

        And that was my point in quoting it. There are many other studies about the benefits of exercising in a fasted state, as there are against, depending on the goals involved.

        I agree with what you’ve said about doing what works for you, though. If one method worked and was sustainable for you, then that’s really where I want you to go and wouldn’t recommend otherwise.

        I’m not sure if you’re married or not – I know a lot of married brothers will not be able to pull that off because breaking the fast is often a social event and not possible that way.

        Siraaj

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  4. Nabeel Azeez

    As-salamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

    Really beneficial post, mashaAllah.

    A few observations:
    1) Considering people are fasting, I don’t think complex carbs like rice, potatoes and oats would hurt as long as it doesn’t make up the bulk of their calorie intake. Ideally you’d want them eating brown/wild rice, yams/sweet potatoes or steel cut oats.

    2) Why recommend whole grain bread over white rice? Bread: lots of ingredients. Rice: one ingredient.

    3) Even for those people who don’t train/have never trained, strength training is the best bang for their buck, much more so since they are in an untrained state. The more muscle they can keep on their bodies, the more fat they’ll end up losing. They can try to get extra walking in during the course of their day.

    4) Chad Waterbury is awesome. I learned that I was doing push-ups all wrong through one of his articles.

    5) What about simplifying the training even further? Squat, dead lift, overhead press, bench press- that’s all. Pull ups can be included if you can do them (most people can’t), or Barbell Rows/body-weight rows. Pick one lower body movement and one upper body movement, work up to a heavy weight for 3 reps or 5 reps, and then leave.

    6) Do you plan to get a strength training certification to compliment your knowledge/experience?

    Jazakallahu khairan for an excellent post. It’s really great to see brothers striving on their nutrition and fitness.

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    • Siraaj

      Salaam alaykum Nabeel,

      Thanks for the comments, and I’m glad you liked the post. To the questions:

      1. For the level 3 folks, if they’re working out right before iftar, then I don’t even mind if the carbs are simple like white rice. otherwise, if they’re whole grain / fiber-dense and kept to a minimum, I believe that’s ideal. However, keep in mind the audience – if I say “minimize carbs”, most will take this to mean “cut my plate of white rice in half” which I’ve seen time and again (probably needs much more to get down to that level).

      2. White rice is reputed for a high GI due to its being a simple carb and basically a large sugar load that spikes insulin too quickly. There is some debate that if you add other types of foods into the mix, it will lower the spiking effect. Brown rice contains more fiber, which slows down the digestion of carbs, which slows down insulin release, which is what you’re looking for generally when you eat, particularly at night when you’re close to sleep (and when much of the iftar breaking is now occurring).

      3 and 5. The answer to both these questions is that recommendations have to be made based on the level of the people, and unfortunately, most people are in an untrained, deconditioned state. To tell people to do squats or deadlifts (which requires a great amount of skill and someone standing next to them to make sure they’re doing it right), or recommend beginning a strength training program in Ramadan when the habit is not there when time is less constrained is not a realistic plan.

      For people who are training already and looking to figure out how to minimize the loss of gains made throughout the year, then yeah, strength-training and compound movements make sense. For most others, it’s more like, let’s try to minimize the damage.

      6. I was working on both a certification in nutrition and personal training with NASM when I wrote the article. Then I received a job at Cisco, moved out to California, and haven’t had time to return to it. I hope to finish it eventually, but I have a few Cisco Certs that I’m preparing for right now, and that has to finish first =)

      Siraaj

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  5. Bahader

    Siraaj what about for us who want to gain weight? For us who are very small

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    • LearningArabic

      Bahader,

      If you want to get big you will need to LIFT BIG and EAT BIG (not unhealthy, but eating foods high in protein that will build muscle).

      Realistically, you will not be able to gain during the month of Ramadan, nor should you even try. As Siraaj mentioned, the focus should be on our worship. Personally, I would recommend doing some light to moderate exercise during Ramadan and then starting a strength training program afterwards.

      Here are some programs that you may find useful:

      1. Rehan Jalali’s 20 pounds of muscle program – you can google this and find it on the internet
      2. Stronglifts 5×5 – also on the internet
      3. Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength – can purchase this book online or at a major retail bookstore.
      4. Chad Waterbury’s Huge in a Hurry – also can purchase this online. This is one of the programs that Siraaj mentioned.

      Personally, I have had success using Rehan Jalali’s program along with StrongLifts 5×5. I haven’t used the other programs, but I know that many people have had success gaining muscle with these programs.

      Many of these programs use heavy compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, etc. To prevent injury, it’s critical that you perfect your form with lightweights before moving on to heavier weights. Stronglifts and Starting Strength have a lot of information on how to improve your technique. Also, if you can, it would be good to have a qualified person critique your technique.

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      • Siraaj

        Great recommendations – another program I’d recommend is precisionnutrition.com’s Scrawny to Brawny program. You’ll have a nutrition plan, a number of coaches, and a training regimen, along with videos to show you how to perform all exercises, and a community to support you. Everyone is qualified in terms of coaching elite athletes, regular joes, and are all master’s to phD level as well as NSCA certified trainers. Cost is about $99, and it is quality.

        Also agree getting big during Ramadan is likely not a good idea, but outside of it, starting one of these programs would be good for you. Most of it will be lift heavy, perform compound lifts, and eat lots (upwards of 3000 calories).

        Siraaj

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  6. Another sister

    Thank you for this article. Great tips. However, my situation is a bit different. I am satisfied with my weight (normal BMI) and do not desire to either lose or gain weight. My problem is that when I fast, I end up being so exhausted that I am too tired to even eat. I end up drinking some water and maybe eating maybe a few bites of food. However, after doing this for several days, I become literally ill (i.e. dehydrated, nauseous, vomiting, fainting) obviously because I’m not eating. Any recommendations for what to eat during Suhoor and Iftar to keep my energy levels up without having to eat too much?

    Also, now that Ramadan is during the summer, it is very hot and the hours of fasting are very long. Do you have any recommendations for staying hydrated? (Aside from drinking massive amounts of water during Suhoor, which I don’t think even works because your body ends up urinating out all that extra water.)

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    • Siraaj

      Salaam alaykum sister,

      Glad you benefited. The question you’ve asked, although it has a nutritional component to it, is more medical and out of my domain of knowledge :)

      If your condition is such that these reactions (especially fainting) occur consistently, it might be prudent for you to check with a doctor if it’s safe for you to even fast, and get an opinion from your local imam regarding what you should be doing instead if it turns out it’s not safe for you to fast for medical reasons.

      And I would certainly caution you away from working out while fasting, if you decide to fast.

      Siraaj

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  7. British Muslima

    Assalamu alaikum Br Siraaj,

    I think the issue that the sister raises above is an important one, and would really appreciate your advice regarding keeping adequately hydrated, since the days will be particularly long, and the weather warm.

    In previous years, my attempts to keep hydrated by drinking moderate amounts of water after shuhoor have been counteracted by the effects of the need to wake up several times in the middle of the night to pass water, which in turn leads to more sleep deprivation in addition to the fasting state, which is challenging whilst working full time.

    Do have any tips for ensuring one is at least maintaining a safe level of hydration without overdoing it?

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  8. Aamna Chaudhry

    Salam Alaikum!

    Every year I try to get as fit as possible before ramadan and then try to take all the right steps to maintain through the month. And alhamdulillah, if I make an honest effort and keep a really positive attitude I find it to be a very successful endeavor. I find my performance improves, and have tradtionally set personal records at half marathon races the week after Eid.

    The hardest part in myself (and in coaching others) is taking “I Can’t” out of the equation. But every year I know that if the laborers of the world do it, if the flood victims in Pakistan did it, I certainly can.

    Thanks for the information, May Allah swt reward you this Ramadan and accept all your duas.

    Aamna

    PS this is coming from a muslimah who lost over 100lbs through diet and exercise – a fit ramadan feels much better than a fat ramadan :)

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  9. Umm Ibraheem

    Just wanted to share with everyone my experience of working out last Ramadan. I was in the KSA and we were hitting 50 degrees Celsius some days, so absolutely no question of working out during the fast as I need to drink at least a litre of water otherwise I will faint.

    The fast ended about 7pm or there about, and I made sure I only ate enough to get rid of my hunger. Then after 10 pm when I had completed prayers I would do 45 mins on the treadmill. On the days when I had a proper iftaar or ate at someones house for iftaar I was unable to workout as I wold feel full till 2am. The prospect of working out was great motivation for eating very little during iftaar.

    Mind you this routine is very easy to implement in KSA as we more or less have a normal ‘day’ from iftaar to suhoor as shops etc are open till 3am. I would shift my daytime chores and shopping to after midnight and would do my Quran etc till suhoor, getting to bed only after fajr and waking up midday.

    I am looking forward to continuing this routine this Ramadan also InshaAllah and maintaing my weight and fitness. Losing weight seems impossible for me during Ramadan as my metabolism slows down considerably and those odd few days of fried food iftaars do enough damage, but completely unavoidable unless I do solitary iftaars.

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    • Siraaj

      Glad to hear it’s really working out for you – as long as you can keep it up and maintain the habit, that’s the real success!

      Siraaj

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  10. the guy next door

    wat about the guys who wanna gain some muscle during ramadan?..is it possible.. its always about losing weight.. wud appreciate if u cud give sum tips on weight gain..

    peace

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  11. Ibn Masood

    I was doing powerlifting and olympic lifting all throughout University and through the Ramadans (just getting back into my training now after a 2 year hiatus caused by life lol). I have a few suggestions to add onto this article:

    For nutrition, I’d say make it 4 levels, where level 2 should be replacing starchy carb sources with whole wheat/multigrain sources and taking out pop and candy. Cutting carbs especially starch-based ones can be one of the most difficult things to do for someone who is not seriously training, and 100% whole wheat/multigrain is better than white/refined flour due to added fibre/satiety and nutritional content.

    For more advanced people if you don’t sleep after fajr which is best do up the carbs for suhoor, and proteins/vegs for iftar. If you don’t sleep after taraweeh but sleep after fajr (maybe you’re a student) switch it around. I’d even add some lean protein after taraweeh like cottage cheese or slices of meat.

    For the training, I’d say for the serious strength trainers, keep your sets/reps in the 3×3 range. You’re already low on glucose and need to preserve your strength/muscle, and 3×3 at 80-90% of your 1RM is the best way to go around it. No EDT or any fancy training, focus on form and preserving your lifts, ditch all isolation lifts and focus on compounds. All 3×3 will do is ensure your nervous system does not lose its groove on your lifts. If you’re doing any oly lifting, I’d say forget about it and just use an empty bar for technique practice because there is way too much mental focus required for them and that’s already low at this point.

    If you’re very busy e.g. a student of knowledge and you do a lot of reading… You might even decide to ditch all the lifting altogether and go on kettlebells/difficult calisthenics/and non-traditional lifts like Turkish getups for a month, it will change up your pace to the point where it benefits your lifting more in the long run.

    Do any cardio right at the end of the workout, no high intensity unless you want to kill yourself. Or if you’re going to do high intensity do a cardio complex with weights instead.

    As for training goals in Ramadan, focus on maintenance and not on growth or even cutting weight. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think about growing. You’ll just end up overeating after Maghrib and that is not beneficial to anyone as it is against the Sunnah and it will make you lethargic for taraweeh, Qiyaam and ibaadah in general. As for cutting, you risk losing muscle if you cut in Ramadan. Strengthwise, you’re not going to put on any new PRs in Ramadan unless you’re an absolute beginner or coming back like me after a long layoff.

    I kept high numbers in my squat, bench, deadlift and even my clean and jerk/snatch throughout Ramadan alhamdulillah, let’s see if all the added new responsibilities and goals in life if I can get back to my old strength inshaAllah. I’m also in the KSA now (currently on vacation back home in Canada) and the gyms here are just awesome alhamdulillah, squat racks, pools, private change rooms and all. My wife goes to a women’s gym here but I don’t know how good it is in quality.

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  12. Mohammad A. Saleem

    Good article.

    I like that there was mention of whey protein in the diet. I recommend that first think for Iftar and I used that for myself last year with good results in maintaining muscle.

    Also, investing is casein protein is worth considering since its a much slower digesting protein that’s time released over hours as opposed to immediate.

    I think the biggest issue for us Muslims is to consume as much possible during the non-fasting hours of the day.

    For workouts – I think a minimal 2 day a week gym workout routine along with half hour swim in a pool should be sufficient.

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  13. Zaid

    Salams

    Good advice. Been watching my diet for 2-3 years and lost over 30lbs. Simple calorie counting (which is very easy when you’re fasting) shows that it is easy to eat more calories in those short bursts of sehri, iftar and post-tarawih than during the course of a regular day. Very easy.

    I agree with the plan to work out before iftar, that is what I have done. If you work out early on, it can be tough to get through the rest of the day. Just don’t expect to perform at normal levels – I find I cant run quite as far or exercise quite as hard. That is OK, the main goal is to kick-start the metabolism before you open your fast.

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  14. Abu Talha

    Asalam Alaykum. Great article. What about those of us who are too skinny to begin with, and are trying to gain weight by hitting the gym? How do we avoid losing weight during Ramadan? I lose weight every year and its not a good look.

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  15. Sister furzeen

    Assalam Alaikum Brother
    i know that this post is now an year old but i cudnt resist myself from saying this to you: JazakAllah Khair ! my father once told me that a good and honest advice is like sadaqah jariyah! so yes brother, your amazing article is saqadah to all of us who have been stuck in orthodox ramadan feasts enslaved to gorging and losing the essence of the fast.
    I m following no work outs and taking no protein shakes but what i am doing is following the best and simplest of your words. majority of us have one common problem. We DONT KNOW WHEN TO STOP EATING. After reading ur article I realised that yes, there comes a point when that hunger feeling in the stomach goes away and thats when I can stop. i dont have to finish everything on my plate!
    Today is 4th of ramadan in Ksa and past 3 fasts have been Alhamdulillah the best of my life. i feel better and lighter than before because i am happy about what I eat. and I know when to stop. I keep telling myself i can always come back to have more but Alhamdulillah i dont even feel the need. All my life my ramadan routine was a plate full of fried stuff and that followed by a heavy dinner. Parathas in the sehri. This ramadan i am making healthier choicesfor myself. Salad hummous yogurt some fruit blended wid ice and a little milk no sugar and no sweets and yes. ALOT of water. i dont feel the need for dinner afterwards at all. I had salad for sehri yestrday and feared that i will be starving by mid day. but it was the most normal day for me like any other. I am thinking of switching salad with some eggs and later lean protein so i wont get bored with salads. Thankyou once again brother. I hope and pray I can stick to this healhty regime the entire ramadan and i wish you all the best. May Allah swt bless you for your generosity :)

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    • siraaj

      Salaam alaykum sister

      I’m glad to read the article was so beneficial alhamdulillah. May Allah accept your fasting and ‘ibaadah throughout this blessed month.

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  16. Shareefah

    Salaam Siraj..im a sister who is into weight training…however, i normally do my workouts in the morning..would it be advisable for me to do do after suhoor? As i do not want to miss tarawih prayers..what can i eat for sahoor so that i can last through the day after my morning workout? I also do not have that 1-2 hours free window before iftar as i rch home from work just on time for iftar…

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