Ramadan is a time of the year where those who practice it and are also looking to build muscle tend to struggle. This is because this holy period which goes for a month requires believers to fast from sunrise to sunset, completely restricting both fluid and food intake.
If you’re looking to maximise your gains we know that consuming protein every 4-5 hours would be ideal, and in some cases people eat more frequently to get in the necessary calories throughout the day.
Having a fasting period of 14-16 hours is quite common amongst the intermittent fasting enthusiasts, however they are typically still hydrated and consume coffee to make the process more manageable.
The fluid restriction makes Ramadan quite a unique situation, but with some smart planning we can do our best to minimise the negative effects associated with poor hydration and maximise the ability to maintain and even continue to build lean muscle during this time.
Below I have provided a sample outline of how you could plan your nutrition to keep working towards your goals, as well as a sample training example to work alongside this.
The Nutritional Method
- Slow digesting food sources pre-sunrise
- Fast digesting liquid nutrition post-sunset
- Adequate total protein consumption
- Micronutrient consumption
- Adequate total daily hydration
Meal 1: 3:45AM – 1-1.5L of water
- 30-45g casein protein powder
- 300g Greek yoghurt
- 50g dry oats
- 30-50g peanut butter
- 1 banana
- 100g frozen mixed berries
- 6g fish oil
FASTING 4AM – 7PM
Meal 2: 7:00PM – 1-1.5L of water
- 45g whey protein powder
- 4 scoops of Gatorade powder or equivalent
- 200g pineapple
Meal 3: 7:30-8:00PM – 500ml of water
- 150-200g chicken breast
- 250g cooked rice
- 200g mixed vegetables
- 10-15ml olive oil
- Sauce, salsa, flavour
Meal 4: 9:00PM – 500ml of water
- 45g whey protein powder
- 50-100g rice crackers
TRAIN: 9:30/10:00PM – 500ml of water
- Sip on 2-4 scoops of Gatorade powder or equivalent
- Whey protein can be mixed in here also
Meal 5: 11:00PM-11:30PM – 500ml of water
- 3-4 whole eggs
- 125-250g cooked rice
- 200-300g baked beans or equivalent
Meal 3 or 5 could also be replaced with traditional arabic foods, ensuring sufficient protein and carbohydrates are consumed, with minimal/controlled dietary fat intake.
The Training Method
- Fast and short sessions
- Full body workouts
- 1 main lower body exercise per session
- 1 main upper body exercise per session
- Supersets and tri-sets
- No training to failure
Sample Training Session:
A1: Deadlift 3 sets of 6
B1: DB Goblet Squat 2 sets of 10
B2: DB Romanian Deadlift 2 sets of 10
C1: Overhead Press 3 sets of 6
D1: Incline DB Press 2 sets of 10
D2: DB Bent Over Row 2 sets of 10
E1: DB Lateral Raise 2×12
E2: Barbell Curl 2×12
E3: Triceps Pressdown 2×12
I would suggest 4 training sessions per week, hitting full body each session and changing the exercises for each.
Rest periods should be 90 seconds for major movements and 60 seconds for supersets, with little to no rest between superset exercises.
12AM – 3AM or similar
4AM – 7AM or similar
Have 20 minute naps throughout the day where needed.
It would be wise to keep your activity levels and exposure to the sun to a minimum during periods of fasting to minimise the rate of dehydration and fatigue.
Your total caloric intake over a 24 hour period is our priority during this time. Since there is no option to consume calories during the fasting period it is not something you want to dwell on but rather look for ways to feed your body nutrients at a slower rate pre-fasting, and at a faster rate immediately post-fasting.
If your focus is on fat loss I would suggest a very similar approach however total calories would be adjusted to ensure that you’re in a caloric deficit. This might simply mean pulling back the portions of carbs and fats consumed later in the day, but it would be best to keep nutrients high at your pre-fasting meal to keep your body fed over a longer period of time.
Try these tips and see how you go. This year I will be in Dubai in the final week of Ramadan and have decided to take on the fasting protocols in respect to the locals and also to experience exactly what it is like to practice Ramadan.
If you have any questions or would like to meet with me to discuss your current and future physique, strength, and nutrition goals during this time please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org