Ramadan is a month in the Islamic Calendar where Muslims worldwide will not eat or drink anything between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
In part one of this article series, we asked U.P. London City trainer, Umar Malik, to explain his approach to training during Ramadan.
In part two, we are moving on to nutrition and have asked Umar to share:
How he plans to approach his diet during Ramadan.
Nutrition advice for clients observing Ramadan.
My Ramadan body composition goals
My body composition has changed radically over the past four years. I started my transformation weighing 180kg and lost over 70kg to finish at 103kg.
Six months on from the photoshoot I completed to mark the end of my transformation, I now weigh 108kg with 13.5% body fat.
Of course, some of my bodyweight increase will be fat, but I would also like to think that I have added some muscle after six months of hard training!
I have also spent the past few weeks visiting family in Kenya, so my training and diet have not been as consistent as I would have liked.
Based on this, I expect to lose some body fat during Ramadan, as I will be training and eating more consistently.
The restricted eating window also makes it very difficult for me to eat the number of calories I would need to gain weight.
Given that I will be in a calorie deficit, I also need to focus on maintaining my muscle mass. The key to this will be resistance training and making sure I get enough protein.
My two clients who are observing Ramadan will be taking a different approach. Rather than aiming for fat loss, I have set up their diet to maintain their current body composition. This is easier to do as they need fewer calories than me, due to having smaller frames and less active jobs.
My rationale for this is that I do not want them starting the fast feeling hungry. They are also long-term clients and generally happy with their body fat levels.
Regarding body composition goals, my advice to clients would be:
Aim to set up your diet to maintain your current body composition during Ramadan.
If you do have fat loss goals, use Ramadan to practice tracking your nutrition and preparing meals. You will then be ready to start your fat loss diet after Ramadan finishes.
If you have a high ‘maintenance’ calorie requirement, you may struggle to eat enough calories. If this is the case, try to stop your calories dropping too low and pay extra attention to your protein intake.
Fasting does make it more difficult to overeat, but it is possible to gain body fat if you indulge in too many calorie-dense foods. I recommend sticking as closely as possible to your regular eating habits.
My Ramadan Diet Plan
I usually eat around 3,000kcal to maintain my bodyweight and the diet plan I have written works out to roughly 2,500kcal.
Realistically, I would struggle to eat much more without resorting to calorie-dense ‘junk foods’, which is something I am keen to avoid.
I will be following the same plan for both training and rest days. I do not want to drop my calories any lower on rest days, and I would struggle to fit any more in on training days.
Regarding protein, I usually eat 230g per day, and this will drop to around 180g.
While this is less than normal, my regular target is on the high end of the recommended protein intake range. As a result, 180g should be sufficient to maintain my muscle mass.
I did a trial run a few days before Ramadan started. Here is a summary of the diet plan I used and will be following during Ramadan:
8:45 pm – Breaking the Fast
I opened my fast with the following shake:
Whey protein (40g net protein).
20g coconut oil.
40g dark chocolate.
I then trained straight after, starting at 9:10 pm and finishing at 9:55 pm.
My strength was down, but I expected that after not training for three weeks. The real test will be how I get on after several consecutive days of fasting.
During my workout, I had the following shake.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) powder.
30g carbohydrate powder.
Mixed in 2-3 litres of water.
9:50 pm – Post-Workout Meal
After my workout, I had the following meal:
150g rice flakes.
Whey protein (40g net protein).
1 x banana.
On reflection, I am going to replace the rice flakes with carbohydrate powder. Adding them creates a porridge-like consistency, and it was so filling that I struggled to eat again later.
10:45 pm – My First Solid Meal
I walked home from the gym, showered, said prayers and then ate my first proper solid meal at 10:45 pm:
200g skinless chicken breast.
300g sweet potato.
100g mixed vegetables.
(All serving sizes refer to uncooked weight)
I went to bed at 11:20 pm. Sleep hygiene is essential during Ramadan as you will most likely be going to bed later and waking up earlier than normal to eat before the fasting window opens.
As a result, I will be taking the following steps to optimise my sleep:
Meditating before bed to help me unwind and process my thoughts.
Supplementing with magnesium, which research suggests can improve sleep quality.
Making sure my room is cool and dark.
Scheduling a nap during the day (recommended if possible).
3:00 am – My Final Meal
I set my alarm to wake up at 3:00 am so that I could eat the following meal before the fasting window opened at 3:45 am:
250g steak mince.
300g sweet potato.
My supplement protocol will not change too much during Ramadan, but I will be taking digestive enzymes with each meal and a multi-vitamin to account for the fact that I will be eating less fruit and vegetables.
My Ramadan hydration plan
To be honest, I found not drinking much harder than not being able to eat during the test day.
I work in an underground gym (very humid!), and my job is very physical, so I lose a lot of body water through sweat each day.
My urine was extremely dark and I struggled with a dry mouth throughout the day.
I set myself a hydration goal of 4 litres of fluids and my urine was clear by the time the fasting window opened.
Regarding hydration, my advice to clients would be:
Fill up a big bottle of water and make it your goal to drink it each night.
Drink before, during and after exercise to replace water loss from sweating.
Use an electrolyte supplement to help replace the minerals lost through sweat.
Monitor your urine colour to get an accurate gauge of your hydration status.
Keep your environment cool and avoid overexerting yourself.
Ramadan will be a big learning experience for me, and I am sure that I will have to adapt my plan in some way.
I will be documenting the entire month and will post an update on my progress and my final results.
To everybody observing Ramadan, good luck!