Ramadan: How our Ultimate Performance trainers approach training and nutrition

For many Muslims around the world, Ramadan can be a challenging time when it comes to maintaining good health and fitness.  

During the Holy Month, long hours of fasting without food or water followed by hearty Iftar meals with family and friends can make sticking to a training regime and healthy eating habits all the more difficult.  

But Ramadan doesn’t have to be a time when we let our health and fitness goals slip completely.  

At Ultimate Performance, we work with hundreds of Muslim clients globally to help them through the month of Ramadan to emerge fit, healthy and ready to keep progressing.  

We have written a comprehensive guide here on some of the strategies and guidance we give to clients around diet, exercise, sleep and more during Ramadan.  

But we wanted to ask some of our world-leading personal trainers, who are observing the fast, how they approach training and nutrition during Ramadan. 

Peter – Ultimate Performance personal trainer   

What time do you wake up and what do you eat?  

I wake up around 4:25 am to be able to eat and prepare before the prayer time, 5:40 am.  

I’m not looking at my calories, I’m just making sure I get a protein source, carbs and healthy fats.  

Depending on the time remaining, either I rest or go directly to work.  

How do you stay hydrated?   

Adding 3-4 pinches of Himalayan salt to my water in the morning can be a solution. Apart from that, I try not to get too dehydrated during the day by avoiding exposing myself too long in the sun or training in the middle of the day.  

Being on your feet all day as a PT, how do you ensure you have enough energy?   

The first 10 days are the most tiring due to lower glycogen. A good approach so that the body adapts quickly in this period would be to begin to slightly reduce calories a few weeks before.   

For example, two weeks before, removing the snacks between meals, then one week before removing the snacks and breakfast or dinner. In this way, we reduce calories gradually and the body and the metabolism adapt to it. The morning meal helps me to keep me full at least until 3 pm, then over the days, it becomes a habit and is manageable.  

How has your training been modified? Can you describe what you used to do before Ramadan versus now during Ramadan.  

Before Ramadan, I was doing 5×5 training. This involves 5×5 reps on three compounds exercises (push-pull-legs or push-pull and one hip hinge) and three isolation movements for 12 Reps.   

During Ramadan, I cannot keep the same intensity. I train according to my schedule, ideally before breaking fast at 5:30 pm. I do full-body exercises just for maintenance, around 60-70% of my maximum for 10 reps, and train for no longer than 45 minutes.   

Do you have any training or mindset tips?  

You must be smart and be aware of your capacity. Personally, training is not my priority in this period. I train all year round then it gives me an opportunity to recover  

However, if I had some advice to give my clients it would be:  

  • Do not try to exceed your limits or aim to go to ‘failure’ during your training.  
  • Focus on the exercise execution and improve your technique during this period.  
  • Train either very early in the morning after your first meal, or late evening before sunset, or train after sunset (take a whey protein shake and carbs powder, like maltodextrin).  

What do you eat when you break fast?    

I usually take two meals, which equals one lunch and one dinner. I try to avoid processed food or other food that may contain added sugar and I try to rehydrate as much as possible.  

Hariz – Ultimate Performance personal trainer  

What time do you wake up and what do you eat?  

I typically wake up at 5 am and have 250g of low-fat Greek yoghurt, combined with 1 scoop of U.P. Chocotrients. I may look to change this soon, as I do feel a little low in energy, so I may make some overnight ‘Proats’ (protein and oats) instead. Since I have morning sessions, I start to get ready for work. On the weekend, I get back to bed.  

How do you stay hydrated?   

I would usually drink at least 1-1.5 litres of water to hydrate myself. I find that this helps me feel better. After I break fast, I make sure to drink at least 500ml of water before starting on food and then drink another 1.5-2 litres before I head to bed.  

Being on your feet all day as a PT, how do you ensure you have enough energy?   

It is definitely very challenging, especially without my frequent coffee breaks throughout the day! Going from 3-4 coffees a day to zero is very challenging, but I decided to quit coffee during the month of Ramadan as a way for me to lower my caffeine tolerance. This has actually made me more mindful of getting sufficient quality sleep daily. I now have to ensure I get at least seven hours of sleep in order to have enough energy to last the day.  

How has your training been modified? Can you describe what you used to do before Ramadan versus now during Ramadan.   

For training, I try to train either in the mornings or right after breaking fast. This is to ensure I have enough energy to lift. If I am unable to fit training in at those times, and train at less preferred times, I train as per normal but manage my expectations as to what I lift. I tend to fail quite a little earlier than normal.  

Do you have any training or mindset tips?  

Manage your expectations when it comes to your training. It may not feel great but do your best and get a workout done anyway. Train close to mealtimes to optimise performance.  

What do you eat when you break fast?   

I drink lots of water, and eat lots of fruit, protein (usually chicken breast) and white rice for carbs. I also tend to have veggies for fibre. It is not easy to stick to if you break fast with a family that feasts on traditional snacks, kuehs, and delicious local food. Make sure to prioritise your staples before venturing out for a (little) taste.  

 

Zaki – Ultimate Performance personal trainer 

What time do you wake up and what do you eat?  

I usually wake up at about 5 am and will prepare the table for me and my wife to have our pre-dawn meal. So far, I have been having the following for my meal.  

3 sandwiches with beef, pepperoni or chicken, ham, eggs, sliced cheese  

3 dates  

1 cup of water  

1 serving of protein shake  

How do you stay hydrated?  

Most of my meals will also contain a cup of water. I have a total of four meals which includes the pre-dawn and dawn meals.  

Being on your feet all day as a PT, how do you ensure you have enough energy?  

I believe the pre-dawn meal is the most important meal to make up for my energy on the gym floor. Aside from this, quality sleep is also important so that I can get the focus I need.   

How has your training been modified? Can you describe what you used to do before Ramadan versus now during Ramadan.   

My training frequency before Ramadan was five times a week doing a typical ‘bro split’ with a rep range of around 8-15 reps with 3-4 sets.  

During Ramadan, I reduced my training frequency to three times a week doing a push-pull-leg split with a rep range of around 6-8 reps with 1-2 sets. More warm-ups are done for the first exercise, too.  

Do you have any training or mindset tips?  

I would say train as close to mealtimes, then still keep yourself active.  

What do you eat when you break fast 

Training days  

3 scoops of whey protein  

1 banana  

3 dates  

1 sandwich – the same as my pre-dawn meal (depends)  

Training days (after training)  

500g of chicken fillet/fish  

200g rice  

Non-training days  

Whatever my wife cooks or an outside meal  

Saydul – Ultimate Performance personal trainer  

What time do you wake up and what do you eat?  

I will wake up at 4:30 am every day during Ramadan to prepare for the Suhoor meal. For me, I usually have meat, like chicken breast, and vegetables, as well as rice. I also will drink two glasses of water after my meal. Hydration is really important during Suhoor. Most of us get tired because of a lack of electrolytes and this will impair cell communication and results in low performance, affecting the body’s metabolism and cognitive function.  

How do you stay hydrated?   

During Iftar, I will drink one glass of water after my first bite of date and another one glass after I finish the whole meal. I will also drink one glass of water every 30 minutes before my bedtime.  

Being on your feet all day as a PT, how do you ensure you have enough energy?   

As my job requires a high level of focus and moving around, so training clients during Ramadan can be challenging, I always ensure I have a good source of fuel from my Sahoor, I will always choose slow to moderate digestive carbohydrates like brown rice or beans to ensure my energy is sufficient and sustainable the whole day.  

How has your training been modified? Can you descrbe what you used to do before Ramadan versus now during Ramadan.   

Mainly the training time, I will either train after my Suhoor or one hour before iftar. In terms of the training program, I will switch to a strength-based program with a low work-to-rest ratio, two main lifts, and two accessories, and three working sets for each exercise. The most important thing for training during Ramadan is managing training stress and metabolic stress by working on a program that suits your current nutrition plan, caloric intake, and macronutrient partitioning.   

Do you have any training or mindset tips?  

1. Sleep early because you need to wake up early for Suhoor.  

2. Keep rehydrated during the eating window. 

3. Have a structured food plan (knowing when, what and how much to eat).  

4. When buying food for Iftar, always remember to buy what you need, don’t follow your Nafs as sometimes we tend to buy more than we supposed when we are hungry, and lastly practice moderate eating this Ramadan. As the Prophet (PBUH) said “a Muslim should eat and drink in moderation, reserving one third [of the stomach] for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” (Hadith, Tirmidhi).  

What do you eat when you break fast?   

I will have one or two dates followed by water. Dates are simple carbs that help to replenish my glycogen storage. The main meal consists of meat, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. I have planned out my meals with different recipes for a whole month of Ramadan to keep my Ramadan more enjoyable and fulfilling.