Fitness & Fasting: Keep Your Gains & Fast In Check This Ramadan

The time draws nigh for the most sacred month of the year for our Muslim friends, who have to observe strict fasting from dawn to sunset. With proper dietary planning, you don’t have to be afraid to train around the season – and you’ll definitely not lose your gains, if you follow these dietary guidelines closely.

Here is the break-down of the dietary intake by its hour, with both the pre-dawn meal (suhur) and sunset meal (iftar) included in the plan:

  • 1930hrs: Dinner (Iftar)
  • 2100hrs: 1 scoop of protein for Pre-Workout
  • 2200hrs: 1 scoop of protein for Post-Workout
  • 2200hrs – 0000hrs: Post-Workout Supper
  • 0100hrs: Light Bite Before Sleep (Optional)
  • 0500hrs: Pre-Dawn Meal (Suhur)

As illustrated, your training routine should ideally be carried out between 2100hrs to 2200hrs, as you would feel more refreshed after your first meal.

However, if you’re taking into account of prayer times (Terawih), here is another meal plan for you: 

  • 1930hrs: Your Pre-Workout
  • 2030hrs: Post-Workout
  • 2130hrs: Post-Workout Dinner
  • 2300hrs – 0000hrs: Light Bite Before Sleep
  • 0500hrs: Pre-Dawn Meal (Suhur)

The difference from the first plan is that your dinner is replaced with a Pre-Workout (ideally: 1 Carb, 1 Protein). It can be a scoop of protein with Milo, or a protein bar, or a bottle of Nutrisoy. Fruits such as banana are recommended too. Your training would be carried out between 1930hrs to 2030hrs after breaking fast. Training before breaking your fast is not recommended as you’re putting too much stress in your body from a day of fasting!

My suggested portions should be just enough for a moderately active male, who seek to maintain or increase his muscle mass during the fasting month. Do note that the suggested portions are just for reference – please feel free to increase and decrease accordingly as everyone’s built is not the same.

How do I estimate my food portions?

A rule of thumb: use your hands! Here’s what I have devised:

  • 1 Protein = the palm of your hand
  • 1 Carb = your cupped hand
  • 1 Fat = your thumb

Your Pre-Dawn Meal: 2 Carbs, 1 to 2 Proteins

This meal should load you with sufficient energy for your 1-hour training, but be careful not to make it too heavy as you don’t want to feel uncomfortable during your workout from overeating. I know most of us probably are going to swallow the plate after starving for over 12 hours, but this would cause too much stress in your digestive system instead. You need to eat slow, and be patient.

I would recommend 2 portions of simple carbs such as fruits, and 1 to 2 portions of proteins for your dinner. To hydrate your body better, you can use hydration salt, isotonic drinks and milk. Drinking water alone may not be sufficient to hydrate your body, especially after long hours of fasting.

During Your Training: 2 Proteins

Load yourself with some protein shake here – it’s convenient. For those who do not wish to use protein supplements, you may get yourself a bottle of reduced or no sugar Soya Milk from your local supermarkets. If you’re spoilt for choice, I personally recommend the NutriSoy brand.

Post-Workout Supper: 3 to 4 Carbs, 2 to 3 Protein, 2 Fats

This should be the heaviest meal of your day. You should pack your body with sufficient nutrients after your workout, and a higher intake of carbs is recommended here to help you recover and sleep better. I would suggest consuming quality carbs such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, wholemeal bread instead of your usual ones like plain rice.

Light Bite Before Sleep: 1 carb, 1 protein, 1 fat

This meal is optional. If you’re feeling hungry or simply want to get something in your tummy before sleeping, I would suggest going for a cup of milk or hot chocolate. You may skip this if you’re satisfied with your post workout supper.

Your Pre-Dawn Meal: 2 to 3 proteins, 3 to 6 fats

Have a hearty pre-dawn meal, definitely! I would suggest going heavy on the proteins and fats for your breakfast. Fats are dense in calories and they are the last macronutrients to be processed in your stomach after carbs and protein, hence they’re able to keep you away from hunger cues for a longer period of time.

For healthy individuals who exercise regularly, pack yourself with 6 to 10 whole eggs. Do not worry about cholesterol if you have no medical conditions – recent research has shown that the cholesterol in eggs has no correlation with your blood cholesterol.

To reduce your cholesterol, you simply have to get more fiber in your system – veggies are your best friends here. Feel free to go creative and choose from a range of healthy high-fat food for your breakfast, such as nuts, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

I hope you find this guide useful and it helps to resolve your worry when it comes to your dietary intakes and training routine during the fasting period.

Here’s wishing all our Muslim friends a very blessed month of fasting. Happy Ramadan!

UPDATE: I’ve included an alternative schedule as advised by some of our frequent Muslim readers, who would like us to help them take into account their Ramadan prayer times (Terawih).

Check out more Fitness content by Certified Fitness Professional and DANAMIC Ambassador, John Fong. Photos courtesy (respectively) of Victor FreitasShanice GarciaSimon Migaj, Caroline Attwood, and Firdouss Ross.

John Fong

Manhunt Singapore 2017 Finalist. Personal Trainer at Aileron Wellness. My mission as a Fitness Professional is to be able to educate and empower people, so that one day, they are able to take charge of their own training, nutrition, and most of all, their life!

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