The month of Ramadan can be very challenging, add to that the fact that you are likely a gym conscious lifter if you have clicked on this article, and you are going to have a lot of questions floating around in your head. Questions on everything from food choices to training styles, so let me take the guess work out of it for you.
Your training goal should be to be stimulate the target areas as fast as possible, overload them and get out. We need to be very conscious of time and that means training needs to be ruthless. Set a training time-frame and stick to it. Pick exercises that bring about the biggest potential for hypertrophy in line with your performance or physique goals. With this in mind just 2 working sets per exercise across 2 different rep ranges is ideal (10 reps, 15 reps).
For example, one session just for arms would not be an efficient use of your time. Secondary muscle groups like biceps and triceps will always be worked when training the prime movers such as chest and back, so focus on those. If you have time at the end you can always add a couple of sets on these if you need to take a #FlexFriday selfie.
You should aim to train after your first meal and below is an example training split with some exercise selections:
Monday – Back/Arms
Dip/concentration curl superset
Tuesday – Quads/Calves
Standing calve raise
Wednesday – Chest/Shoulders
Incline dumbbell press
Flat bench cable fly’s
Standing barbell press
Upright barbell rows
Thursday – Hamstrings/Glutes/Abs
Stiff leg deadlift
Hanging leg raises/medicine ball crunches superset
Friday – REST & REPEAT
These should all be sub 40-minute workouts, any longer and you have been spending too much time on Instagram looking at memes. You may have also noticed this plan does not include any cardio. Since we are trying to make best use of the potentially limited calories, cardio will be the first thing to go out the window.
Now although some of you will inevitably reach for oily curries and deep-fried foods, resist. This is not a route you want to go down with such a small feeding time. You should look to eat as much nutrient dense foods as possible, so even if you are in a deficit you are not nutrient deficient.
Here is a list of or top go to foods during this time:
- Egg whites
- Fish (white fish and salmon)
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Micellar Casein
- Cereals (this can include oats)
- Fruits (dates, pineapple, watermelon, blueberries)
- Nut butters
- Egg Yolks
- Macadamia oil
Vitamins & minerals
- Fruits as above
- Dark Chocolate (because we all need something sweet)
It’s not uncommon to become nutrient deficient during this period, so I would always recommend supporting your nutrition with both CNP Pro Omega (Premium blend of Nordic fish and Krill oil) and CNP Pro Health & Immune (high strength multivitamin, mineral and antioxidant formula). Because the needs of an athlete can go beyond want can be consumed from food alone.
Here is where we put some real structure behind the foot types listed above. Nutrient timing and meal structure during Ramadan is crucial, start with the wrong food e.g. high fat and slow digesting and you risk staying full as you enter your fast. While eating simple carb and quick digesting protein sources at the end can leave you hungry almost from the word go.
To open, start with foods which are super easy to digest, protein egg whites or white fish would be ideal choices. On the carbohydrate side, Bagels, cereal and fruit will do the job. As far as fats, keep them low for now so your digestion rate remains as high as possible. Your goal as outlined above, should be to train after your first meal, so it needs to clear your stomach quickly.
Through the rest of the day alternate between solid and liquid meals as a way of addressing calorie consumption vs your feeding window. An example of a great tasting liquid meal would be:
1 x scoop whey isolate
200ml egg white liquid
1 cup frozen blueberry’s
3 handfuls of kale
(adding macadamia oil is an option if digestion allows)
Then towards the end of your fast and for your closing meal look to bring more fats into your choices. For protein and fats salmon and avocado would be my go to foods along with sweet potato for some complex carbohydrates.
If a solid meal by this point just is not possible, then a high fat shake using almond milk, nut butter and Micellar Casein would be just as good in my book. For this make sure you are using a premium Micellar Casein not a Caseinate, they are often easily mistaken for being the same thing. Micellar Casein does “exactly what it says on the tin” so to speak. It digests over several hours due to the filtration process which is used to isolate it from milk. While Caseinates which are acid treated (or pre-digested) lose their slow digesting properties and don’t deliver as far as drip feeding the body over time. CNP Pro Peptide should be your go to product here, being high in Micellar Casein as well as several other high-quality sources of protein.
This can possibly be the most difficult part of Ramadan. When opening your fast be sure to consume fluid gradually, with added electrolytes to rehydrate you as fast as possible. This is also essential if you are training after your first meal like I have suggested you do. Both Pro Hydrate and Hydro Tabs added to your first couple of litres of fluid will help enormously. During the rest of the day once re-hydrated avoid adding any more to your drinks to stop you feeling thirsty as the fast closes.
It’s a clear conclusion that if you enter Ramadan without a plan in place covering your nutrition and training it is going to be game over in terms of your progress. Lucky implementing a simple structure around the right foods and their timing (as above) will provide you with just as much effective nutrition, while make the most of the limited time you have. The basics takeaway point regarding nutrition should be, eat easy digesting foods when opening your fast, and slow digesting foods when closing it. While also being conscious of filling your plate with nutrient dense choices.
Regarding training, and with it being a battle against time make sure real effort is only used for heavy working sets. Make sure you select exercises which will provide the biggest opportunity for overall hypertrophy, then get in, work the muscle with just two working sets per exercise and move on. Follow these and you will finish the month and avoid having to go back over old ground.