I hope that this article finds you in great health and fitness during this Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of religious fasting, or in other words abstinence from food during daytime. It is during this period where a number of complications occur in our lifestyle; spiritually, physiologically and psychologically. It is this physiological aspects that I would like to explain in terms of maintaining physical fitness during Ramadan.
Our bodies are sensitive to the surroundings as well as to its functions influenced by chronological fluctuations. One such example is the drowsiness and sleepiness we feel via hormonal changes in the absence of sunlight. Hence our bodies are used to normal sequential events that we expose to it daily. This is also called the biological clock. For the human body, fasting is not a normal event; after the body is used to daily meals of 4 or 5. What do these biological effects have on our physiology and training?
Do we lose weight?
Chronobiological effects aren’t the only changes the body struggles to settle while we start the month of fasting. Let’s ask the big question; does it help us lose weight? Answer: of course it does but with twists. If we do a lot of low intensity walking (without going for glucose as the fuel for the activity) we would be burning our body fat. When we fast, our body start to lack so much carbohydrate that it runs on fat (mostly), which is also used to feed the brain in another form.
Training and sports
So is low intensity better than high intensity training when fasting? Yes, if you are trying to lose fat, and that’s the only reason you would want to lose weight. Submaximal exercise is preferred while fasting. If maximal exercises are taken up, the body loses so much glycogen and blood glucose that our brain starves. This lack of blood glucose brings us to limits over our temper and judgment. Drowsiness and clumsiness are also due to the lack of blood glucose. This decrease in blood glucose decreases our sporting performance as there was a decrease in our as psychomotor performance, or coordination between the body and brain.
Effects on chronically ill
Fasting increases stress hormones, which also mobilizes the glycogen stores in the muscles. Some studies found an increase in LDL (the bad cholesterol) while a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol), corresponding an increased risk for those with chronic cardiovascular diseases. Although there are other contradicting studies, which claim otherwise. For diabetics, it is quite important to take the early morning meal (‘haaru’) before fasting inorder to maintain their blood sugar. Otherwise there is a likelihood of them going into hypoglycemic state later during the day.
Breaking the fast is the tricky part. You cannot expect to have a low intensity walk during the day and burn your excess fat if your diet is filled with so much saturated fat. Well, for most of us, our meal during the breaking of fast is excess in saturated fatty food; this unfortunately won’t help and will likely reverse the effect of weight-loss. It is best to choose a lighter meal with high protein, moderate carbs and low fat with a large portion of vegetables and fruit. Try and stick with the meal later (‘Tharaaveeh’), after the intense workout. That meal should be light and specific for your training.
I hope this article was helpful to you to go along with your fasting period with a healthier and fitter mind. If you are on a competitive sport fighting for a trophy, the trick is to take a good high carb meal during early breakfast (‘Haaru’) and hopefully burn them effectively. Take good care of your mind and body and stay fit.