Ramadan in UAE: How to stay fit while fasting

Husain Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on May 1, 2021

Trainer Peter Njenga with Rashed Ali. (Photos/Supplied)

Trainer Azgar Khan.

Trainer Alelei Vargas.

Trainer Fearghal O'Neill.

We speak to trainers and fitness enthusiasts about what their regimes are like during the holy month.

Ramadan, a month when Muslims across the world observe a fast from sunrise to sunset, turns many people, including me, into fitness enthusiasts who pledge to make a difference in their bodies.

Fasting plays an important role in maintaining fitness. There are people who follow a certain method called intermittent fasting that focuses on timely meals. During Ramadan, many Muslims observe their fast and work out as well, however, for some, doing both can prove to be tough.

Usually, people prefer to work out a couple of hours after they break their fast. However, there are a few enthusiasts who work out while observing their fast.

In a conversation with City Times, Fearghal O’Neill, an Irishman, who leads the group of trainers from Enhance Fitness, speaks about the task both trainers and clients face as they work out while fasting in the holy month. “In Ramadan, the entire routine changes, and adapting to that is a challenge for both trainers and clients,” Fearghal said.

“Those who work out while fasting, have to be cautious with not pushing themselves to the stage where they collapse,” Fearghal points out, adding that the changes in their eating routines, hydration, sleep schedule, and workout timings are some factors that need to be taken into consideration. “And, for trainers, it is their duty to make sure the clients remain safe, healthy, and do not collapse.”

Asma Almulla, a 21-year-old student, loves to work out while fasting. She says she feels energized after her workout. “It actually feels amazing, it gives me power and energy after finishing my workout, even though I am fasting,” said Asma, who works out at Gymnation, Mirdif.

But of course, it is not easy to sustain oneself during training, especially while fasting. “It is a little bit harder since I cannot have water or any kind of drinks,” Asma said, adding that she feels nauseous and thirsty at times.

However, that does not stop her from working out. “The changes I notice every time I measure my size, and the fact that I lost a good amount of weight by working out continuously keeps me going,” Asma concluded.

Don’t risk dehydration

As for Asma’s trainer, Alelei Vargas, it is equally hard. “Gym visits are not as frequent during Ramadan, making it harder and longer to reach the client’s goal,” she said. “Also, we cannot go too intense on the workout because the energy we get is not the same as before (Ramadan), and I do not want to risk dehydration.”

Azgar Khan, another trainer at the gym, who also works out while fasting makes sure he sticks to light weight-lifting in order to maintain his metabolism. “While fasting, I lift light weights because calorie intake is less, and I do not want to end up dehydrated,” Khan said, adding that Ramadan is the best month to achieve your fitness goals. “Cutting down fat is a whole lot easier this month due to fasting. There is also a huge intake of fruits which are a rich source of excellent vitamins, and fiber,” he added.

Of course, not all fitness enthusiasts prefer to work out while fasting. There are some, including me, who like to take in the riches of Iftar before they can step into the gym. Following the Iftar, gyms are filled with hordes of people coming in to work out, which is why they have also extended their opening hours this month. That said, many people take their time and visit the gym around midnight to avoid the rush during peak hours.

Emirati Rashed Ali is one of them. He visits Fitness 360 in Mirdif every night at 11pm during Ramadan. The holy month forces changes in schedule due to many factors. “The Taraweeh prayer finishes by 9pm, and then I have to arrange a time to work out,” Rashed points out. “I cannot go to the gym earlier because it is very crowded as everyone wants to train before the gym closes.”

Lower intensity workouts

Peter Njenga, Rashed’s personal trainer has a different approach to training during Ramadan. “I lower the intensity and load for clients who fast during Ramadan,” he said. “Everything we do on normal days is reduced to 80 per cent for this month.”

Training clients is also a challenge for Peter, who has to fix the schedule with all his clients in a limited period of time. “With time reduction in place, handling the same number of clients is a challenge,” Peter said, adding that his clients usually prefer to work out between 8pm and 1am, and arranging sessions with all of them in a span of five hours is difficult.

Ultimately, there is no need to rush your goals during Ramadan. Yes, maintaining your physique is important, but one should not forget the significance of the holy month. You may think that you are losing the progress you have made. That is, as coach Fearghal says, a myth.

“If you stay active during Ramadan and do not break your fast only with sugar or fat-rich foods, then your muscle memory will help you get back to your usual routine before you know it. Relax, use this time to be happy and enjoy family, friends, and the food. You will be more refreshed and ready to attack your goals after Ramadan,” Fearghal signs off.


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