Ramadan Nutrition Guide
Ramadan is approaching fast and this means a month of abstaining from food and water during daylight hours.
Muslims who practice the ritual of Sawm (Fasting) often find it difficult to get the right nutrition in especially those who are health conscious and train regularly.
This post is not only designed for those who train and watch what they eat but for anyone who is participating in Ramadan and wants to ensure that they still provide their bodies with the right nutrients which will help you burn fat and preserve muscle.
Firstly, it’s important to note that this year, Ramadan will see the fasting periods last for approximately 18 hours where food or drink is not allowed. This leaves you with 6 hours to get adequate nutrients in.
Below are some tips that will help you make the most of nutrition during Ramadan
- The perfect time to eat healthily. – Ramadan is the perfect time to eat healthily and be more conscious. One of the benefits of Ramadan is the increase in Taqwa or consciousness about your relationship with Allah. This consciousness can also spill over into other areas of your life including your diet. Imagine the benefits you’ll have long term if you create healthy habits in this month. At the end of the day, we all know a good diet and healthy lifestyle takes some discipline but this is the month where you’re going to be at your most disciplined!
- Work out your calories. It’s important to know approximately how many calories you’re going to need for the day. Then work out how many times you’re going to eat and create meals that fit those calories and macros… More details on this at the end of this post.
- Iftar is not an eating contest! I get it, you’re hungry but don’t think that the breaking of the fast means you can eat as much as you want and of whatever you want. I have seen so many people treat Iftar as some sort of eating contest which I feel goes against a bit of the whole point of fasting personally. It’s also not a good idea nutritionally or from a health point to stuff yourself at this point.
- Break your fast with nutrient dense foods. – A date and water aside, your body is at its hormonal prime in a fasted state. Insulin sensitivity is high at this point and ghrelin levels are elevated and the body is hungry for nutrients, this is the time you want to make sure you’re getting nutrient dense foods high in proteins, good fats, vitamins and minerals. Deep fried foods and processed foods, sweets and desserts are not what your body needs at this point, sorry.
- Reduce starchy carbohydrates – Most people (that I know at least) tend to try to remain as sedentary as possible during Ramadan, This usually means a drop in calories you need but also, you’ll probably do better off with reducing your starchy carbohydrate quota. As a rule of thumb, I believe people should earn their carbohydrates through activity anyway. Keeping total carbs at under 40% of your overall macronutrient count would be advisable and, although everyone has different needs and I can not say for certain what would be best for you, going as low as 20% carbohydrates for most people could be ideal during Ramadan.
- Eat fat! – Fat has long been demonised as the bad guy but recently, it’s had a resurgence as an important macronutrient providing you don’t overeat it and eat the right types of fat. Fats will not only provide you with sustained energy throughout the day but also tend to make you feel fuller and more satisfied. Eating good fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, fish oils or oily fish and foods such as nuts and seeds during the period when eating is allowed is beneficial.
- Protein! – It’s the big one in most conversations about healthy eating but it goes without saying, make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of protein. One way to estimate your protein needs is to just double your weight in KG and that’s the amount of protein you should aim for per day.
- Take supplements – BCAAs and Glutamine is a stack that I am very keen on promoting especially during Ramadan to ensure you don’t lose muscle mass. BCAAS and 2-3g of glutamine taken at Suhur (the dawn meal) and post Iftar (the meal you break your fast with) as well as 3g of quality fish oils would be recommended. A protein supplement can also help you get protein too.
- Make sure you’re hydrated – Making up for your water count between Iftar and Suhur can seem hard but having 2-3 litres is important. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice into a 2 litre bottle and sip it throughout the evening, even taking it to prayers if you have to. The citrus juice will help alkalise the water too.
- Get adequate fibre – Most people don’t get enough fibre on a normal day and sometimes, it’s harder during Ramadan. I know quite a few people who complain of constipation during Ramadan so it is a good idea to bump up fibre through cruciferous greens or by taking supplements such as Psyllium husk.
The application of the above advice in the real world.
So, what does all that look like in a real world example?
In a previous article I wrote, I showed you how to work out your caloric needs (http://teamfightingfit.com/2017/03/30/how-to-calculate-your-calorie-needs/)
Let’s just assume now that your caloric needs during Ramadan are 2500 calories.
And you’re going to try and fit in 4 feedings in that short space of time.
Assuming that Iftar is at say, 9:15pm and Suhur at around 2:50am, that roughly gives you 5h hours and 35 minutes of eating time.
Divide that by 4 and you’ll need a feed almost every one and a half hours… That’s a lot of food and it will be hard to get it all in so you’re going to need calorie dense foods to make sure you don’t feel too bloated or sick.
½ litre of water
Greens drink or greens shake
Steak and nuts (The steak and nuts breakfast was made famous by the world-renowned strength coach, Charles Poliquin. Basically, it literally is meat and nuts for breakfast cooked in a bit of coconut oil and seasoned how you like)
BCAAs and Glutamine
2 scoops protein powder
200ml Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
1 Tbs Natural Almond Butter
1 handful Spinach
1 Handful Kale
1 Handful frozen berries
½ Litre of water
4 egg omelette
3g of Fish Oils
1 Litre of Water
1 Tbsp of coconut oil
Repeat Either Meal 1 or Meal 2
(Most people won’t be able to stomach real food at this point so the shake would make more sense)
The above meal would give you approximately 2000 calories on a 30% protein 50% fat and 20% carbohydrate ratio (approximately 150g of Protein, 100g of Carbs and 110g of Fat) – The fat might sound high but much of it is good for you and will provide sustained energy throughout the daytime.