Bahrain Confidential talks to Bahraini leading CrossFit athlete Salman Albader about training during Ramadan.
Some people train right before Iftar, some right after Iftar. In your experience, when is the best and optimum time of day to train during Ramadan?
The method of building muscle depends on a lot of things, the most important of which is food. Training before iftar has its benefits such as having more oxygen being available for your muscles rather than being required for digestion however, workouts and training are more beneficial when your body is properly fuelled, whereas results will be diminished when you’re hungry and less focussed. This is why I recommend training after iftar.
For those who are into hypertrophy and bodybuilding style of training, would you recommend people to go on a “cutting” diet?
I don’t recommend it during Ramadan because it takes quite a toll on the nerves system. Due to the fasting window being so wide, its essential that between Iftar and Suhoor you are nourishing your body with the nutrients it needs to prepare for the next day of fasting. Healthy eating habits are always encouraged but ideally, you would want to be “cutting” out of the fasting period to ensure you are not depriving your body of your recommended supply of nutrients and minerals.
How about those who wish to maintain or bulk, is this feasible during Ramadan?
Bulking can be quite tough to do during Ramadan because it requires a caloric surplus. Naturally when you’re fasting, it can be difficult to eat the necessary calories and nutrients that are needed for muscle building and bulking during the feeding window. During Ramadan I would always recommend eating at maintenance calories as it is a more feasible and achievable option that won’t result in muscle loss. I would recommend sticking to a regular training regime and ensuring that you eat enough during the time that food can be consumed.
Despite the lengthy periods of fasting each day, people can easily put on weight during Ramadan due to the amount of evening eating. How do you suggest people reduce body fat?
Yes, it’s very easy to gain weight due to the customs and traditions of every home, but at the same time a lot of people tend to naturally lose weight due to the shorter eating time meaning they would eat less than they would normally. I would always say during Ramadan you shouldn’t set weight loss/gain goals as its important to listen to your body and do what feels best. My best tips for those fasting would be to get some movement in every day, even if it’s a very light walk or yoga, focus on eating healthy food and including fiber, protein and carbohydrates in all meals, finally when you break your fast and eat small amounts in each meal, every couple of hours.
Do the long hours of fasting without protein consumption put the body into a catabolic state?
Those fasting usually feel more lethargic than usual due to late nights and early mornings. It can be possible to lose muscle during Ramadan because of the long fasting period which means your body would break into your fat reserves to get its energy. Normally only athletes who have very low body fat percentage will see their muscle mass decrease because when the body has no fat reserves left it uses muscle. This is very rare and can be avoided by having a regular exercise program and high protein intake once the fast has broken.
What is your workout routine during Ramadan? How many meals/calories do you consume between Iftar, Ghabgha and Suhoor?
I am a CrossFitter which means that my training is high-intensity and I need a lot of energy at the time of exercise. Explosive strength, endurance and physical fitness is something I target and split into two sessions; before eating and after eating.
- Before eating: This session is comprised of aerobic exercises such as jump rope, rowing and burpees.
- After eating: This session is for heavy weightlifting and high intensity movements as my body will be fueled and ready to go.
The amount of food you need to consume is based on your height, weight, activity level and goals, so everyone is different. Personally, I consume six meals to cover 3,000 calories. It can be very difficult to eat this amount during between Iftar and Suhoor, but I try my best to reach my goal. Additionally, hydration is extremely important and I aim to drink about 4 to 5 liters of water to make up for the time I am fasting.
What common mistakes do you see aspiring athletes make during Ramadan?
Common mistakes are falling into the trap of indulging in foods that are rich in fat, this makes you lethargic, due to the high percentage of sugar in the body, which can lead to feeling tired and unable to exercise. Staying up late and not getting enough sleep can have a huge impact on your fitness goals because if you are low in energy, you will be less likely to have a good session in the gym.
Any other advice you’d give to aspiring athletes this coming Ramadan?
- Ensuring that you eat in small quantities over long periods once the fast is broken, can really help digestion and energy dispersion.
- Drinking plenty of water
- Walking before Iftar
- Drinking Casein Protein before you sleep to help with muscle recovery and slow protein release during the night.
Is there any specific Under Armour gear you use when training in the heat/summer and how does it support your training?
Using Under Armour has helped me excel in my training, the apparel is suitable for all movements from weightlifting, running, gymnastic and especially for me in CrossFit. During the summer, I find that using the Iso Chill gear is a huge help because it is specifically designed to keep you cool and is great at sweat retention due to its high technology that disperse your body heat, and the fabric is very soft and comfortable for intense training.