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Dr Zaf on maintaining fitness during Ramadan

We spoke to Crystal Palace F.C club doctor, Dr Zaf, who gave his tips on how to continue exercising throughout Ramadan.

Fasting during Ramadan can be challenging and even more so if you are trying to remain active, maintain fitness or prevent muscle loss.

Crystal Palace F.C. club doctor, Dr Zaf, spoke to us at Palace for Life to give advice on exercising during Ramadan.  He spoke on how and when is best to train to prevent a common problem where those observing Ramadan sometimes feel that they have to stop doing the activities that they love.

Dr Zaf said:

“The goal should be to try and maintain or limit any losses in fitness or strength, with the ideal time being around midnight, a few hours after you have broken the fast at Iftar (Sunset).

This will allow you to get on board sufficient fluids and glucose to enable you to replenish muscle glycogen stores. By waiting a couple of hours after you have eaten some food, it will mean that you have given time for the food to be digested and cleared from the stomach, allowing blood to be directed to the exercising muscles.

Once you have finished the training session, there is still sufficient time to take recovery protein drinks/hydration which will help in optimising muscle building and recovery. The disadvantage, of course, is that it may interfere with your sleep pattern by training late into the night.

The next most suitable time for training is probably just before Iftar. Advantages are that you can then rehydrate and replace glycogen stores and have protein for muscle synthesis quickly after training on opening the fast. The disadvantage is that you may not be able to have an optimum work out due to being dehydrated and having depleted glycogen stores after fasting all day.

The final option is to train after Suhoor, this has the advantage that you will be well hydrated and have good glycogen stores however, the disadvantage is that these will be depleted quickly after a training session and you then have to wait the whole day before you can replace.”

Dr Zaf has also provided meal and nutrition suggestions for anyone who is continuing to train during Ramadan, with the aim to help individuals to get the best out of their training.

Suhoor, (pre-dawn meal taken to mark the start of a fast)
The main focus should be on carbohydrate foods that will release energy slowly over the day combined with a small number of foods that will release in the short to medium term.

Examples of slow-release carbohydrates are non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, onions and asparagus. Sweet Potato, Pasta, Nuts, fresh fruit and oats/porridge also release carbohydrates slowly.

A whey protein should be consumed in preparation for training and muscle repair. As for fluids, plenty of isotonic fluids may be consumed as opposed to water – ideally, 2-4 litres during the time when eating and drinking is allowed.

This helps with the fluids being retained in the body as opposed to being released quickly through urinating. In addition, some extra electrolytes in a soluble tablet form may also be taken which can help with the absorption of water.

Iftar (the meal which marks the opening of the fast at sunset)
A small amount of quick-release carbohydrates is good and will make you feel better quickly. Examples are dates, fruit, smoothies and pasta.

A whey protein drink should also be consumed to help with muscle regeneration and recovery. Try and not to eat a large meal immediately on opening the fast as the danger is that the body will be in ‘storage mode’ and will then try and store any excess food as fat.

Have a small meal and then after a couple of hours have another meal focusing more on protein and slow-release carbohydrate foods.


Palace for Life are running ‘Get Involved’ sessions throughout Ramadan, allowing individuals to play football and break fast together on Sunday evenings.

Find out more HERE.


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