Maintaining all your gains (lean muscle) during Ramadan
The holy month of Ramadan, practiced by millions of Muslims around the world can be a challenge to meet all your nutritional requirements for maintaining lean muscle if you don’t have a planned approach.
Aimlessly wandering through Ramadan without a clear target or nutritional strategy in place will have you gaining fat and dropping muscle – a gym-goers worst nightmare!
Don’t think for one minute that it’s impossible to get results during Ramadan! In fact, if you play your cards right with your supplementation and training, you could even add to your muscle mass if that’s what you’re after!
The key to success over Ramadan is to actually have a PLAN and the right mindset! And in this article, I’ll give you the basic principles and plan to get there.
The 8 hours of food consumption window that you have must be looked at as nourishing your body with high quality, nutrient dense foods, supplementation and water to help restore and repair.
Completing a 16 hour fast actually gives the perfect opportunity for your digestive system to regenerate and allow your liver to detoxify. Plus, there is the added benefit of prayer activating the parasympathetic tone in your body, allowing the body to heal from modern day stressors and also help with recovery from the gym.
Commonly, recovery is often an afterthought, when it’s actually the key ingredient. You’re only as good as you’re able to recover!
Don’t get lost in all the training without planning your recovery for muscle growth… And specifically, that is how you can use Ramadan to progress and ensure that you take the opportunity to its fullest.
In the weeks and days leading up to Ramadan, try to give your training an extra push, more than normal, via increased volume and/or intensity, is a great option. Knowing that during Ramadan, you can still train, but at a reduced intensity with more of a focus on movement and training frequency.
Ensuring you still hit all the targeted muscle groups with rep schemes above +10 and a minimum of 3 working sets, will provide enough of a stress load to keep your muscle!
Here are five nutritional strategies to ensure you keep all of your muscle mass this Ramadan:
- When breaking the 16-hour fast it is critical to get in these vital nutrients. First is making sure you’re adequately hydrated with not only water, but adding a pure Electrolyte powder to 500mls of filtered water. Secondly, 2 to 3 servings of a high-quality pure nut butter (I really like Myprotein Triple nut butter) which will help stabilize your blood sugars before eating 2 to 3 dates. Culturally, dates are used to break the fast and they’re a healthy option to do s, when accompanied by a slow digesting food like nuts.
- Prioritize getting adequate protein in the 8-hours of allowed eating. Aim for a minimum of 1.5g of protein per kilo of body weight. This can be difficult to meet without the aid of supplements during Ramadan. Using a high quality and easily digestible protein powder is the key. I recommend using 2 different varieties, a plant-based protein powder like Myprotein Vegan Blend (which contains hemp, pea and rice sources) and a whey protein powder like Myprotein TheWhey. Studies have shown that supplemental protein powders can be effective at maintaining muscle mass. (1) Having 2 different varieties enable you to consume more in this period and won’t put a burden on digestion like eating a huge steak right before bed.
- Take BCAAs during and after weight training sessions. This will ensure that your body is able to maintain a positive nitrogen balance, which is critical for keeping muscle mass. (2, 3) Try Myprotein BCAA Plus.
- Avoid excessive amounts of sugar and fast carbs. Yes, it is ok to have some fast carbs or sugars around your training sessions, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can eat what you want because you have been fasting all day. Research has shown that ingestion of glucose can have a negative effect on testosterone levels. (4) Plus, excess sugars will make it hard to stabilize your blood sugars during your fasting periods.
- Don’t forget your greens and vegetables! Often overlooked with populations trying to gain and maintain lean muscle, is vegetables and micronutrients. This is important for making sure all the cells in your body are adequately receiving the vital nutrients for maintaining health AND all of your hard-earned muscle! If you’re missing one key vitamin or mineral, it will have a negative cascading effect on your body’s ability to recover and grow muscle. With Ramadan being a bit more restrictive than usual, it is always a good idea to supplement with a broad spectrum multivitamin nutrient like Myprotein Alpha Man and/or Total Nutri Greens.
Take home message
Try to make it into the gym at a minimum 4x per week over this period. Even if they are lighter training sessions, it will most likely provide enough stress/stimulation to hold all of your muscle mass during Ramadan. Putting your head in the sand and waiting until Ramadan is over, is a quick way to lose some of your hard-earned gains that have taken months and years to build!
Last but not least, take advantage of the Holy month with planned reduced training intensities, which can be an opportunity for your body to grow and recover properly (provided you adhere to the nutritional advice above).