The fasting month of Ramadhan is upon us. During this period, Muslims around the world observed the spiritual month by abstaining from food and fluid intake during daylight hours. How should we adapt or change our running training if we are fasting therefore? Here is some very useful advice from Mark Williams, co-founder of The Running Plan.
Should runners continue their training during the month of Ramadhan?
There is no right or wrong answer for this one. With careful planning, a runner should be able to maintain a full program of training despite fasting during the Ramadhan month. However, this may be very challenging for many. So, if you know that you will not be able to obtain sufficient rest for most of the time between iftar and suhoor, it may be best to avoid high-intensity training and training for longer than 1 hour at a time during the fasting month.
Some runners are struggling to decide between running before or after iftar (break fast). What do you think?
If your nutritional intake, and more importantly, hydration between iftar and suhoor is done with care and consideration, then running before iftar should be fine. I was always encouraged by my coach to run hungry and would go 12-16 hours pre-race (if it was an early morning race) with just one cup of coffee. Therefore, between iftar and suhoor, besides drinking a lot of water, I would encourage the consumption of fruits high in water content such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapples and oranges. I would also encourage the consumption of fruits that are high in potassium such as dates, figs and bananas, and peaches.
My recommendation for runners who wish to train during the fasting month is to only run for a maximum time of 1 hour and no more before iftar. Besides this, runners also need to take into consideration the weather conditions. If the sun is out and the temperature is well over 30°C, I encourage runners to opt for indoor option, e.g. treadmill.
Is it necessary to reduce mileage?
Again, it depends on the stage of training the individual is at and the distance they run per week. For instance, an individual who only runs twice a week for half an hour each time, there is no need to cut down on the mileage. However, for someone who runs 70km to 100km per week, this may be different.
When I was coaching a group of Muslim athletes several years ago, they carried on with their high mileage all the way through the fasting month. They were able to do this by being meticulous with the eating time, food intake, duration of training and level of intensity of training. It is all about discipline and organising your life a bit more during this period.
What nutrition is good to eat for runners during Ramadhan?
Iftar – For breaking fast, there is no better combination than dates and water! Dates contain very high levels of potassium (much more than a banana), a key rehydration mineral. They contain a special blend of glucose and fructose for short-term and long-term energy. They also have a special nutrient called beta-D-glucan that is a soluble fibre that can enhance satiety and digestive health. So basically, when you eat a date and drink more water for iftar, your body gets hydrated again much faster than with water alone. Some other tips for iftar are as follows;
- Resist the temptation to drink tea, coffee, and soda.
- Eat fresh fruit and nuts.
- Drink milk.
- Sip on water throughout the evening after iftar. It is best to aim for 8 glasses of water by bedtime.
- Avoid fried and spicy food as they may cause heartburn or indigestion.
- Avoid IBS – ‘Iftar Binging Syndrome’
Suhoor – This morning meal is generally recognized as the single most important meal of the day. Do not overeat, though. Focus on taking in foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates (slow digesting) and protein, fruits or vegetables and plenty of water. For example, an egg on whole-grain toast, a few crackers with peanut butter, some orange slices, and two glasses of water. Also, avoid salty foods as these will make you thirsty.
Source – Article adapted from https://www.justrunlah.com/2016/06/12/how-to-train-for-distance-running-during-ramadan-fasting-month/