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For many fitness enthusiasts, Ramadan presents a unique challenge. The combination of abstaining from food and water throughout the day can raise concerns about maintaining progress, especially for those focused on building muscle and strength. While achieving significant gains during Ramadan might be difficult, staying active and minimising muscle loss is absolutely possible with the right approach.

Understanding the Challenges

Fasting during Ramadan significantly alters your eating and drinking patterns, which can impact your metabolism, energy levels, and the body’s ability to maintain muscle mass. With no food or water intake during the day, your body has less fuel for muscle growth and repair, and dehydration can impact recovery and performance. Additionally, Ramadan involves disrupted sleep patterns which can potentially reduce production of hormones such as testosterone which are crucial for muscle growth.

However, fasting also teaches the body to efficiently utilise fat stores for energy, potentially aiding in fat loss. The key to minimising muscle loss and maintaining energy lies in strategic nutrition and hydration during non-fasting hours.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Firstly, it’s important to set realistic expectations. Building strength and muscle mass requires sufficient caloric intake alongside proper training. Since Ramadan involves calorie restriction, achieving significant muscle growth during this period is challenging. However, focusing on maintaining muscle mass and preserving strength is still a realistic and positive goal.

Strategies for Maintaining Fitness During Ramadan

Adjusting Workout Times 

Optimal times for workouts are either before Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) or after Iftar (evening meal). 

Training before Suhoor can leverage the energy from the previous night’s meal. When training at this time, engage in moderate to light intensity exercises, such as walking, light jogging, or resistance training. The goal is to boost metabolism and energy levels for the day ahead without depleting energy reserves. 

Post-Iftar workouts benefit from rehydration and replenishment, making it the best time for more intense or longer duration workouts. Focus on strength training to maintain muscle mass, and consider including some high intensity intervals at the end of your session to maintain endurance.

Workout Frequency and Duration

Since energy levels will be lower during this time, avoid increasing the frequency and duration of your current training routine. As a general guide, aim for 3-4 training sessions per week comprising 2 strength sessions, and 1-2 conditioning days. Each session should last no longer than 60 minutes. This will ensure a good balance between maintaining fitness and allowing for adequate recovery. If you find that maintaining your current routine is not sustainable, consider reducing the frequency, intensity, or duration of your training sessions.

Volume and Intensity

To begin with, aim to maintain the intensity of your workouts but consider lowering the volume by reducing the number of sets performed per session. For example, if you typically perform 3 sets per exercise, reduce this to 2 sets per exercise, excluding any warm up sets. If you find that your routine is still too challenging, reduce the weight lifted on each exercise and prioritise movement quality.

Exercise Selection

During strength training workouts, focus on compound movements (e.g., squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups) that work multiple muscle groups, maximising efficiency and effectiveness. Additional accessories and isolation exercises can be removed from training sessions during this time, especially if you can only train once or twice per week.

On conditioning days, high intensity intervals can be performed on the assault bike or SkiErg. However, for lighter cardio sessions, swimming, jogging, or incline walking may be more suitable.

Nutritional Guidelines to Support Fitness Goals

Suhoor (Pre-Dawn Meal)
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, oats, and legumes provide slow-releasing energy throughout the day.
  • Lean Protein: Eggs, chicken, fish, lean beef, or plant-based proteins help maintain muscle mass and feel full for longer.
  • Healthy Fats: Avocado, nuts, and seeds support sustained energy levels and satiety.

To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water between Iftar and Suhoor, avoiding caffeinated drinks that can lead to increased urine output.

Iftar (Evening Meal)
  • Start with Hydration: Begin your meal with water and hydrating foods like fruits or salads.
  • Protein-Rich Foods: Include a good source of protein (fish, chicken, eggs) to aid muscle repair and growth.
  • Balanced Carbohydrates: Incorporate whole grains or starchy vegetables to replenish energy stores.
Smart Snacking

Between Iftar and Suhoor, choose snacks that are high in nutrients but moderate in calories, such as yoghurt with berries, smoothies, or nuts.


While not a substitute for a balanced diet, certain supplements like multivitamins and omega-3 fatty acids can support overall health during Ramadan.

Additionally, protein supplements can aid in recovery and prevent muscle protein breakdown, especially if dietary protein intake is insufficient.

Rest and Recovery

Recovery and sleep are more important than ever during Ramadan. Quality sleep supports muscle repair and cognitive function which can be negatively affected by altered sleeping and eating patterns. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. If necessary, consider taking short naps in the afternoon to make up for any lack of sleep. Additionally, ensure your sleeping environment is conducive to rest, with minimal light, noise, and electronic devices.

Following your workouts, consume a high protein meal to support muscle growth and repair. If you find that you are particularly sore or tight after your training sessions, consider incorporating a short foam rolling and/or stretching routine.


  • Aim for muscle and strength maintenance rather than pushing for new gains
  • Perform your most intense workouts post-Iftar
  • Consider reducing the volume, intensity, duration, and/or frequency of your training sessions if your typical routine is unmanageable
  • Keep your calorie intake fairly consistent with the rest of the year
  • Consume a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats to support your training and daily life
  • Don’t disrupt your sleep to fit in more calories or workouts
  • Consider supplementation to support overall health and performance in the gym

- Dabbs Fitness

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