Want a recipe for fat loss that can’t be beat? Pair the daily fasting of Ramadan with an almost inevitable caloric deficit, and prepare to lose.
The fact that you have significantly less time makes it mighty challenging to overeat, although it’s still possible. But periodic fasting inadvertently creates a nice structure to keep your calories in check. What’s more, prolonged fasting results in relatively low insulin levels, which increases the body’s reliance on fat as fuel. That’s a winning combination for weight loss if I’ve ever seen one!
To further enhance your fat-loss efforts, use cardio training, and time it strategically. In a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, researchers examined the impact of aerobic exercise on participants during Ramadan. Half the subjects exercised fasted just before the feeding window, while the other half exercised four hours into their feeding window—basically in the middle of the night. Researchers found a greater decrease in body fat in those completing the aerobic exercise in a fasted state versus those completing it in the fed state.
Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:
- Choose Calorie-Dense Foods
To ensure you’re eating enough calories, maximize your calories-per-bite ratio. To make this happen, your focus needs to shift from high-volume, low-calorie foods—e.g., chicken and asparagus—to low-volume, high-calorie foods.
- Include Liquid Calories
To meet your caloric needs in a condensed time period, your digestive system will be working overtime. To ensure you still reach your daily goal, suck down more liquid calories in the form of shakes, smoothies, and whole-fat dairy between meals. You’ll find it much easier to drink your calories rather than eat them if you’re not feeling hungry.
- End Your Feeding Time With Slow-Digesting Protein
To minimize muscle breakdown during the extended fast, end your feeding window with a slow-digesting protein, such as casein protein, just before sunrise. Dairy products are an excellent source. Get your share of Greek yogurt, milk, or cottage cheese.
- Keep Lifting, Stop Running
To maintain muscle, you have to stimulate it. However, too much exercise can further increase your caloric deficit, further elevating your calorie needs and putting you at risk of muscle loss. Given the time constraints you face every day, overdoing it in the exercise department can actually work against you. And don’t forget, you’ve got to sleep sometime!
- Don’t Train Too Heavy, Too Long, Or Too Hard
I’ll be frank: Despite your best efforts, you probably will lose a little muscle size during Ramadan. But your strength doesn’t have to take a big step down! Focus on big lifts like the bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift, and start each workout with lower-rep strength work before doing any higher-rep work.
I hope that these few pointers will aid you in still making progress in the gym, whatever your goals may be. I also want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very blessed and peaceful Ramadan Kareem.
Until the next time, happy fasting and lifting.