Ramadan: THE Time to Slim for Muslims.
I had a good laugh when I first heard that quote because: (1) it rhymes (2) there is an actual truth in it. Logically, during Ramadan (aka the fasting month), one will tend to consume a lot less calories than on normal days because meals are now narrowed down to only two main ones- or one, if the person does not practice Sahur. So inevitably, Ramadan can aid with your weight/fat loss goals a long as you do it right. But what is the right way? How do I go about with my eating choices? What type of exercise and when should I perform it? These are among the questions that I hope to address by the end of this post as they are the most requested ones on my Instagram Inbox currently. But do note that all the things I said are purely based on my experiences via trial and error, so it may not work for you as how it did/does for me. I am also not legally authorised to summon you to abide by what I say 100% so take it, like everything else you read on the internet, with a grain of salt. Go down the internet rabbit hole, or talk to other experienced athletes if you need more insights into this ok? But as of now, you’ve chosen me (cause here you are reading my article hehe) so here is what I have to say 🙂
In his book How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease (one of my 2017 reading list btw!), Michael Greger introduced the Traffic Light methodology. It’s a really simple and convenient tool I’ve used ever since I started training for my Project X Prep 8 weeks ago. The only difference I made with the cart is I moved unprocessed Animal Foods into the Green category, as opposed to Yellow because my diet isn’t 100% plant based for now. Anyways, here’s the illustration from the original book itself:
Like a real road traffic light, green means go, yellow equates to slow down (or in Greger’s own words- caution), and red is stop. Similar to your food choices, food in the ‘green lighted’ category should be consumed the most because it’s always safe to go. ‘Yellow-lighted’ choices should be consumed at a relatively minimised rate, and as for those in ‘red lighted’ zone, avoid them! But the latter isn’t easy, I know that because I am guilty of occasionally consuming sweets & junk food too (and Greger probably realises this as well hence he wrote avoid instead of completely demolish).
Let me put your mind into perspective. We’re all guilty of sometimes running the red light in the real world- be in on the road or the pedestrian cross- but we still survive. We can get away with it once in a while. But when you trespass the red light too often, you’re bound to end up in the ER someday with a broken rib or neck from the road accident. This analogy works the same with food.
You can have that slice of pizza or Pavlova (which I just had yesterday), but I wouldn’t recommend that you make a habit out of it! So chose your ‘desserts’ wisely – like perhaps have it only once or twice a week!- and I am confident we can all do that since this holly month is already by default, a time to control our temptations. Other red light foods examples are (but not limited to): Fast Foods (think McDonalds/KFC/Dominos), sugary delicacies (think cookies, cupcakes, marshmallows etc) and Frozen/Prepackaged food (think Instant noodles like SamYang or Frozen Pizza).
The other two food categories are pretty self explanatory but if you are still unsure, let me fill you in briefly. I like to give the analogy of a chicken nugget to depict what a whole/unprocessed food is (in fact, I did a presentation about this in London last year :p). Now imagine a chicken nugget…
Does it look like a chicken to you? Absolutely not right?! Where are its eyes, beak or feather??? When the food looks nothing at all like what it says it is (CHICKEN nugget), then it’s definitely not a whole food! Another way to identify an unprocessed food is from the list of its ingredient- it has none! Think about vegetables and fruits. An apple is just an apple. No lengthy list of ingredients. Just an apple. Period. In contrast, processed food has a list of hard-to-pronounce-never-heard-of-weird-chemicals ingredients that can probably take up half of its food package! Just kidding tho…. but you get my point! And if you are craving for more understanding about food groups, click here.
So all that said, I hope that we can both adopt Greger’s methodology in terms of deciding what to put on our plate this Ramadan. They say that this month is the time for change…so what’s stopping us from making amends regarding our relationship with food?
As for myself, apart from adapting Greger’s Traffic Light Rule, I’ve got a few other eating habits I’m implementing this Ramadan (read: just this Ramadan):
- I eat like a KING during Sahor and I love to load it with (complex) carbs and (lean) protein. This morning itself, I filled 3/4 my plate with leftover lettuces from my meal prep 2 days ago and white rice (forgot to cook brown the night before) and the other quarter was for eggs (which is kinda weird, I know). But that’s only because my mum didn’t cook up any lean meat, so I resorted to 2 scoops of protein powder (about 44 grams) just to make sure I get my daily macros in. And I had one whole Mango to myself right after, with a lot of H20!
- I hydrate A LOT! I don’t believe in the whole drinking lots of water will bloat you myth, because I realised that bloating is caused from the food you consume, not water you drink. In fact, some people even encourage that you chuck down a glass of water before your meal just to stop you from overeating- and that’s exactly what I do the minute Maghreb calls. On the nights I perform terawih, I’d also bring my 1 litre bottle and at the end of it, it will finish! I swear, it’s such an accomplishment so you should try it too!
- This rule is a pretty extreme one and I wouldn’t recommend you to do it (remember, MODERATION!) but I’m training for something in September, so it’s a temporary exception (remember again, I advocate for balance!). The rule is that I’ll be on a no-processed-sugar-no-junk-food deal for the whole month. Except for Quest Nutrition Bars! I bought four bars so far and am planning to have them to curb my sweet cravings at its peak days. The nutrition facts also looks pretty promising: <1g of Sugar, calories: 170, carb to protein ratio is nearly 1:1 and the best thing is that it is 0 trans fat!! Yay! But in all honesty tho, I am so scared to say that I’ll be doing this! I’ll keep you posted about my progress at the end of the month like OMG… how do the body builders or olympic athletes have so much discipline???
There are sooo many ideologies about when/how/what to exercise in the internet rabbit hole and I dare say that maybe only 10% of what they say works. 10% of what they say works for me.
If you’ve been with my fitness logs for awhile, you’ll know that I’m all for what works for your body, so your Ramadan exercise regime is no exception. I am going to offer advice and share with you what I’ll be doing but I am leaving the decision in your hands- like I said in the first paragraph. Now let’s start with my exercise regimes this month.
I’ve been training fasted since I was 14 in my high school varsity basketball. We used to train every evening, so in ramadan coach made us do the same. But the only difference is that we’d cut the cardio (like suicide runs) and replace them with more drills (think dribbling, shooting etc) so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Unlike my before Ramadan Fitness Routine, I’ll be training for 4 days where 3 days will be for Weights (with lower sets per rep, focusing more on form than ever0 like drilling) and the other day will be for Pilates. Rest Days are for foam rolling or maybe Yoga… if I am physically able to do so. And there will be noooo cardio for me yay! #teamCardiNO. But well, if I am on my menstrual cycle then I’d resort back to my normal BBG/Weight Training combo.
As for you, I’d suggest that you first try to train fasted (because I understand that at night we have religious responsibilities aka Terawih) and the recommended time, in my opinion, is 2 hours before break fast (around 5PM). Trust me, the first time you do it, you’ll feel like you’re about to collapse hahahaha I remember feeling that way the first time in I trained fasted in basketball (I was 14)! I was too dehydrated and felt like I was going to DIE so I sneaked into the water cooler area and drank water HAHAHAHAHA.
BUT you’ll eventually adapt and learn to know when to stop before you ‘loose’ it (ore specifically, when you feel like buka-ing puasa like I did 7 years ago haha). It takes practice and a carb-load of food during sahur but trust me, you’ll be fine (remember how in those days people went to war fasted? So yeah, that’s your motivation girl!).
Otherwise you can train right after Sahoor, or before Sahoor (true story: I know people who wake up at 4AM to train) or the most typical one- after terawih. At the end of it, your training window boils down to your own convenience and mental strength.
In terms of what to train, I would recommend that you cut the (intense) cardio or extreme HIIT because those exercises would leave you drenched in sweat- and hence you’d lose a lot of water. Instead, opt for a lighter, more immobile and an isolation type of workout. For example, if you love body weight exercises, you could check out Blogilates‘ free workout calendar (I know, that’s a bit biased hahaha) or YogaWithAdriene if you need some flexibility work or just go outside for a bike around your house or just take a long walk around the park. The options are endless, just as long as that the exercise doesn’t drain water out of you so much.
That’s all have to share today! But throughout the month, I’ll be spontaneously dropping Ramadan-related entries (this is entry 1), alongside the mandatory #MondayMuse: New blog posts every Monday so get hypeeeed hehe :p
Please please please drop any further questions you have in the comments because I will be replying to all of them (plus it’s a form of deed hehe)! Have a blessed Ramadan loves. Stay Quirky, Fie <3