Thoughts on Ramadan and Intermittent Fasting

While there are only a few days left in Ramadan, I thought this post could be beneficial to finish out the last stint and for future reference for athletes who observe Ramadan or athletes who practice intermittent fasting.. Ramadan is a ~30 day period in the Islamic calendar year when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. For most, this period of fasting can be quite difficult, but for an athlete who relies on their ability to perform at a high level, it can be even more difficult.

The obvious issue here is that players who are observing Ramadan can’t eat or drink during daylight. The answer is to do one of two things: 1. Not eat and try to get the best sleep possible or 2. Have the athlete’s circadian rhythm take a slight hit at the beginning stage and stay up late and/or wake up early to eat. With the former being the more reasonable approach to maintain body weight, appropriate body fat percent, and athletic qualities like speed and power, these athletes should be monitored a little more closely throughout this period.

Here are a few key takeaways (of many) from the research that Mike put together for the medical and coaching staff relating to performance:

  • Ramadan intermittent fasting does not seem to change individual sprint performance but does negatively impact repeated sprint ability (something that is especially important in matches).
  • Anaerobic power is not affected in the morning during Ramadan but it is affected in the afternoon and the evening (game performance is more likely impacted than practices).
  • Maintaining the training load during the Ramadan results in faster sprints and higher jump performance compared to a decreased training load.
  • A reduction in training load & intensity from the pre-Ramadan to the Ramadan period, has been shown to result in poorer physical performance.
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John Grace is a coach at Athletic Lab Sports Performance Training Center in Cary, NC - USA. John has his CSCS, USAW Level 1 certification, USATF Level 1 certification and has worked as an assistant fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.