While having my desert in one of the local Arab restaurants in my neighborhood, the owner approached me and said, “This is a specialty we do for Ramadan. You can try this only this month.”
Although I am mindful when it comes to nutrition and my sugar consumption, this was another level of sweetness — something you cannot say no to.
After the sugar rash was gone, another thing came to my mind. I thought on fasting, as part of Ramadan, and the amount of time spent without food and water. Now, being an ordinary person, with a regular job and physical activity level that could be adjusted according to your needs is one thing. But being professional karate (or any other) athlete is a totally different thing. It changes the way you should approach training, nutrition, supplementation, and rest during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
Here are some tips and strategies that will allow you to maintain optimal energy necessary for practice.
Pay attention to your meals.
You would like to have two meals, ideally. An early breakfast, and dinner right after sunset. Have three options for breakfast and three for dinner and rotate them. This way you’ll avoid decision making fatigue and ending up with a food that will spike your blood sugar level. As a result, you’ll find yourself craving food throughout the day, during your fast.
Have a big glass of water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt after waking up. While sleeping, we do not eat, and more importantly, do not drink water. Therefore, rehydration is a smart thing to do first thing in the morning. By adding some high-quality salt, you get trace minerals, which are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Plus, this is your first and maybe last glass of water until sunset. So put effort and dedicate some time in this. Make it part of your morning ritual.
Avoid any refined sugars, white bread, instant oats. Instead make sure you have enough protein, fat and little complex carbohydrates.
My go-to meals are:
- Scrambled eggs (usually 3), with feta cheese, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sourdough bread, and butter. Occasionally I would include some avocado.
- Greek yogurt (1 cup) with walnuts and blueberries. Occasionally I like to add one tablespoon olive oil. Besides the health benefit, it’s a healthy way to increase the number of calories I get.
- Oatmeal. I made this one only when I have a protein powder to add in. This makes the oatmeal flavorful. In addition to this, I put cacao, coconut oil, almond or peanut butter, cinnamon, and blueberries. Feel free to include nuts. And be careful, this meal can quickly become an 800-1000 Kcal bomb.
During the day
During the day, you fast. If possible, it would be great if you have a midday nap or go to bed right after your breakfast to get 2-3 extra hours of sleep. Do not stay too long in bed, because you’ll mess up your circadian clock and with that your hormones. Personally, I would go for a midday nap.
Exercises in the afternoon, one hour before sunset. This way, you can eat and drink right after you finish your training. Avoid morning workout, which would leave your body dehydrated and with no food for the whole day, and with this, unable to recover. If you have no other choice, do low-intensity aerobic activities.
As previously mentioned, plan for an afternoon workout. And there is a good reason for that.
First, the protein synthesis peak in the afternoon, which is another way to say your muscles will recover faster, making new protein using the food you’ll eat right after your workout. Second, your reaction time together with body temperature peaks as well allowing you to perform the workout with higher intensity and high quality of movement.
Types of Exercises
In terms of intensity and duration, you either do a longer workout with lower intensity or a shorter one that includes high-intensity bursts followed by rest periods.
- Low-intensity workout – This could be 30 minutes run or bike ride or something that will challenge your mobility and flexibility, such as yoga. It would be great if you can do it outside in nature. Maybe go barefoot, so you get the benefits of grounding effects as well. If you do karate, practice kihon, and focus on mobility exercises. Focus on technical performance. If you decide to do karate, make sure to pay attention to the intensity. Due to the nature of the karate sport, it is easy to get in the anaerobic zone without noticing. For this reason, if possible, wear a heart rate monitor, and keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone.
- High-intensity training is something you should consider, especially if there is a tournament approaching. Short, high-intensity bursts, followed by rest, is a great way to maintain your power and speed levels, while at the same time reaching the intensity you would find during your karate performance.
Your last meal for the day should happen right after your evening training. Before that, have one more glass of water and add lemon and sea salt for remineralization. If you do not find that compelling, have an Ayran (salty yogurt). You can’t say no to that. You are getting minerals together with some protein and carbs. Another choice is to get trace mineral in a pill. I bit more expensive but helpful at this point.
You want to keep your breakfast high in fat and protein and low in carbs. But, for dinner, you want to make sure you get enough protein and carbohydrates, especially after high-intensity training. This enhances the recovery process but recovering your muscles and replenishing the glycogen levels that usually get depleted after a HIIT. Carbs also play a role in the process of serotonin production, helping sleep better.
- Protein – beef, fish, chicken, lamp;
- Vegetables – various type of green vegetables;
- Carbs – sweet/normal potatoes, beans, legumes, whole grain bread, rise.
- Fat – olive oil, coconut oil;
- Soups – vegetable, lentil, pumpkin;
Essential amino acids – you can take this right after training to enhance your recovery process and maybe before bed since amino acids are responsible for the adequate level of neurotransmitter. On top of it, this will help you maintain your muscle mass;
Protein powder– when too lazy to prepare your meal or want some extra protein;
Trace minerals supplement – promote optimum biological function and cellular maintenance, helps with digestion, balances alkaline/acid levels; If you do not want to spend money on pills, Celtic Sea Salt is a great substitute and much cheaper.
Magnesium– will enhance your sleep, recovery and ATP production.
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