Tips for healthy eating and exercising during Ramadan

People who want to exercise after iftar should eat carbs and sugar while breaking the fast, to replenish burnt fat.

Emirati personal trainer, Hamdan Khouri, left, says if  people are not able to improve their fitness during Ramadan, they should at least try to maintain it. “If you’re eating smart and training smart, that’s the best you can do,” he says. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // A proper diet and exercise plan are more important than ever during Ramadan, health experts say.

An Emirati personal trainer, Hamdan Khouri of Haddins Fitness in Abu Dhabi, will fast this Ramadan. He plans to swap shifts with colleagues so he can exercise with clients at night.

While he said he was more than happy to train non-fasting clients during daylight hours, he will not work out during these sessions.

"I would never exercise while fasting. You can't train on an empty stomach," he said.

Mr Khouri said Ramadan was a time of sacrifice and that while people might not be able to improve their fitness, they should at least try to maintain it.

He believes good fitness is 30 per cent exercise and 70 per cent nutrition. With this in mind, Mr Khouri said people had to sacrifice some heavy weightlifting during Ramadan because their muscles do not receive enough protein or nutrition regularly throughout the day.

"It's more difficult in Ramadan but you don't want to break consistency," he said. "If you're eating smart and training smart, that's the best you can do.

"You want to avoid having one big meal, and eating it quickly, because you need to let your metabolism and digestive system activate. It's better to spread out your food groups and eat slowly."

For people who want to exercise after iftar, Mr Khouri said they should eat carbs and sugar while breaking the fast, to replenish burnt fat.

However, after the gym, he said people should eat lean proteins; ideally white fish and strictly no carbs before bed.

He also recommended people switch to healthier alternatives, such as replacing sunflower oil with coconut oil and eating organic foods.

A Dubai-based nutritionist, Rashi Chowdhary, agreed that the holy month was a good opportunity for people to detox and improve their eating habits.

She said eating a combination of whole-grain carbohydrates with lean protein for suhoor would delay hunger pangs and provide longer sustenance.

Iftar meals should consist of only one carbohydrate, with protein-rich foods to counteract lean muscle loss.

Ms Chowdhary also recommended natural laxatives, such as prune juice, to avoid digestive problems caused by dramatic shifts in eating habits.

Dr Maged Shurrab, a specialist family physician at Dubai's Al Tadawi Medical Centre, said not everybody should, or could, fast. "We need to take into account people's ages and if they have any medical conditions," he said.

He said people could either exercise before suhoor or after iftar but that exercising while fasting was "dangerous" and "unacceptable".

"If people want to exercise before their suhoor meal, they shouldn't do it for more than 30 minutes. If they want to do it after iftar, they should wait three hours after eating because the body needs time to digest," he said.

Hamza Ayyad, the fitness centre manager at Burjeel Hospital, said humans bodies burn glycogen when they fast or exercise. He said this glycogen releases energy and is important to replace with a small, but 70 per cent carb, iftar and then continue to eat small portions thereafter.

He also stated the importance of avoiding dehydration and said fasters should drink 2.5l of water between iftar and before going to sleep. It is recommended that people drink 35ml of water per kg of body weight, and drink it over a period of time.

Mr Ayyad added: "There are two types of people who exercise in Ramadan. Some of them are already fit and want to maintain their fitness. They can just wait awhile after iftar and do their ordinary routine.

"The other type wants to use Ramadan to lose weight. Some work out during their fast because they think they'll burn more calories - but that's a mistake because they just end up burning muscle. After iftar, they should just do between 45 minutes to an hour of cardio."

Haddins Fitness will host a Ramadan Primal fitness boot camp from 10.30pm to 11.30pm five days a week throughout Ramadan.

Contact or call 02 403 4233 to book.

Visit for more information on Rashi Chowdhari's weight loss programmes.