Athletes During the Month of Ramadan

Athletes During the Month of Ramadan POPULATION-SPECIFIC CONCERNS
Angy H. El-Khatib;strong> Timothy A. Tolbert, PhD, ATC; and Gary E. McIlvain, EdD, LAT/ATC • Marshall University
international journal of Athletic Therapy & training september 2012

In predominantly Muslim countries, Ramadan is a time when business, schooland work slow down to concentrate on the fast during the day. A typical day in Ramadan starts with a very early breakfast, or “Suhoor” which begins hours before the break of dawn.Following Suhoor, a Muslim may then go to
the mosque for dawn prayers and to recite verses of the Quran. Many Muslims then go back to bed before carrying on with daily activities. At sunset, the fast is broken with a meal called “Iftar.” After Iftar, Muslims
complete the regularly scheduled prayers along with extra “Taraweeh” prayers and late-night recitations of the Quran. Therefore, the impacts of Ramadan include alteration of sleeping patterns and change in dietary
practice, i.e., no food and fluid consumption between dawn and sunset. For Muslim athletes who observe this
month, the combined food and fluid intake restrictions, as well as the changes in eating and sleeping patterns, are of obvious importance. As athletics become more popular among Muslims, an understanding of the
effects of Ramadan on Muslim athletes is essential. There is limited information available about the responses of athletes who train through Ramadan, but there have been several studies pertaining to the nutritional,
metabolic, and body composition changes that take place during Ramadan.1-11 Dietary Ramadan causes a phase shift in food and fluid intake as well as sleep cycle, which results in altered exercise and psychomotor-
related performance capabilities.intake is unlikely to have a significant impact on performance, but the phase shift of food intake, fluid intake, and change in sleep patterns can affect physical performance,4 as well as level of alertness and mood. Dietary and Food Intake During Ramadan Research suggests that neither energy intake nor body mass change significantly during the Ramadan fasting period.3,8,11,13-16 There may be regional and cultural variations in dietary practices, however. Increased energy intake has been observed among Saudi Muslims, but decreased energy intake has been observed among Indian Muslims.17 Another study documented significant body fat losses among young elite judo athletes who had a constant energy intake during the month of Ramadan.18 A decrease of dietary iron has been reported in a fasting group and an increase in dietary iron intake in a nonfasting group. The Effects of Fasting on Metabolism and Performance
Research has demonstrated that carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism were not significantly affected
during Ramadan.4 Within a few hours of fasting, carbohydrate oxidation decreases and fatty acid oxidation
increases.19 In a fasted state, fat oxidation is favored, which was indicated by a decreased rate of carbohydrate utilization.6 A glycogen restoration phase lasts about an hour following an exercise session.20 In the absence of carbohydrate feeding following a highintensity exercise, such as that which occurs during
Ramadan practices, high concentrations of lactate stimulate the recovery of stored glycogen.21 In the
absence of exercise, muscle glycogen content is not affected by a few days of fasting.
Research has suggested that submaximal factors (e.g., heart rate) are hardly affected by fasting, whereas
maximal work declined. Psychomotor performance,
alertness, and nocturnal sleep patterns have been shown to suffer during altered food intake.22 Significant
reductions in speed, agility, dribbling speed, and endurance have been observed in professional Algerian
soccer players,23 as well as Israeli adolescents.7 The effect of fasting was most notable on vertical jump
performance.4 A 2–4% body mass reduction resulting from change in total body water content reduced
strength by approximately 2%, power was reduced by approximately 3%, and high-intensity endurance was
reduced by approximately 10%.Body mass reduction of 2–3% had no significant effect on sprint running
performance if the subject was not overweight. Endurance and high-intensity exercise performances
have been shown to be impaired during periods of 24–36 hour fasts. Endurance exercise performance was reduced by a 2–7% reduction in total body water content, but endurance exercise performance that lasted less than 90 minutes was not affected by a 1–2% reduction in total body water content.26 The results of study of the effects of Ramadan on a 60-minute endurance running performance
Table 1. Estimated Ramadan Dates
for the Next 10 Years
Gregorian Calendar
(AD)
Hijri Calendar
(AH) Ramadan Starts Ramadan Ends
2012 1433 July 20 Aug 18
2013 1434 July 9 Aug 7
2014 1435 June 28 July 27
2015 1436 June 18 July 16
2016 1437 June 6 July 5
2017 1438 May 27 June 25
2018 1439 May 16 June 14
2019 1440 May 5 June 3
2020 1441 April 24 May 23
2021 1442 April 13 May 12
2022 1443 April 2 May 1

demonstrated that participants covered significantly more distance in the first 30 minutes in a non fasting state compared to a fasting state.27 Similar unfavorable effects of fasting during Ramadan have been reported for high-intensity submaximal aerobic exercise and incremental exercise to exhaustion. Sleep Patterns. The time of day when exercise takes place seems to
have an effect on performance. Soccer players tested in the morning were significantly slower in the performance
of 10-m sprints than pre-Ramadan times through the fourth week of Ramadan, whereas players tested in the afternoon remained consistent. Beyond the fourth week of Ramadan, players tested in the morning returned to pre-Ramadan times.4 Among the
players tested in the morning, greatest fatigue was documented at weeks 2 and 4, whereas players tested in the afternoon only demonstrated fatigue at week .Leg strength and anaerobic power tend to improve in the afternoon, especially in activities such as sprinting, vertical jumping, and dribbling.4,33 A significant reduction in nocturnal sleep time has been observed during the first and third weeks of Ramadan.12 Alteration of sleep cycle to accommodate the phase shift of food intake appears to be a more
important factor in the development of performance

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