Training and Nutrition Strategies during Fasting month

​By
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Michael lyons Coach and Co-Owner TriEdge Triathlon Coaching
(Michael is Level 2 Tri NZ certified Coach with more than 4000 hours coaching time)

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Ilona Kasza, Nutritionist at Tucker Health (http://www.tuckermedical.com/).

​An increasing number of our Team at TriEdge will be fasting during Ramadan and they and others have asked for some tips and guidance as Triathletes.
 
In general, An Increasing number of our Team are already intermittent fasting these days for Health and performance, promoting a state of Ketosis (more on that later from ILona) I personally have experience 12, 18 and 24 hour food only fasts on a regular basis however the additional challenge of training during fasting month is the exclusion of water.
 
We would like to present some practical thoughts and Ideas that we hope will be helpful Athletes who fast.
 
Firstly – let’s look at the Athlete’s challenges and then opportunities of fasting month
  1. Potential muscle and strength loss, Due mostly to insufficient hydration
  2. Lack of sleep – It's the hours before midnight that count the most for body repair and muscle growth and with the time constraints and many important things to do, getting to bed early is key (especially with the next day’s alarm set for 4 or 5am).
  3. No Races during fasting month and nothing longer than than Olympic distance within 30 days of Hari Raya.
  4. Loss of endurance is less of an issue as endurance decays at a slower rate than strength and is easier to keep at a similar level throughout the month with minimal losses.
 
Let’s take a look at the Opportunities of Fasting Month –

  1. Use the intermittent fasting of this month to switch your bodies fuel tank from Carbo to Fat (more on this later from Ilona)
  2. How many of you are the best swimmer that you can be?
Book some lessons with a coach and use this month as a focus month on your swim technique, this will involve less swim volume, less overhead on your body however the improvements will be of lasting value.
  1. Split your runs – instead of doing a weekly long run, split it into a morning and evening run, this result in less muscle tear down (catabolic) will be easier to recover from given your limited time and keeping your run in handy shape. Keep the runs 30 to 45 mins alternating between flat and hilly courses.
  2. Wicked Gym/Bike (Turbo Trainer)/run sets – short, hard and will give great strength gains in less than 90 mins – this is a great strategy for home training and I know a number of my athletes have simple strength equipment at home such as kettle bells, swiss ball, dumb bells and apartments with lots of stairs. These sets can also be done at the gym to of course. I will post a few examples once Fasting month starts.
  3. Another opportunity is to treat fasting month as a “Winter” month, the challenge with the all year warmth of Singapore (and Region) is that it's easy to forget to take a break, which if we did, the body would completely heal to achieving new heights in the coming year.  
  4. Recommend training is mostly done during the breakfast period of the evening and early morning, in other words avoid strenuous training during the daytime unless it is just prior to breakfast.
 

I’d like to hand over to Ilona from Tucker health. Ilona will cover some nutritional challenges and opportunities of fasting month.
  
Challenges:
 
1. Dehydration is the most serious challenge during Ramadan. It is very important to avoid heat during the day and rest as much as you can in order to prevent water loss.
2. The lack of food may result in lack of energy, especially towards the end of the day. Again, rest is very important. It would be great if you could have a short nap midday.
 
3. Hunger is not always present during the day. It will depend on the type and amounts of food you eat at dawn.
 
Opportunities:
 
1. The Fasting Month is a great opportunity to teach your body to burn fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates (glucose, a form of sugar). With a Western diet, the body is constantly in sugar burning mode. When we are young, our cells have the ability to switch back and forth from sugar to fat burning and vice versa. This flexibility is weakened by a constant supply of sugar. We can teach our body to dip into burning fat with:
- a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet
- fasting.
 
2. During the day, your body will rely on your fat stores for energy. Towards the evening you might feel very hungry for a quick energy source, which is sugar. It is very important that the first food you eat are higher in protein and fat, rather than simple sugars and carbohydrates. A few ideas for a quick snack:
- sardines with avocado
- nuts and seeds
- cheese
- beef pastrami
 
And here are some dishes that you can prepare in advance at home:
- Chicken wings with curry powder fried in ghee, butter or olive oil.
- Chili con carne: a great dish with beans and ground beef.
- Smoked salmon with eggs and a salad.
- Tuna (in oil) and mayonnaise (homemade).
 
3. In the evening, when breaking the fast, sip water with a bit of salt and lime juice. Remember to sip it slowly, in order to prevent overburden on the kidneys.
 
4. Before sunrise, food should be in moderate amounts and still low in carbohydrates. This will help the body to keep burning fat for energy and not to switch back to burning carbohydrates.

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