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Nutrition and Performance in Sport

Christophe Hausswirth

Chapter 4. Nutrition and specific sport populations

Topic 17. Ramadan

Christophe Hausswirth, Amélie Fosse, Axel Heulin, Yann Le Meur, Véronique Rousseau, Eve Tiollier et École Lenôtre

Texte intégral

Questions and answers

Key points
It appears obvious that fasting can impede the implementation of good practices in sports nutrition, especially in terms of the key points of what should be eaten before, during and after exercise.
Some athletes who fast can modify the timing, duration and intensity of their workout sessions to take full advantage of the nutritional opportunities available over the 24 hours.
Only exercise sessions taking place two to three hours after the end of the fast will be in line with the rehydration/eating cycle the athlete should respect before, during and after any exercise. However, it is also important to sleep.
The athlete can easily check that their hydration plan adequately compensates for any water lost during training by checking their weight, and the colour and amount of urine produced, especially in the morning.

Is sporting performance significantly modified during Ramadan?

1There does not seem to be any definitive answer to this question. This lack of consensus is probably because the conditions in which ramadan is implemented, and the nutritional requirements related to sports, can vary between individuals. The duration of the fast, as well as the environmental conditions in which it is practised varies between hemispheres and between countries. What is certain is that fasting can impede the implementation of good practices in sports nutrition, especially with regard to the key points of what should be eaten before, during and after exercise. This can affect both performance during training sessions and recovery in preparation for future sessions. Thus, performance can vary because of effects carried over from one day to the next. Because of this, each athlete must implement a food and training strategy based on advice from experienced professionals.

What is the most efficient way to train during Ramadan?

2Ideally, athletes should eat and drink before, during and after training or performing in a competition. Some athletes who fast can modify the timing, duration and intensity of their workout sessions to better avail of the nutritional opportunities presenting themselves during the 24 hours. However, in some cases, it may be impossible to modify the timing of training or a competition. The following recommendations should be taken into account in these cases:

  • The duration and intensity of exercise must be adapted in line with the athlete's nutritional status, hydration and with the weather conditions, such as heat and humidity.

  • Morning sessions can benefit from any intake of liquids and food before dawn, but energy and water recovery will probably be incomplete as no other opportunity to drink or eat will be available until sundown.

  • Sessions planned to terminate just before iftar (the meal breaking the fast) will allow the athlete to eat as part of recovery. Recovery will continue during the night.

  • Only training sessions taking place two to three hours after the end of the fast can respect the rehydration/eating cycle that athletes should adhere to before, during and after any exercise. However, it is also important to get enough sleep.

How should hydration be dealt with?

3Water requirements are specific to each athlete and depend, in particular, on the extent of losses due to sweating during the physical effort. The Ramadan fast does not modify basic water requirements, unless the athlete changes their type of effort and the duration of their exercises. The challenge is, rather, to compensate for all the water lost between sunset and dawn. To do this, it is preferable to follow a hydration plan rather than to rely on thirst alone. The athlete can easily determine whether their hydration plan is sufficient to balance their losses by checking body weight, and monitoring the colour and amount of urine produced, especially in the morning (urine should be clear and of a normal volume):

  • Any weight loss following exercise corresponds to water losses that must be compensated for. Because water is also lost through other means, a volume of liquid corresponding to 150% of the weight lost should be consumed (thus, drinking 1.5 l balances a weight loss of 1 kg).

  • You must also think about replacing lost salt when rehydrating. This can be done either by drinking rehydration solutions specifically designed for athletes, or by drinking and eating at the same time (most food contains salt). This will help your body to retain water.

  • Even if it is difficult to combine with the need to sleep, it is better to divide your fluid intake instead of drinking a large amount all in one go, as this strategy helps to reduce unnecessary losses through urination.

  • Strategies to reduce sweating should also be used. For example, avoid senseless exposure to heat or sun. In addition, consider using “cooling vests”, cold baths, fans, etc. during and after the effort, especially if you are performing in a hot atmosphere.

What is the best way to eat when breaking the fast?

4Two meals are important during Ramadan. The first one (iftar or ftour) can be composed of traditional dishes, but must be adapted in terms of quantities and quality to the athlete’s needs, especially with regard to carbohydrates and proteins. The last meal (sahur or shour) should be eaten as close to dawn as possible and must prepare the athlete for that day’s sporting objectives. Once again, even though general recommendations can be made, they should be adapted for each athlete:

  • Carbohydrate requirements vary depending on the energy requirements of your training programme. The shour meal must be rich in carbohydrates, especially if you need to replenish your energy stores after a competition or training. High-quality proteins are also necessary for recovering after resistance (or bodybuilding) sessions and must be part of the ftour meal or snack.

  • Fortunately, most traditional dishes served at ftour are good sources of carbohydrates (like figs) and high-quality proteins (e.g. milk). When the exercise is planned just before ftour, these dishes can be consumed as post-exercise recovery snacks, and may be followed by another training session and another meal.

  • You should take advantage of the possibility of drinking and eating during exercise performed after sunset. This will enhance your performance during training and will also contribute to achieving your nutritional goals. Sports foods, such as energy gels, drinks and bars, are nutritious concentrates which are easy to ingest in these situations.

  • Finally, the shour meal also constitutes an interesting source of lipids, carbohydrates and proteins that can be used to replenish energy stores and favour recovery and metabolism before dawn in preparation for the following day.

Practical applications

Image 10000000000003F000000147D564E749.jpgImage 10000000000000230000001F5B2871AD.jpgAt the end of the day, the risks of injury and fainting are increased.

1. During the fast

Reduce your energy expenditure

5 Favour low-intensity activities that are performed sitting or lying down (nap, reading, office/school activities, etc.)

6 Adapt your training:

  • reduce the intensity and duration of training sessions

  • favour training in the morning (2 to 3 hours after the beginning of the fast "Shour")

  • avoid training at the end of the day

In the winter, protect yourself from the cold. Image 10000000000000230000001F5B2871AD.jpgAvoid whole-body cryotherapy

Monitor your hydration and wear appropriate clothes

7 All seasons except summer

8 Avoid activities which cause sweating (sauna, steam room)

9 During the summer

10 Avoid exposing yourself to sunlight

11 Keep yourself cool during the day by taking showers or going swimming

12 During the training session, wear:

  • light-coloured, loose and lightweight clothes (fabrics which allowing sweat evaporation)

  • a lightweight cap of a light colour

Monitor your weight regularly (and your fat mass percentage)

13 Weigh yourself in the same conditions and make sure your weight remains stable. For example: at the end of the fast

Image 10000000000003620000006E31EEFD8A.jpg

2. At the breaking of the fast

Compensate for water losses

14 To determine your water loss for a particular day, at the beginning and at the end of the fast

Image 10000000000003680000007696C47940.jpg

15 Drink at least the equivalent of the weight you lost during the day

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16 Drink regularly, in little sips

Image 1000000000000402000001D0F14D365F.jpg

Ensure you are recovering your energy

17 Preferably schedule intense training sessions for after the breaking of the fast

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18 Remember to chew your food well and take your time when eating

Make sure you are well hydrated Image 10000000000000EB0000003291BE0070.jpg

19During the training session

Have a sports drink (See Fact sheet No. 10 Hydration, p. 342) Image 1000000000000014000000329ED30E03.jpg


21(See Fact sheet No. 1 Energy recovery, p. 235)

Image 10000000000004000000014DDA327C8F.jpg

Optimize your sleep

22See Fact sheet No. 12 Sleep and alertness, p. 371

23 Avoid going to bed late, even though family meals encourage you to stay up

24 Limit your intake of any food you have trouble digesting (based on your personal tolerance)

Image 10000000000004090000011F5FD0601B.jpg

3. Meals

Fast breaking (Iftar)

25 Focus on rehydration

Image 100000000000041B000000AE726BBE99.jpg

26 To avoid digestive problems after a long fast:

  • drink in small sips

  • eat small amounts

  • limit how many pulses you eat based on your personal tolerance

  • limit fatty foods and very sweet food

Image 1000000000000402000001068FFC36D9.jpg

Main meal (Isha)

Image 10000000000003F60000014D4E4B63D2.jpg

Last meal before the start of the fast (Shour)

Image 10000000000004020000015983CC2B75.jpg


Fish casserole with mild spices

Image 10000000000001E5000001E245E5E3C0.jpg

Photo credit: Thibaut Ruggeri.

Image 100000000000011F000001591099129A.jpg

27Serves 2

28Preparation time: 45 minutes

29Cooking time: 50 minutes

Difficulty: Image 10000000000000570000001F71533644.jpg


31 6 g paprika

32 10 g ground cumin

33 2 g ground ginger

34 6 g chopped garlic

35 20 g olive oil

36 50 g water

37 15 g red wine vinegar

38 10 g tomato purée

39 15 g chopped parsley

40 20 g chopped coriander

41 Salt, pepper


43 200 g skinned monkfish fillet

44 60 g peeled shrimp tails

45 100 g washed squids

46 Salt, pepper


48 100 g carrots

49 200 g potatoes

50 100 g courgettes

51 20 g red bell peppers

52 20 g green bell peppers

53 Half a preserved lemon chopped into small pieces

54 10 g green olives

55 200 g chicken stock

56 Coriander leaves for decoration

57Over a low heat, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic.

58Add the water, spices, vinegar, tomato purée. Remove from the heat and then add the chopped herbs.

59Peel and chop the vegetables.

60Cut the fish into strips and marinate the fish and vegetables separately for 30 minutes.

61In a heavy-based saucepan, pre-cook the marinated vegetables and the bits of preserved lemon with the chicken stock for half an hour, covered with a lid.

62Add the seasoned fish strips, and the rest of the marinated with the olives.

63Continue cooking for 20 minutes.

64Serve in a deep plate decorated with coriander leaves.

65Chef’s note

66This complete meal is appropriate as a main dish. It is rich in proteins and antioxidant vitamins: it covers one and a half times the DRI for vitamin A, 40% for vitamin E, and two-thirds for vitamin C. The stock is ideal to ensure rehydration. The fibres provided by the vegetables will facilitate digestion.

67This dish is not very rich in carbohydrates, and should thus be served with bread and a carbohydrates-rich starter/dessert (semolina with dried fruit, semolina cake, traditional muesli, baghrir, etc.)

68Nutritional analysis per person

Energy (Cal)

Carbs (g)



Lipids (g)

Protein (g)



Pinapple, lemongrass, and cardamom juice

Image 100000000000016200000160F9438433.jpg

Image 10000000000001E3000001E2A95617FD.jpg

Photo credit: Thibaut Ruggeri.

69For 4 glasses

70Preparation time: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Image 100000000000002C0000001F9958B99E.jpg


72 800 g pinapple

73 6 lemongrass stems

74 Juice of one lime

75 3 cardamom seeds

76Peel the pinapple and cut it in half, and then cut each half into two again.

77Remove the core and cut the segments in two again. Set aside four pieces.

78Wash the lemongrass stems. Chop two of the stems and set the others aside.

79Bruise the cardamom seeds.

80Put all the ingredients together in a blender, add the lemon juice and blitz for 1 minute until smooth.

81Strain the mixture.

82Pour the juice into glasses.

83Decorate with a piece of pinapple and a lemongrass stem.

84Chef’s note

85You can drink this juice at fast breaking (Iftar). It will contribute to rehydration and to replenishing your energy stores thanks to the carbohydrates it contains. It is rich in vitamin C (one glass alone covers 40% of the DRI for this vitamin), and it also contains a beneficial amount of fibre.

86Nutritional analysis per person

Energy (Cal)

Carbs (g)



Lipids (g)

Protein (g)




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