The Ultimate Guide to Ramadan for Footballers
Being a footballer during Ramadan can be challenging due to the fasting period and you maintaining your training load for extended periods of time.
Though, as with everything, when properly planned and executed, it can be done well!
This holy month is just around the corner, and for those of you who are observing it, you may be wondering how you can continue to train and perform at your best while fasting.
To clarify, I’m not Muslim, and I do not observe Ramadan.
However, I have many friends who are Muslim and I have many year’s of experience both playing alongside top players as well as coaching many 1-on-1 clients who observe Ramadan.
With all that being said, I do love fasting once in a while. There are so many benefits to fasting and it makes me feel so good. Though, when you’re in-season, timing of your fasts are very important.
Here are a couple of key benefits to fasting:
1.Supports brain function & sharpness.
2.May help disease prevention.
3. Supports blood sugar control which helps with your body’s overall inflammation levels.
4. May help with weight loss when done correctly.
5. Improves your immune system.
6. Improves your skin.
Obviously, fasting should be done under the supervision of a qualified professional.
With all that being said, I understand that fasting during Ramadan isn’t optional for you. But, I do know (from personal experience), if I am doing something “hard” but I know the benefits, I am much more likely to do it and have motivation to keep it up.
The how becomes so much easier when you know the why!
Anyways, whether you’re currently in season, off-season, or going through some trials to sign a contract: staying fit and sharp is always key.
As the saying goes…
“Stay Ready, So You Don’t Have to Get Ready!”
Those are words that I and my clients live by…
Being ready comes down to properly planned & periodized training, nutrition, and recovery.
Although this is more challenging for footballers going through Ramadan, there are steps you can take to make the experience better and ensure you’re still performing at your best.
Here are the points we’re going to cover :
1. What is Ramadan and why is it important for footballers
2.Manage Energy Levels
3.Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
4.Adjust Training Time and Intensity
1. What is Ramadan and why is it important for Muslim footballers?
First off, let’s talk about why Ramadan is so important to many athletes.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and marks a period of spiritual contemplation and renewal for Muslims around the world.
During Ramadan, Muslims (including footballers) usually fast every day from sunrise until sunset and abstain from food and drink throughout most of the day.
In fact, some top professional players such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema or Mesut Ozil have all been observing Ramadan throughout their careers.
And we can both agree that they’ve had quite the careers.
Of course, it’s hard and challenging to cope with Ramadan, but it’s possible!
You can still improve and stay dialed during this period.
If the pros can do it at such a high level, anyone can!
2.Manage Energy Levels
Fasting can cause fatigue: as your body is most likely to get in less calories than usual, and more importantly you won’t be able to get in any extra fuel whatsoever for several hours during the day.
With that being said, if you can’t eat and need to fast; sleep and proper breathwork comes into play!
It’s important to manage your energy levels by ensuring that you get enough rest and sleep throughout this period.
The two best tips I have for you in terms of your sleep is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day AND get 8 quality hours.
This will set your circadian rhythm and allow your body to recover as optimally as possible.
As a matter of fact, this rule is true whether you do observe Ramadan or not.
But I know that Ramadan usually entails family gatherings and big dinners until late – Iftar meal.
Like I always say, relationships and close connections with loved ones are the most important parts of your life.
It’s so important to enjoy precious moments with your family.
Eating with your family is one of the most important things but try to do your best not to compromise on your sleep routine.
Also, since Ramadan celebrations may mean eating larger amounts of food at late times, make sure you digest before sleep to optimize it.
Ideally, you want your last meal to be 3 hours before sleep time for optimal digestion.
This is harder to do with meals ending at later times and you can’t always time this correctly.
If this is tough for you, try to go for a 15-30-minute walk outside after your evening meal to avoid going to bed with a full stomach.
This will also aid your digestion and allow you to get fresh air!
Finally, I understand you may not be able to sleep as many hours as normal during Ramadan, since you’ll have to wake up a couple hours before sunrise for Suhoor (your early morning meal).
Obviously, interrupting your natural sleep cycles by going to bed late and waking up very early is not ideal to optimize energy levels, so I recommend getting in at least 30–90-minute nap during the day.
This will enhance your recovery and allow you to keep energy levels as high as possible during Ramadan.
Ideally, you want to get this nap in before your team training or individual training sessions.
Overall, making sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep will help you get optimal performance on the field.
Lastly, proper breath work will help you a lot due to the increased oxygen it will allow in your body which will help your energy levels a lot.
Here is an excellent breath work routine that you can do in under 10 minutes:
3. Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
This pretty much goes without saying, but as a footballer, you need to be eating right to optimize performance, to recover your muscles effectively and to allow you to perform your best.
You should know this by now if you’ve been following me for a while 🙂
And of course, this is just as true during Ramadan!
To begin with, the majority of your diet should be made up nutrient-dense foods:
As a footballer, you need foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
This can include lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, organic oats, wild rice, and vegetables.
Get these in both during Iftar and Suhoor. As we’ll discuss in the next part, the nutrients you’ll get post-session (Iftar meal) will allow you to replenish, while those you take in before sunrise (Suhoor meal) will give you the fuel for your day.
Secondly, break your fast with dates and water.
Dates are a traditional food to break your fast during Ramadan.
And they also happen to be one of the greatest quick digesting carbs.
I always recommend my clients to go for dates pre-match or pre-session. They’re also full of great quality fiber and potassium, an essential electrolyte: which should be a no-brainer to you as a footballer!
Another essential point is to avoid fried and processed foods.
These are heavy on the stomach, can cause blood sugar spikes and energy crashes, and are just terrible for your overall health.
Since you’re not eating much and not so often, the last thing we want is for you to have less quality sleep and performance because you’re feeling discomfort!
Your main goal should be to go for home-cooked meals. Traditional Ramadan meals are excellent and full of quality meats, carbohydrates and fats.
So Enjoy yourself, just don’t go overboard! 😉
Dehydration is a common problem during Ramadan, especially in warm climates, you cannot drink water during the daylight hours.
As you know, dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and a reduced concentration, which can significantly affect performance.
Abstaining from drinking throughout most of the day is hard for all athletes, and footballers are no exception.
The beautiful game is full of intense sprinting, jumping and taxing movements which make us sweat and lose many electrolytes.
2-3 liters of Fluids During the Non-Fasting Hours:
I highly recommend you drink at least 2-3 liters of fluids during the non-fasting hours, which include the time between Iftar and Suhoor.
Pro tip : add some electrolyte tablets to your water or a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt/Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to every liter of water you drink.
Electrolytes are made up of magnesium, sodium, and potassium: the 3 main nutrients that are lost through sweat.
Coconut water is also a great choice!
Making sure you keep these nutrients at decent levels going into your fasting day is crucial to limit dehydration, especially in warmer climates.
Also, there are a few ways to stay hydrated without breaking your fast.
The two I have found to be effective are:
1.Consistently dampening your face and body with a wet towel
2.Using humidifiers around in your house to keep it cool and fresh
There are also hydrating gels you can apply to your body to keep you hydrated.
I would recommend testing them out and seeing how they make you feel!
I’ve had some teammates use these and they can be effective, especially if your team training starts during fasting hours.
Speaking of timing …
4.Adjust Training Times and Intensity:
Timing your training sessions properly and adjusting the intensity if needed are two key components for you as a footballer during Ramadan.
Ideally, you want to do your sessions right after sunset. This will allow you to break the fast with a fast-digesting carb (couple dates) and go into your session with more fuel while not having too full of a stomach.
The added energy from a short afternoon nap will help you have a better session too.
Another option would be to get your session in shortly after sunrise with the energy from the Suhoor meal.
Of course, you don’t always have full control over the times of your sessions (with your team), unless you’re in the off-season.
If you’re in-season and your training sessions start before sunset for instance, make sure you discuss it with your coach.
It’s always important to be professional and honest with him!
He’ll respect you even more and I’m sure, he’ll want to help any way he can.
Maybe some of your teammates are in the same position and training sessions could be moved to a later time to allow you to break your fast.
Adjust Intensity Levels
As a footballer during Ramadan, adjusting the intensity of your training sessions is essential.
This will ensure that you are able to perform at your best while reducing the risk of injury.
Remember it’s very hard to be at your optimal energy levels during Ramadan, so keep that in mind before hopping into a heavy double-day without considering your body’s welfare.
As always, your goal should be to listen to your body!
Your body knows best!
If you’re feeling way too tired heading into a session, despite having applied all the tips in this article, it’s probably better to just skip the session.
We want you performing on the pitch during the weekend, so overtraining is the last thing you want to do.
And since overtraining is even more likely to happen under Ramadan’s circumstances, please be smart and listen to your body.
By managing your energy levels and training smart, you will maintain a solid level of fitness and sharpness throughout the month-long fast.
Also, try to focus on some recovery activities such as stretching and foam rolling during Ramadan.
You always want to stay mobile, and adding some simple movements can be a good way to digest after the Iftar meal too…
5. Stay disciplined
Observing Ramadan can become monotonous after prolonged periods.
But that’s the beauty of it! Our body loves routine.
Ramadan can be an excellent opportunity for you to build routines and discipline in your life as a baller.
During the month-long fast, focus on maintaining consistent habits that’ll help you achieve your goals both on and off the pitch.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet during your feeding windows, full of good proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
Getting adequate sleep every night and using naps as a tool.
Practicing mindfulness and breathwork for at least 10 minutes per day.
Lastly, do your best to drink at least 3L of water a day.
You can even use Ramadan as a tool to build your discipline and “mental muscle.”
Not many people can do what you do…
It’s very hard to maintain a tough training schedule and be super disciplined while you have no food or water in your system.
Ramadan can be an excellent way for you to focus on building emotional and mental resilience which will help you a lot after the month is over.
All in all, Ramadan can be very challenging for footballers, but with careful planning and preparation, it is possible to keep performing at your best.
Just look at the countless pros who observe Ramadan and are still crushing it on the highest stage!
As discussed in the article, it’s essential to adjust your training schedule, stay hydrated, plan your meals wisely, rest and get adequate sleep.
Also, don’t be afraid communicate with your coach and teammates ahead of this period to be best prepared, especially if you’re in-season and need results on the weekend!
The main thing I want you to keep in mind is to listen to your body and adjust everything accordingly.
It may sound cliche, but if there’s one thing you should remember from this article, that’s it!
Hope these tips helped you my friend!
If they did, please pass this article on to a friend who observes Ramadan.
Keep crushing your goals for 2023, and make sure you follow me on Instagram and YouTube for some more tips to reach your potential and improve every day.