Fueling adequately on a normal day is often hard enough. Athletes who partake in Ramadan have an extra challenge set before them, requiring a more dialled in strategy to support their athletic performance…

What is Ramadan?

Part of the Islamic religion, Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. Only two meals are consumed each day during this time, one before dawn (known as ‘suhoor’) and the other after sunset (‘iftar’). Not even water is permitted during the hours of daylight.

Since it occurs in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, it falls on different date ranges each year and subsequently may include longer or shorter fasting hours, depending on the number of hours of daylight at that specific time of year.

If you’re an athlete who observes Ramadan, it’s important to have a plan going into the month to ensure you’re still supporting your training and performance goals, without deviating from your religious practice. It may not be realistic to expect yourself to perform as well as you normally do (or expect to see performance gains) compared to when you’re not fasting, but there are steps you can take to minimise the impact during this period.

How does fasting impact performance?

While some people tout the benefits of fasting for endurance training, the research isn’t wholly on board with this view. Further, Ramadan lasts an entire month, and isn’t the same as being able to incorporate high/low, fasting/non-fasting days during this period.

The literature on athletes’ performance during Ramadan is mixed and largely depends on factors such as the type of training, schedule, sport, individual, and weather. For instance, a group of male athletes underwent two-a-day workouts of strength training and flat, cross country running, followed by a 20-metre shuttle run. No significant differences were found between the fasting and non-fasting groups.

On the other hand, in a survey of 734 16-year-old athletes, 29% reported poorer performance during Ramadan. Furthermore, this study found increased fatigue during sprints, slower times for long distance runs and a decrease of muscle force.

This period of fasting is also likely to impact how adequately you can fuel and hydrate your training and racing, as well as the quality of your recovery from sessions…

1. Fueling

You typically have around 90-120 minutes of stored glycogen at your disposal before your performance starts to suffer. If you’re an endurance athlete, sessions of this duration and longer are likely to occur at least sometime during the month of fasting.

Depleting your body’s glycogen stores (‘fuel tank’) found in your muscles and liver is a risk when you’re going long stretches of time without fueling, whether you’re training or just relaxing. Falling blood glucose levels (energy circulating in the blood) can also impact your mood state, increase your perceived exertion, and lead to the dreaded ‘bonk’.

So, the biggest hurdle you’re likely to be grappling with as an athlete during Ramadan is how to sustain training without your usual carbohydrate intake in and around sessions. If you’ve been around PF&H for a minute, you know we talk a lot about gut training to enhance your ability to comfortably consume more carbs during exercise.

Gut training can actually come in handy during the post-daylight hours when you’re able to eat. Your habitual carb intake would enable you to digest and absorb a more carb-dense meal without causing GI discomfort.

2. Hydration

Since we know water consumption during daylight hours is off limits, it’s important to take into account the time of year in which Ramadan falls. If it’s during summer months, the impact on your hydration status may be more significant.

The standard water loss during the day (outside of exercise) is unlikely to exceed about 1% of body mass. However, factoring in training for endurance athletes could mean that you’re looking at a performance-diminishing level of dehydration (i.e. 2-4% body weight loss) during Ramadan. Though you’re able to replenish fluid losses after dusk, there’s a danger of over-hydrating by drinking too much plain water.

So, it’s important to ensure that you’re replacing an adequate amount of the sodium that you’re losing in your sweat when you’re able to drink.

3. Recovery

Adequate carb, fluid and sodium intake is important for performance during training and racing, as well as for recovery.

Sleep is a priority for any athlete, as your body needs it for important processes, such as tissue repair, immune-system function, energy balance, and hormone regulation.

Remember the fluid you’ll be replenishing after dusk? If you’re drinking all of this right before bed, that’s also likely to have a diuretic effect, keeping you awake and regularly visiting the bathroom, further impacting your sleep and recovery.

This study reported delayed sleep by 171 mins and an average loss of 126 mins for athletes during Ramadan, while another study showed cyclists experiencing more sleep disturbances (aka awakenings and lighter sleep).

It’s likely that an individual won’t make up their total usual calorie intake from the two allowed meals, which could impact body composition and weight. Even outside of the effects of a caloric deficit on energy levels, sleep patterns and activity, depending on the sport and goals, a change in body composition could potentially negatively impact performance.

Overall, the effects of Ramadan on athletes in the research are relatively small, but they’re still worth considering and underscore the importance of having a plan in place.

How to fuel and hydrate during Ramadan


  • Structure your workout schedule around the dedicated meal times. Training soon after ‘suhoor’ (dawn meal) would likely be preferable, as you’ve had a chance to fuel up. This especially applies if Ramadan falls during a time of year when daylight is longer
  • If you have a coach, work with them to adjust your plan in terms of intensity, frequency and duration, especially in the second half of the month if you notice a detriment the first couple of weeks. If you can line up Ramadan with a taper, that could be ideal




  • Maintain a sleep routine. Facilitate quality sleep by creating a dark, quiet, cool environment, switching off screens at least 30 minutes before bed, and aim for a consistent sleep and wake time
  • Incorporate recovery modalities, such as sauna, non-active swimming, stretching, cool downs, and whirlpool baths

All of the strategies discussed require one common theme: planning. Whether that means meal prepping, tweaking your schedule or proactively measuring your sweat rate, being strategic is your best tool to support your athletic goals during Ramadan.

Further reading