During the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world are expected to fast from dawn till dusk. So how does one cope with this restriction while still trying to maintain a good physique? Our cover guy Syafiq Hassan shares his thoughts and some tips on doing it.
MEN’S HEALTH SINGAPORE
WHAT ARE YOUR STRATEGIES FOR MAINTAINING A BALANCED DIET?
When it comes to diet, there are a few ways you can do it. But let’s focus on protein: there’s regular food, a fast-digesting source of protein like whey protein, and also casein protein.
Casein is something I would really focus on in the fasting month because of the slower digesting time. On a normal daily basis, people take casein before they sleep. So, during fasting month, I try my best to consume as much casein as I can at dawn and when I break fast so that I have enough protein throughout the day.
WHAT’S YOUR REGULAR DIET LIKE VS YOUR DIET DURING FASTING MONTH?
On normal days, my diet will be high in protein with complex carbs and I eat every three to four hours.
During the fasting month, I’ll be fasting for many hours, so protein intake is my main priority. I have to make sure I get enough at dawn and when I break my fast in the evening.
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THAT FEELING OF HUNGER DURING THE DAY?
Even though it’s the fasting month for us, people who are not Muslim are fasting too. There are a few popular diets out there and one of them is intermittent fasting, which requires you to fast for around 16 hours. That makes those people on that diet no different from me!
So, if they can fast even though they’re not Muslim, I’ll think that I’m just doing intermittent fasting. That’s how I keep my mind strong to say, “I can do this”.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF LOSING YOUR GAINS? HOW DO YOU COPE?
I will definitely lose some gains. But I try to look at it in a positive way, that I’m giving my body a break from all the food and supplements I usually take on a regular basis.
Apart from that, I remind myself of some real benefits of fasting. This includes reduced insulin resistance, increase in growth hormones, which are what we need for muscle growth, and our bodies also produce more noradrenaline that helps with fat burning.
So, even if I am losing some gains, I see the benefits of fasting that outweigh some of the losses.
WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR EATING HEALTHILY AND MAINTAINING YOUR PHYSIQUE DURING THIS PERIOD?
For diet, try your best to have more complex carbs and as much protein as possible. The hard part is actually water – you might need to sacrifice a bit of sleep to drink as much water as possible. During the day, we are dehydrated, and when we lack water, our strength can decrease.
For training, I’d recommend reducing cardio as we’re already on a caloric deficit. Avoid split-workouts and focus on five compound movements: squats, bench press, military press, deadlifts, and pull-ups. These work more muscle groups and train your whole body more effectively. Try not to focus on smaller muscles like biceps and triceps.
A version of this article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Men’s Health Singapore
Text: Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer; Photography: Charles Chua; Styling: Sheh