The month of fasting puts many daily routines on a standstill, working out being one of them. Should your fitness routine take a backseat? How safe is it to stick with the reps? Most importantly, how do you get back into your normal fitness schedule? National bodybuilder Faiz Ariffin, breaks it all down in this Ramadan-themed Fitness Kickstart series.

The fasting month poses some important and pressing questions: To workout or not to workout? What time of the day is the best for exercise? What are the most energy-efficient workouts? To clear the air, working out during Ramadan is doable and more beneficial than you think – the proof is in Generation T lister and weightlifting ace, Faiz Ariffin.

 The secret, Faiz tips us off, is to manipulate the circumstances for your advantage. Timing is everything for this bookish athlete, whose training continues throughout fasting month, for the upcoming Southeast Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship from June 25-30.

See also: 7 Malaysian Fitness Influencers For When You Need To Lose The Festive Kilos

We couldn’t help but notice how Ramadan has chiselled his physique to peak condition since we last chatted, as he cheerily welcomed us to his training ground at the Tropicana Avenue private gym. 

“Fasting month is an advantage as it helps maximise our fat loss gains,” Faiz explained. “For fitness newbies, this month helps shed fat significantly, whereas shorter workouts for regulars can build motivation levels.”

Faiz endorses a researched-backed fitness approach that earned him a string of international awards. Outside the gym, Faiz is developing a workout wear, FZgear, and manages thousands of followers with online fitness coaching.

Yet, here he is on a midday, bubbling with an infectious energy. We got Faiz to shell out tried and true tips on sticking to a proper fitness plan all month long that would ease back into the post-Ramadan routine.

See also: Finger On The Pulse: 4 Surprising Health Benefits Of Fasting

What are your essential guidelines to working out during Ramadan?

"1. Training time. Structure 1-2 hours before breaking fast or 3-4 hours after breaking fast. If you choose the latter breaking fast, let your body rest, digestion, and rehydrate.

2. Hydrate with potassium. Bananas are excellent, they help hydrate and supply during workouts.

3. Portion the right amount of food and time your food intake. Start with water when you break fast, dates to balance your blood sugar level, and then have a balanced meal with hi-fibre food, salad, spinach, broccoli, complex carb, and solid protein.

4. Don’t train too hard. The fasting month is all about letting the body rest and recover spiritually and mentally as well, so aim for 3-4 times a week." 

What are some workout myths surrounding the fasting month you’d gladly debunk?

"1. Water intake. It’s important but it’s also important that you don’t drink too much especially during sahur. What happens is when you workout, you’re flushing water and won’t retain much for the rest of the day. If you keep drinking water, your body will recognise it as excess water and end up flushing it out. Drink moderately according to what you need. 3-5 glasses is more than enough.

2. Training myths. Some people believe you don’t have to train during Ramadan, that you won’t make impactful changes as it takes the energy out of you. On the contrary, if you train right and stick to moderate cardio and weight training, it will benefit your gains.

3. Caffeine intake during sahur. It’s fine to drink coffee but not too much as it can accelerate dehydration. Drink just enough."

See also: Superfoods To Keep You Sahur-ing Through Ramadan

What’s your high-energy meal plan for breaking fast?

“I start with 1-2 dates and a couple glasses of water. 10 minutes later, I’ll have a balanced meal. Don’t fear the carbs – I’ll have my serving rice, veggies like broccoli, spinach, and my choice of solid protein. I keep it moderate to prevent from feeling sluggish. I keep myself hydrated at all hours. When midnight hunger strikes? Have a light meal of either a banana or small smoothie, dressed up with veggies and whey protein.”

Based on experience, when is the best time to workout?

"I break it into 2 sessions, depending on my schedule. If it’s before breaking fast, I do it 1 hour before, so I can train efficiently break fast right after. If it’s late night after breaking fast and prayers, try to train with good amount of water."

What’s your competition routine like this month?

“An emphasis on specific muscle groups/body parts during training. I have my basic chest, leg, arm days and cardio training. It’s still the same but the difference is I try to shorten the duration and aim for a heavier workload to focus on strength and to keep muscles intact.

Workouts include 3-4 sets push ups (as my warm up set) then move to compound exercise, like flat bar bell, bench press, and dipping machine, which activates muscles like triceps and shoulders. I mix it up with different exercises and keep it a total upper and lower body workout.”

See also: 10 Delivery-Friendly Healthy Meals In Klang Valley Made For Fitness Buffs

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