For sports fans, the holy month of Ramadan is the opportunity to train and compete in a fasting state. Nevertheless, the deprivation of food and drinks brings a risk to the health of the athlete.
The main danger of this act is hypoglycemia: The practice of sports while fasting burns primarily sugars and fatty acids circulating in the blood, and requires the body to draw on its reserves of glycogen, fat, and protein. When fasting time is longer, as it is the case during Ramadan, the energy deficit puts the body in a situation of “suffering.”
Playing sports without food, without drink, and especially during heat time, may provide at least a decrease in muscle strength, or hypoglycemia.
The risks of hypoglycemia are multiplied in case you are suffering from diabetes. One must control and self-monitor his blood glucose and teach his entourage to collect the first signs of hypoglycemia: dizziness, balance disorders, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and vigilance disorders.
This hypoglycemia can lead to coma or even to death.
Preventing hypoglycemia can only be done by consuming carbohydrates. This is impossible to achieve in Ramadan. The practice of physical activity and sport is incompatible with the absence of compensation of dehydration and may lead to think about “Ramadan and sport.”
The practice of an effort seeks alternative energy such as body fat sources. The use of muscle proteins leads to alterations in the contractile fibers and weakens the muscle tissues. This risk is even higher if hydration is not correct, frequently associated with the absence of food intake situation. The associated dehydration increases the risk of tendon and muscle injury (tendinitis, stretching, hamstring).
Some advice to reduce the risk of dehydration:
- Hydrate well before dawn by drinking at least 1 to 1.5 liters of mineral water, or any other water-based drinks for Iftar.
- Cool off in the morning with cold showers, swimming.
- Do not expose yourself to the sun.
- In the evening, after sunset, drink plenty of water.
- Limit foods or beverages such as: coffee, tea…
Finally, some other hazards related to practicing sports during the fasting period could be malignant hypothermia effort, muscle-tendon injuries, biological disturbance, and obviously a decrease in fitness.
With that I hope you stay well, practice well and Ramadan Mubarak Said.
By Youssef Maghous