Ramadan is here and for professional sportspersons of Muslim faith, daily fasting from dawn to dusk during the Holy Month can pose an added challenge when it comes to their diet and training routine. SFME’s Scott Grayston sat down to discuss the issue with UAE football veteran Abdulla Salem who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the country such as Al Ahli and Al Wahda and is still, at 34, going strong, plying his trade for Sharjah FC. The experienced defender shared his insights on coping with training during Ramadan.
SFME: How do you keep your energy up when fasting for Ramadan?
Abdulla Salem: By spending some time with my kids inside the house. I focus on bringing the family together and getting some rest at home.
SFME: Do you and your Al Sharjah teammates all go to Iftar together?
AS: Sometimes. And it is always fun when we do catch up for Iftar together.
SFME: How does life as professional footballer alter during Ramadan?
AS: One of the fundamentals of being an athlete is being disciplined which helps me significantly during Ramadan.
SFME: What precautions do you take to avoid muscle fatigue during fasting?
AS: I do not go out to restaurants and overeat at night.
SFME: Do you have any advice on how to avoid that tempation to over-eat at Iftar?
AS: To leave a 10-minute break for your stomach to start working before starting on the main meal and to eat normal portion sizes at Iftar.
SFME: What sort of diet do you follow?
AS: I ensure I take in nutritious food which provides a good source of lean protein, such as grilled fish or chicken, low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as brown rice or boiled sweet potatoes, and vegetables, raw or cooked, with a little oil.
SFME: Are there any foods you would avoid?
AS: Nothing in particular. I just ensure I always eat in moderation.
SFME: How important is Suhur while fasting?
AS: Suhur, the pre-dawn meal, is essential, as this will give me the energy I need for my daily activities while fasting.
SFME: How do you compensate for water loss?
AS: By drinking water between my meals and drinking small quantities throughout the Ramadan nights. In addition to water, I drink fresh fruit or vegetable juices rather than sweetened ones.
SFME: Which foods are a must-have for Iftar?
AS: To consume normal portions of nutritious food including bread, milk, fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits.
SFME: When it comes to exercise what is your routine, and do you tend to exercise before or after fasting?
AS: I perform light exercise to burn off excess calories after fasting to maintain my energy level.
SFME: What tips have you learnt over the years to keep you performing at your best during the Holy Month of Ramadan?
AS: When I feel sluggish, I shut my eyes for 15-20 minutes to re-energise my system.
Watch the video below for some gym training advice during Ramadan.