Ramadan is a spiritual reflection, and it is the most sacred month for Muslims in which they fast during the day. Ramadan fasts can vary from 11-18 hours in some countries. Food and drink are served daily, before dawn and after sunset. The Ramadan month occurs eleven days earlier every year and thus, over time may occur in any of the four seasons. Bodybuilders are taught to eat 4 to six meals a day to increase mobility and lean muscle mass as well as prevent themselves from muscle loss and aging process. The newest research on intermittent fasting has found that despite the fact that many bodybuilders think you have to eat 4 to 6 meals a day can affect immune system and physical function and intermittent fasting can increase fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass.
For most bodybuilders, one would expect to lose a considerable amount of muscle mass and physical activity during Ramadan but according to a previous research study, bodybuilders can safely participate in Ramadan without losing muscle mass. Some Muslim athletes train at night to prevent dehydration that can occur with intense training during the day. Additionally, if Muslim’s train during the day, post workout nutrition would have to be delayed until the evening which could negatively affect muscle tissue and growth. Previous research has suggested that the fasting after resistance exercise can lead to impaired muscle growth; there is an ample amount of evidence that ingestion of protein after exercise will stimulate net muscle protein synthesis.
There is some evidence to suggest that fasting can lead to muscle loss and malnutrition. One study found that people who fasted for 24 hours had a decrease in their muscle protein synthesis which affect their metabolism and .muscle fiber. However, this study was done on people who were into strength training.
Another study looked at athletes' progression of muscle function who were fasting during Ramadan and found that they lost about 2% of their body weight, but most of this was water weight (according to their medical condition). There was no significant difference in their muscle mass or muscle strength.
So, it seems that bodybuilding during Ramadan is possible without losing any significant amount of muscle mass and feeling some muscle weakness.
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Muslim bodybuilders often continue strength training during Ramadan. However, the effect of resistance training in a fasted versus a fed state during Ramadan on body composition, healthy diet, building muscle mass, weight loss and metabolic parameters in bodybuilders is not well known. Researchers wanted to evaluate the effects of resistance training in a fasted versus a fed state during Ramadan on body composition and metabolic parameters in bodybuilders. Ramadan began on August 1 and ended on August 30, 2011. The average duration of the fast was approximately 15 hours. The study was conducted in Tunisia, where daytime temperatures were 34 ± 1°C and relative humidity were 57 ± 4%. At the end of the study, the researchers found something shocking!! At the beginning of the study, the scientists expected the bodybuilders to lose lean muscle mass, but at the end of the study, the subject’s did not lose muscle mass during Ramadan. The results showed, contrary to the researcher’s hypothesis, that whether resistance training was conducted in a fed or fasted state, no significant effect on body mass or body composition of bodybuilders was revealed after four weeks.
Also, it is worth noting that energy and macronutrient intakes did not change during Ramadan. The bodybuilders ate larger meals in the evening to compensate for the reduced calories during the day, and so their total macronutrient intake did not change during Ramadan so no loss of muscle mass.
In conclusion, one can participate in Ramadan and contrary to popular belief, not lose muscle mass as long as calories are maintained by eating more during the evenings.
Key Points: Muscle mass is not lost during Ramadan as long as calories are replenished by eating more in the evening.
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