Religious fasting & physical activity
The London Olympic Games 2012 will take place during Ramadam. Muslims fast during daylight hours (up to16hrs) during this time – so, how will this affect the athletes and how does fasting in general affect people who take part in physical activity?
The biggest challenges will be for the endurance events held in hot climates whilst fluid and carbohydrates are not allowed. The timing of these events will affect athletes. There is evidence that physical performance is improved if food is taken before and after the activity. So, for those trying to train during Ramadam it would be better to train after sunset. Not so easy to change the programme for the Olympic Games to support these athletes!
In the same way if people fast during the day they should try to plan their physical activity around their fasting. The absence of food may appear to be the most significant issue but actually the absence of drinks will probably be more of a concern. People should be careful about dehydration – keeping the body cool in hot climates.
Whilst fasting is not necessarily harmful to performance the important thing is planning. Developing a coping strategy may in fact require the support of sports nutrition professional. There are also psychological changes associated with fasting. Mood changes, sleep disruptions and lifestyle changes. All these factors can affect our participation in physical activity.
So, if tempted to fast, the above should be taken into consideration to retain a healthy lifestyle.