How to reconcile fasting and high level sports?

High level sport or respect for the faith? Or both? This is the dilemma faced by many sportsmen and women who engage in large-scale physical activity every year during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan dates often coincide with sports competitions. For many athletes of the Muslim faith, reconciling respect for the faith and the practice of high-level sport is a well-known situation.

Fasting has long sowed discord among players, fans, coaches and preachers. The debate is still present: Can we reconcile fasting and high-level sports?

According to Dr Zeghari Lotfi, researcher and specialist in nutrition and sports sciences, holder of the first prize for young researcher in sports sciences in Africa, contacted by Hespress FR, “To be a high-level athlete with well-defined requirements (physiological, psychological, etc.)”.

“Among its requirements we talk about the load (the duration ..) and the intensity (the hardness ..) of the trainings which will generally be of great magnitude. Doing all this while fasting is going to be quite a challenge for the athlete with a very high risk of injury or even cardiac arrest… This is why coaches * normally * adjust the workout load and intensity during training. of the month of Ramadan “, he continues.

“But during the competitions the problem arises since the competitions are scheduled beforehand. in this case the athlete will make an ultra intense effort while fasting, hence the increased health risk ”says Dr. Zeghari.

Significant health risks?

The Koran indeed indicates that there are exemptions relating to Ramadan, they concern impubescent Muslims, those suffering from illnesses, pregnant or menstruating women, and finally Muslims who make a long and arduous journey.

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It is often this last possibility that is retained by Muslim players, often traveling during competitions. Others believe that fasting during high-level sporting competition can lead to significant health risks.

“The risks of doing intensive sport while fasting are numerous, the most common being dehydration which can lead to cardiac arrest. Other short-term or long-term risks such as injury following a recovery deficit (because recovery port-effort in high-level athletes is essentially done by a good post-training diet (something that is not done according to the rules of the art in the month of Ramadan) ”, indicates the specialist, before adding:

“The athlete during the month of Ramadan must absolutely watch over his diet to accelerate the recovery process, (eat 3 to 4 small meals between the young person’s break and souhour), stay hydrated… .and especially consult a specialist for nutritional monitoring with body composition assessments ”.

Does fasting impact the performance of high level players?

Some studies suggest that fasting during Ramadan may have little or no effect on an athlete’s performance.

A study conducted with of young judo athletes in the United States revealed that they were able to maintain normal training loads during the fast during the month of Ramadan and that this had little effect on their aerobic performance. In some cases, performance may even improve.

Another study on of Tunisian footballers determined that when the training load was maintained, sprint performance was better during Ramadan compared to before Ramadan. It has also been found that athletes can use coping mechanisms physical and emotional for faire facing the situation.

According to our specialist, “The performance can drop in the event of non-adaptation of lifestyle and training, it is for this reason that we do not try to develop a performance during the month of Ramadan because of the problems that arise, fasting, unbalanced diet (in the evening), sleep disorders “.

“The athlete is led to make the maximum effort to only maintain his performance”, he believes.

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The 2018 World Cup in Russia, the perfect example?

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which featured the participation of Morocco, whose fasting most players observed, FIFA had commissioned several studies that examined the effects of fasting and indicated that it could be done safely.

“We have done extensive studies on the players during Ramadan, and the conclusion was that if Ramadan is followed appropriately, there will be no reduction in the physical performance of the players.”FIFA Medical Director Jiri Dvorak said during a briefing . “We have done extensive studies and nothing worries us”, he added.

Of all the countries facing the dilemma of fasting, Morocco has been the most wary during this period.

In addition, the coach of Morocco during their journey in CDM, Hervé Renard had chosen to get involved, leaving the management of the players’ fast to the members of his staff.

“I’m not in a good position to take care of this. It is a very sensitive subject. I left people in a better position than me to see with the players how to make them better spiritually, mentally and physically.”, He had declared before the competition which saw Morocco being eliminated first in the first round.

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