Here's how I lost fat and gained muscle during Ramadan (2023)

There is no better time to set personal fitness goals than during the Holy Month, which is all about setting aside time to reflect, rejuvenate, break old habits and start new ones. Here’s how I managed to lose weight and build muscle last Ramadan.


Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink, among other pleasures (particularly the guilty ones) but also gathering to celebrate with loved ones.

As it’s a time for meditation and abstinence, many people, including myself, have used it as an opportunity to ditch unwanted habits and also achieve a goal. That’swhat I did in Ramadan 2018, when I decided I wanted to significantly decrease body fat and increase muscle.

I was unhappy with my body composition and level of fitness so I set myself a goal to drop two to three percent body fat while increasing muscle mass. I happened to make this decision a few weeks before Ramadan, which may not be the ideal time to think about upping your gym performance. But there is no perfect time, so I went for it anyway.

Experimenting with your body is a great way to challenge yourself and keep busy during the Holy Month. However, there are important steps involved in making sure you reach your goal successfully, safely and, of course, still able to enjoy the festive nature of Ramadan.

(Video) How To Lose Fat and Build Muscle During Ramadan (Science-Based)

The right trainer

It was important to identify what I wanted to change over the course of the month. I had been a bodybuilder for two years yet I had not achieved my goal, so I knew I had to change my ways. I also knew I needed guidance — a trainer to lead me through the right workouts and help me plan the right food, which was especially crucial now.

The tight Ramadan schedule means trainers were scarce, but I was lucky to find Warehouse Gym’s Diago Haddadi, who was able to work with me in the evenings after iftar.

What many people overlook is that the right trainer will provide excellent guidance and knowledge that is relevant both inside and outside the gym. They also track your progress from start to finish, monitoring your meals, workouts, sleep and lifestyle — all crucial to achieving your goal in a specific time frame. The value I got from this was certainly worth the Dh2,750 it cost to work with Diago in a 10-session block throughout the month.

A diet plan

The right training should also be accompanied with the right diet. We’ve all heard that going to the gym is 30 percent of the journey while food accounts for 70 percent, meaning your effort is meaningless if your nutrition isn’t right. The importance of food is magnified during Ramadan as you’ve been fasting for the whole day.

Fasting is a great way to lose weight but often you actually gain weight during this month. The key to staying on track and even losing fat was to eat what I normally would, which in this case was a balanced diet with high protein content and lower carbs and fat.

(Video) How to Get JACKED During Ramadan (Full Day Plan)

I put some thought into how I would consume my meals upon breaking my fast; I didn’t want my energy to crash, because I had a workout afterwards, and I had to fit everything into a small, seven to nine-hour eating window.

To make sure I kept my energy steady, I’d break my fast with the lighter, less fatty, lower GI (glycemic index) elements of my diet. This would include slow-release carbs to provide a more sustained release of energy, rather than high-release carbs which cause a spike in blood sugar levels that can make you feel tired and lethargic more quickly.

So I would break my fast with quinoa or brown rice and vegetables. I’d also include nut butters, fresh fruits or three medjool dates; I found them to be a great pre-workout snack taken with unsweetened coffee.

I made sure to avoid fatty red meats for protein, as they are harder to digest. My daily go-tos were either chicken, turkey or salmon. I personally found that lean meats like chicken were far easier to digest than salmon.

Meal prepping and measuring macronutrients was very helpful in making sure I got everything I needed within the limited time frame. Keeping in mind the short eating window, I made sure to space my four meals two to three hours apart to get all the nutrients I needed without negatively affecting digestion.

(Video) Bodybuilding During Ramadan


The short eating window means there’s only so much time to get your macronutrients in. In my case, I had to consume 285 grams of protein, which was a challenge for me. In this situation, don’t neglect getting the right supplements to help you achieve your goals. There are many great protein powders on the market that are free of artificial ingredients and harmful sweeteners. My personal favorite has always been the vegan and dairy-free Clean Lean Protein by Nuzest. It has 19 to 21 grams of protein and is very low in fat and carbs.

For suhoor in particular, a high quality casein powder is an ideal choice, providing a slow release of protein for the next day of fasting to ensure no loss of muscle, and boosting the digestive system.

Workout timing

When it comes to exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s crucial to find what works best for you. This also applies to the timing of workouts when fasting. During Ramadan, I’d train in the evening right after breaking my fast, with a light yet effective meal followed by an unsweetened coffee.

Several people advised me to train before breaking my fast, saying I would also be surprised at how much energy I had as well as losing fat. ButI simply couldn’t imagine myself going through my intense lifting and circuit workouts when I was dehydrated. Peer pressure can be persuasive however, so I decided to give it a shot, wondering if it would be more time-effective and also enhance my progress. As I expected, 20 minutes into the workout I felt exhausted, uncomfortable and weak from dehydration.

Experiment by all means but what works for others may not work for you. So the moral is: go with what suits you best.

(Video) When To Eat & Workout During Ramadan | Q&A


Breaking the fast with our loved ones means that the food on the table may not always be ideal for achieving your goals.At home, I’d prepare my own dish that met my requirements and integrate it with whatever else my mother had made. I was also able to combine traditional yet healthy dishes with mine, such as hummus or fava beans.

This is a great way to maintain a clean diet without feeling excluded from the social side of Ramadan. It also helps in promoting the same clean eating habit around the table.

And of course, I’d dedicate one day where I’d allow myself to indulge in traditional comfort foods and desserts that are normally enjoyed during Ramadan. As ever, the key is moderation and enjoying foods that are natural, free of added sugar and freshly made.

Enjoy yourself

Many Muslims and non-Muslims look forward to the month because of its festive yet serene nature, giving us all a chance to connect with our loved ones. This often takes place at the family dinner table, over a cup of fresh Arabic coffee or at the mosque.

Having a fitness schedule and diet didn’t stop me from enjoying what the month has to offer. The key is to manage your time.

(Video) This Is Why You're Gaining Weight During Ramadan

Dedicate certain hours of the day for work or school, meal preparation, socializing with loved ones, Ramadan prayers and of course, your workout. After all, it is a time for reflection and creating new, good habits and that takes discipline.

The bottom line is that with the proper guidance, nutrition, time management and moderation, you can make changes during Ramadan. You just have to start.

• This article was originally published in April 2021.


Here's how I lost fat and gained muscle during Ramadan? ›

Much of the weight we lose during Ramadan is actually muscle weight, because muscle tissue is broken down for fuel when we go for long periods without food. Below are tips to help you maintain or even build muscle during the holy month.

Do you lose muscle or fat during Ramadan? ›

Much of the weight we lose during Ramadan is actually muscle weight, because muscle tissue is broken down for fuel when we go for long periods without food. Below are tips to help you maintain or even build muscle during the holy month.

Can you still gain muscle during Ramadan? ›

You are very unlikely to make any muscle gains during Ramadan. That's why there's no need to train heavy (which is primarily done for muscle gain). Keep your workouts short, around 30 minutes.

Can you lose fat and gain muscle while fasting? ›

“If we don't lose sight of what our bodies need to grow stronger, it is very possible to minimize muscle loss, and even gain muscle, through intermittent fasting,” said Wadolowski.

Can you lose body fat in Ramadan? ›

According to the present meta-analyses, over half of the weight lost during Ramadan fasting may be fat mass. A systematic review indicated that loss of fat-free mass could account for 4.3 to 38.3% of weight lost during obesity interventions based on diet and exercise [87].

What do bodybuilders do during Ramadan? ›

During the month of Ramadan, your focus should become doing everything in your power to at least maintain muscle mass and strength. Trust me, even that will be hard to do. To build or maintain muscle mass, you need to be consuming enough calories and simultaneously stimulating muscle growth via resistance training.

How to get ripped in Ramadan? ›

The best way to achieve this is through a combination of eating less and increasing your exercise and daily activity levels. Resistance training, in particular, is important to help preserve your muscle and strength.

Will I lose muscle if I fast for 3 days? ›

This makes sense, since protein is functional tissue and there is no point to burning useful tissue while fasting when there is plenty of fat around. So, no, you do not 'burn' muscle during fasting.

Is it healthy to go to the gym in Ramadan? ›

While light to moderate exercises are generally safe, engaging in unaccustomed high intensity and high volume of exercise, especially while fasting, may suppress or even lower your immunity levels, and is therefore not recommended," shares Dr Fadzil Hamzah, Staff Physician from the Department of Sport and Exercise ...

Will I lose muscle if I fast for 48 hours? ›

Fasting can cause muscle loss, but it's normally well after 24 hours. And that's not something commonly done by those practising intermittent fasting. The process in which we "lose" muscle occurs when, in order to maintain blood glucose, our amino acids must then be converted into glucose (called de novo glucogenesis).

How does fat leave the body when fasting? ›

The correct answer is that fat is converted to carbon dioxide and water. You exhale the carbon dioxide and the water mixes into your circulation until it's lost as urine or sweat.

Will I lose muscle if I fast for 2 days? ›

As long as you're not fasting for more than 24 hours, you don't need to worry about losing muscle. Muscle atrophy is the result of long-term malnourishment, not just a few hours or even a day of fasting.

Will I lose muscle if I lift while fasting? ›

You won't gain much muscle if you're fasting, but if you lift, you won't lose it, either. “The same activities that build muscle when you're fueled help preserve it when you're in a caloric deficit,” says Poli.

Does your stomach shrink after Ramadan? ›

Curbed appetite Observing Ramadan and fasting gives your lifestyle and digestive system a positive U-turn. As your body gets used to eating less, your digestive system gets a chance to rest and your stomach gradually shrinks in size.

Does Ramadan fasting burn belly fat? ›

Key Points. Both Ramadan and non-Ramadan intermittent fasting are effective on fat mass and body weight losses. Fat mass loss is more pronounced with non-Ramadan intermittent fasting and this type of intermittent fasting, combined with exercise training, leads to higher decreases in body mass index.

Does Ramadan speed up metabolism? ›

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) During Ramadan Fasting. RMR is known to decrease with prolonged fasting and this may be a counter-regulatory way to decrease energy loss (Benedict, 1915; Forbes, 1987; Garrow, 1978; Woo et al., 1985) [26].

What is the best exercise in Ramadan? ›

Intense exercise while fasting can lead to reduced muscle mass and muscle strength. However, it is advisable to do medium-intensity workouts during this month. Apart from going to the gym, one can go for a walk, cycle or even do light jogging. Ideal time for exercising would be after iftar.

What is the best exercise during Ramadan? ›

If you train after Iftar keep your meal light and save your biggest meal for after your training session so you don't feel uncomfortable when training. 'During Ramadan, I prefer to focus on bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, as they don't require as much energy as lifting heavy weights.

How many days should I workout during Ramadan? ›

It is not recommended to do intense cardio workouts and heavy weight-training exercises while fasting. You should also cut your routine down to two cardio sessions a week throughout the holy month.

How to lose belly fat in Ramadan? ›

How to lose weight during Ramadan 2023
  1. Drink Water and Nothing Else! Sugary drinks, juices, and milkshakes are a staple at every Iftar, but you must stay away from these if you need to lose weight. ...
  2. Exercise is Key. ...
  3. Stay Away from Fat, Sugar, and Salt. ...
  4. Add Protein to Every Meal. ...
  5. Eat More Vegetables.
Mar 31, 2022

What does Islam say about weight loss? ›

Islam encourages dieting, as seen in several verses of the Holy Qur'an, which promote the consumption of pure and healthy food [13]. Part of the etiquette of eating is moderation in eating and not filling the stomach. According to the Islamic scriptures, "A man does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach.

How to maximise fat loss in Ramadan? ›

If you're fasting and still looking to lose weight during Ramadan, below are 5 tips for you to follow:
  1. Reduce Your Carb Intakes. Limit bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and pizzas. ...
  2. Increase Your Protein For Suhour & Iftar. ...
  3. Avoid Fruit Juices And Soft Drinks. ...
  4. Limit Desserts. ...
  5. Stay Active. ...
  6. Dona Maria Mesmar, Bsc, Msc In Nutrition.
Feb 13, 2023

Does fasting burn muscle or fat first? ›

"A person who is attempting to lose weight by not eating may lose weight in muscle first before fat." How does that happen? Well, the body likes to go for carbs (glucose) for energy first. If that's not available, it goes for glycogen, which is glucose that's been stored in the liver and muscles, says Dr.

How do I stop losing muscle while fasting? ›

Check out these 5 tips to maintaining muscle while fasting:
  1. Exercise Regularly. This is the most common and effective way to maintain or build muscle while fasting. ...
  2. Refrain from Extremely Long Periods of Fasting. ...
  3. Pick the best diet for you. ...
  4. Maintain a Workout and Meal Plan. ...
  5. Elevate Growth Hormones.
Oct 12, 2022

Does 16 hour fasting cause muscle loss? ›

As intermittent fasting is typically practiced, with fasting intervals of 16-24 hours several times per week, it is unlikely to cause significant loss of lean body mass/muscle tissue.

Why do I feel stronger in Ramadan? ›

Your body releases a natural hormone called Endorphin. This hormone makes you feel happier and can help relieve stress. It will also help you increase your energy levels. This becomes super important during Ramadan when there is so much going and you want to accomplish so many of your goals.

What are 2 benefits of exercise during Ramadan? ›

Reduce fatigue and lethargy, thus allowing you to function better in school or at work. Maintain and improve cognitive function thus allowing one to function better during home-based learning or at work. Maintain and improve cognitive function, thus allowing one to think and plan better in the fasting state.

What are the disadvantages of fasting in Ramadan? ›

Some short-term side effects include headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, low blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. It is argued that fasting may impair the body's ability to absorb certain medications and interfere with everyday vital bodily functions.

Can fasting boost testosterone? ›

Fasting increases release of human growth hormone (HGH) which builds muscle (and burns fat). One study showed a 2,000% increase (yes, you read that correctly!) in a 24 hour fast. Fasting also increases testosterone – a study showed a 180% increase in men at the end of a 56 hour fast!

Can I build muscle while water fasting? ›

It may sound counterintuitive, but fasting can actually help you maintain or even build muscle [13,14]. Fasting can increase something called human growth hormone (HGH), which is one of your body's most important hormones related to building muscle tissue.

What does fat in urine look like? ›

In addition to an oily appearance, your urine might also have a milky white color. This is due to the presence of fat and protein in lymph fluid. Other symptoms of chyluria include: blood in your urine.

What part of the body loses fat first? ›

Mostly, losing weight is an internal process. You will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and then you will start to lose soft fat like waistline and thigh fat. The fat loss from around the organs makes you leaner and stronger.

What are the signs that your body is burning fat? ›

10 signs you're losing weight
  • You're not hungry all the time. ...
  • Your sense of well-being improves. ...
  • Your clothes fit differently. ...
  • You're noticing some muscle definition. ...
  • Your body measurements are changing. ...
  • Your chronic pain improves. ...
  • You're going to the bathroom more — or less — frequently. ...
  • Your blood pressure is coming down.
Nov 30, 2020

How much muscle do you lose while fasting? ›

This is true of weight loss caused by both intermittent fasting and other diets. Because of this, some studies have shown that small amounts of lean mass (1 kg or 2 pounds) may be lost after several months of intermittent fasting ( 1 ). However, other studies have shown no loss of lean mass ( 5 , 6 ).

Do you lose muscle if you don't eat enough protein? ›

And over time, a lack of protein can make you lose muscle mass, which in turn cuts your strength, makes it harder to keep your balance, and slows your metabolism. It can also lead to anemia, when your cells don't get enough oxygen, which makes you tired.

How do you lift while fasting? ›

If you're going to lift weights, aim for lighter ones with more reps rather than heavy weights. The reason high-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn't recommended while fasting is because these more intense workouts break down glycogen stores for fuel.

What happens to your body in 30 days of Ramadan? ›

As our body embraces the fast, our digestive system will get to take a much-needed rest, allowing it to cleanse and repair itself. Faeces stuck to our intestinal walls will start to loosen. Our lungs and other cleansing organs will also begin a process of healing.

How much weight do Muslims lose during Ramadan? ›

Observers of Ramadan lose on average about a kilogram of weight over 4 weeks, and the lost weight is quickly regained. Current weight management treatments generally assume that skipping meals leads to weight gain and advise against it.

Why do I lose so much weight in Ramadan? ›

A lot of people will lose weight in Ramadan simply because their portion sizes change. When you fast for a long period of the day, your stomach can become smaller and therefore hold less food. You may also find your appetite changes.

What stages of fasting do you burn fat? ›

The four phases include the fed state, early fasting state, fasting state, and long-term fasting state (starvation state). Each phase varies based on the primary source of energy used for the body, as well as how it affects your metabolism and levels of specific hormones.

Which type of fasting burns the most fat? ›

Alternate-Day Fasting

In fact, research found that, in overweight adults, alternate-day fasting significantly reduced body mass index, weight, fat mass, and total cholesterol.

Why do I gain so much weight during Ramadan? ›

During Ramadan, Muslims all around the world abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. It has been observed that Muslims tend to gain weight in this month despite fasting an average of 12 hours a day. The reason is a higher caloric intake than usual and less physical activity to burn it.

How does your body change after Ramadan? ›

Over Ramadan, many of our metabolisms will have slowed down due to fasting but getting active now can help you stimulate your metabolism to help you increase your energy and start burning more calories again. Exercising and getting back into regular activity will set you up for a healthier metabolism.

Do you gain more weight in Ramadan? ›

Fasting during Ramadan can cause weight gain in some people. And if you happen to be one of them, controlling your food intake in the evenings can help you prevent the undesirable weight gain.

Am I losing muscle while fasting? ›

A 10 day fast appears safe in healthy humans. Protein loss occurs in early fast but decreases as ketogenesis increases. Fasting combined with physical activity does not negatively impact muscle function.

How to fast in Ramadan without losing muscle? ›

Here are some tips to help you maintain muscle mass during Ramadan:
  1. Plan your meals strategically. ...
  2. Stay hydrated during non-fasting hours. ...
  3. Adjust your workout schedule. ...
  4. Focus on compound exercises. ...
  5. Get enough sleep.
Mar 20, 2023

Does fasting burn fat or protein? ›

The premise behind intermittent fasting is relatively simple, she says: "When our insulin levels go down far enough and for long enough, as they do during a fasting period, we're able burn off fat."

How do I prevent muscle loss during fasting? ›

Check out these 5 tips to maintaining muscle while fasting:
  1. Exercise Regularly. This is the most common and effective way to maintain or build muscle while fasting. ...
  2. Refrain from Extremely Long Periods of Fasting. ...
  3. Pick the best diet for you. ...
  4. Maintain a Workout and Meal Plan. ...
  5. Elevate Growth Hormones.
Oct 12, 2022

How do you preserve muscle while fasting? ›

Doing resistance workouts can help you maintain and build muscle while you're intermittent fasting. Eating enough protein and carbs will help your muscles grow while intermittent fasting. Eating more calories than you burn is helpful (but surprisingly, not essential!) for muscle gain.

How to lose belly fat while fasting Ramadan? ›

You lose weight fast in Ramadan by taking fiber-rich foods during suhoor, working out for at least 30 minutes, and limiting all foods high in sugar, salt, and fat.

Does fasting melt belly fat? ›

When examining the rate of weight loss, intermittent fasting may produce weight loss at a rate of approximately 0.55 to 1.65 pounds (0.25–0.75 kg) per week (23). People also experienced a 4–7% reduction in waist circumference, indicating that they lost belly fat.


1. How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat During RAMADAN (Workout + Meal Plan)
2. How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
3. How to Lose Fat AND Gain Muscle at the Same Time (3 Simple Steps)
(Jeremy Ethier)
4. How To Maintain Muscles During Ramadan (Ramzan)
5. Fasting For MUSCLE Building Vs. Fat Loss
(Thomas DeLauer)
6. Does Fasting Destroy Your Muscle? | Jason Fung
(Jason Fung)
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