5 daily stretches to stay pain-free

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You are likely to be sitting at your desk right now while reading this. If that’s the case, then you may very well be aware, or have personally experienced some of the negative effects associated with sitting for long periods in the day. Due to the nature of our work, sitting may a necessary evil – the “desk-bound problem” has been labeled by the media as the “new smoking”. A bit dramatic maybe, but a point certainly worth taking note. If you are at your desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, you are likely to have experienced the following discomfort:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • Lower back pain or discomfort 
  • Wrist and elbow pain 
  • Weight gain

And bear in mind, that this may be compounded by another 2 to 3 hours of sitting when you get home in the evening!

We may not be able to change our jobs, or drastically overhaul our lifestyles, but we can certainly be smarter about it and try to at least limit the above issues with some simple changes. Aside from getting in 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times weekly, a good start point is to make sure that you sit correctly at your desk (link to clinic article), with your screen, mouse, and keyboard set in the correct positions.

You should also get up from your chair to do some light stretching exercises every hour or so. Here are some helpful stretches you can do at your desk to keep body aches and stiffness at bay:

 

1. Hip and Spine Opener

One of the main causes of lower back pain is a lack of hip mobility, pelvic position, and T-Spine mobility. A great way to improve these areas is the modified couch stretch with overhead reach. Now granted that you may need a little more space to perform this stretch, or get a few weird stares from your co-workers, but who cares!

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Instructions:

  1. Place one foot on the chair and a knee on the floor (use a towel or pad for your knee if doing this on a hard floor).
  2. Maintain a neutral spine position, squeeze your butt and move your hip forward as this will release the hip flexor and rectus femurs.
  3. Take a deep breath and reach overhead. Be mindful not to arch your lower back as you do this, and hold the stretch for 90 to 120 seconds. Switch your legs and repeat.

Perform this 2 to 3 times throughout the day. Observing and being mindful of your breathing as you perform this stretch also helps to moderate your stress levels.

 

2. Upper Trapezius Stretch

Our upper traps carry a lot of stress. Tension and tightness in that area is often the cause of headaches and shoulder pains. There are many reasons for this such as head position, stress, weak lower traps and breathing (Yes if we breath only using our chest, we are literally performing thousands of upper trap raises every single day!) 

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Instructions:

  1. In a seated position, tilt your head to 45 degrees and gently pull your head forward and chin down until you feel the stretch.
  2. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds on each side.

 

3. Banded Pull-Aparts

A lot of the pain and discomfort we feel in our body comes from muscular imbalance or poor postures throughout the day. This causes certain muscles to weaken from inactivity, and create tension in other muscles. As mentioned above, our upper traps is an area of high tension (it doesn’t mean they are strong, they are just under constant tension), so we need to work on the opposite muscles to strengthen and balance out the tension (this is known as reciprocal inhibition).

Banded pull-aparts are a great way of strengthening the mid/lower traps. It depresses the shoulder blades and help to strengthen the rhomboid muscles that retract the shoulder blades, which improves your posture and shoulder position.

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Instructions:

  1. Position your hands with your palms facing up, which naturally turn your shoulder back and down.
  2. Stretch the band with both hands and imagine you are pulling it through your chest, maintaining the tension on the band throughout the stretch. 
  3. Aim for 20 to 30 repetitions and you should feel the burning sensation (be mindful not to let the upper traps come into play) and repeat this for 2 to 3 sets.

 

4. Banded Dislocations

This a great exercise to improve shoulder mobility and take you away from the typical hunched-over-the-keyboard seated position. However, if you have a pre-existing shoulder pain or injury, you should be careful with this exercise.

Instructions:

  1. Bring your arms up and move the band overhead, and bring it down behind your shoulders with a slight below bend. Bring the band back to the front of your body. The stretch band allows you to increase or decrease the mobility needed at the shoulders.
  2. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.

 

5. Banded Behind Neck Press

This stretch starts in the finishing position of the band dislocations. It is a great way to reclaim shoulder position and also engage mid lower traps.

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Instructions:

  1. Extend your arms and press the band overhead, and squeeze your shoulder blades as you bring the band back down.
  2. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.
     

Now you have 5 simple exercises that you can perform daily to relieve muscle tensions. But if you are seated for 10 to 12 hours a day, this is merely scratching the surface. Incorporating these stretches into your daily routine is a great place to start in terms of improving your posture, and reducing muscle pain and discomfort. The next step to develop a strong and healthy body is to work on building muscle strength and mobility – come speak to us at UFIT and we can help you with that!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leigh Withers is a Personal Training Manager at UFIT. Since making a career change from financial accounting 11 years ago, Leigh has lived his passion for the fitness industry in the UK, Middle East, Asia and Europe. He’s worked with some of UK’s leading fitness educators, such as Discovery Learning, Fitness Wales, Train Fitness, along with Cardiff Met University.

During his time in the Middle East,  Leigh was part of a ground-breaking project to deliver industry-accredited training qualifications to leading gyms in the UAE.  He played a key role with the Bahrain Military Defence Hospital to provide training and education to their physiotherapists who were leading the country's first Centre of Excellence Obesity Project. He also worked with Bapco and the country’s leading dietician to front Bahrain’s ‘Biggest Loser’ campaign, and presented to hundreds of employees.

Leigh has spent time training with some of the leading figures in the industry, and has recently completed his Certified Physical Preparation Specialist Certification (CPPS) with Joe De Franco and Jim Smith at the Onnit Academy in Austin, Texas.

4 simple tips to maintain your 6-pack abs on holiday

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You train intensively at home. When on holiday, do you still feel the need to stick to your regular workout program for fear of losing your hard-earned fitness?

To paraphrase a brilliant American strength coach Marty Gallacher – if you are working out 5 to 6 days a week and eating well when at home, then a holiday should be exactly that, a HOLIDAY. With the appropriate rest, recovery, stress reduction, and a ‘few’ additional calories, a well deserved break from your daily routine will have a profound impact on your energy levels and result in improved energy and focus when you return to training after your break.

More often than not, your body would benefit more from a period of rest and recovery, not another weekend of intensive training. This is based on observations from my own experience of training my clients, who often train intensively week after week without a break. For these individuals I would advise 2 to 3 days of recovery without any strenuous physical workouts when you are on a holiday.

Obviously moderation is the key. Giving yourself a treat versus going on a massive binge and ruin weeks of hard work are two different things. For most of us, we can still benefit from some light training and stay active as much as we can while on a holiday. Here are some tips on how to keep in shape on the road.
 

1. Pack the essentials for basic home/outdoor training

Unless you know where you are going, never assume there will be good training facilities or good weather conditions to get some quality training done. Pack your luggage with these basic indoor/outdoor equipment that’s designed for easy traveling:

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  • Skipping Rope Lightweight, and requires only a small space for a great cardio workout. Also can be used for shoulder mobility and stretching. Absolutely essential.
  • Resistance Band Lightweight, space-saving and can add resistance to your bodyweight workouts such as squats and overhead press, working the muscles on your back and lower body.
  • TRX I think the TRX is massively underrated as a ‘travel-training’ tool. It’s lightweight and compact which makes it great for packing, easy to set up, and offers a huge variety of full body exercise options anywhere on the road.
  • Massage Ball A great tool before the start of every training session, the ball is great for myofascial release, loosing the knots on your feet, calves, glutes and rotator cuffs.
  • Foam Roller Another great tool for myofascial release of the larger muscle groups. Although I would consider this to be essential in sessions at the gym, its size usually does not make it practical for travelling. (Although, there are some travel versions now available which are smaller and easier to pack).
     

2. Explore your local surroundings on foot

Have a look what natural locations you have around you for training. If you are heading to a holiday destination which is close to mountains, hills or beaches, these locations offer great variations to your training and are also free. With the basic training kit mentioned above, and access to an awesome natural view, it is the best place to train, and is completely free!

*Trainer Tip: I am always reminding clients and friends about a training option available to almost everyone whether you are travelling or at home - STAIRS. Every hotel or apartment block has them ranging from 4 to 44 floors! In my experience, 10 floors is a decent challenge before you start to really feel it in your legs. Doing laps on the stairs is a great option to end every session. You can start with 2 flights of stairs, and progress by adding 1 or 2 floors every round. Return to the first floor in the lift, or run down the stairs for some serious legs DOMS (delayed onset muscle fatigue) the next day!

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3. Look for local food options that are not too different from what you eat at home

Search online, ask your local friends, or walk around and explore to find restaurants that serve food that are similar to what you would normally eat at home. It is always advisable not to stray ‘too far’ from your normal eating habits while away. Of course, holiday time is the best time to relax about eating and do as you feel. No need to stress out about nutritional choices and decisions, eat what you fancy. But there are good and bad choices to be had at every meal and drink, and there needs to be an element of self-control to avoid unnecessary excesses. Whether you’re training or not training while on holiday, eat real, whole, natural foods is a good rule of thumb, and generally avoid the things you would normally avoid, without being over restrictive.


4. Search for a local fitness outfit that offers drop-in sessions or short term offers

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If training alone and outdoors doesn’t suit you, the next option is to find local training operators that can cater to your training goals. In many holiday destinations, you should be able to find local yoga studios, fitness gyms, CrossFit boxes, or outdoor bootcamp sessions. Aside from getting a good workout in with new trainers and training buddies, it is also a great way to make new friends and get expert local tips!


About the author

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Nathan Williams is a Personal Trainer at UFIT Orchard. Originally from Wales, Nathan spent the last 12 years as a fitness coach in Cyprus, New York, Dubai, Bahrain, and Singapore, working with elite athletes and regular folks to transform their lives through fitness.  Nathan specialises in Strength, Bodyweight and Kettlebell training. Having worked exclusively with older clients and golfers in the Middle East prior to coming to Asia, he has a keen interest in corrective strategies and mobility work for everyday workers, ex-athletes and anyone looking to continue their physical training whilst staying pain-free for the rest of their lives. Nathan is one of UFIT's most experienced personal training and bootcamp coach. 

How to progress in your squats without pain

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The squat is a common assessment tool that many coaches will use even before designing a training program for you. It is also one of the most popular exercises in your programming, whether it is for strength, weight loss or rehab from injuries.

Squatting is one of our primal movement patterns that makes up all the activities that we do everyday. If done correctly, squats can actually help to reduce knee pain, build lower body strength, and improve sporting performance. (Bonus – incorporating squats into your workouts also build those strong shapely glutes that nicely fill out a pair of fitted jeans.)

Despite having done it since we are toddlers and its many benefits, a lot of us still have difficulty performing it correctly, without causing knee pain or lower back discomfort. We often see people avoiding this exercise, claiming that it “causes knee pain”, but many times this is actually due to performing the exercise incorrectly.

Squats do not cause knee pain; squats performed incorrectly cause knee pain.

The key to a pain-free and effective squat is to load the hips first and not the knees, but this is sometimes easier said than done! Which is why we have come up with these squat progressions to help you build up to a strong and correctly executed squat. 

What gets loaded first gets loaded maximally.

*** Basic Squat Technique - Start with feet at shoulders-width apart, look ahead, maintain a neutral spine, and sit back into the squat. Keep you core braced and drive your knees out and maintain good toe, knee, and hip alignment.


Squat Progression – 5 Exercise Variations

To squat effectively, we need a good ankle and hip mobility, as well as the ability to keep our body stable through these joints as we progress to a loaded squat. Here are some simple ways to progress your squat effectively:
 

1. TRX Squat

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This allows you to sit back in the squat as it maintains your upper body and is a great way to build your squat depth and confidence.


2. Banded Squat 

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This is very similar to the TRX squat. But as the resistance band is stretchable, it is less stable and not as ‘fixed’ as the TRX, requiring you to control the movement and stability of your body slightly more than the TRX.


3. Box squat 

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We now need to maintain our torso position, but the box reduces our range of movement and helps us to shift our weight backwards. This is a great way to help build correct knee position and a safe squat depth.


4. Box squat with medicine ball press

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As your core gets stronger, you can switch to a lower box that allows you to squat deeper. We now introduce a counterbalance by pressing the ball in front as we shift the hips back. This a great way to maintain stability and an upright torso position as we squat through a greater range of motion.

5. Goblet Squat

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This exercise is many coaches’ staple, as the position of the dumbbell or Kettlebell helps maintain core stability and a better center of gravity, which actually makes it feel easier than a bodyweight squat!

Once you are comfortable performing the goblet squat, you can increase the load or progress to a front rack Kettlebell squat, barbell front squat, or barbell back squat.

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Our advice would always be to find a qualified coach to assess your movement, mobility, and squat technique so that they can correctly advise on the progressions that you need. But in the meantime, you can give the above 5 squat variations a try!


About the author

Leigh Withers is a Personal Training Manager at UFIT. Since making a career change from financial accounting 11 years ago, Leigh has lived his passion for the fitness industry in the UK, Middle East, Asia and Europe. He’s worked with some of UK’s leading fitness educators, such as Discovery Learning, Fitness Wales, Train Fitness, along with Cardiff Met University.

During his time in the Middle East,  Leigh was part of a ground-breaking project to deliver industry-accredited training qualifications to leading gyms in the UAE.  He played a key role with the Bahrain Military Defence Hospital to provide training and education to their physiotherapists who were leading the country's first Centre of Excellence Obesity Project. He also worked with Bapco and the country’s leading dietician to front Bahrain’s ‘Biggest Loser’ campaign, and presented to hundreds of employees.

Leigh has spent time training with some of the leading figures in the industry, and has recently completed his Certified Physical Preparation Specialist Certification (CPPS) with Joe De Franco and Jim Smith at the Onnit Academy in Austin, Texas.

6 tips for eating clean over the holidays

Whether you remain in Singapore or travel elsewhere for the upcoming holidays, your healthy eating habits needn't go pear-shaped this summer. Take these six healthy tips from UFIT Nutritionist Wendy Riddell on board for a nourished and lean body no matter where you are: 

1. Load up on plenty of veggies and a little fruit

When it comes to vegetables in particular, most of us aren't getting enough. In America alone over 80% of the population isn’t consuming enough. Eating more fruit and vegetables can help significantly reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.

The fibre in whole produce also helps keep your microbiome (the collection of good bacteria that live in your gut) happy, which can reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens and infections and even improve your mood. Every year the USDA releases a list of products that are worth investing in organic.

 Your mum was right. Don't forget your veggies: pick your own at  The Daily Cut .

Your mum was right. Don't forget your veggies: pick your own at The Daily Cut.

 Proteins, veggies and fruit - so much goodness in one little bowl with  Aloha Poke .

Proteins, veggies and fruit - so much goodness in one little bowl with Aloha Poke.

2. Eat good grains and nuts

The cleanest whole grains are the ones that have been touched the least by processing. Think whole grains that look most like their just-harvested state—quinoa, wild rice, oats. While some people abstain from eating any processed grains, we think that whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread made with simple ingredients are part of eating clean.

Don't get duped by "whole-grain" claims on labels though, to eat clean packaged whole grains you need to take a closer look at the ingredients. Whole grains should always be the first ingredient, the ingredient list should be short and recognisable, and it should have minimal (if any) added sugar.

When you swap out refined carbs (like white pasta, sugar, and white bread) for whole grains you'll get more fibre, antioxidants and inflammation-fighting phytonutrients. Plus, people who eat more whole grains have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off long term. Nuts and seeds are also an amazing addition to get your good proteins and carbs in, not to mention some healthy fats.

We should aim to get seeds into our nutrition daily and nuts every other day.

The Whole Kitchen has several amazing products that will help you get these good nutrients in, ethical and tasty to boot.

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3. Eat good quality proteins

Picking your sources of protein is very important. Protein provides energy and supports your mood and cognitive function. Protein is a vital nutrient required for building, maintaining, and repairing tissues, cells, and organs throughout the body. When you eat protein, it is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy. The amino acid tryptophan influences mood by producing serotonin, which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve overall cognitive function.

Most animal sources of protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, deliver all the amino acids your body needs, while plant-based protein sources such as grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts often lack one or more of the essential amino acids. However, that doesn’t mean you have to eat animal products to get the right amino acids. By eating a variety of plant-based sources of protein each day you can ensure your body gets all the essential amino acids it needs.

Eating the right amount of high-quality protein gives you the energy to get up and go—and keep going. As well as being imperative to feeling healthy and energetic, protein is also important to the way you look. Eating high-quality protein can help you maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair, build muscle, and maintain lean body mass while training and eating well.

Distinguishing between industrially raised meat and organic, grass-fed meat is only part of separating low and high-quality sources of protein.  While some processed or lunch meats, for example, can be a good source of protein, many are loaded with salt, which can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems.  Processed meats have also been linked with an increased risk of cancer, likely due to the substances used in the processing of the meat.

The key to ensuring you eat sufficient high-quality protein is to include different types in your diet, rather than relying on just red or processed meat. We love the high-quality proteins sourced from The Meat Club, as well as post-training protein boosters such as the pea-based powders from Nuzest

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4. Watch Out for Processed Foods

We're not opposed to all processed foods. Technically when we chop, mix and cook at home we are processing foods. The trouble is that so much of the processed food at the supermarket is processed beyond the point of recognition. Crisps shouldn’t be bright orange in colour or covered in cheese.

Keep an eye out for anything with lots of sugar and refined grains, and a super-long ingredient lists with foods you don't recognise and anything with partially hydrogenated oils. Clean processed foods exist and The Whole Kitchen and The Providore has a great range.

And while you can make salad dressings, pasta sauce, mayo, hummus and broth at home, you can also find clean versions at the store. Just read the ingredients list.

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5. Limit Added Sugar

Most people eat too many added sugars. The recommend daily amount is only 8 to 11 teaspoons of sugar a day. The average American gets about 4 times that amount — 28 teaspoons of added sugar per day!!

To clean up your diet, cut down on added sugars by limiting sweets like soda, candy and baked goods. But it's more than just sweets and desserts — keep an eye on sugars added to healthier foods like yoghurt (choose plain), tomato sauce and cereal. Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it's listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food.

When you're eating out, go for reduced sugar options by ordering eggs, mushrooms and avocado for breakfast instead of the cereal - and more white spirits and sparkling water than cocktails. You and your taste buds will still have an amazing time at great places like Tanjong Beach Club and Super Loco and your body will love you for it!

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6. Consider the Environment

Clean eating is better for you and the planet. The food we eat takes resources to get to our plate. Food that needs to be transported from thousands of miles away to your store is adding to our carbon footprint, not to mention that they are likely to be loaded with preservatives. Wherever possible, stick to seasonal vegetables and fruits that are regional to ensure you are eating the freshest and tastiest produce.

When you visit other countries with their own seasonal produce, tuck in and cherish those rich, real food flavours!! 

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Don't forget about your UFIT Perks discounts!

As a UFIT client you get a discount at many of these awesome food providers and more by quoting the UFIT promo code or showing your UFIT Perks keytag. 


About the author:

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Wendy Riddell is a degree-qualified nutritionist with 18 years of experience. She runs the highly popular UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge, which successfully helped thousands of people lose weight and develop healthy eating habits. 

Wendy is also a fully qualified personal trainer and bootcamps coach, with experience in running fitness programs in Australia and Singapore. A regular CrossFitter, she has competed in multiple obstacle races, half-marathons and cycling races in Singapore and in the UK. Wendy is a great believer that anyone can achieve anything with the right support. “I can, and I will.” is one of Wendy’s favourite phrases. She has four young children and understand first hand the challenges of balancing a healthy lifestyle with the demands of daily life.

Nutrition & training advice during the Ramadan

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For many Muslims who observe the practice of fasting during the month of the Ramadan, the period is a time for mindful contemplation and detox. Muslims abstain from food and water between sunrise to sundown. While some people lose weight during this period, some put on the pounds from excessive late night binge. 

Exercise keeps the body healthy and the mind sharp. During the fasting month, it is safe to exercise so long as you do it responsibly and listen to your body. UFIT expert nutritionist and avid sportsperson Patsy Soh gives her advice on what you should be eating if you want to maintain your training intensity during the fasting month.

Separately, we speak to Dean Ahmad – COO of UFIT and experienced fitness professional with a 10-year track record, and Nada Khalid – Physiotherapist by day and professional Muay Thai fighter by night, to find how how they adjust their training program during this period.


EATING RIGHT DURING THE RAMADAN

What are the general nutritional considerations during the fasting month?
PATSY Dehydration and over consumption of calories from fried and sugary foods are the top concerns during this period. Dehydration affects our training performance, so it's important to get adequate fluids throughout the night till bed time. Start with drinking 2 cups water at the break-fast meal, then a cup every hour till you go to bed. That's approximately 6 cups, and another 2 cups at the pre-dawn meal. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea are diuretics (dehydrating) so don't count that towards your fluid intake. Filling up your stomach with too much water too quickly may cause you to throw up, or multiple visits to the toilet.

 Ensure you are properly hydrated between your break-fast and pre-dawn meal.

Ensure you are properly hydrated between your break-fast and pre-dawn meal.

The common misconceptions about fasting and nutrition?
PATSY The most common misconception is the idea that just because one has not eaten anything for whole day, they have the license to binge at buffets, especially on high fat (e.g. fried chicken, pakoras, french fries, mutton briyani) and high sugar drinks and desserts (e.g. bandung, churros, kueh kueh, cupcakes, waffles). Due to the reduction in physical activity in the day, overloading of sugary drinks, desserts, and carbs at the break-fast meal would lead to "food coma". Instead of having processed sugary food at break fast, have 2 to 3 dates, 1 to 2 slices of fresh fruits, or a handful of berries and grapes.

For people who exercise and want to maintain their fitness levels, what should they take note of in their nutrition this month?
PATSY If you work out lightly to moderately: ensure adequate fluids during and after work outs. Take an electrolyte drink if you are exercising outdoors.
If you work out Intensively (e.g. athletes training for competitions): Each athlete has their own competition diet plan, so just try and stick to that as best as you can. People who do a lot of cardio need more complex carbs, while people who strength train will need more protein. So they might need to add protein powder to their smoothies during this time.

Is it better to plan workouts around or close to meal times?
PATSY I think it's up to the individual person. Logically, I would suggest do a workout after breaking fast with some light snack - 2 dates, 2 cups of water or 1 cup water and a healthy smoothie. Do your workout and then eat a healthy dinner of 30 percent protein (e.g. beef, fish, chicken, lentils, eggs), 50 percent veggies, and 20 percent complex carbs (e.g. mix of brown & white rice, quinoa, rolled oats, chapati) within 30 to 45 minutes after training.

 Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to get in your daily dose of fresh fruits and greens.

Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to get in your daily dose of fresh fruits and greens.

Any specific foods to eat more or less of during this month to maximise training gains?
Patsy This is no different from when you are not fasting – stay away from sugar-laden drinks and high fat foods. Overconsumption of sugar results in spikes in the blood sugar level, leave you with more sugar cravings and mess up your metabolism. Go for complex or wholegrain carbs at the pre-dawn meal. They take longer to digest, and hence help to sustain your energy levels longer throughout the day.

Other relevant nutrition tips for the Ramadan month

  1. Go ahead to indulge in your favourite Ramadan dishes, but limit it to smaller bite-size portions that you can savour.
  2. Have fruits and veggies at both pre-dawn meal (in a smoothie) and break-fast meal (fill 50 percent of the plate with non starchy veggies) to prevent constipation and keep you feeling full longer.
  3. Keep food choices to a minimum to avoid overeating. Start your break-fast meal with fresh fruits, before a light dinner of 1 type of good quality protein, 2 types of non-starchy veggies, and 1 complex carb.
  4. Dessert can be small piece of dark chocolate, a cup of creamy Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds, or a small serve of frozen yogurt or gelato.
  5. Limit deep-fried food to once a week. Choose grilled, baked or air-fried items. 
 Practice moderation: go ahead to indulge in your favourite festive dishes, but limit it to tasting portions!

Practice moderation: go ahead to indulge in your favourite festive dishes, but limit it to tasting portions!


TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS


Does your training routine change during the fasting month? Do you adjust your exercises and training times?

DEAN I plan my year’s training program to coincide my de-load week with the Ramadan. I switch to calisthenics (body weight) training during this period, and use it as a time to detox, rest, and recover. I usually train after breaking fast at around 8pm, three times a week.

NADA As Muay Thai is cardio demanding and I can lose about a kilo of water at each training just by perspiring, I prefer to train after a light meal after breaking fast, so that I can constantly rehydrate. I also focus more on techniques and accuracy rather than power. I tend to do less long runs or prolonged cardio so as not to deplete my glycogen stores or dehydrate myself.
To ensure that I don’t lose too much strength over the month, I make sure to make time for strength training. I lift heavy, but keep to low reps with adequate recovery time in between sets. On strength training days, I plan my workouts in the evening just before breaking fast. That way, I can replenish my glycogen stores and protein for recovery immediately after training.

 Clinic Physiotherapist Nada Khalid is also a Muay Thai fighter who competes regularly.

Clinic Physiotherapist Nada Khalid is also a Muay Thai fighter who competes regularly.

What do you eat more or less of in this month?

DEAN I only manage a snack and one meal after breaking fast. What I have a lot of are water, and about 5 dates as a snack. My meal would consist of a mix of protein, carbs, and fats. This will be my only meal in the 24-hour period!

NADA In the morning pre-dawn meal, I have more low GI foods to sustain my energy level through the day. These include whole grain cereal and dates – it’s hard to stuff yourself with food at 5am! In the evening after breaking fast, I’ll have carbs to replenish my glycogen stores, and a good dose of protein especially if I’ve done a weights session right before. And plenty of fiber to keep my gut going through the month! 


Training advice for others who are fasting in the Ramadan?

DEAN Pace yourself – try to program your year’s training to take in account the Ramadan period. Focus on more mobility work with basic lifts. Drink lots of water in the night, and don’t gorge on food during the night as it defeats the purpose of fasting! Also, doing intermittent fasting the month before Ramadan helps the body to transition to a full fast easier.

 Gorging on food at night will give you an "Iftar-belly"!

Gorging on food at night will give you an "Iftar-belly"!

NADA Spend some time to plan your schedule for the week ahead – when to train and what to eat. Listen to your body. Some days won’t go as planned (can’t lift as heavy, gassing out, feeling lethargic etc). IT’S OKAY! Cut yourself some slack (drop the weight, take a little more recovery time). Health is more important especially when we’re mostly low on glycogen stores and dehydrated by the evening. Most of us wake up early (4-5am) to have a pre-dawn meal, so ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep through the night because it’s when your body’s natural healing and recovery processes are most active.


How do you feel physically this month? How do you motivate yourself?

DEAN The first 3-5 days will be hard, but after awhile your body will get used to fasting. It is a good detox for the body for the 30 days. The whole idea of Ramadan is not the fasting from food, it is also a time for Muslims to detox their minds as well, which means we are to abstain from speaking ill and to control our emotions and temper. 
The motivation comes from knowing that while I am doing this just for a month, there are people and children living in poverty who goes through this everyday of their lives without a choice. Ramadan teaches me to be thankful and count my blessings, and to help the needy wherever possible.

 NADA I usually feel the fatigue especially in the first week when the body’s adapting to the lack of food and water in the day. That’s why having a training and nutrition plan is important. Ramadan itself is a big motivating factor for me. I see it as a challenge – a test of discipline. It pushes me to be more disciplined with my training and nutrition plans. I find that I’m actually sharper, and more focused and purposeful at trainings during the Ramadan!


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  PATSY SOH   Patsy is a NZ Registered Dietitian with 15 years' experience in clinical, corporate, and fitness industries. Patsy believes in a holistic approach to fitness and wellness. She is passionate to help others achieve their weight loss goals through sound nutrition and exercise prescriptions.

PATSY SOH

Patsy is a NZ Registered Dietitian with 15 years' experience in clinical, corporate, and fitness industries. Patsy believes in a holistic approach to fitness and wellness. She is passionate to help others achieve their weight loss goals through sound nutrition and exercise prescriptions.

  DEAN AHMAD   Dean specialises in strength training and corrective exercise. He believes that strength training through various modalities can benefit everyone at any age. Dean works largely with working professionals who are keen to attain fitness in the safest training environment possible.

DEAN AHMAD

Dean specialises in strength training and corrective exercise. He believes that strength training through various modalities can benefit everyone at any age. Dean works largely with working professionals who are keen to attain fitness in the safest training environment possible.

  NADA KHALID   As a Physiotherapist at UFIT Clinic, Nada's interests lie in rehabilitation and prevention of sports injuries through education and functional movement training. Treatment methods include manual therapy, myofascia release, dry-needling, and taping to aid in rehabilitation. Nada has worked with youth, adult and elite athletes in a multitude of sports.

NADA KHALID

As a Physiotherapist at UFIT Clinic, Nada's interests lie in rehabilitation and prevention of sports injuries through education and functional movement training. Treatment methods include manual therapy, myofascia release, dry-needling, and taping to aid in rehabilitation. Nada has worked with youth, adult and elite athletes in a multitude of sports.