Football Nutrition: Impact of Ramadan Fasting on Athletic Performance

Muslim soccer athletes & football players of all levels across the world celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan during this phase of the year.

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Elite Muslim Footballers

Juventus’s Paul Pogba posted, “Ramadan Kareem to all” whilst sharing a photo of himself alongside fellow French national team & West Ham FC player Kurt Zouma whilst at the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia previously.

Another French player, & legendary CF Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema recently wished ‘a good Ramadan’ to everyone observing the month on his own social media platforms recently.

Interestingly, Karim Benzema, born in the city of Lyon, France to French nationals of Algerian descent is a well-known, high-profile practicing Muslim who has remained at the top of the game for a substantial period of time, and one who observes fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. 

This holy month is a period devoted largely to discipline, especially when it comes to fasting suggested the Egyptian born Mohammed Salah of Liverpool FC, who is another footballing superstar who undertakes the religious fasting phase through Ramadan.

Even though we are far more aware of the holy month of Ramadan due to the increasing number of Muslim faith players playing at the top level of the game.

Do we as a teacher, parents, technical coaches, fitness trainers, physios or performance coaches understand the issues our children or players at all levels and abilities might be facing during this Ramadan phase?

IMPACT OF RAMADAN 2 Salah and Zouma

How Players Affected During Ramadan

ISSPF faculty member, Professor Karim Chamari, is seen as one of the leading researchers in the area of Ramadan fasting in football and the effects of intermittent fasting in general have outlined some key thoughts to tackle this area & understand it further.

Studies in the area of Ramadan fasting have shown how Ramadan fasting may not adversely affect the recovery of physical performance and muscle damage markers, furthermore, perceived fatigue and muscle soreness seem to be enhanced with Ramadan fasting.

Issues with Ramadan Fasting in Football

One of the main components in athletic or soccer performance is the provision of proper fuelling and hydration techniques, so this becomes an issue to players during this Ramadan phase. 

Available literature has suggested Muslim soccer athletes or  footballers training & competing through this period may face performance decrements as a result of:

  • Changes in circadian or bodily rhythms
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Duration of sleep
  • Reduction in blood glucose or energy levels
  • Reduced daytime fluid intake and subsequent dehydration
  • Injury

 

All these issues discussed then resultant in a more rapid onset of fatigue/tiredness and increased incidence of non-contact and overuse injury within the game and sport in general.

Improvement Through Education

It has been reported that most Muslim football players observe Ramadan fasting during training as well as during games, whereas, others may only observe Ramadan fasting on training days but not through match days.

Effectively, the right to practice a certain faith is recognised as a human right & must be appreciated.

Throughout more recent times within football, & due to the increased football science & soccer awareness within the game, by clubs, players & coaches, as well as practitioners involved in soccer performance are much more aware of Ramadan, and what it involves.

Being more culturally aware and being open to influencing individuals’ training rhythm within sports clubs is much more common, especially in sporting organisations where there may be a number of Muslim players.

Additionally, the ever-increasing number of Muslim footballers playing the game across the range of grassroot, amateur, semi-professional & elite level has driven the educational, research & understanding of this aspect.

Prof. Karim Chamari Findings

ISSPF faculty member, Prof. Karim Chamari & colleagues have shown through research how football performance amongst Muslim players during competitive matches was adversely affected by Ramadan fasting.

These findings were highlighted through deterioration of physical performance in the 1st half of match-play.

These are huge implications not only for the individual player from a health & wellbeing perspective, but also for performance and injury risk.

The above-mentioned adaptations in soccer players drinking, sleep patterns, and energy/food reserves will probably impact not only the performance side in terms of training & match play, but additionally the recovery of the soccer player or football athlete post-training or games.

In fact, the recovery process after training or games is highly variable & depends on several factors but are mainly related to energy reduction or depletion, sleep loss, as well as dehydration status.

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5 Tips to Improve Performance During Ramadan

According to some leading practitioners in soccer, alongside health & wellbeing specialists in this topic area, the following tips should not only allow you to understand & be aware of players fasting through this Ramadan month.

They will also help you in your coaching, parental, teaching or performance staff role in order to maximise performance:

  1. Event timing (scheduling events or training during early morning or evening).
  2. Sleep patterning (sleeping as early as possible after the evening meal).
  3. Maintenance of hydration (can be performed through a high carbohydrate mean plan with the aim of maximising pre-game glycogen/energy reserves).
  4. Adequate uptake of salt & water before dawn (i.e. maintain or improve hydration status) & avoidance of activity pre-event to enhance body temperature & subsequent sweating.
  5. Follow the appropriate pattern of nutrition (i.e. increase the intake of high-quality protein following exercise) – assist in maintenance of muscle mass.
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To Fast or Not to Fast?

According to reports in this specific area of Ramadan & human performance, the decision on whether athletes or players choose to fast or not, is down to each individual athlete. It is believed that parents, teachers, coaches & sporting administrators or organisers can play a huge role in providing essential & updated knowledge about the impact of Ramadan fasting on health and physical performance.

Furthermore, they are the key individuals who may develop a mutual agreement with soccer athletes or football players on deciding the best individual strategy for training and competition during Ramadan.

Nutrition is vital not just for performance on the pitch but also in the health & wellbeing of individuals, in addition to the recovery phases from training and competitive games during Ramadan.

In addition to the article overviewing some of the key questions in the area of football nutrition, for all you practitioners, students, coaches, medical staff, learners, soccer enthusiasts or even nutritionists wanting to engage more, or further your knowledge in team sport nutrition, click the link below to find out more around sports nutrition & soccer performance.

The ISSPF University endorsed & accredited soccer nutrition online course is a blend of highly regarded academic experts & practitioners from around the globe exposing their practical experience & theoretical knowledge for the development of this specialist soccer specific area.

How This Course Will Improve You

  • Understanding the key energy sources required to perform repeated high intensity & explosive movements within the intermittent nature of soccer is of paramount importance.
  • Fueling to perform & recover from both training, and competitive games are very specific across a range of levels of the game.
  • All practitioners and coaches can only benefit themselves and their players even further by having a more in-depth knowledge of nutrition.
  • It may help you to reduce the risk for non-contact muscle injuries, through a better understanding of the key timing of nutrients.

What Does This Course Cover?

Outline of the Foundation Certificate in Soccer Nutrition Course:

Module 1: Energy balance & body composition: basics of soccer physiology
Lecturer: Sam McHaffie (Science In Sport [SIS]) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 2: Understanding Macro & Micro-nutrients
Lecturer: Dr. Eirini Manthou (Olympiakos) Greece
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 3: Soccer health & wellness (vitamins, minerals)
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (West Ham United, Chelsea FC) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 4: Fluid balance & soccer specific hydration 
Lecturer: Virginia Santesteban (Real Sociedad CF) Spain
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 5: Training, Match & Recovery Fueling – Soccer Nutrition to Perform
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (Seattle Sounders FC) Wales
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 6: Maximising nutrition through injury
Lecturer: Faisal Alshawa (Aspire, Qatar) Kuwait
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 7: The role of nutrition for the female soccer player
Lecturer: Dr. Yasemin Batmaca (Besiktas) Turkey
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 8: An introduction to nutritional supplementation and ergogenic aids
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (West Ham United, Chelsea FC) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

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