Coaching athletes who are observing Ramadan - The Top Tips
In her last blog, Carnegie School of Sport Coaching post-grad student Naadrah Hafeez shared her experiences as a Muslim boxing coach and personal trainer during Ramadan. In this last entry, Naadrah lets us into her top tips to appropriately support athletes during this holy period.
Ramadan is observed by 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, and if you’re a coach I’m sure you’ve encountered at least one athlete that is fasting during this holy month. So how do you cater for the needs of your athletes that are fasting?
From puberty it becomes obligatory for Muslim boys and girls to fast during Ramadan. Throughout Ramadan, your Muslim athletes will abstain from food and water from dawn till dusk, meaning training will be more physically demanding. As your athletes are fasting they will be prone to dehydration, fatigue, and a lack of energy in general. In order to combat this, and better support the needs of your athletes, I have some top tips when coaching!
- Give your athletes options.
Allow your athlete to make the decision of whether they want to train during Ramadan or not. As a coach you are there to support the needs of your athletes; if your athletes feel as though they can train during Ramadan, then please support them in doing so. The worst thing a coach can do is to tell their athletes that they can’t train – remember we want to create inclusive environments for all!
As a coach, you hold a lot of power. Your athletes will listen to you over their parents, teachers, siblings etc. Please inform your athletes of the importance of hydrating properly during Ramadan – especially when training. In the time between Iftar (sunset meal – breaking of fast) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), athletes should regularly sip on water (not guzzling a whole bottle in one go!)
After training, upon breaking their fast, as well as water, athletes should consume drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates in them (e.g. coconut water, milkshakes) as research has shown that they retain more fluid than drinking water alone.
Informing your athlete on the correct nutrition is also important during Ramadan. The worst thing an athlete can have for Suhoor is a bowl of sugary cereal – their blood sugars will spike and then crash; leaving them feeling hungry and lacking in energy. Instead they should opt for low GI foods (e.g. fruits, veggies, high fibre cereals – bran flakes) and lean sources of protein (chicken, cod, beans and lentils). Greek yogurt is also great to have at Suhoor as it is high in protein and has a high water content – which will help with hydration.
For Iftar, your athletes should consume low fibre, high GI carbohydrates (e.g. pasta, white rice, bread) as this will help replenish glycogen stores after training. In addition to this, your athletes should consume fast digesting proteins – this could be in the form of whole foods (chicken, cod, egg whites, etc) or supplements such as whey protein (if they are over 18).
- Time for Technique
Ramadan is demanding on the body and your athletes may lack in energy at times. When coaching your athletes, try to focus on technique (rather than strength, speed etc.), as your athletes will be dehydrated and lacking nutrients, which will make them more susceptible to injury.
*If you’re coaching a contact sport, sparring is off the table!*
- Know your athlete!
As coaches, we all have athletes that go above and beyond, with some of them pushing themselves too far and not knowing when to stop! It is important that we know our athletes and know when we need to intervene. Each athlete is an individual, some can cope without food and water, whereas others may struggle. Don’t be afraid to step in and ask them to sit out and have a breather for a couple of minutes…Remember as coaches our duty is to safeguard and support all our athletes!I hope you enjoyed this blog, if you’re interested in finding out more about coaching/training during Ramadan, then follow me on Instagram @naadrah_1, as I’m currently posting regular health and fitness content tailored to Ramadan!