An interest in bodybuilding is on the rise through out the world. It’s a lifestyle consumed by progressive resistance training and proper diet. Bodybuilding frequently merges with another way of life: Islam, a major religion with a reach across many nations. Muslims are members of the Islamic faith; population estimates vary greatly, but many suggest well over one billion people – almost 25 percent of the world’s total population. Islamic nations are governed by Shariah Law, traditional Islamic law derived from the Koran, Islam’s holy book. Muslim bodybuilders can adhere to Islamic values, even while observing the holy month of Ramadan, with minimal performance loss.
Bodybuilding can be practiced in Islam but its intentions must involve the obtainment of greater physical fitness, better health and mental relaxation – not for personal gratification, self-admiration, pride or if it leads to missed prayers.
“Bodybuilding aims to make the body strong and sound,” said Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, “which is an important and desirable goal. Islam is concerned with man’s well-being in both body and soul, and it encourages all kinds of sport that will strengthen the body and maintain good health as well as provide relaxation and leisure, such as swimming, shooting, horseback riding, sword fighting and wrestling.
“But when Islam accepts sports and encourages us to engage in them, it does not make them a goal in and of themselves. Rather sport is considered to be a means of protecting the sacred limits of Islam and the dignity and rights of the Muslims, in the belief that strength is one of the most important means of achieving victory and prevailing in the face of challenges and warding off the threats that face Islam. If the purpose of sport is to prepare the body to be fit to engage in jihad for the sake of Allah, and to do the acts of worship which require physical strength such as Hajj – then sport is essential.”
The holy month of Ramadan is a major religious period for Muslims. Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. It includes a phase of obligatory fasting for all adult Muslims; excluding those experiencing poor health, age-related illness, long travel, pregnancy (or otherwise nursing), or a menstrual cycle. This year, it will begin in mid-September, initiated by the sighting of the new moon. Adults in good health are required to observe the month of Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset with additional time spent praying to God.
Food intake during Ramadan is expected to be reduced due to altered eating schedules. However, Muslims are generally able to maintain body weight and energy levels with evening to early-morning meals. A 1999 study by Kuwait University examined responses to exercise, fluid and energy balances during Ramadan in sedentary and active males. Interestingly, fluid and electrolyte levels were better maintained with active individuals; a likely response to greater fluid consumption and turnover. According to the Kuwait study, the entire month of Ramadan presents varying changes in a Muslim’s body. Mentally, the first one to two weeks of fasting are the most difficult. The body must adapt to the abrupt and drastic change in energy stores and nutritional support.
The final two weeks can be harder on the body physically. Anemias are a common health concern in the Gulf and symptoms can become more evident during the end of Ramadan. Blood platelet counts can take a significant drop, leading to slower blood clotting. According to research, decreases in serum iron and platelet counts are only statistically significant in sedentary people but anyone with symptoms at other periods of the year need to pay special attention – women are generally prone to iron deficiencies.
According to detraining studies, athletes can maintain, or suffer limited loss, in limit strength during short periods of no training. Fortunately, a body recovering from intense resistance training may support an increase in growth hormone and testosterone while lowering cortisol levels. Prior to detraining, focus on slow and deliberate eccentric muscle contractions to promote greater and more long-lived neural adaptations. In general, strength performance is readily retained for up to four weeks of inactivity, but highly trained athletes’ eccentric force and sport-specific power may suffer significant declines after two weeks.
Breaks in training are inevitable for any athlete. The Muslim bodybuilder can effortlessly schedule breaks during the holy month. Perhaps the best exercise prescription for Muslims observing Ramadan may be to train during the first two weeks and then detrain during the final two – during the weeks hardest on the body. Some Muslim bodybuilders alternate weeks for training during Ramadan; such as: train only during the first and third weeks. It’s important to keep distant from junk food as a daily fast comes to an end – to avoid impulsive food selections. Caloric intake should reduce as physical activity is decreased; so as to avoid accumulating fat.
Qatar’s 4th Golden Cup for Bodybuilding at the Sheraton Hotel on Sept. 14, 2006. According to the Qatar National Olympic Committee, the athletes competed in the Gulf country for over $30,000, divided amongst 45 finalists. Competitors came from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates; as well as other Arab and non-Arab nations.
Zerguini et al. Impact of Ramadan on physical performance in professional soccer players. Br J Sports Med.2007; 41: 398-400
Ramadan, J., et al. Responses to exercise, fluid, and energy balances during Ramadan in sedentary and active males. Nutrition. 1999 Oct;15 (10):735-9
What is the ruling on body building in Islam? 2003 Sept. IslamOnline.net