In the weeks leading up to Ramadan, I have been getting a plethora of private messages—on Instagram, Facebook, and even LinkedIn—from folks who were intrigued by my ketogenic experiment last Ramadan, and want my help to walk them through nutrition and fitness this Ramadan. Before I offer some key metrics for the lead up to Ramadan, I need to emphasize that ketosis is not an overnight phenomenon, and will take some time for the body to be primed to run on fats. That aside, systemic lifestyle change is best accomplished gradually, so making best use of these weeks before the holy month officially begins will be crucial to establish best practices. To that end, I would like to propose a few guidelines—some of which may at face value contradict my previous suggestions, but I assure you there’s a logic behind all this.
First, for those presently doing intermittent fasting, I would encourage a temporary hiatus to that habit. Yes, intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to deplete the body of glycogen and push it toward running on fats, but the body can get immune to the process if done too frequently, so deliberately not fasting in the weeks leading up to Ramadan will be the perfect way to keep the body confused come the official start of Ramadan. To make progress in fitness more broadly, it is imperative that the body remain challenged and not get too used to a given regimen. Weight lifters, for example, change their exercise regimens to prevent the body from getting immune to the same routine.
- Instead of intermittent fasting, make it a point to eat a keto-friendly breakfast every morning. Aim for high fats, moderate protein and a big serving of non-starchy vegetables. A fantastic breakfast could be farm-fresh eggs prepared with grass-fed butter, or a serving of grass-fed beef (*not* industrial beef, grass-fed meat is far superior for health and for ecological footprint), atop raw or sautéed vegetables.
- Liberally use pink Himalayan salt for added electrolytes, which rapidly deplete from the body in ketosis.
- Breakfast is a great time to up your intake of collagen protein, which is essential for gut health, joint flexibility and skin elasticity. In my previous article, I encouraged opening your fast with collagen-rich bone broth for this very reason. Accordingly, I have a cup of homemade bone broth with my eggs for breakfast, but it would be just as efficacious to have a collagen peptide supplement, which is flavorless and can be easily blended into water or a cup of coffee.
Speaking of coffee, I encourage relying on Bulletproof coffee, a unique blend of black coffee, grass-fed butter and ketone-producing MCT oil, as a way of facilitating intermittent fasting. Even when not intermittent fasting, I continue to have a cup of Bulletproof coffee alongside my breakfast, both to raise my ketones and to increase my mental performance. While I find it delicious, some people don’t like the taste of Bulletproof coffee, which is fine. That said, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice putting milk of any kind in your coffee, as the sugars present in milk will spike your glucose levels. If you’re insistent on the taste of milk in your coffee, and you don’t find Bulletproof coffee palatable as a substitute, I would suggest replacing the milk with full-fat cream instead. This will promote the transition to fat adaptation and will keep you very satiated. Also consider adding some MCT oil (which is flavorless) to your coffee, or to your breakfast foods, to further ease the transition to ketosis. In fact, if there is one supplement you will need this Ramadan (particularly for suhur, which I outline in my previous article), it’s MCT oil; make sure to order some right away.
This aside, in these weeks leading up to Ramadan, it behooves you to stop dieting—as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Even if your goal is to lose body fat, eating at a caloric deficit in perpetuity will eventually slow down your metabolic rate—namely by down-regulating the hunger hormone leptin. Before we begin an entire month of primarily eating at a caloric deficit (unless you eat yourself into a stupor every single iftar, a problem you really need to reign in), we want our metabolic rate and hunger hormones functioning as optimally as possible. To reset metabolism and hormonal profiles, aim to deliberately eat more (healthy, keto-friendly foods, of course) over the next few weeks, particularly additional fats. Your goal during this period should be eating at your caloric maintenance.
What constitutes caloric maintenance will depend on your activity level. Apps like MyFitnessPal can help you calculate your maintenance calories based on how active you presently are. This way, when fasting begins, your body will have a highly revved up metabolic rate to accommodate the dramatic reduction of food intake.
I’ll be resuming the ShaykhKeto persona this Ramadan and will be offering more materials for best practices through Instagram. May these guidelines prove helpful in your fitness journey, and in your spiritual one. Ameen.
To access the author’s previous article, visit A Ketogenic Ramadan Experiment.
>Feature image courtesy of Flickr/rippchenmitkraut66.