Sport and Ramadan

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Religion is an institution that intersects with almost every aspect of daily life. This is true for people who follow a religious tradition and those who do not. The laws we have, when certain stores are open, when events are scheduled, currency, and historical sites all have religious ties.

Given religion’s reach, it is not surprising that it also affects sports participation. Sandy Koufax sat out Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. Brigham Young University, owned by the church of Latter Day Saints, does not participate in athletics on Sundays.

Religious observations also affect Muslim athletes, especially during Ramadan. During this holy time, Muslims will fast from sun up to sun down, as doing so is consistent with one of the five pillars of their faith.

But, how do Muslims who are participating in sports balance the grueling nature of training with their religious obligations for fasting?

Research from Roy Shephard of the University of Toronto, sheds light on this topic. Not surprisingly, he observed that athletes begin to fatigue in the afternoons, while alertness and reaction times also decrease.

There are options to offset these effects, though. One is to focus on optimizing a positive mood state through psychological training. Sleep is also important, as the effects of low food intake are offset by a full night’s rest. Diet intakes in the morning and evenings should include quality proteins, electrolytes, and plenty of fluids.

Coaches can also make changes. For example, when Ramadan falls during late summer, two-a-day football practices could be deadly. To counter this, coaches in Dearborn, Michigan, held their two-a-day practices throughout the evening. The result was increased safety and better team performance.