Ramadan 2023: Muslim MMA fighter Belal Muhammad talks about what it’s like to train while fasting in Ramadan
BRISTOL, Connecticut — A Muslim MMA fighter shares his story of what it’s like to train for a fight while fasting for Ramadan.
Welterweight Belal Muhammad fought Brazilian Vicente Luque last year and won by unanimous decision, edging out Luque in the main event of UFC on ESPN 34 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The fight took place during Ramadan, when, like many of the world’s 2 billion practicing Muslims, Muhammad refrained from eating and drinking between dawn and sunset.
Speaking to presenter Arda Ocal on ESPN’s SportsCenter this week, Muhammad explained what it was like to train, lift weights and lose weight while fasting.
“It’s really difficult, I’m not going to lie to you,” Muhammad said.
But, Muhammad said, he went through the process several times and reduced what works for him to a routine.
WATCH: Belal Muhammad’s full interview with ESPN’s Arda Ocal here:
“I usually wake up an hour before sunrise, so I’m having a good meal, so I’m getting my fluids in, because I know I’m going to sweat a lot during workouts,” Muhammad said.
These liquids include Pedialyte and 1/2 to a gallon of water. His meal includes protein like eggs and turkey bacon, and carbohydrates in the form of white potatoes or white rice.
And then that’s it for food and drink for the rest of the day.
Muhammad rests for a bit then trains for about two hours in the late morning, then rests again. This is followed by strength training later in the afternoon, close to when he will break his fast.
He breaks the fast with a light meal – not too heavy, he says, as he has another training session ahead of him at night. He works to replenish all the fluids he lost during the day’s workout, then trains for about an hour after eating that light meal.
“After this third session of the day, I’m done. I’m going to the mosque. It’s prayer time,” he said.
In the wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Ocal, Muhammad also described the process of cutting weight while fasting and discussed his energy levels during the five-round fight with Luque.
Ultimately, Muhammad said, perhaps the biggest benefit of fasting for him is psychological, a sentiment shared by other Muslims.
“Mentally, I’m in a different place during Ramadan because you’re not just fasting from food and water, you’re fasting from a lot of the negative things that you were doing before,” he said. “You try to get closer to God in general…to make your mind much clearer.”
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam, began this year for most Muslim communities at sunset on Wednesday, March 22.
Fasting is compulsory for Muslims, except for people who are sick, pregnant, travelling, elderly and/or menstruating, according to National Geographic.
Fasting periods can vary from 11 to 16 hours a day.
LEARN MORE | Ramadan 2023: How Muslims observe the holiest month in the Islamic calendar