Competitive athletes from around the world tell us how they stay in fighting shape while fasting for Ramadan.
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Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar — the month when God, according to Islamic belief, revealed the Qur'an and when Muslims observe the practice of fasting. To fast, they abstain from food, drink, smoking, and intimate relations from sunrise until sundown; this summer that time span can last over 18 hours. At sunset, family and friends gather to break their fasts, replenishing their spiritual selves.
There are exceptions for those who are sick, elderly, pregnant, nursing, or traveling. But for many amateur and professional athletes, who can't take time off from training or competition for the full 30 days, participating in the ritual can prove tricky.
So how do those in the world of sports stay observant? This isn't a new question, but there's still a lot of misinformation out there on the subject. BuzzFeed News interviewed 15 Muslim athletes to learn why they fast, how their bodies handle thirst and exhaustion — and how they navigate the intensity of this important month.
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Husain Abdullah is a former safety for the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. Since retiring, he’s become an author and public speaker. He's proudly demonstrated his faith on the field (Abdullah famously received a penalty for a celebratory post-touchdown prostration) and relied on it to get him through Ramadan, during which he would fast and train. Hard. Like, NFL hard. And, of course, he also tweaked his day-to-day lifestyle. “While I was playing in the NFL I had to adjust my diet, workouts, and sleep schedule. It took a lot of preparation but Allah guided me through,” he told BuzzFeed News. During Ramadan, Abdullah stays away from greasy, fatty, and heavily seasoned foods. He also cuts out sweets, desserts, caffeine, sodas, and juices high in sugar. In fact, his fluid intake is centered around performance, recovery, and staying as hydrated as possible. He drinks alkaline water and coconut water for hydration, and pickle juice, Gatorade, and Pedialyte to keep his electrolytes balanced.
Abdullah’s strategies and faith came through. During his third year in the NFL, Abdullah fasted through training camp, participating in two practices a day. He outplayed two other competitors to win the starting safety position for the Minnesota Vikings — all while he was fasting.