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Practicing on empty

Fatigued athletes face extra challenges as they skip meals for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

September 16, 2009|By Zain Shauk

Although most Muslims can adopt some healthy dietary practices to help them power through this year’s fasts of up to 15 daylight hours, athletes training at high levels of intensity may struggle regardless of how they eat before sunrise and after sunset, said Keri Gans, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn. and a registered dietitian.

“Unfortunately, dehydration is a common occurrence during a fast and especially if they’re exercising, so I just think they need to be aware,” Gans said of Muslim athletes. “If they start to not feel well, they need to listen to their bodies.”

Most of the draining effects of a Ramadan fast can be mitigated by eating balanced meals that include substantial quantities of lean carbohydrates that are high in fiber — like oats, barley or lentils — along with lean protein and a lot of fluids, Gans said.

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But even with those measures in place, fasting could present a danger for the most active athletes, Gans said.

“It is a conundrum,” she said.

Shadow Hills resident Salam Al-Marayati was concerned about the decision of his 15-year-old son, Zayd Al-Marayati, to play defensive back for La Cañada Flintridge Prep while fasting, particularly during “hell week,” he said.

“I was concerned because it’s twice a day,” said Salam Al-Marayati, who serves as executive director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “So I told him if it’s physically too much to go ahead, go break it if he can’t physically keep up with it, but that he would have to make up the days later.”

Although Adam admitted he has skipped fasts on game days, high temperatures and a regularly empty stomach has not been enough to make him go easy on the practice field, where he hopes to maintain his starting position and place as a team captain, he said.

“The way I see that, I feel like I’m abandoning my team,” he said. “I think it’s better that I be sitting out instead of going easy because if I’m not going hard, there’s plenty of other guys who can.”


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education, business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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