The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Ramadan fasting on body composition, aerobic exercise performance and blood lactate, heart rate and perceived exertion in regularly trained young soccer players. Sixteen male soccer players participated in this study. Mean age, stature, body mass and training age of the players were 17.4±1.2 years, 175.4±3.6 cm, 69.6±4.3 kg and 5.1±1.3 years, respectively. During the Ramadan period, all subjects voluntarily chose to follow the fasting guidelines and abstained from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Body composition, hydration status, dietary intake and sleep duration were assessed on four occasions: before Ramadan, at the beginning of Ramadan, at the end of Ramadan and 2 weeks after the end of Ramadan. On each occasion, aerobic exercise performance and blood lactate, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion responses of players were also determined during an incremental running test. Repeated measures of ANOVA revealed that body mass, percentage of body fat, fat-free mass, hydration status, daily sleeping time and daily energy and macronutrient intake of players did not vary significantly throughout the study period (p>0.05). However, players experienced a small but significant decrease in skinfold thicknesses over the course of the study (p<0.05). Although ratings of perceived exertion at submaximal workloads increased during Ramadan (p<0.05), blood lactate and heart rate responses had decreased by the end of Ramadan (p<0.05). In line with these changes, peak running performance and running velocity at anaerobic threshold also improved by the end of Ramadan (p<0.05). Improvements in aerobic exercise performance with time were probably due to the effects of pre-season training program that was performed after the break of the fast (Iftar) during the month of Ramadan. The results of the present study suggest that if regular training regimen, body fluid balance, daily energy intake and sleep duration are maintained as before Ramadan, Ramadan fasting does not have detrimental effects on aerobic exercise performance or body composition in young soccer players.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.