Training while fasting: Muslim MMA fighter describes his Ramadan regimen


BRISTOL, Connecticut -- A Muslim MMA fighter is sharing his story of what it is like to train for a fight while fasting for Ramadan.

Welterweight Belal Muhammad fought Brazil's Vicente Luque last year and won by unanimous decision, out-pointing Luque in the main event of UFC on ESPN 34 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

The fight happened during Ramadan, when, like many of the world's 2 billion observant Muslims, Muhammad was abstaining from food and drink between dawn and sunset.

Speaking with anchor Arda Ocal on ESPN's SportsCenter this week, Muhammad discussed what it was like to train, lift weights and cut weight while fasting.

"It's really hard, I'm not going to lie to you," Muhammad said.

But, Muhammad said, he's gone through the process multiple times and has gotten what works for him down to a routine.

WATCH: Belal Muhammad's complete interview with ESPN's Arda Ocal here:

"I usually wake up an hour before sunrise so I get a good meal in, so I get my liquids in, because I know I'm going to be sweating out a lot during the practices," said Muhammad.

Those liquids include Pedialyte and 1/2 to a full gallon of water. His meal includes proteins like eggs and turkey bacon, and carbs in the form of white potatoes or white rice.

And then that's it for food and drink for the rest of the daylight hours.

Muhammad rests a bit then trains for about two hours in late morning, then rests again. That's followed by weight training later in the afternoon, close to the time when he'll break his fast.

He breaks fast with a light meal - not too heavy, he says, because he has another training session ahead at night. He works to replenish all the liquids he's lost during the day's training session, then trains about an hour after eating that light meal.

"After that third session of the day, then I'm done. I go to the mosque. It's pray time," he said.

In the wide-ranging interview with ESPN's Ocal, Muhammad also described the process of cutting weight while fasting and discussed what his energy level was like during the five-round fight with Luque.

In the end, 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 you used to do," he said. "You're trying to bring yourself closer to God in general... so your mind is a lot more clear."

Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, began for most Muslim communities this year at sundown on Wednesday, March 22.

Fasting is obligatory for Muslims, except for the ill, pregnant, traveling, elderly and/or menstruating, according to National Geographic.

The fasting periods can range from 11 to 16 hours per day.

READ MORE | Ramadan 2023: How Muslims observe holiest month in Islamic calendar

Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, marked by fasting, reflection, charity and prayer.