Fast times for 3000 Olympians

Last updated 12:00 03/08/2012

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Fasting for Ramadan does not necessarily put Muslim athletes at the London Olympics at a disadvantage, says a Massey University researcher.

Head of Massey's School of Sport and Exercise Associate Professor Steve Stannard said studies had shown athletes coped remarkably well while fasting.

More than 3000 Muslim athletes are competing at the London Olympics in the midst of Ramadan, the holy month where followers fast from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan this year runs from July 19 to August 18, taking in the whole of the Games. It is the first time in 32 years that Ramadan has occurred during the summer Olympics.

Researchers have never tested Ramadan-observing athletes during high-level competitions like the Olympics - and may never.

Dr Stannard has been involved in a number of research projects looking at the effect fasting has on factors such as dehydration, body composition and inflammation.

Laboratory-based studies suggested athletes cope remarkably well, and in power-based sports there seems to be little disadvantage.

In tests of pure strength Ramadan also had little effect, provided training was kept up during the fasting month, Dr Stannard said.

His research found participants adapted to the daily food restriction by increasing their ability to burn fat. “The daily fast, where they must tap into their body fat reserves each day, enables them to then better burn fat during exercise.

The Moroccan men's football squad has nine players observing Ramadan, but 13 have postponed it.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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