How Will Ramadan Fasting Affect Muslim Olympic Athletes?



Doping, bad calls by Olympic judges, those teeny-tiny Chinese gymnasts everyone thought were underage... the threat of unfair advantages on a worldwide playing field are just some of the things that rile people up during a season ripe with Olympic fever. But, for some of the top athletes competing at the 2012 Olympics, their potential disadvantage is religion. That's because the entire two-and-a-half week long Olympic competition occurs during the month of Ramadan, a holy period when observing Muslims traditionally abstain from eating or drinking anything between sunrise and sunset

While the month-long fast is intended to cleanse one's soul and redirect one's focus inward, empty bellies don't make the best scenario for Muslim competitors — and with 3,500 of them joining in on the worldwide athletic showdown, that's not a negligible percentage of hopefuls (we're thinking around 3 percent, based on last years numbers). The Olympic Village will be serving food 24 hours a day to accommodate observant Olympians once the sun goes down, but some athletes affected by the overlap have already worked out other ways to fulfill their spiritual needs without hindering the success of their life-long dreams. 

From Egyptian athletes given special permission to eat and drink throughout the competition to one British rower donating 1,800 meals to those less fortunate to uphold Ramadan's emphasis on charity, Olympians are working hard to find ways to partake in the holy month while still sustaining proper athletic nutrition. And, with the Koran containing a passage that allows time for travelers more than a "camel ride away from home" to adjust the month-long ritual, some, too, are putting their duties off until they return and are out of the athletic spotlight.

Some athletes however, like Palestine's first-ever Olympic contender Maher Abu Rmeileh, will be fasting throughout the duration of his Judo competition. And surprisingly enough, one study shows that depending on athletic prowess and body composition, tummy-grumbling might not affect an athlete's performance all too much. Either way, to have to choose between personal faith and a life's work to meet the common goal of perfection? That's a toughie. (Time)

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Photo: Via Time