Over the last few weeks we have been exploring the journey taken by Taz Nadeem and his coach, Mark Brine, during Ramadan. This week I interviewed the owner of pH Nutrition, Liam Holmes, and discussed how Taz’s nutrition plan was altered during Ramadan. pH Nutrition is a nutrition company which works with a wide range of clients from the general public, to footballers, singers and CrossFit Games athletes to name just a few. The pH Nutrition team consists of Liam Holmes, Tom Atkinson and myself.
How long have you been working with Taz?
We have been working with Taz for nearly a year now. As the owner of pH Nutrition, I have been overseeing Taz’s plan with Lucy Majury (me) being the lead nutritionist working with him.
Did you know much about Ramadan before Taz mentioned that he was going to be taking part in it?
Yes, I had some knowledge due to previous clients but there are small variations depending on where in the world you live. I knew of the restrictions in eating times and food choices but was not aware of the prayer times and how they changed over the course of Ramadan.
Due to Liam’s extensive experience as a nutritionist in professional sport he had worked with footballers and various other athletes who had trained through Ramadan before. Liam says “Ramadan is something that has a huge impact on every person involved especially the athlete and how they are able to train and their performance during this time.” Similarly to Taz footballers usually found Ramadan fell during the preseason phase of training which was not always the most convenient time to have to battle extra hurdles. Due to Liam’s previous experience he was able to use this to help guide me in building Taz’s nutrition plan.
What are some of the common implications of Ramadan?
Some common issues that arise are that of dehydration during training, poor recovery due to lack of sleep and increase perceived exertion for training sessions. This is on top of the obvious restriction in calories which contribute to energy and weight issues. However, we used the latest research, coupled with our experience, to put the best plan in place for Taz.
What was Taz’z plan like before Ramadan?
Taz had been working with Lucy for a number of months so we had built some good habits based on whole foods, specific workout nutrition strategies and increasing the nutrient density of his diet. We had to ween him off some of the protein bars! We had started to increase calories before to try and pre-empt the drop in weight and calories he experienced during Ramadan
How did you have to change Taz’s plan for Ramadan?
Taz’s initial plan was based around using his current meals as a starting point and manipulating them to fit in with timings and meals with his family. We wanted Taz to be eating with his family and enjoy the food – not just be having a smoothie whilst everyone else is tucking into the family buffet! However, there were certain meals that we made non-negotiable.
During Ramadan we did encounter some issues with eating the amount of food in a short period of time. We also had to educate Taz a little on some of the better foods to choose and foods to avoid when eating “off plan”. It was more about finding a balance as opposed to a strict regime.
Liam and I had to alter Taz’s plan a few times during Ramadan to find out what worked best for him and tweak things when they were not working. Liam is confident that after the first week of Ramadan the team had the correct plan in place for Taz.
For Liam changing anything on Taz’s plan that was not working was imperative. A professional athlete must have a plan that works individually for them and their life at the time. This was even more imperative during Ramadan as Taz was experiencing lower energy levels, increased muscle soreness and a reduction in sleep. If Taz had a few days where he did not sleep or felt really fatigued we had to adjust to help support the recovery from this. We also adapted his plan based on the training sessions that CrossFit JST were programming for him.
How did you monitor Taz and know if the plan was working?
We had a group chat with Mark, Lucy and myself which we used to get feedback. Taz then spoke to Lucy most days and we would discuss this as a group to come to a conclusion that worked.
What would you change next year?
I think we are better equipped to deal with the challenges we had with certain sessions and fuelling these effectively. We also know now which meals worked and which were a struggle to get in. The issue is that Taz is a beast so just gets on with everything and doesn’t complain!
Any other comments?
We are all going to regionals 2018.