Effects of Ramadan upon fluid and food intake, fatigue, and physical, mental, and social activities: a comparison between the UK and Libya.

Original article


Waterhouse J, Alkib L, Reilly T.

Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

Chronobiol Int. 2008 Sep;25(5):697-724.


Two studies were performed during Ramadan, one in the UK (N=31) and the other in Libya (N=33). The aims were to assess some changes to lifestyle that are produced by fasting as well as effects due to culture. Subjects were studied on eight separate occasions: four control days (two before and two after Ramadan) and four days during the four weeks of Ramadan itself. A questionnaire was answered that asked about naps and fluid and food intake. The questions elicited if an individual had slept, drank, or eaten, plus the reasons for doing or not doing so. Also, subjects were asked to describe their physical, mental, and social activities, their fatigue, and their perceived abilities to perform physical or mental work. The questionnaire was answered five times per day: at sunrise, at 10:00 h, at 14:00 h, at sunset, and on retiring to sleep at night. Urine samples were collected at sunset and measured for osmolality. Differences between control and Ramadan days, as well as between subjects studied in UK and Libya, were assessed by analysis of variance. Correlations between fatigue and physical, mental, and social activities were also assessed, as were differences in urine osmolality. Fasting during Ramadan resulted in fewer activities and increased fatigue and frequency of napping during daytime. Changes in fluid and food intake indicated some degree of preparation for fasting before sunrise and a marked “recuperation” from fasting after sunset. The reasons given for napping in the daytime, for drinking or not drinking, and for eating or not eating, changed during Ramadan compared with control days; as a result, links between fatigue and activities, and fatigue and fluid and food intake, were all altered during Ramadan, particularly after sunset. Subjects become dehydrated during the daytime, but this was not reduced when females who were menstruating drank during this time. Several differences between the two studies were found. There was a greater frequency of napping during the daytime in the Libya study, and evidence for the conservation of energy during the daytime and reduced physical, mental, and social activities. Subjects’ preparations for fasting and recovering from it–their fluid and food intakes and associated reasons for these–also differed. Possible explanations of these differences are discussed.

Keywords: Fasting; Thirst; Hunger; Sleepiness; Ramadan

Link/DOI: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/07420520802397301