Mena Mahmoud Qualifies for Individual Semifinals While Observing Ramadan, Ranks Top for Egyptian Athletes
From March 22 to April 20, Muslims worldwide observed Ramadan, a holy time of fasting and spiritual growth. During this time, those who were healthy fasted, abstaining from water and food from dawn until after sunset.
For Mena Mahmoud, this time of fasting and reflection fell over an important step in her CrossFit career: Individual Quarterfinals.
- While fasting 14 hours a day, Mahmoud qualified for the Individual Semifinals and ranked at the top of the leaderboard for Egyptian athletes.
How she did it: Tyler Millstein, Mahmoud’s coach, planned to keep her training during Ramadan centered on quality, skill, and tempo work, saying that this period of fasting was not a time to push it. When coaching other athletes through Ramadan, he explained, some take the whole month off, while others come in and move the best they can, hoping they don’t faint.
With Quarterfinals, however, Mahmoud didn’t have a choice in the intensity or timing of her workouts.
- “A big [challenge] is that you’re very hungry, and you want to eat these huge meals, but then you go into some pretty cardiovascular intense workouts,” Millstein said.
- “We could play around with the order, but at the end of the day, they all had to be done in certain time frames. You could do the last workout first, but you still had to get the rest done in that time window,” he added.
- “I had to wait for the sunset, break the fast with a protein bar or something light, then jump to the Quarterfinals workouts, perform them, and submit all the videos in two hours because they had to be in at 9 PM,” Mahmoud explained.
Nutritionally, Mahmoud focused on getting the most out of the two meals she could eat a day—one at 11 PM and another at 3 AM—and staying hydrated.
- “That meal before the 14-hour fast I had to make the biggest meal of my day. That meal gave me power for the day,” she said.
- “While breaking my fast, I tried to compensate for the amount of water I lost in my training (if I trained before breaking fast in the evening) and the 14-hour fast.”
- “I also cut out food that can make me thirsty, like high-fat food, sweets, and desserts,” she explained.
Throughout the competition, Millstein was intent on keeping Mahmoud mentally locked in for any movements that could be an issue. Going through such intense workouts on little food and rest could be a recipe for disaster.
- Last year, Mahmoud qualified for Individual Semifinals, but during training (which occurred during Ramadan), she suffered an injury to her back.
Meeting her goals: For Mahmoud, Individual Quarterfinals were not about reaching new PRs, but maintaining her level.
- “My main goal was to maintain my level and my strength and not lose muscle. It’s so hard to go for PRs during fasting,” she said
- “The first week of Ramadan, I couldn’t even lift, for a snatch, like 25 pounds. It was so hard. But, you get used to training while fasting.”
- Mahmoud was particularly proud of Quarterfinals workout one, which included a 185-pound snatch.
Millstein says they checked off Mahmoud’s two goals for the Quarterfinals stage: making it back to Semifinals as an individual and getting to the top of the leaderboard in Egypt.
- “I can’t emphasize enough how impressive it is for her to do that,” Millstein said. “Most members, if they don’t get six hours of sleep, they say ‘Oh, I’m too tired to workout today.’”
“It’s seriously impressive as the fortitude [she] had — [she] did those workouts after a day of no water and no food. It was insane.”