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Ramadan fasts are part of intense training for Illinois wheelchair athlete

University of Illinois student athlete Hoda Elshorbagy trains while preparing to compete in a full marathon in wheelchair racing. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

URBANA – Halfway through the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the globe are fasting from sunrise until sunset.

In Urbana, one Muslim woman fasts while she trains up to two times a day. She came from Egypt alone to be able alongside Paralympic medalists.

University of Illinois student athlete Hoda Elshorbagy is preparing to compete in a full marathon in wheelchair racing. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

Hoda Elshorbagy dreams of being the first Egyptian woman to compete in a full marathon in wheelchair racing, and she isn’t going to let fasting be a hindrance.

“I don’t like to change my training because of Ramadan. I can do my training when I’m fasting with no problem,” said Elshorbagy. 

Even without working out, nutritionists say that fasting can lead to fatigue and unwanted weight loss.

“The body doesn’t like going without food, right?” said Dua Aldasouqi, a registered nutritionist. “So it’s a stressor on the body, and then you multiply that, and you add in more stressors, it’s problematic.” 

Not many Muslims have the same endurance or willpower as Elshorbagy does to fast all day without some difficulty. So, how does she do it? 

“For someone that is more of like, you know, an endurance athlete … their bodies are more adapt to the stress,” said Aldasouqi.

University of Illinois student athlete Hoda Elshorbagy is training to compete in a full marathon in wheelchair racing. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

As a Muslim and an athlete, Ellshorbagy has gotten used to the kind of stress these things put on her body.

She also has catered her diet to best support her body through training and fasting. 

Aldasouqi puts an emphasis on people filling their meals with complex carbs, protein, high-calorie foods, and lots of water while fasting to support the body. 

Elshorbagy said she makes an effort to get all those nutrients in her body.  

“I cook fish [and] pasta,” said Elshorbagy. “I’m trying to focus on complex carbs, so it helps me with training during the day.” 

She said she hadn’t had any problem with training or fasting, but she does miss her family. 

“This is like the hardest part is being away from my family. But I talked to them each day, and like we celebrate Ramadan through the internet.” said Elshorbagy. 

However, she said that making her family proud by achieving her dreams is what gives her the willpower to get through it, and God gives her strength. 

“Allah is the one that gives me strengths, and that’s what gives me energy during Ramadan,” said Elshorbagy. 

University of Illinois student athlete Hoda Elshorbagy came from Egypt alone to train alongside Paralympic medalists. (Mae Antar/IPM News)
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