Don’t feast after your fast - How to stay healthy during Ramadan!
During the long, hot, summer Dubai days of a ‘Healthy Ramadan’ self discipline is important for selecting food & drinks wisely. The longest day of fasting this year can be up to 15 hours! It is therefore important to plan your meals ahead of time to ensure you include adequate nutrients, hydration and rest. Try to stay as close as possible to your normal eating habits (portion & foods) to avoid blood sugar spikes.
How to avoid putting on weight during Ramadan
The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to lose one of those extra kgs whilst your metabolism is getting an overhaul from fasting. The first few days of weight loss are from dehydration (water loss) but if you follow these tips it could lead to weight loss:
When you fast your body goes into starvation mode and stores fat as it does not know when its next meal will come. Therefore if you binge eat (too much, too fast) your body will store a lot of this as fat. This is due to the body secreting a large amount of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. The excess from this will be stored as fat.
Avoid high fat, high sugar foods
Eat small, well balanced meals after sunset and pre-dawn to maintain blood sugar levels and speed up metabolism
Do not skip Suhoor (breakfast before Dawn) - this meal is crucial to get through 14 hours+ of fasting
Suhoor - Pre-Dawn Meal
It’s tough to get up this early but this is the most important meal of the day as you will not eat or drink for the next 14 hours! Try not to overeat - this meal should be ‘slow energy releasing & filling’, providing energy to get you through from Dawn - Dusk. Consume foods rich in Low GI Complex Carbohydrates (slow digesting), proteins, fruit & vegetables, & drink lots of water. Best food choices are oats, eggs, lean meats, legumes, raw nuts & seeds, yoghurt with 1 fruit. Eg. 2 poached eggs or omelette with spinach & tomatoes, 1 slice wholegrain toast with avocado & smoked salmon, 3 glasses of water
Iftar- Healthiest foods to break the fast at sunset
It is important to bring your fluids and blood sugar levels up slowly. It is customary to break the fast (after Sunnah) with dates which give a spike in blood sugar and a burst of energy. Therefore ensure you drink plenty of water before the dates to rehydrate and ‘fill up’ so that you don’t overindulge.
Eat little & often rather than one large meal. After the Maghrib prayer (early evening) start with something light like a vegetable soup & salad. Follow up with a protein packed dinner such as Chicken or fish with salad or vegetables. Lower calorie vegetables to include are celery, lettuce, onions, spinach & broccoli. An ideal dessert or snack could be a choice of fruit such as 1 cup berries, a peach, 2 apricots or an apple, with a small handful of raw nuts & seeds to supplement.
Drink a freshly squeezed fruit & vegetable juice (for vitamins & minerals) - add coconut water - this contains electrolytes to replace any lost salts. Throughout the evening drink water only to stay hydrated - avoid coffee, tea & sodas.
Try not to eat after Isha (around 9.30pm) as this is close to your sleep time and does not allow food to be properly digested. If you must have snack perhaps some plain yoghurt or hommus and vegetable sticks.
Foods to avoid
Refined Carbohydrates which are found mostly in processed foods & take away - high fat, high sugar, baked goods & deep fried foods. ie. cakes, biscuits, muffins, chocolates, sweets, bread, potatoes, white pasta, white rice (these will all give you a burst of energy and then leave you feeling tired and hungry as they lack nutrients to satisfy you).
Considering Ramadan gives you a taste of hardship (rather than a taste for feasting) it shouldn’t be difficult to forgo a sweet treat ;) A small portion once a week is ok for the traditional Ramadan ice creams & sweet rice puddings but remember ‘self control’.
Exercise During Ramadan
During fasting your body becomes dehydrated & your metabolism slows down, therefore your goal is to maximize your metabolism & preserve your muscle mass. For these reasons its crucial that you maintain your usual exercise routine to avoid strength and fitness regression.
If you are struggling try lowering the intensity or duration of exercise. Mix it up between cardio and weights to preserve lean muscle tissue. Exercise such as walking, weight training, cross trainer or exercise bike (at least 20 minutes) is best done before sunset & into the evening so that you can replace your energy stores soon after (at Iftar). During the hottest part of the day stay indoors or in the shade and limit physical activity - this should be rest time.
If you have an illness such as Diabetes consult your Doctor before exercising during Ramadan.
Sleep patterns for Ramadan
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise”.... Isha is around 9.30pm so it’s still possible to get a good nights sleep. We are not nocturnal so alternating our sleep patterns during Ramadan is not good for our health. You should aim to get sufficient sleep at night that does not differ too much from your usual amount and add a short sleep during the day (where possible). This is crucial for your energy levels.
How to Ease the fasting process
Prepare yourself mentally - schedule daily routine around work, sleep & rest. Eat healthy foods ‘little & often’ rather than large meals.
Drink at least 2 litres of water
Keep a healthy balance of Proteins, Vegetables, Fruits & Low GI carbohydrates Eat slowly & mindfully
Keep yourself busy to take your mind off eating
After Eid Mubarak
Ramadan is a fantastic time to stop bad habits and start new ones. Healthy Living is a way of life, not a temporary diet plan, so think of food as your medicine...‘EAT WELL TO LIVE WELL.’