Another month, another write up for Femina ME. This month I advise you on how to keep active, fit and healthy during the fasting months of Ramadan. If you live in Dubai you’ll know all about it!
The Holy Month of Ramadan is here, and while this is a special time of religious introspection, it needn’t be a time in which your health & fitness falls away. We know it can get difficult, especially during the peak of summer. Follow these tips to ensure your Ramadan is a healthy one.
- Stay active
While I certainly don’t suggest over-exerting yourself, it is important to commit to doing a small amount of moderate exercise daily, preferably just after Suhoor or once you have broken your fast for the day.
Dr. Santosh Kumar Sharma, Medical Director at NMC Hospital, DIP in Dubai recommends taking out at least thirst minutes per day for physical exercise. Your goal during Ramadan should be to maintain your fitness levels. It is very easy to slip into not doing any exercise at all, and then what was the point of all those gruelling hours at the gym when after 4 weeks you would have lost it all? According to Hannah Mich, who has her Bachelor of Science in exercise science, says that it takes about 14 days to start losing your hard-earned fitness gains.
If you are used to heavy weight lifting, I would recommend giving it a rest during the fasting season because your muscles won’t be receiving enough protein and the required nutrition for your muscles to perform at their very best. Lower the weights and at least just maintain your muscle mass. Aim to maintain and not to gain!
Remember that exercising not only increases your fitness levels but also makes a huge difference in your mood and the way you feel. You may find this is what keeps you motivated throughout your fasting month. There is nothing better than a handful of post-workout endorphins!
- Don’t skip meals
Never skip meals, especially the Suhoor meal. The extra sleep isn’t worth skipping your most important meal of the day. Start by eating the right foods at the right times. Eating slow-releasing carbs; such as oat meal, brown rice, beans & whole grains; as you wake up will give you lasting energy throughout the day and can help you feel fuller for longer. Eggs, fish & meat are also a great way to begin the day and if you’re still hungry after that turn to fruit. If you don’t have a large appetite early in the morning then dates, nuts and almond milk are recommended.
Dr. Anselma Ferrao, Medical Director at Brightpoint Royal Women’s Hospital in Abu Dhabi, agrees saying “Sahoor should be a wholesome, filling meal, that provides enough energy to see you through the day. Go for high-fibre foods and complex carbohydrates, such as grains and pulses. You body takes longer to break down and absorb these foods, so they will fuel you better during your hours of fasting.”
Not only will the right foods help you feel energised throughout the day, but also sustain even blood sugar levels.
- Stay hydrated
This is by far the biggest worry we have during the fasting month and sounds impossible to do during Ramadan.
So how do you keep hydrated? It all comes down to good food and drink choices. Make sure you drink plenty of water between Iftar and Suhoor, and avoid diuretic substances like coffee, tea and soda, as these will leave you feeling dehydrated and tired. Caffeine percolates calcium from your system, which makes you feel less full all the time. Avoid drinking tea at Suhoor, as tea increases salt excretion in your urine, which your body needs during fasting. Rather stick to water and if you are feeling more dehydrated than normal, try adding a slice of cucumber, lime, strawberries or mint to your water, which will add to the taste too.
If you can take in 10 glasses of water (about 1.5 litres) from sunset to sunrise, you should be able to maintain a normal level of hydration.
Remember that the need to stay hydrated is vital to your health!
Dr. C. R. Shetty adds, “Due to reduced amounts of water intake in the month of Ramadan, one may become prone to kidney stones. Ensure that you drink ample water before starting your fast and after breaking it.”
- Avoid junk foods
Sugar is the devil, and even more so during Ramadan. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you are not eating regular meals that you can get away with more sugar. Your body will end up storing the sugar as fat, increase cholesterol levels and make you gain weight. Sugar can cause a number of health problems too, such as indigestion and heartburn, especially on an empty stomach. A rapid rise in your blood sugar level will lead to an excess of insulin being released into the blood. This gobbles up glucose and a few hours later you may begin to feel weak, miserable and extra sluggish. If you’re craving something sweet, dark chocolate is the answer and is known as a ’good mood’ food. It is rich in antioxidants and serotonin, which is the hormone of happiness. Dark chocolate is your ‘healthy sweet’.
Because fasting can often increase gastric acidity levels in the stomach, it is also very important to avoid fried foods, very spicy foods and foods that are high in salt. Too much salt makes your body retain water and can make you feel very bloated and uncomfortable, while spicy foods induce thirst.
Try think “wholesome, organic, fresh foods”. Anything in a can or packet is not going to sustain you.
- Get enough sleep
You will no doubt be feeling more lethargic than usual during Ramadan. Try getting into a sleeping routine that works for you-and do this as quickly as possible. Initially it will be a challenge to change your natural sleeping patterns. So why not start before Ramadan? Sleeping after Isha and waking up for tahajjud prayers before Ramadan is a good training exercise to help your body get used to the shift in sleeping patterns, and will also mentally prepare you for the change.
One of the best things you can do during Ramadan to ensure you aren’t neglecting your shut-eye hours is to take power naps during the day. These naps should be between 20-30 minutes, just enough time to boost your energy levels and keep you going for the rest of your fasting hours. If a bed is not in striding distance, closing your eyes for 10-15 minutes in a quiet room is just as beneficial!
- Don’t forget your vitamins
Fasting or not, Vitamins should be a part of your daily intake. Unless you are only eating foods from the ground you more than likely won’t be getting in all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. The top nutrients to look out for are Vitamins C, B-complex, zinc, E and A. Vitamins C, A, E and zinc are all antioxidants and do wonders for your body. Vitamin B will help control your mood and give you an extra energy boost.
While it’s important to feed your body with vitamins please remember that the time you take your vitamins is very important too. You cannot take your vitamins on an empty stomach as this can cause nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, which is what we are looking to avoid, especially during the fasting month!
According to Jill Corleone, a registered dietician, it is best to take your supplements directly after eating to ease discomfort and limit side effects.
You may want to try vitamins in liquid form for easier digestion. A basic multivitamin that provides 100% of the daily intake is perfect.
Make Ramadan a time of reflection and introspection, a time to focus on inner strength and self-discipline, and an opportunity to break bad habits and start good ones. Let Ramadan bring about changes that will last a lifetime. Be safe and healthy this season – Ramadan Kareem!
Happy, Healthy Regards,