Fasting during the month of Ramadan is good for the body and mind, but eating healthy at Suhur (meal before dawn) and Iftaar (meal after sunset) is as important. It is vital to maintain one’s health during Ramadan.
“On an average, the human body needs two to three litres of water daily and vitamins and minerals to keep the body energised. We have two meals a day with coffee or tea and tiffin in between. When fasting during Ramadan, there is a gap of 12 hours which in no way will affect the human body.
It is just that we skip hot caffeinated drinks and tiffin,” says Dr Ravindra. Cholesterol and uric acid levels are also elevated during this time as food and water consumption is limited. “Fasting increases uric acid and cholesterol levels.
The findings of a study related to Ramadan fasting among Muslims and similar situations among non-Muslims suggest that a high-fat diet which includes poly-unsaturated fat, may help in preventing elevation of cholesterol and uric acid levels and better retention of protein in the body,” says dietician Payal Banka.
Do it right
The diet should not differ too much from your normal diet. Payal has suggestions on how to stay fit.
• Don’t skip the meal before dawn even though the thought of sleep may be far more appealing. Suhur acts as the breakfast. For years, research has shown that breakfast provides essential nutrients and energy needed for concentration while keeping hunger symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness at bay.
• Foods eaten should be well-balanced, with a representation of each food group — fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread and dairy products.
• In view of the long hours of fasting, consume slow digesting foods including fibre containing foods rather than easily digested ones. Slow-digesting foods last up to eight hours, while fast-digesting foods last for only three to four hours.
Slow-digesting foods include grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet (bajra), semolina (suji), beans, lentils (dals), whole meal flour, etc (complex carbohydrates). Fast-burning foods are ones containing sugar like maida (refined carbohydrates).
• Eat complex carbohydrates during the meal before dawn (sehri or suhur) so that the food lasts longer, making you less hungry. Eat lots of protein. If you avoid carbohydrates and eat tons of protein, you will stop feeling hungry and end up eating less. And even if you eat tons of proteins, you will still lose weight. Eat chicken, lamb, eggs, and seafood.
• Eat fibre. Green, leafy vegetables are great for getting your system flowing. Have all the salads.
• Drink as much water or fruit juices as possible between iftar and bedtime so that the body can adjust fluid levels as needed.
• Almonds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and have multiple nutritional benefits. It helps in maintaining the blood cholesterol level as it contains mono-saturated fats and folic acid. It also compensates for all the lost energy and nutrients. They are rich in fibre. Like most other fibre-rich food, almonds also help in preventing constipation.
Make sure you drink enough water after eating almonds. The presence of manganese, copper and riboflavin in almonds helps in energy production and thus helps in dealing with hunger pangs.
• Engage in some kind of light exercise. Exercise, together with a balanced diet, should help everyone watch their weight. Anyone overweight should increase the amount of exercise and reduce the amount of food intake to help reduce weight.
What to avoid
• Intake of high sugar (table sugar, sucrose) foods through sweets or other forms. • Avoid spicy foods.
• Avoid caffeine drinks as caffeine is a diuretic. But not sudden reduction, as sudden decrease prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.
• Avoid smoking cigarettes. It disrupts utilisation of various vitamins, metabolites and enzyme systems.
‘Is it ok to exercise this month?
Continuing to exercise is a healthy way to enjoy Ramadan. It maintains mizan or balance. Balance is achieved when the spiritual, mental, and physical life is maintained.
Many people have stated that they gain weight during Ramadan. “This mainly occurs because once the fast is broken at night, you enjoy the food and sleep overtakes you.
The body systems slow and the components of food are stored during sleep. But if there is a committed effort to exercise during the day, then the food that is consumed will go toward muscle repair,” says Payal.
Best time to exercise
The best time to work out is right after the fast begins. During the morning meal, a person should eat light and healthy. Protein should be eaten to recover. However, you should avoid eating a lot of protein at night.
Eat a small portion of meat at night and a small portion in the morning or have a meat substitute, if you are vegetarian. These eating habits will provide you with enough energy to exercise for at least 30 minutes in the morning.
If working out in the morning is not an option, then working out at lunch time is the next best time to exercise. Exercising in the middle of the day helps restores energy.
Tips to stay active
• Adjust your fitness goals: If your goal is to lose weight, get stronger or simply to become more physically fit, put them on hold during this month. Make your goal simply to maintain your current standards.
Making fitness or weight loss improvements implies some kind of deficiency causes a reduction in energy, and often compromises the immune system. Both of these can affect your ability to fast.
• Reduce the intensity of your exercise: It will allow you to stay consistent in working out without overtaxing your energy reserve. The most important thing to do is to continue to exercise. Consistency is the key ingredient to maintaining your fitness level.
• Combine cardio and resistance training: If you normally do both cardio and resistance training as a part of your workout and can’t find the time then combine them both into a resistance training circuit. Doing this will allow you to build muscle and increase cardiovascular endurance in one workout.
Work our when it works
Choose a time when you have the most energy and it won’t compromise your fast. Whatever time of day or night your energy level allows you to expend extra calories without becoming fatigued is the best time of day for you to exercise.
► Eat complex carbohydrates during the meal before dawn so that the food lasts longer, making you less hungry. Eat lots of protein