The holy month of Ramadan has started. This month requires our Muslim brothers to abstain from eating food, drinking, and doing a number of other behavioral, leisure, and pleasurable habits from sunrise to sunset. While the latter is a rather easy thing to do, abstinence from food and drink is where usually the struggle begins, especially during the first few days of Ramadan.
Fasting tests and enhances the endurance levels of your body and eating healthy food and having a work out regimen additionally helps strengthen and shape your body. I'm a non-Muslim but since I've been living in the UAE, I practise abstinence as a sign of respect to our Muslim brothers. I've also been in the fitness industry for years now, so I've come up with these 5 ways for staying fit and healthy which will hopefully help ease the challenges one may be faced with during Ramadan.
1. EAT WELLJust like any other fasting practices, the reduced number of meals dramatically alters your daily diet. Your metabolism will slow down due to less frequent meals. Maintaining energy levels during Ramadan is essential to avoid getting sick while observing the traditional fasting.
Ramadan is usually accompanied by oily food and sweets especially during the early morning meal (Suhoor) and the breaking of fast in the evening (Iftar). To make matters worse, portions are unusually large so some people give in to the temptation of overeating and consuming oily foods.
It's okay to replenish during Suhoor and Iftar but the key to a healthy meal is portion control and choosing what you eat. Consume healthy foods and drinks during Iftar and Suhoor. This way you will have more energy to carry you through the day as you fast. Taking into account that the fast may last for a period of up to 12 hours, or even more, it is also important to include foods that have a low glycemic index (GI). These foods are slow-energy releasing foods such as grains, seeds, wheat, oats, beans, and rice.
It is also important to stick to a balanced diet. Make sure to have portions of carbohydrates (such bananas, fruits, vegetables, and dates), proteins (such as lamb, chicken, and fish), and fats (such as nuts avocado, and yogurt) in your Iftar plate.
2. DRINK WATERA lot of it! Fasting or not, it is recommended to drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. Dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight results in impaired physiological responses and performance. Dehydration can cause dizziness, headaches, lethargy, muscle cramps, and even fainting, so staying hydrated is extremely important during Ramadan.
Try consuming as much water as possible when you have your early morning meal (Suhoor) and after you break your fast in the evening (Iftar). You can also drink fresh fruit juices or eat fruits and vegetables with high water content. This will help keep you properly hydrated.
3. KEEP EXERCISINGThe best time to work out is one hour just after Iftar. This way, your energy and hydration levels are boosted as the nutrients in the body are already replenished. It is also okay to exercise while fasting, but make sure to keep your exercises brief, say between 30-45 minutes. With the workout time now shortened it is best to still maintain intensity when exercising to make every inch of your movement matter.
High-intensity interval trainings are also advisable. This will properly utilize the fats in your body and will help improve insulin sensitivity especially to the diabetics or those who have sedentary lifestyles. You can run on the treadmill and keep intensity in intervals of say 2-minute walk, 1 minute sprint, then so on.
4. GET ENOUGH SLEEPWhile sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. With Ramadan being in the summer, the time between Suhoor and Iftar may only be 7-8 hours, or even less.
If you can’t take advantage of the full 7-8 hours sleep between meals, power naps during the day would be a great help. Energy levels will be low due to lack of food and hydration, so you’ll need to take advantage of all the energy you can get from sleep.
5. DO HEALTHY FASTINGFasting through the day will exhaust all your energy and water levels. So make sure to reserve energy by staying out of direct sunlight especially during noontime. Avoid unnecessary activities or movements that will use up energy, like running or lifting. Stay in cold places to avoid dehydration.
Spiritual rewards for fasting are believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan. And although the main focus of Ramadan is to enhance one’s spiritual strength, being healthy, both mind and body, should also not be neglected.
You can stay fit and healthy even during Ramadan if you set realistic goals, know when to exercise, and remain attentive to what you eat. Keep in mind that in whatever you plan to do, consistency is the key. So just be disciplined and consistent, as hard as you can, throughout the 30 days of Ramadan, and you're sure to maintain a fit and healthy you. Ramadan Kareem!
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5. Bukhari-Ibn-Ismail, AbdAllah-Muhammad. "Sahih Bukhari - Book 031 (The Book of Fasting), Hadith 125.". hadithcollection.com. Retrieved 25 July 2012.