Diet, food & cooking

A Healthy Ramadan

People often ask “ how can I workout and eat properly during Ramadan? ”, Most people see the blessed month of Ramadan as a time when they will lose strength and muscle mass; some think they can only “maintain” themselves during this month, while many women actually gain weight! In order to answer the previous question we need to understand how fasting affects the body; during fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body uses its stores of carbohydrate (stored in the liver and muscles) and fat to provide energy once all the calories from the foods consumed during the night have been used up. The body cannot store water and so the kidneys conserve as much water as possible by reducing the amount lost in urine. However, the body cannot avoid losing some water when you go to the toilet, through your skin and when you breathe and when you sweat if it is warm, so it’s all about maximizing nutrient uptake, maintaining proper hydration, and of course PREPARATION – if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!

What should I eat at Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)?

Suhoor meal should include more slow digesting foods which last for many hours and help reduce the hunger feeling as protein and fiber.

  • Suhoor meal should not be heavy, as most of the people tend to go back to sleep after consuming it.
  • Avoid high sodium foods like soups, sauces, condiments, processed meats and pickles as high sodium can cause greater dehydration plus increase thirst during the day.
  • The best food for Suhoor meal is:
    • A cup of low fat milk or yogurt.
    • 2 slices of whole wheat bread or 1 cup of oat meal.
    • Low fat cheese.
    • Fresh fruit (like a banana or guava as they contain a good amount of potassium to delay dehydration).
    • A cup of cooked lentils or beans.
    • 1-2 eggs.

What is the best food to start my Iftar (breaking the fast meal) with?

The wisdom in Islam is never ending. We break our fast with dates and water but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrient content. They contain very high levels of potassium (much more than a banana), a key re-hydration mineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhances hydration above and beyond water alone. They contain a special blend of glucose and fructose for short and long term energy. They also have a special nutrient called beta D-glucan that is a soluble fiber that can enhance satiety and digestive health. So basically when you eat a date and water for iftar your body gets hydrated again much faster than with water alone.

Why do I feel sleepy after eating my Iftar meal?

Many people feel sleepy after consuming their Iftar meals. This is due to:

  • Consuming large amount of food and beverages in a short period of time, this disturbs the natural digestive system mechanisms. It requires to be gently alerted by a small “starting” meal.
  • Consuming heavy and fatty meals.
  • Sleeping after Iftar meal, this disturbs the natural digestion process which requires a person to be awake. It is better to stay awake for 2-3 hours after Iftar.

To avoid it:

  • Take 3 pieces of dates and a cup of warm low fat soup and pray.
  • Then you could have your Iftar meal considering:
    • Do not consume a lot of food at one time.
    • Chew your food well.
    • Make your meal low fat (avoid fried food and use lean meat or skinless chicken or baked fish) and if you wish to eat samboosa; eat it baked, not fried.
    • Do not overfeed yourself.
  • Drink fluids between the Iftar & Suhoor meals; not with or immediately after the Iftar meal.
  • Walk for 30 min after your meal. Wait for 2-3 hours before any exercise activities.

What should I eat at Iftar meal?

Your Iftar meal should be well-balanced, nutritious, and low in fat.
Meal’s Contents:

  • 1-3 pieces of dates.
  • 1 cup of low fat soup (vegetables on grains) or 1 cup of low fat milk.
  • One cup of steamed rice or pasta.
  • One cup of salad.
  • One cup of cooked vegetables.
  • One portion of lean meat (150 gram cooked), ¼ chickens without skin or baked fish (150 gram cooked).
  • 1-2 baked samboosa.
  • You can have fruits, vegetables, and low fat yogurt or milk, as a snack.
  • Remember to drink adequate fluids (especially water) between Iftar and Suhoor meals.
  • What is the best timing for exercise in Ramadan and what do you recommend?

The best time to do a weight-training workout is NOT while fasting. This can create way too much muscle breakdown and cause a significant rise in the catabolic hormone cortisol. Training while in a state of dehydration can decrease strength significantly. In fact, research indicates that dehydrating a muscle by as little as 3% can cause a 12% loss in strength. Training while you are fasting can actually be more detrimental than beneficial!
The best time for exercise is in the evening (2 hours after Iftar meal).

  • 30-45 minutes of brisk walking or swimming are very good options.
  • You also can go to the gym, if you wish.
  • Make your exercise a fun and daily habit. Do it with a friend or a family member.
  • How much water should I drink?
    It is recommended to drink 8-10 cups between Iftar & Suhoor meals.
  • Do not over drink at Iftar meal, drink 1-2 cups every 2-3 hours
  • Other good fluids for the body are unsweetened juices, low fat or non-fat milk or butter milk رايب لبن, and low fat soup: but limit them to one cup/day, as they provide calories).

What should I eat as a snack during the night?
You can eat the following:

  • One cup of non-fat, low fat milk, yogurt, or buttermilk.
  • One fresh fruit or 1 cup of unsweetened fruit juice.
  • 2 slices of low fat cheese.
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread or one cup of oat meal.
  • One cup of salads or vegetable.
  • Skip dessert; enjoying traditional Ramadan desserts doesn’t have to be a daily ritual. Instead of fried and syrup-drenched desserts, opt for 1 of the previous mentioned foods several days of the week.
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