The month of Ramadan can play havoc with our dietary patterns and nutritional levels. Zahra Pedersen, UK-based personal trainer and founder of The Healthy Hijab, offers five tips for keeping your body in optimum condition throughout the fasting month.
ALWAYS WAKE UP FOR SUHOOR
Ramadan falls on some of the longest days of the year, so it’s important that you give your body the best possible start by adding some fuel to the tank to help energise you throughout the day.
Choosing foods that are full of protein and healthy fats along with some fruits and vegetables will help your body stress less while you’re fasting. These foods take longer for your body to digest and will keep your blood sugar levels steady in the morning and sometimes well into the afternoon.
It’s best to steer clear of sugary cereals, pasta and bread. These foods break down easily in the body, causing a spike in the blood sugar, which leads to more hunger and lack of energy.
Though it’s tempting to eat all the foods that have been served up as quickly as possible, don’t. Ramadan or not, consuming more calories than you can burn will always lead to weight gain.
So take your time and eat slowly—this will give your brain enough time to receive the signal from your stomach that says ‘I’m full’. If you bolt your food, it’ll most likely miss this signal, and you’ll eat more than you should.
DON’T SKIP YOUR WORKOUTS
If you’re worried about losing muscle or strength over the month of Ramadan, you should definitely think about incorporating a workout routine. Just because you’re fasting the whole day doesn’t mean you can’t fit in a workout.
The best time for training is after the Taraweeh prayers. By this time, your body will have digested some of the food from Iftaar, and the full body movements from the prayers will get the blood flowing and activate the muscles, so it’ll probably be the most energised you’ll feel all day.
Keep in mind that you only have a few hours to refuel your body with food and water before you have to fast again, so go for some low impact workouts focusing on maintenance.
Skip or tone down your long-distance cardio training, as this will make you sweat more and could lead to unnecessary dehydration the next day. Don’t try to reach new personal bests with weights, reps, or time.
DRINK MORE WATER THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED
Even when you don’t think you’re thirsty, you probably are. You don’t need to get headaches or a dry mouth to be dehydrated. In fact, what you might think is hunger or general tiredness could just be your body trying to tell you that it needs fluids. The body is constantly using water, and the likelihood of you needing an extra glass is bigger than you think.
The best benefit of drinking lots of water in this case is that it helps you digest food quicker, keeps the metabolism revved up, and stops you from eating when you’re not hungry.
CHOOSE YOUR SUGAR BATTLES
It’s very common for people to want to celebrate with food during Ramadan. And although in some cases you should do just that, try to be picky about when you really go for it. Choose the moments when you indulge, and be healthy or relatively sugar-free the rest of the time.
Have fun and celebrate, but don’t forget that 30 days of healthy or unhealthy eating will leave a mark on your body—so choose which one you’d rather have at the end of Ramadan!