I may not be fasting this year due to me breastfeeding my baby, but I am with each and every one of you in spirit and still wanted to remind you of what would be best to eat during the Fast and answer that question that pops up around this time of year – “can one exercise during the Fast?”
I may have mentioned this last year – but I am hoping you have been drinking extra water, focusing on hydrating better the days leading up to the Fast. This will limit those headaches one is prone to getting on the first few days as the body adjusts. You should also cut out or cut down on processed and fast foods. Increase your intake of green vegetables and other veg as well as fruit. Try to limit your protein to the leaner, healthier proteins like chicken, fish and lean beef.
Suhoor/breakfast: You’re about to abstain from food and drink all day, so the key is to consume food that are Low Glycemic (LOW GI), which is slow release energy food. This means it’ll keep you fuller for longer. Examples of this are: oats, brown rice, sweet potato, high fibre bread (check the label to see that your bread contains at least six grams of fibre per 100g of bread). Also, some good fats is also great to keep hunger pangs away – you can have dates stuffed with almonds, or stuff them with a nut butter of your choice (peanut butter, almond butter or Macadamian nut butter). Adding some fat to your breakfast can help to lower the GI of your meal. Another option for fat is organic virgin coconut oil (if you do not have cholesterol issues) stirred into your oats – it’s delicious and not at all an overpowering taste.
Adding fruit like berries, or banana is also good options for breakfast, eat them as is or add them to your oats.
You CANNOT neglect your protein. I like adding a scoop of whey protein to my oats, or alternatively – make yourself a breakfast smoothie (recipe is at bottom of post). Another great protein for the morning is eggs – they are delicious and would be quite filling! Combining high fibre carbohydrates with protein and fats before your fast will help control your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Drink loads of water, as much as you possibly can.
AVOID THE FOLLOWING
- Teas and coffee – these are dehydrants, so they will make you thirsty during the day.
- Cooked heavy meals – Eating a heavy? plate of food like curries, stews etc is not ideal, as this would not give you the right balance of nutrition you will need to sustain you for the day. Also, these foods tend to be higher in salt and very spicy, which is also not good before fasting. And while it does fill you for a few hours, it will not keep you full for the entire day.
- Processed/fried goods – A bad habit we are all guilty of is eating some of the fried leftovers from the previous night’s iftar table – don’t do this – these are drenched in unhealthy fats and will not be good for your digestion and nutrition for the day, as I find this tends to make me feel heavy and sluggish when I have made the fatal mistake of eating them in the past.
- Simple sugars – Stay away from sweets, juice or fizzy drinks – these offer no nutritional value and will spike your sugar levels only for them to crash soon after and make you feel sleepy and sluggish.
OH NO! YOU OVERSLEPT – So you’ve overslept and its minutes left till fajr (morning prayers) and you have to eat quickly – prepare for these days , have your stuffed dates ready. If you can make that smoothie and down it – then do that. Worst case scenario (this has happened to me!) make sure to drink water, when all else fails, because our bodies are up to 70% water – this is above all else what your body will need to survive the day.
Your body has been without food and drink all day long. So the main focus with iftar (before enjoying the indulgent treats) is to replenish your body. The Sunnah of the Nabi (Peace be Upon Him) has much wisdom in it:
“He who finds a date, let him break his fast on that. If he finds no date, let him break it on water, for verily that is purity.”
The wisdom behind this is the highly nutritious date has loads of health benefits including – promotes healthy bowel movements and increases energy. Centuries later, science has proven that dates have quite a high glycemic load so they are great for picking up your blood sugar after a day of fasting.
Before reaching for those samoosas and cakes, I urge you to break your fast with a date or two and a generous glass of water. You will immediately feel replenished after this combination. Then you can dig into everything else on the table. The traditional veggie soup is delicious and a great source of nutrients after a day of fasting.
You can make yourself a protein shake (the same that you had for breakfast/suhoor).
If you are planning to workout – I would suggest having the dates and water and a protein shake and nothing else.
Make sure to drink about 2-3 litres of water from iftar throughout the night before you go to bed. You will see this will help you have regular bowel movements too keep your skin glowing and keep the headaches away.
If you like having an actual meal after iftar – make sure it’s healthy, good protein, good carbs (as mentioned above) and veggies. I know during Ramadaan, we do get cravings for certain foods – allow yourself to indulge in them once or twice a week – no more.
AVOID THE FOLLOWING
- Fizzy drinks and juice – These will not provide you with the nutrients you need to truly quench your thirst.
- Greasy food – the first thing you eat after fasting all day will be absorbed into your body and therefore your skin – so if you eat something deep fried or greasy first – this may cause a bad breakout on your skin. I can attest to this one – when I used to consume too many savouries for my system, I found that it ended up showing on me skin.
- Processed foods – Fast food and processed meats (polonies, viennas, boxed ready made meals) – these contains all sorts of high levels of sodium and preservatives which will not provide your body with what it needs.
Well the big question I get asked every year around this time –should you continue exercising during the Fast? The short answer is yes, if you are able to.
It’s best to maintain a moderate amount of exercise during the Fast. Nothing too hectic – just something that would maintain the level of fitness you had pre-Ramadaan.
Do a maximum of 30-40 minutes of exercise for 2-3 times a week.
Avoid endurance (running on the treadmill or cycling for prolonged periods of time), plyometrics
(e.g. jump lunges etc), speed and agility training.
So good weight training and some explosive cardio in between each set for about 30 seconds (e.g mountain climbers or bicycle crunches).
If you feel any nausea or dizziness stop working out immediately!
REMEMBER TO HYDRATE WHILE YOU WORKOUT! – WATER WATER WATER!!
Just a reminder of my Ramadaan smoothie…
RAMADAAN PROTEIN SMOOTHIE
- 2 Scoop Whey Protein (Men – have 3 scoops)
- ½ cup of oats (Men – 1 cup) – You can soak this overnight in water/almond milk/milk
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 4-5 strawberries
- ¼ cup blueberries (they can be the frozen ones)
- 2 tbsp nut butter (almond/peanut/macadamia)
- Banana (optional)
- Handful of baby spinach ( OPTIONAL – sounds weird, but you won’t taste it among everything else)
- Water/milk/almond milk
- ½ tsp cinnamon
Put all these ingredients in a blender and liquidise together.
All the very best with the Holy Month of Ramadaan, may it be spiritually uplifting for each any every one of us
Happy Healthy Fabulous