Weight gain could be seen as one of these diseases. However, to lose weight during Ramadan fasting must be done in a very careful manner. There are many ahadith that give us advice on how to eat healthy while fasting during Ramadan. However, people often forget these healthy eating habits during Ramadan. Ironically, as well, there are more “eating traps” during Ramadan than any other month. So, as we struggle to be good Muslims and fast, we may inadvertently be straying from the path of the Prophet by breaking all rules of good health. The most common “Ramadan pitfalls” are: Eating a large iftar (meal at breaking of fast) right after the Maghrib azhan (sunset call to prayer), eating unusual or new foods, too many salty foods, too many sweet foods, increasing consumption of tea or coffee, not sleeping enough, skipping meals, eating too much bread or other foods, changing lifestyle habits, and reducing exercise.
Eat Healthy During The Periods You Are Allowed To
This one’s quite obvious right? But surprisingly, it is the most difficult to follow. Why? Because when you are hungry, thirsty, and demotivated in the evenings, moments before you break your fast, it is so easy to make poor food choices and opt for the greasiest and most sugary options you can find. Moreover, it doesn’t help at all when the Ramadan bazaars make these foods very accessible and affordable.
Eat Balanced Meals
As always, fast or no fast – your meals should be balanced. This means complex carbs, protein, and healthy dietary fats in every meal. Ask yourself at every meal – where is my protein? Where is my complex carbs? And where are my healthy dietary fats? By all means, NEVER have a meal that is predominantly carbohydrates – a very common mistake we all make. This is also a good time to actually cook your own healthy meals, rather than to rely on buying outside food all the time – when you cook, you can control exactly what goes into it.
Drink more water during the non-fasting period – less of the sugary drinks (I’d cut them out altogether). Drink even when you aren’t feeling thirsty. Your body needs to rehydrate, so give it what it needs – MINUS the excess sugars (which equals to calories) tagging along. That means walking past the cendol, cincau, and multi-coloured drink stalls at the Ramadan bazaar. If you are diabetic, all the more you should be avoiding these. Your body will thank you for this.
Keep Your Exercise Routine Simple, Yet Effective
This simply means ‘not overdoing it’. Don’t spend long hours at the gym. This is not the time for back-to-back group exercise classes, or high intensity exercise (especially if you are working out during the fasting hours of the day, which I don’t recommend – see below). This is also not the time to achieve a new personal best – save it for next month. So this means that you will be performing sufficiently challenging strength training exercises (working on all muscle groups), and moderately intense cardiovascular exercise.
Exercise Plan During Ramadan
The best time to work out is right after the fast begins. During the morning meal, a person should endeavor to eat light and healthy: a diet of fruit and some meat, or other protein such as eggs or nuts. Protein should be eaten to recover; however, you should try to 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 one is vegetarian. Do not forget to hydrate at night and in the morning. These eating habits will provide you with enough energy to exercise for at least thirty 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. The work day is half over and this is the point in the day when energy levels are going down. Exercising in the middle of the day is a healthy option that help restores energy and feelings of well-being.
Here are some tips that will allow you to continue to stay active in Ramadan without over taxing your system and jeopardizing your fast.
- Adjust Your Fitness Goals in Ramadan: If your goals are to lose weight, get stronger or simply to become more physically fit put improvements on hold during this month. Make your goal simply to maintain where you are. Making fitness or weight loss improvements requires you giving your body a deficient of some sort which causes a reduction in energy, and often compromises the immune system. Both of these can significantly affect your ability to fast. So instead of overworking your system to get your body to change simply maintain where you are and prevent yourself from going backwards.
- Reduce the Intensity of your Exercise: Reducing the intensity of the exercise will allow you to stay consistent in working out without over taxing your energy reserve. If you normally run, reduce to a speed walk. If you lift weights using 12lbs use 8lbs, and if you normally workout for an hour reduce your workout time to 30-45 minutes. The most important thing to do this month 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 or energy to do both in Ramadan then combine them both into a resistance training circuit. Circuit training in general is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and it has the extra benefit of allowing you to burn more calories in a short amount of time. A circuit is performed by doing 3-6 exercises in a quick succession without stopping between each exercise. Doing this will allow you to build muscle and increase cardiovascular endurance all in one workout.
- Workout when it Works: If you feel the need to fit a good workout, you may have to plan your workout in your day. Instead of exercising when it’s convenient choose a time when you have the most energy and it won’t compromise your fast. This may mean waking up just 20 minutes earlier than you would normally for Suhur so you can work out and then eat immediately. Pay attention to your energy level during the first few days of Ramadan and find a time that works for you. Whatever time or 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.
Last, but not least, remember that Ramadan does not have to be the time of year to lose weight. Focus on the meaning of Ramadan, follow the tenants of good health recommended by our Prophet and you will find the weight will come off.