Unfortunately many people actually gain weight in the month of Ramadan due to excessive eating at iftaar and an increase of fried, fatty, and sweet food than they normally consume outside of the month. In the Middle East, restaurants, markets, and bakeries increase their revenue during this holy month. The question lurks, how can we fast, and remain healthy, since health is an important aspect of our religion and our spirituality? The following tips are taken from Health Works Malaysia and are in line with authentic traditions and nutritional science:
Tip 1: Break Your Fast with Dates and Water
You’ve been holding back the whole day, and you have your plate piled high with your Ramadhan bazaar loot. The moment you hear the Azan Maghrib, you scarf down all the sugar-laden kuih-muih, a roti john, a murtabak ayam and 10 satay sticks. This is not a good thing to do to your body. Usually when you binge eat after starving the entire day, you end up consuming way more calories than you would have normally, and that could also interfere with your spiritual growth during this month. Take it slow and start off with a few dates first, following the Prophetic traditions. Dates give you a nutritious burst of natural sugar (energy!) while water hydrates you without all the sugar.
Tip 2: Don’t skip Suhur
While it might be very tempting to sleep in just a few more hours instead of waking up for Suhur, your pre-dawn meal is perhaps the most important meal of the day as it’s what’s going to keep you fuelled up and running. Eat some slow-digesting foods (like wholegrains, beans, veggies and fruits) and drink water or fruit juices to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
Tip 3: Drink more Liquid
Your body is made up of 60% water and it’ll need the same amount of H2o intake regardless of whether you’re fasting. Make sure you catch up to your daily requirement of liquids by drinking up in the evenings and during Suhur. This will help keep you alert and hydrated, and will probably help you poo easier too.
Tip 4: Select Complex Carbs over Refined
Complex carbs releases its energy slowly throughout the day, which helps when you can’t eat anything. Refined carbs on the other hand (white flour, sugar, cakes, biscuits, etc) are digested very quickly and while they give you a sudden burst of energy, you will feel depleted later on and hungry again. You don’t want that when you shouldn’t even be thinking about food. Go for whole grains and seeds like brown rice, oats, beans, lentils etc.
Tip 5: Eat Balanced Meals
Like mentioned above, the problems commonly faced when fasting include constipation, indigestion and headaches. A balanced meal during both Suhur and Iftar is vital to not experience any of these. Make sure your plate looks like the one shown above, fulfilling all the food groups needed, but try not to overeat.
Tip 6: Avoid Caffeine
If you are a hardcore coffee, Coke or tea drinker, you might benefit from cutting back on it during puasa month. This is because caffeine is a diuretic (which means it makes you pee faster and causes loss of liquids from your body). When you can’t drink from sunrise till sunset, that’s the last thing you want. Also, try decreasing your intake gradually leading up to Ramadhan so you don’t get any withdrawal effects.
Tip 7: Avoid Sweet Drinks
Come on, I was a good boy / girl the entire day! Can’t I have just another pack of sirap bandung / cendol/ ice kacang? Whether you’re fasting or not, the same rules to weight loss applies. Energy expended must exceed energy intake, otherwise you’ll gain weight. To many of us, our downfall comes in the form of these sugary sweet drinks. It’s pretty easy to sip up 1,000 calories without you realising. It’s better to stick to water or stop yourself at one drink.
Tip 8: Eat Foods Mentioned in the Quran
If you’re unsure of what you should eat, and what’s good for you, the Qur’an has some answers. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) commonly consumed milk, dates, lamb / mutton and oats. The Qur’an also mentions fruits and veggies like olives, onions, cucumber, figs, dates, grapes, and lentils. Fish is also encouraged, as the Islamic law spares ﬁsh from any speciﬁc slaughter requirements, making it easy to incorporate ﬁsh in a meal.
Tip 9: Sleep Early
Since you’ll be waking up for Suhur, it makes sense to tuck yourself in bed earlier than usual. Lack of sleep takes a toll on your cognitive abilities, and could lead to a host of diseases in the long run, including what you want least – weight gain