If you’re overweight, it can be an opportunity to lose weight – provided you eat healthily when you break the fast this Ramadan.
What happens to your body when you fast
The changes that happen in the body during a fast depend on the length of the continuous fast. The body enters into a fasting state eight hours or so after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorbing nutrients from the food. In the normal state, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. During a fast, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Later in the fast, once the glucose runs out, fat becomes the next source of energy for the body.
Gentle transition from glucose to fat
As the Ramadan fast only lasts from dawn till dusk, the body’s energy can be replaced in the pre-dawn and dusk meals. This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy to using fat, and prevents the breakdown of muscle for protein. The use of fat for energy helps weight loss. It preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level.
In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure. After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphin appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental well being. A balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts. The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, but these can be lost through sweating. To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain enough energy food, such as carbohydrates and some fat.
How to fast safely during Ramadan
The way to approach your diet during fasting is similar to the way you should be eating outside Ramadan. You should have a balanced diet, with the right proportion of carbs, fat and protein. If you’re not careful, food eaten during the pre-dawn and dusk meals can cause some weight gain.
It should contain foods from all the major food groups:
- fruit and vegetables
- bread, cereals and potatoes
- meat, fish or alternatives
- milk and dairy foods
- foods containing fat and sugar
Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrate in your diet, such as whole grains, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and lower fat dairy products. Foods high in fiber can help to keep your bowels healthy and add bulk to your meal, helping you to feel full. These include:
- starchy foods (especially wholegrain varieties)
It’s also worth avoiding caffeine-based drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination.
Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a wholesome, moderate meal that’s filling and provides enough energy for many hours. Dates will provide a burst of energy. Fruit juices will also have a similar revitalizing effect. Start by drinking plenty of water, which helps rehydration and reduces the chances of overindulgence. Avoid the rich, special dishes that traditionally celebrate the fast.
Foods to avoid
- deep-fried foods – such as pakoras, samosas and fried dumplings
- high-sugar and high-fat foods – including sweets such as gulab jamun, rasgulla and balushahi
- high-fat cooked foods – such as parathas, oily curries and greasy pastries
- baked samosas and boiled dumplings
- chapattis made without oil
- baked or grilled meat and chicken
- homemade pastry using just a single layer
- milk-based sweets and puddings, such as rasmalai and barfee
Cooking methods to avoid
- deep frying
- excessive use of oil
Healthy cooking methods
- shallow frying – usually there’s little difference in taste
- grilling or baking is healthier and helps retain the taste and original flavour of the food, especially with chicken and fish
Water is The Best for Thirst Instead Of Other Ramadan Drinks?
- Unlike water, other fluids contain a lot of sugar and can result in you consuming extra calories
- Drinking too much of the Ramadan drinks and other soft drinks will fill up your stomach and delay your digestion process
Good to remember: Water plays a significant role in weight loss and maintenance, because it helps to get rid of toxins and reduce the feeling of hunger. This is why it is important to drink small quantities of water throughout the night.
How to Prevent Getting Thirsty During Ramadan
The food that you eat plays a major role in controlling your thirst while you are fasting. Here are a few pointers:
- Drink at least eight glasses of water every day. If you are exercising and are outdoors in hot weather, you lose more fluids. So make sure you drink more water.
- Avoid hot and spicy dishes as it increases thirst
- Do not add too much salt to salads and other dishes. Also avoid eating salty foods like salted fish and pickles as they increase the body’s need for water.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables because they are rich in water and fiber. They stay in the intestines for a long time and reduce thirst.
- Drink fresh fruit juices rather than sweetened juices.
- Try not to drink large quantities of water all at once or a lot during a meal. Instead drink water between your meals.
Good to know: Drinking iced water to break your fast does not replenish your thirst but can cause your blood vessels to contract and cause indigestion. For this reason, it is recommended you drink water at room temperature or slightly cold.
Sample Diet Plan:
Smoothie: 1 tbsp ground linseed + 1 apple + 1 banana + 40 g oats + tbsp natural yoghurt + 250 ml skimmed milk + water
Last thing before Fajr
- 2 slices granary bread + olive oil based spread + jam / honey / peanut butter
- Large glass water
Immediately after maghrib – large meal
- Lean steak or chicken breast or turkey fillet or fillet white fish
- Basmati rice or wholewheat pasta or large serving potatoes
- Loads of veg or large salad
- Fruit and/or yoghurt
- Plenty of water
- High fibre cereal (like Weetabix, bran flakes, muesli, porridge, etc) + 200 ml skimmed milk + 1 tsp sugar
- 200 ml fruit juice
- Mug tea/coffee
½ hour pre-bed
- Large handful mixed nuts & seeds
- 2-3 oatcakes / rye crispbread with cheese or cottage cheese
- Fruit item
- Plenty of water