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To help the body adapt to fasting with ease, Kasmiah Mustapha gets tips from two doctors
THE month of Ramadan can turn into a month of indulgence. Just look at Ramadan bazaars and buffets, and it’s clear that some people equate fasting with feasting.
Prince Court Medical Centre medical services director Dr Abu Hasan Samad says hunger and lack of energy during fasting may cause some people to eat more, when they break fast. So it is not surprising that some people gain weight during Ramadan.
“The overindulgence is made even worse by the readily available sweet treats, drinks and food at Ramadan bazaars. There are also buka puasa buffets with food rich in simple carbohydrates and calories.”
There are two main aspects Muslims must consider when fasting:
• Lack of energy, which is reflected by low blood sugar (glucose). The body, however, will try to maintain its normal energy supply by mobilising glucose from other parts where the energy is stored, namely the liver, to ensure the individual can function as usual. The stored energy is replaced once the fast is broken.
• Lack of water results in feeling dry or dehydrated. But the body will try to preserve water content by reducing loss through sweating and urination. So we tend to perspire less during the day and the urine will appear concentrated and darker later in the day.
“There shouldn’t be any concern about fasting because the body will adapt and maintain its equilibrium. We can continue functioning as usual. There shouldn’t be any problem working a full day or engaging in simple exercises. However, for those suffering from or prone to certain illnesses, such as stomach ulcers or gastritis, there may be a worsening of such illnesses.”
Columbia Asia Hospital-Nusajaya anaesthetist Dr Norezalee Ahmad said fasting will change one’s physique and metabolism. However, this is not an excuse to throw caution to the wind and ignore the need to eat healthy meals.
Muslims usually make the mistake of not exercising, not eating healthy and not getting adequate sleep during Ramadan.
“A balanced diet, together with exercise, should help maintain health and fitness levels during Ramadan. It is also an opportunity for those aiming to lose weight to achieve their goal. They should take the advantage of reduced calorie intake during fasting and engage in some physical activities,” she says.
“It’s simple mathematics, less calories intake than calories burnt equals weight loss. As Ramadan is a spiritual month, it is also important to follow good time management for prayers and other religious activities as well as sleep, work and exercise. A good balance in the amount of time allocated for each activity will lead to a healthier body and mind.”
Fast and exercise
DR Norezalee Ahmad provides some tips on exercising during Ramadan.
MAINTAIN FITNESS: Put improvements — whether to lose weight, achieve muscle gain or increase stamina — on hold. Aim to maintain fitness and prevent yourself from going backwards.
REDUCE INTENSITY: Limit workouts to under an hour. Aim to stay consistent and continue to exercise.
GOOD COMBINATION: Combine cardio and resistance training into circuit training by doing three to six exercises in quick succession without stops in between. This way, you can complete in a shorter amount of time but still effectively burn calories. Avoid high-intensity interval training for now.
PICK YOUR TIME: Work out when it works. Listen to your body. Whatever time you feel your body allows you to burn extra calories without becoming fatigued is the best time to exercise. In fact, performing Tarawih prayers is also a form of exercise — both for the body and the soul.
HIGH ENERGY: Exercise when energy level is high. It is best to exercise when you can refuel and rehydrate after a good workout, which means exercising within the hours between an hour before dusk till dawn.
Guide to eating well
HERE are some tips on eating healthy during Ramadan from Dr Norezalee Ahmad and Dr Abu Hasan Samad:
EAT A NORMAL DIET: Your diet should not differ very much from non-fasting months and should be as simple as possible. It should be well-balanced from each food group namely bread or cereal, meat or fish or poultry, dairy products as well as fruit and vegetables. Preferably, increase your intake of vegetables and fruit.
SLOW DIGESTION: Eat foods which are slowly digested such as fish, chicken, lean meat, legumes, nuts and seeds and fibre-rich foods. Avoid eating too much simple carbohydrates. Eat more complex carbohydrates like wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour or brown rice. You should also eat slowly because the brain requires time to perceive that the stomach is full.
MAKE A DATE WITH DATES: Break fast with dates as they contain very high amounts of potassium — a key rehydration mineral — a special blend of glucose and fructose providing short- and long-term energy, and a special nutrient called beta D-glucan which is a soluble fibre that can enhance satiety and digestive health.
MINIMISE SWEET FOOD: Reduce the intake of sugary or sweet food and take a balanced meal with plenty of fluids for buka puasa and sahur.
KEEP IT SMALL: Have small meals in the hours between breaking fast and sahur. It is one way to trick your body into speeding up metabolism.
WAKE UP AND EAT: Don’t skip sahur. It’s the most important meal of the day. Meals during this time should be wholesome, moderate and filling as well as provide the essential nutrients and energy needed to function during the day while keeping hunger at bay. An ideal sahur meal should be high in protein and fibre such as fruit and vegetables and low in carbohydrates, and with plenty of water.
LIQUID ASSET: Drink as much plain water as possible between breaking fast and bedtime so that your body can adjust to the fluid level it needs. Better still, keep a water bottle with you at all times after sunset, even during Tarawih prayers.
FOODS TO AVOID: Stay away from spicy and fried food, food high in salt, sugar and caffeine. Oily and spicy food can cause indigestion and heartburn. Salt and caffeine act as diuretics and can cause greater dehydration and increase thirst during the day.
DO NOT OVEREAT: Do not overindulge as it can lead to weight gain.
KEEP MOVING: Light exercise can still be performed either in the evening or at night. Too much rest or sleep makes us feel lethargic as the body tends to “slow down”.
THINK AND FOCUS: Stay focused on the intent and the true meaning of Ramadan and don’t treat it as an opportunity to feast. Prepare or buy only food that you want to consume for buka puasa and/or sahur and minimise waste. The general guide is to eat in moderation, have balanced meals and drink plenty of water.