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Ramadan Kareem – fitness and nutrition

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Ramadan is a holy month observed during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and the exact dates change from year to year.

Ramadan 2022 in the United Kingdom will begin on the evening of
Saturday
2 April
and ends in the evening of
Sunday
1 May

It’s a

It lasts around a month of fasting, prayer, and self-sacrifice. It is time to focus on your relationship with God. This means that the followers of Islam cannot eat from sunrise to sunset. 


From a coaching aspect choosing the right nutrition to fuel your body through the fast is paramount as side effects can be quite tough such as dehydration, headaches, dizziness, tiredness…


Therefore fuelling with good nutritious slow energy releasing food will be far more beneficial than fast-acting energy junk.
In the morning before the sun rises you have your pre-dawn meal.


The pre-dawn meal is called Suhoor while the post-sunset meal is known as Iftar.


Pre-dawn meal


Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) should encompass a wholesome meal that provides long-lasting energy throughout the day. Foods that provide long-lasting energy are complex carbohydrates and high-fiber foods.


Complex carbohydrates are foods that are rich in energy but release this energy slowly throughout the day. Examples include whole wheat, oats, beans, and rice.


Foods that are rich in fiber and are also digested slowly include fruits (raw and unpeeled) and vegetables.
Also, don’t forget the all-important fluids as they maintain water and salt levels in the body. Water and fluids with vitamins – like fresh fruit juices – should replace caffeinated drinks.


Caffeine – cold drinks, tea, and coffee – is a diuretic and promotes faster water loss through urination, which can lead to dehydration.


The fast will end at sunset when the Maghreb prayers begin, followed by an evening meal traditionally eaten with friends and family.


Having a balanced iftar is important as it’s the meal that replenishes energy stores and helps sustain your fast the following day.


You must place extra effort into consuming the right foods to get the nutrients your body needs.


Ramadan is an opportunity to cultivate good eating habits that will stay with you after the fasting month ends.


Hydrate before eating


Drink plenty of fluids such as water, freshly squeezed juice, or milk. This will prevent dehydration and provide your body with the essential fluids it needs. Water remains your best source of hydration. Drink 1 – 2 glasses of water before your meal and not during your meal to avoid delaying your digestion process. Be wary of Ramadan drinks because they contain a lot of sugar and calories.


Break your fast with dates


Traditionally, dates are eaten at the start of your iftar meal. Because they are a nutritious burst of natural sugar they fuel your body with much-needed energy. If you suffer from headaches during the fasting hours, most likely caused by low blood sugar, begin your iftar with 2 dates and replenish your sugar levels.


Have a bowl of soup


Soups are an indispensable dish in iftar. They’re rich in water and help you hydrate. Reach out for lentil, tomato, or vegetable soup and avoid cream-based soup. If you don’t enjoy a warm soup during the summer months, cold soups and Gazpachos make a great alternative.


Eat your greens


Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and provide so many nutrients in so few calories. The more colorful your salad, the more health benefits it holds. It also provides a feeling of fullness, ensuring you eat less on your main dish. Aim for 2 servings of vegetables per meal. One serving equals a 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice or 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables.


Choose good carbs


Your iftar meal should contain a source of carbohydrates, preferably complex. These include brown rice, whole grain pasta or bread, potatoes, or burghul. Complex carbs provide a more stable and sustainable source of energy in addition to fiber and minerals. Complex carbs will slowly release energy, unlike processed white products.


Incorporate lean protein


At iftar, you should aim to eat high-quality protein that is highly digestible and contain all the essential amino acids. Your body uses these to build and maintain muscle mass. Beef, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, fish, and poultry are all complete high-quality proteins. Choose lean proteins to get the benefits with little saturated fats. Include fish, skinless chicken or turkey, and low-fat dairy to have as part of your iftar meal. If you’re vegetarian, you can select other protein sources such as legumes, beans, and nuts.


Take it easy


Don’t be in a hurry to finish your food. After being deprived of eating for an entire day, overloading on food may lead to indigestion and other gastric problems. Have a light Iftar that includes reasonable food portions. Controlling the size of your portion is key to staying healthy and preventing weight gain. As a rule of thumb, don’t exceed the amounts you would have for a typical lunch or dinner meal.


Avoid foods high in fat, salt, and sugar


Whenever possible, stay away from heavy meals for iftar that have too many unhealthy fats, salt, and added sugar. When cooking, make your favorite Ramadan recipes healthier by stewing, baking, roasting, steaming, or grilling, and avoid frying. Add herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your meals. Finally, replace sweets and sweetened drinks with naturally occurring sugar in fruits, dried fruits, and fruit salads.

 

What about my strength training?

I would recommend strength training to be completed around the window of when you are eating but I understand, this can’t always happen.

If you’re exercising before Iftar, keep it to light cardio such as jogging, biking, or yoga for 20 to-45 minutes. Or if you’d prefer shorter high-intensity training, you can do a 10-20 minute bodyweight workout.

However, if you’d like to include weight training, I would recommend doing this after you break your fast.

Strength training requires, strength. And for that type of strength, your body turns to glycogen (carbs) stored in your muscles. Fasting can lead to depleted levels of glycogen, which means your body struggles to exert the strength or endurance that’s required.

Therefore if you are going to strength train in the day make sure you observe A de load period, as the name implies, it is a period of training in which you still go to the gym to workout, but the intensity and volume of your workouts are far easier to manage.

To minimize muscle breakdown during the extended fast, end your feeding window with a slow-digesting protein, such as casein protein, just before sunrise. Casein protein digests over the course of 6-8 hours, which will help supply your muscles with a continuous source of amino acids for the hours to come. Dairy products are an excellent source. Get your share of Greek yogurt, milk, or cottage cheese.

 

To all my friends, family, and colleagues I wish you a Happy Ramadam.

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