Oasis Magazine Articles

Maintaining a Ramadan Regimen

By Bahaa El Din & Zainab AbdelAziz



For those of who are fasting this month, or any expats trying out the local Islamic custom, it is important to bear in mind that any regular lifestyle activity can be adapted in order to fit in with the month of Ramadan. You are unlikely to be able to continue your normal schedule or workout routine, but it is extremely important that you don’t give up physical exercise all together. Consistent exercise supports and improves your internal organ function and vital activities of the body, in addition to releasing daily stress, protecting the body from illness and sickness, weight loss and fat burn, and getting rid of excess fluid and toxins. Does that sound like something that can be suspended for 30 days??

Exercise in Ramadan

There are two options for maintaining a healthy training schedule in Ramadan, either before or after breaking your fast (iftar). Training before iftar should happen an hour and 15 minutes before eating. You should eat preferably within 15 minutes of ending your workout in order to replenish the body with liquids and minerals that were lost during the day. This prevents any unhealthy side effects that can harm the body in a hot climate while fasting for long periods of time. If training before iftar, you should be mindful to not exercise in high temperature environments with poor circulation, as these conditions will tax your already dehydrated body. Choose a workout space that is well ventilated, temperature controlled, and not too crowded. Exercising before iftar is not recommended for those who work long continuous hours during the day without any breaks, or suffer low stamina levels.

If you choose to train after iftar time, you should wait 2-3 hours after eating, so as to give your body a chance to digest your meal completely and refuel your energy levels. Exercising too soon isn’t as beneficial, because your digestive system is focused on breaking down the big meal you just ate and circulation is focused on that area. There are, however, some benefits to training after iftar rather than before. It speeds up the process of digestion and burns off any excess calories you consumed before you low down for the evening.

Weight Loss and Nutrition

People often wonder why they gain weight in Ramadan rather than lose it, even though they only eat twice a day. The reason this happens is because of a lack of movement due to general fatigue, and also a lack of exercise after eating a sizable meal at iftar. People tend to stay indoors during this month, and snack continuously between iftar and suhoor (the meal eaten before dawn to prepare for the day’s fast) instead of working out.

The types of food and their ingredients is consumed in Ramadan is a big factor in weight gain. Eating meals with high calorie intake, including fats and sugars, fried foods, and heavy desserts will not help in weight loss. Switching to grilled foods and side dishes with oats and other filling ingredients will lessen the appetite for desserts and help you feel full longer.

Another potential problem area is the order in which a meal is consumed during iftar. Beginning your meal with low calorie starters like salads, light soups, and sautéed vegetables will help fill the stomach and negate the need to eat fatty, heavy foods. Eating slowly also helps.

People often forget the importance of water in regulating weight. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, and a lack of water intake has seriously unhealthy effects on the body. Drinking plenty of water makes us feel full, and helps rid us of any pesky toxins built up in our bodies throughout the day. If you’re feeling hungry in between meals, try to avoid the oriental sweets that look so tempting. Pick up a piece of fresh fruit instead.

Not everyone manages to wake up before dawn to squeeze in a meal, but suhoor meals are extremely important. No, this is not a chance to eat takeaway or sugary food. In fact, eating fatty foods and sugar at suhoor is yet another reason people actually gain weight in Ramadan. Your metabolism slows down when you fall asleep, making the digestion of unhealthy meals in the middle of the night troublesome. Eating and sleeping right away doesn’t give you body a chance to burn it off, so consider staying awake after suhoor and taking an afternoon nap instead.

The ideal suhoor meal is a light one that is not fatty in nature, including vegetables like cucumbers and lettuce which have high water content, giving the body a chance to hold onto water for longer and lessen thirst. It is preferable for a suhoor meal to contain items that have a low digestion rate, like fuul with olive oil, non-salty cheeses, and eggs. Eating food with lots of herbs and spices will cause thirst. Drink plenty of water and avoid salts and sugars as much as possible. Minerals like potassium will help to prevent thirst during fasting, so look for food stuffs rich in this mineral.

Some Physiological Benefits of Fasting

Some newcomers to Egypt may wonder what the benefits of fasting are. As an unfamiliar concept, the idea of not eating or drinking all day during the hottest time of the year seems strange. Fasting aids in lessening the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines, because a lot of disease is caused by eating unhealthy food which leads to disturbing the function of the digestive system, which in turn leads to a slower moving process of digestion. This allows a chance for germs to collect, causing inflammation and disease.

Fasting also regulates and balances gland secretions, and intestinal fluid released by your liver, pancreas and more. It controls the expansion of the stomach and regulates its movement, and if carried out properly as described above, it can aid in weight loss in a healthy way.

Fasting helps in maintaining a healthy heart. A continuous fullness of the stomach requires the heart to pump at a higher rate channeling blood circulation to the stomach. Lessening the pressure on the stomach allows for circulation to reach other vital areas of the body like the brain, liver, kidneys and others, improving function. Lastly, the practice also offers a chance for smokers to reduce heavy smoking, which as many know, is a national pastime!

If you are fasting or not, we hope you maintain a healthy lifestyle this month and have a keener insight into what makes a healthy and beneficial fast. Keep up the exercise and eat healthy!





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