During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. This is a complete fast, meaning that people abstain from both food and drink.
Fasting during Ramadan teaches people to practice self-discipline, self-control and empathy for those who are less fortunate. It is also a time for self-reflection and self-improvement, which means it is a great time to pay attention to your health and what kinds of foods you put into your body.
Because fasting means a reduced intake of calories and sugars, it could be a good time to take note of and take control of your blood sugar levels. If you are pre-diabetic or diabetic, consult your Qualitas doctor before and during fasting to ensure that your levels remain stable.
Fasting is safe for people who are healthy overall. It is always a good idea to consult your usual doctor or a nutritionist before fasting and discuss what are the right ways to fast to ensure you still get enough nutrition and are able to function throughout the day.
It is not advisable for young children to fast. However, if your older child is learning to fast, consult your Qualitas family doctor about the best way to go about it.
Here are some tips on how to stay healthy while fasting during Ramadan.
1. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water or unsweetened juices before the start of fasting hours. Drink a cup of water or juice every hour until fasting starts. If you drink one jug of water all at once, you your body will end up passing most of it out almost immediately.
Adults need about 2-3 litres of water each day
Caffeine in coffee, tea and sodas causes increased urination, which will leave you more dehydrated.
2. Don’t avoid sahur
Missing the pre-dawn meal will leave your feeling extremely hungry throughout the day, which will also make you feel tired. Focus on foods that digest slowly and release energy over time – whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Sahur should be a balanced diet. Divide your plate into quarter protein, quarter complex carbohydrates, and half vegetables or fruits. For sahur, this could mean some bread, eggs and some fruit. Or a plate of nasi lemak with some rice, ikan bilis or fish, and some vegetables.
Add a cup of milk, unsweetened juice or water.
3. Don’t eat salty, sugary or overly spicy food
Salty foods will make you feel thirstier during the day. Sugary foods are not good for your health and cause you to put on weight over the month. Spicy food will irritate an empty stomach.
4. Eat in moderation – don’t binge!
There is always a temptation to binge when breaking your fast because you are feeling hungry. Binging will spike your insulin levels (even if you are not diabetic) and will strain your body and make you feel tired later. Eat slowly until you feel full and then stop.
Every meal should follow the suku-suku-separuh (quarter-quarter-half) rule. Your plate should contain quarter protein, quarter complex carbohydrates, and half vegetables and/or fruits.
Notice that sugary foods and sweets do not have a space on your suku-suku-separuh plate. Of course, you may indulge once in a while during Ramadan but cakes, kuih and other sweets are treats that should not be eaten at every meal.
5. Don’t forget to rehydrate
After not consuming any fluids during the day, you will feel thirsty. The best drink is of course water. Drink a few cups during the night instead of a whole jug at once so that your body can retain and use the water.
Avoid carbonated and sugary drinks. Again, these will spike your insulin levels and leave you tired. And, of course, sugar drinks are unhealthy and will cause you to put on weight. There are no nutrients in colourful drinks, so avoid them.
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6. Rest and exercise strategically
It may seem counter-intuitive to exercise while you are fasting but staying active is important no matter what you are doing. Find time to take a slow walk with your family after sundown or do some gentle stretching. If you are feeling more energetic, you can do more vigorous exercises but be aware of your hydration levels.
Rest if also important when you are fasting, so make sure you get enough sleep if you are going to be waking up extra early for sahur.