A comprehensive guide on how to survive and benefit from Ramadan

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Ramadan is a month of abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. This year too, the holy month falls during the early summer, which means the fasting hours will be longer. Keeping this in mind, a sensible eating routine will help you stay energized and healthier the whole day.

While fasting, our body mainly depends on the sugar (glucose) that we eat during the pre-dawn meal which lasts for a few hours. Later, it utilizes the stored glucose (glycogen and fats), and after fasting the whole day, it regains energy from the food we eat during Iftaar.

Though the meals that you eat at pre-dawn (Suhoor) or at Iftaar (post-fasting) meals shouldn’t differ substantially from your day-to-day meals, while fasting you need to be extra cautious as to what you feed your body so that it is not deprived of its nutrients whilst fasting.

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The following tips will help you gain maximum benefits whilst fasting:

  • Never skip Suhoor – Suhoor or the pre-dawn meal is equally important as breakfast. Aim to eat complex carbs (whole wheat, oats, potatoes, legumes, vegetables). Most carbs also provide a good dosage of fiber and are a good source of vitamin B that will release energy for a longer period of time while fasting.
  • Have a decent amount of protein and fats – Protein also helps you satiated for long while maintaining muscle mass. Examples of good sources are eggs, lean meat, pulses, legumes, and cottage cheese. Fats also help in providing much-needed energy. Aim to get it from healthy sources like ghee, butter, avocados, and olive oil.
  • Stay clear of excessive sugar, salt, and caffeine – Too much sugar can spike up the blood sugar levels and then subsequently fall dramatically. This fall can make you feel exhausted, and to stay away from this cycle, avoid packaged foods like flavored oats, corn flakes, and packaged juices.

Avoid eating ready-to-eat meals, cheese, pickles, or crackers, and anything that has high salt content. This will make you feel thirsty during the fasting period and will also cause bloating and water retention.

Caffeine acts as a diuretic – which causes frequent visits to the toilet, resulting in loss of the required salt due to frequent urination. If you are a coffee or a tea-addict, try to reduce a couple of cups before the start of Ramadan so that your body will get adjusted without it whilst fasting. Always aim to drink a glass of water before you eat Suhoor to make sure you stay hydrated.

How to stay energized during the long hours of fasting?

One might feel drowsy or lethargic for the first few days of fasting. This subsides with due course of time when our body gets adjusted to it. But it is important to stay alert and active while fasting as well:

  • Have 6 to 8 hours of sleep every day – Lack of sleep will drain your body leading to fatigue. Taking 15 to 20 minutes of power-naps to aid in re-energizing our body.
  • Breathe, Breathe, Breathe – The deeper we breathe, the more oxygen reaches our cells, brain and the heart. This will consequently get our blood pumping and boost our energy levels.
  • Little stretches will go a long way – Try to take short breaks at regular intervals during the course of the day and try for stretches, this will rejuvenate your senses leading to freshness and alertness.
  • Exercise – Try to catch up on some light exercises a few hours post-Iftaar that will help you stay energized for the next day of fasting.
  • Shower – Take a cool shower during the day if possible, to awaken your senses.

Now what about Iftaar?

Iftaar should be the time to replenish our body with the lost nutrients to regain vitality and prepare it for the next day of fasting:

  • Break your fast with dates and water – There is great wisdom behind breaking the fast with dates. It provides almost all the vital nutrients and the much-needed glucose that our body is deprived of from fasting.

Water provides the much-needed hydration to our body, so aim to drink at least a glass of it whilst breaking the fast. Having coconut water also helps in maintaining the electrolyte balance in our body, or sea-salt based water will help as well.

  • Soups and Salads – Before indulging in your favorite delicacies have soups (lentils, oats, vegetables, or chicken). Having soups will help you feel full and hydrated and will also aid in unnecessary unhealthy binging. Have water-dense fruits and vegetables in the form of salads.
  • Opt for 80:30 diet-plan – 80% of your meal should be highly nutritious, comprising of all the essential vitamins and minerals while the remaining you can indulge any of your favorite snacking. This will avoid in getting cravings as well as feeling guilty.
  • Breaking-up of meal – Avoid eating all at once during Iftaar time, and instead you can break your meal into two parts. Have another meal after a couple of hours, but it should be a lighter one.

A few tips on how to avoid wasting food during Ramadan

Besides staying fit and energized, one must also reflect on food consumption or rather food wastage. A lot of food gets wasted during this month since we underestimate the amount of food prepared during this month Whilst post-fasting, we realize we cannot eat whatever is prepared, despite being in a fasting state for a long time. Meal-prep will help to avoid the hassles of daily cooking and save a lot of time and energy, and instead one can utilize in devotion and prayers, which is the main aim of this blessed month.

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Stock up on all the important grocery items needed for the whole month a few days ahead of the month. This will prevent frequent visits to the store during Ramadan. Never shop when you are hungry as you tend to buy unnecessary items.

Ways in which meal-prep can be achieved:

  • Meal-prep the most-frequently used food items and freeze it. For example:
    • Samosas, patties, and kebabs can be prepared in advance and frozen
    • Boil and shred chicken for soups, rolls, wraps, and sandwiches
    • Boil chickpeas and freeze to prepare hummus and salads
    • Chutney can also be prepared in advance and frozen which can be utilized for sandwiches and dips
    • Squeezed lemon juice can be stored in ice-tray for later use to prepare lemonade and salad dressing
    • Bananas and mangoes can be cut into pieces and can be stored in storage bags for smoothies and shakes. Similarly, you can try the same with other fruits as well

These are just some of the tips one can plan meal-prep according to their suitability. These meal-prep tips will save precious time before Iftaar where one needs to dedicate time and energy in supplication as this is the time when our prayers are never rejected by Allah (Most High).

To sum it up, we must utilize this month to fine-tune our mind, body, and soul. We must use it to reset our priorities and condition our hearts to transform us spiritually more than physically.

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