In this series of four articles, I’m sharing some hints and tips for staying healthy when fasting this Ramadan. In the first article of the series, I discussed the science of hydration.
In this article, I’ll tell you how to transform habits that will hinder you from fasting this Ramadan into habits that will help you.
Tip #4: Ditch the habit of chugging down excessive amounts of water during night hours; take regular small sips of water instead.
The amount of fluid in your body is regulated by your kidneys. It’s your kidneys that control how much of your body fluid is released as urine. When you abstain from drinking during the daylight hours of Ramadan, the kidney makes sure that very little fluid from your body is released into the bladder in the form of urine.
Your kidneys will always try to return the level of fluid in your body to its ideal level as quickly as possible. Thus, if at any time during the night hours of Ramadan you drink more than your body needs for the next couple of hours, your kidneys will just expel the excess water as urine. To put it another way: drinking a litre of water before you go to bed won’t hydrate you any better than drinking half a litre, but will cause your sleep to be disrupted by a night-time trip to the lavatory.
Instead of chugging down large amounts of water in one go, try to take small sips of water whenever you’re awake. I find it useful to keep a large glass or bottle of water next to my bed to help me do this.
Tip #5: Keep your consumption of caffeine to a minimum during the fast.
Found in tea, coffee, Coca-Cola and energy drinks, caffeine is a mildly addictive drug. Consuming less caffeine than you usually do causes fairly immediate negative symptoms, including headaches, drowsiness, constipation and concentration problems.
Muslims who usually consume caffeine throughout the day – and who do nothing to detox from caffeine before Ramadan – suffer from these withdrawal symptoms during the daylight hours of the first few days of Ramadan. If you haven’t done this, your body will get used to the new routine of the fast after the first few days.
Caffeine is a diuretic – drinking it increases the volume of fluids that your body expels as urine. Thus, drinking caffeine during the night hours of Ramadan will mean that your body rehydrates itself less well than it otherwise would do. At the very least, you should avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine during the fast; rehydration will be easiest if you abstain from caffeine altogether.
Tip #6: Get into the habit of drinking water at room temperature rather than ice cold, especially before iftar (evening meal).
During the limited time when you can eat during the month of Ramadan, you should be aiming to get as much sustenance and nutritional value from your food as possible. This requires that your digestive system should be working as efficiently as possible. There’s good evidence to suggest that drinking cold water interferes with the efficiency of your body’s digestive system in a way that drinking warm water does not.
There is little evidence, however, for the belief that drinking warm water at the same time as eating a meal interferes with your digestion of the food. So go ahead and enjoy a glass of herbal tea while eating your iftar! There’s even some evidence to suggest that drinking ginger tea at the same time as eating a meal might improve your digestion.
In the next article in this series, I’ll tell you how to choose foods to eat at your dawn meal (suhoor) that will release energy slowly throughout the day to come.