Ramadan is a month for spiritual growth and improving your relationship with Allah. Therefore, it is quite saddening that we are sometimes so focused on what to eat, preparing meals and other food-related concerns that take much of our time in this holy month.
This article isn’t about accusing you that you’re too concerned about food. My focus here is two things. One, to reduce your focus on food and help you concentrate on what Ramadan is really about. Secondly, to guide you on healthy eating habits that’ll get you all the fasting benefits while keeping you active and energetic throughout your fast.
In exact terms, this post will be helpful to those looking to:
- Fast in a healthy way
- Stay mentally and physically energetic during Ramadan
- Lose a couple of pounds during this holy month
If you gain weight during Ramadan, are so tired during your fast or feel heavy after iftar, you will get a well-rounded piece of information on how to fast the right way to get all the benefits.
Still, I wouldn’t have you:
- Follow a strict meal plan that’ll make you feel bereft of any enjoyment. Indeed, I believe we should enjoy eating.
- Count how many calories you eat like though you’re on a diet this Ramadan.
Let’s dig in already!
Best Way To Fast In Ramadan
Avoid Heavy Meals
After a 12- 14 hour fast, your digestive system needs a light meal and is not expectant or ready to handle a heavy one. Heavy meals put instant and enormous strain on your digestive system, and that is the reason you feel like you just went into a coma if you have them after your iftar.
What do I mean by heavy meals?
- High-Fat Foods: This does not include healthy fats like olive oil, avocado or more but fried foods, lots of butter and the likes. Still, consuming too much fat (either healthy or not) at once will put pressure on your digestive system and cripple your energy level. My recommendation: avoid the frying, excess oil, heap of whipped cream and opt for light and healthy fats.
- High Sugar Foods/Drinks: In our article, the #1 reason your weight loss program fails, I emphasized the importance of insulin balance and weight loss. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone responsible for metabolism. It is released when we eat any meal, but high sugar foods cause a big spike in insulin levels and make the body switch from burning fat to storing fats. Thus, reversing the benefits, we should have gained from fasting.
- Keeping insulin levels low is one of the most outstanding merits of intermittent fasting and your fast during Ramadan. And doing so for the whole month can help reverse pre-diabetes, insulin sensitivity and type-2 diabetes.
- Processed Carbs and Refined Grains: Certainly, after fasting, you may need a boost on your blood sugar to get a deal of energy. However, processed carbs and refined grains is not a healthy way to go about it. That is because it causes a spike in your insulin levels and opens the lux to your fat storage cells. Here’s a hypothetical case: say you break your fast with a sugar-sweetened beverage, you’ll undoubtedly get a spike in energy levels, but your body then switches to a fat-storage state, and those heavy meals you take stores in your fat cells rather than being burnt for energy. Worse yet, a quick, sudden dip follows the high rush of energy, and this is why you become sleepy, tired and hungry roughly an hour after your iftar, and you may not be able to do your Taraweeh properly.
- Too Much Animal Protein: Likewise, too much animal protein is equally heavy for your digestive system.
Include These Foods
While you avoid the foods listed above, the goal is to attain a balance with your proteins, fibers and healthy carbs so you can get sustained energy rather than a rapid rise and dip. Thus, it is recommendable to add:
- Moderate Amount of Organic, Healthy, Unprocessed Animal proteins and Fat: Proteins will help stabilize blood sugar and keep you satiated longer. However, it shouldn’t make more than 25% of your entire meal. If you’re vegan, healthy substitutes include beans or lentil but still stay within the standard 25%.
- Whole Grains and Healthy Carbs: Foods like brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, and buckwheat should make another 25% of your plate. Whole grains are rich in fibers and provide instant energy and satiety but do not dramatically affect your blood sugar like carbs. Still, the carbs in whole grains might be too much for some persons; so, it’s best to add them with carb consciousness until you know the right amount you can handle. Other healthy carbs can come from vegetables, yes vegetables are full of carbs, but it’s the type of carbs that is good for you, sustains your energy and doesn’t cause insulin spikes, so make sure you fill at least half your plate in vegetables and especially raw.
- Fruits for Your Sugar and Sweet Tooth: Fruits are a healthy alternative to surgery drinks. They do not cause a spike in insulin levels but provide healthy natural sugars and reduce your craving for unhealthy sugars. They are also a great source of minerals and will rehydrate your body.
After a long fast, your body’s greatest need is rehydration, not food. Surely, the body can function for weeks without food but will crumble without water and minerals after a few days.
As a rule of thumb, you should get up to 8-10 cups of water daily to stay completely hydrated. However, you also lose minerals during Ramadan, and plain water cannot replenish them.
Fresh vegetable juices are a stellar way to rehydrate your body after a fast, appeal to your sweet tooth and enrich your body with vitamins and minerals. Alternatively, you could drink coconut water or add electrolytes or small amounts of unrefined sea salt to plain water to boost its mineral content.
Eat Small Amounts At A Time
Irrespective of the kind of meal you consume after your fast; be it healthy meals like we’ve discussed or heavy, unhealthy options; you would notice that your body cannot digest a big meal. So, it is recommendable to take easy to digest foods and in small amounts. Besides, fasting suppresses your hunger hormones(1), and after a 12-14hour fast, you would get full quickly with less than your usual amount of food. The truth is, it is you who thinks, “Oh, I haven’t eaten all day and will be fasting tomorrow; so, I need to make up for it with a lot of foods.”
Overcome Social Eating
We’ve all been there- where you’re invited out with friends during Ramadan, and you know there’d be elaborate dishes/dessert, and you really do not want to miss out on those meals because all your cravings are fully active.
Well, there isn’t a magic to stopping those cravings than to have the right mindset while going out. Think of your outings this way “I am going out to see family and friends, and my enjoyment will come from the laugh, the talk, the praying and sitting together, and not overindulging with food.”
More so, you can start by filling up with the soup and salad first so you’d be a little full with healthy meals before going for the carbs or other unhealthy options.
During the first three to five days of Ramadan, you’ll experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness and moodiness. Those are healthy signs that your body is going through deep cellular detoxification (a natural way the body remove toxins).
While these signs are quite good and should be embraced, there are few ways we can reduce these symptoms while supporting the natural detoxification process. I have covered these steps in the article on how toxins can cause gain weight and provide an overview here.
- Go off caffeine and sugar two weeks in advance before Ramadan
- Use dandelion tea after your iftar to support detox pathways
- Drink green juices
- Increase your fibre intake through fruits, flaxseeds, and whole grains.
- Increase your glutathione intake with vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Practice dry skin brushing
Make It All Work
Isn’t it amazing that you can do all of the tips for a healthy Ramadan fast we mentioned above without spending so much time in the kitchen? Now, here are tips on how to go about it.
- Marinate big batches of animal protein in zip locks and freeze. You can put them in a slow cooker in the morning or use them in an oven.
- Have a meal planner and a shopping list for each week
- Make a big ball of salad dressing and put it in the fridge so you wouldn’t have to worry about making one every day on your salad.
- Cook once in a big portion that you can serve twice to remove the stress of cooking and each day.
- Use simple, fresh ingredients
If this all seems overwhelming and you want a full step by step guide to help transform your Ramadan this year, check out my full Ramadan healthy guide.
In this Ramadan Health guide, I will be showing you how to break your fast in a way that allows you to feel your best so that you can use Ramadan for what it is really meant for! and as a bonus boost your metabolism and lose weight as well.
This Ramadan, I want you to put in mind that you do not need to make up for your fast with heavy meals or lots of foods. Indeed, your body needs a reduced food intake for a while to detox and offer other health benefits. Secondly, it is a hoax that if you eat more today, you may not be hungry the next day.
Start light; you can use a few dates, lemon juice, and a half cup of water to stimulate your digestive enzymes, then go for your prayers. Then, listen to your body; only eat until you’re satisfied and no more.
Remember to cut down unhealthy fats, high-sugar foods/drinks, refined carbs and too much animal protein. It is recommendable that healthy fats make 25% of your meal, healthy crabs another 25% and substitute sugary drinks for vegetable juices.
Most saliently, your focus shouldn’t be food; so, you should follow the steps described above to reduce your time in the kitchen and channel your energy into reading your Quran, praying and spending time with God.
Good luck and blessings to you as you carefully follow the steps and tips provided above this Ramadan. I am most confident that you’ll enjoy your Ramadan and have ample time to concentrate on prayer, worship and study.