The fasting month is upon us, and while the temptation to indulge in all those wonderful buka puasa buffets and to stop exercising for the month is appealing, maintaining a level of fitness and eating healthily is a far better option.
1. Hydration, hydration, hydration
It’s recommended that you drink at least eight cups of water during the period between Iftar and Suhoor. Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks like packaged juices, soft drinks and coffee and stick to water. Caffeine is a diuretic (increases water loss) and while you may crave sweet drinks, sugar gets digested quickly and has no nutritional benefit.
2. Never miss Suhoor
Suhoor is the meal eaten before dawn and sets you up for the day ahead especially if you’re planning to exercise. This is considered the most important meal during Ramadan and ensures that you have enough nutrients and energy to sustain your body throughout the day. A proper meal should comprise complex carbohydrates (whole grains, lentils, oats, beans) fibre-rich ingredients (dates, seeds, cereal, bananas) and protein (dairy, eggs, fish, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas).
3. Keep up the fruit and vegetable servings
Don’t slack on your fruit and vegetable intake during Ramadan. Try and consume at least seven servings, which is what you should be eating anyway. Many fruits and vegetables contain high levels of water – watermelon, cucumber, pineapple, salad, celery, tomatoes – and eating these after fasting hours will help with hydration, and much-needed vitamins and minerals.
Note: One serving = 1 average size fruit (apple, orange) / 1 cup raw vegetables or salad
4. The deal with dates
Dates are the ideal dried fruit as they are full of nutrients, antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and mineral. Breaking your fast with a few dates and water helps restore blood sugar levels naturally, are an excellent source of energy and very easily digested.
5. Avoid deep-fried, processed food
Deep-fried and processed food has the tendency of (unfortunately) tasting pretty good and while it’s tempting to overindulge when breaking fast, to maintain health and fitness levels, avoid these foods. If you are going to prepare a fried dish, use less oil and those that contain monounsaturated fats like avocado and sunflower oil.
6. When to exercise (don’t use Ramadan as an excuse to stop completely!)
For those who wish to maintain their fitness regime, it’s advisable to work out when your energy levels are at their optimum and when you can drink, which is after Iftar. There are some who prefer a morning workout after the first meal and this is also doable as long it’s not a hard session. Avoid strenuous physical activity during fasting hours.
7. Re-time fitness sessions
A typical workout session usually lasts 60 minutes or more depending on what you’re doing and your fitness levels. During Ramadan, re-time your routine to 45 minutes by shortening the workout and doing less reps / distance / activities. Don’t feel that you’re doing less and therefore losing fitness and muscle gains – a good HIIT session takes 45 minutes and is extremely effective but everything in moderation.
8. Practise the specifics
By this we mean to take this month and focus on things you wouldn’t normally do and amend your fitness routine accordingly. This could be anything from exercises to improve posture and mobility to lower impact classes like yoga or Pilates. Take the time to learn and perfect each movement and stretch.
9. Get creative
For those who prefer easing off the fitness routine and giving the gym a miss for the month, there are alternative activities to keep you going. Go for a walk or gentle jog, take the stairs to your office (don’t do this if you’re on 37thfloor obviously!), and practise resistance exercises (push-ups, lunges, plank) at home. Don’t overdo it and don’t become completely sedentary.
Set realistic goals and don’t focus on keeping the same levels of activity and fitness you would usually. During Ramadan it’s quite common to suffer from a lack of sleep due to staying up after Iftar and waking up for Suhoor. Take a power nap before Iftar if your energy levels are low, and try your best to go to bed early, even if you are fitting in a workout session, as you still need enough sleep to feel good the next day.