Stay energized and healthy with these expert fasting tips.
The holy month of Ramadan is a special month of the year for Muslims around the world. This is a time when Muslims connect more deeply with their religion, reflect on themselves, and give back to their community.
There are different kinds of Muslims and different traditions within the religion. When it comes to Ramadan, fasting is a ritual shared by nearly all.
Fasting during Ramadan involves not eating food or drinking water between sunrise and sunset for the entire month.
Ramadan provides the reward of self-growth and the opportunity to learn more about our religion and ourselves. These spiritual rewards require hard work and dedication to praying, a commitment to charity, and willpower when fasting.
Muslims follow a calendar based on the motion of the moon. Every year, Ramadan falls 15 days earlier than the last. Depending on where you live in the world, the days may be short or long.
The month often begins with an optimistic energy, and practitioners may set many spiritual goals. However, it can be easy to falter as you try to maintain your health while fasting and balancing your regular day-to-day responsibilities.
Here are some practical tips and tricks to support a safe, successful fast during Ramadan.
There are only two opportunities to eat during Ramadan: in the early morning before sunrise (Suhoor) and after sunset in the evening (Iftar).
The morning meal can be easy to skip, as it’s difficult to have an appetite so early in the morning.
However, Nazima Qureshi, RD, MPH and author of The Healthy Ramadan Guide, explains that it’s extremely important that you don’t skip this meal. The food choices you make will affect your energy throughout the day.
“A lot of times people will turn to simple carbohydrates for the morning meal,” says Qureshi. “But simple carbohydrates will not provide long-term energy.”
Instead, she recommends eating whole grains paired with healthy fats and proteins as well as fruits and veggies. These include dishes such as:
- savory oatmeal
- power pancakes
- strawberry-chocolate overnight oats
You can find recipes for these dishes at The Healthy Muslim.
Drinking water is vitally important and has many health benefits.
Maintaining water intake can also help manage chronic health conditions and has a role in preventing and treating
There’s also some evidence that staying hydrated lowers appetite. This is especially useful when you can’t eat for the entire day!
But how do you stay hydrated when you can’t drink water between sunrise and sunset?
Use the time before sunrise and after sunset as an opportunity to rehydrate and meet the recommended water intake. Keep a water bottle close throughout the night and drink whenever possible.
It can also be helpful to pay attention to the foods you’re eating. While sweets during Ramadan can be very tempting, try to choose foods with high water content instead.
Qureshi recommends integrating water-filled fruits and vegetables into your evening meal, such as:
- bell pepper
If Ramadan falls during a warmer season, dress cool and try to avoid direct sun.
Traditional foods are very important for Muslims, especially during Ramadan.
I love the traditional foods offered at gatherings during special religious holidays such as Eid and Navroz. However, my family and I always try to be mindful of portions, as our cultural foods can be very oily and heavy. Even though it tastes amazing, I feel exhausted and tired the next day if I overdo it.
Ramadan isn’t a one-day event, it’s a month-long event.
While breaking the fast is a celebration, eating traditional foods every evening may not be the best idea. After a whole day of not eating and feeling hungry, overeating is also common. This may lead to morning tiredness and weight gain over the month.
Qureshi recommends breaking the fast by eating a date, some fruit, and drinking some water. At this point, she recommends pausing and completing the evening prayer before diving into any food.
“The natural sugars from the fruit will allow your body to register that you have had food. You won’t feel like you’re starving, and you’re less likely to overeat,” Qureshi explains.
For the evening meal, Qureshi recommends using your plate as a guide. Try to distribute your food as follows:
- Vegetables or salad: Half a plate.
- Carbohydrates: Quarter of a plate. If you do choose to eat refined carbohydrates, be mindful to keep it to a minimum.
- Protein: Quarter of a plate.
Having a chronic medical condition doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to fast. It does mean that it’s essential to plan ahead and make the necessary adjustments, though.
Wasem Alsabbagh, BScPharm, PhD, a licensed clinical pharmacist and assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, explains that most medications can and should be continued while fasting.
However, the time you take them should be adjusted to fit the fasting schedule of the evening meal and morning meal.
“If fasting worsens the medical condition, even after modifying the medications’ schedule, patients should not fast,” Alsabaggh says.
This includes critical illnesses like those requiring hospitalization, diabetes that requires consistent supply of food and drink to manage blood sugars, and certain cancers.
People with common medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can still fast as long as their conditions are stable and controlled. However, they’ll need to closely monitor blood sugars and blood pressure, ensure adequate hydration, and adjust the timing of their medications.
Above all, Alsabaggh encourages an open and communicative relationship with your healthcare professional to ensure that it’s safe for you to fast. You should also discuss adjusting medications.
If fasting doesn’t align with your health during Ramadan, not to worry. Ramadan can still be honored by making up fasting days later or through charity.
After Ramadan is over, it can be difficult to resume regular eating habits. Your body may have become accustomed to not eating for long periods of time during the day and having a heavier meal in the evening.
If you find yourself in this situation, Qureshi recommends trying out intermittent fasting and ensuring that you hydrate throughout the day.
If you find yourself leaning towards snacking, consider setting consistent mealtimes instead.
Ramadan is a time for celebration and spiritual growth. It’s also a challenging time as Muslims undertake the trial of fasting for the month.
Use these tips to stay energized while fasting during the day and enjoying cultural foods when the sun goes down.
Azra Chatur, BScPharm, is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, Canada. Passionate about writing, she strives to use her evidence-based pharmacy knowledge to promote health and wellness. Connect with her on LinkedIn.