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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

how to eat, move and stay well when fasting

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During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which means strictly no eating or drinking during the daylight hours – and yes, that includes water. 


“Ramadan is an incredible month of self-regulation and an opportunity to focus on our spiritual, mental and physical needs,” says Canadian-Somali nutritionist and gut health expert, Idil Farah. “It’s a period of worship, sacrifice, giving and committing to a higher purpose,” she adds. 

As a Muslim woman, I couldn’t agree more: Ramadan is the perfect time to cleanse the mind, body and soul. But admittedly, it isn’t easy at all and demands a lot of self-discipline. With the ambition to be more active and prioritise my health this Ramadan, I spoke to Muslim fitness and wellness experts to learn more about how to eat, exercise and take better care of our bodies while fasting


How to stay fuller for longer

While observing Ramadan, Muslims rise before dawn for their first meal known as suhoor, which has to last up until sunset, when our second meal, iftar, is served. And since we fast throughout most of the day, it’s super important that we consciously eat foods that are energising and packed with plenty of goodness.  

Nazia Khatun, fitness trainer and influencer

“In the mornings for suhoor, I tend to eat porridge or overnight oats as it gives me a slow release of energy throughout the day and keeps me fuller for longer. When breaking my fast, however, I like to prepare protein-rich foods and healthy fats such as lean meats, fish, avocados and lots of green leafy vegetables. I also try to replenish my body with watermelon slices and plenty of hydrating fluids.”

Hafsa Issa-Salwe, co-founder of Dish Your Herbs and podcast host

“I like to drink a simple smoothie for suhoor, packed with plenty of nourishing ingredients. On mornings when I’m feeling a bit more hungry, I’ll make a super-satisfying smoothie with peanut butter, maca, hemp protein, cinnamon, pistachios and oat milk. And for a lighter option, my current favourite smoothie is a delicious blend of frozen mangoes, strawberries and hibiscus tea. 


Hafsa is all about adding more fruit and veg into her regime - like these chocolate coated dates.
Hafsa is all about adding more fruit and veg into her regime – like these chocolate coated dates.

“As for iftar, I know that culturally we tend to feast and eat a lot of fried foods, so for me, it’s more about adding than taking away – incorporating hydrating foods, fruits and vegetables into my meals as much as possible. I also try to eat more intuitively and pace myself, so that I get the most enjoyment and nutrition from whatever I eat.” 


How to maintain good gut health

Idil Farah, nutritionist and gut health expert

“On a regular day, so much of our daily energy goes towards digesting, assimilating and metabolising what we eat,” says Farah. “So, fasting frees up energy to allow our bodies to detox, repair and eliminate toxins and natural metabolic waste. By understanding how our bodies work during a fast, we can make more informed choices to minimise complications and maximise the benefits of our fast. Breaking our fast with warming, easy to digest, nutrient-dense foods, such as soups and stews, can do wonders for your overall gut health. My current favourite to start with is turmeric and lentil soup for its healing properties – plus it tastes so good!”

Golden lentil soup helps Idil maintain good gut health over the fasting period.
Golden lentil soup helps Idil maintain good gut health over the fasting period.

How and when to exercise during Ramadan

Shazia Hossen, PT and online coach

“My workout sessions during Ramadan are shorter than usual and last up to 45 minutes. I like to include a lot of super-sets and compound exercises to make my training more efficient. My workouts tend to happen after Asr prayer, so a few hours before breaking fast, which allows me enough time to prep for a replenishing iftar after.”

Nazia says:

“I tend to work out after breaking my fast so I am fuelled and hydrated. This decreases the risk of injury and being fuelled enhances my performance levels. I keep workouts very short and focus on just moving without any additional weights or gym equipment. 

“My advice would be to take rest days when you feel deflated, as this will you to perform better on the days that you do train. Non-exercise activities also count, so make the most of daily tasks such as walking, running errands or cleaning the house.” 

How to practise self-care and wellness

Shazia says:

“I allocate time for naps during the day and take on less work. I’d always recommended asking employers to avoid scheduling morning meetings. The key thing for me is prioritising my wellness as a whole during these 30 days, with the intention to maintain it afterwards. It’s also important to be kind to yourself. You don’t need to exercise to the point of exhaustion. It’s OK to reserve some energy for other forms of worship.”

Hafsa says:

“I find that keeping a gratitude journal really helps keep me on track with my wellness.

“I like to make a dua (prayer) list before Ramadan starts so I can actively be thankful for my blessings, and gracefully pray for the things I want.” 

And for a deeper sleep…

Hafsa recommends a homemade ashwagandha night-time blend

“I make a special blend before I go to sleep during Ramadan using ashwagandha, oat milk, cinnamon and vanilla. It is a 360 herb that gives you energy and endurance and makes you feel more relaxed and balances you for your best sleep yet.” 

For more fasting content, follow Strong Women on Instagram (@StrongWomenUK).

Images: Getty





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