As a Muslim living in a country where even though a vast majority of people are also Muslims, there are also a lot of people who are of other faiths. When Ramadan comes, there are only two things they tell me, “Oh My God! Do you really don’t eat or drink for 16 hours?” (thank the long summer days for that) and the second, “You’re so lucky, you will lose so much weight.” (right, like that has EVER happened to anyone.) *insert oil dripping samosa emoji*
So getting back to the point, losing weight in Ramadan may just be possible if you have a strict and consistent eating pattern that does not involve you being on the taste panel for your family’s culinary showdown. Meanwhile on the other hand, while losing weight is still more achievable, maintaining it, is a whole another story! Having recently dived into this ever growing realm of fitness, I realized that I’m more concerned with what I’m going to eat and even more about when I’m going to eat than I have ever been before. I mean I need a meal distribution that works, but the small window of eating that I have is not enough to stuff all the proteins, carbs, amino acids etc that I need to (fellow fitness nerds will know what I’m talking about right?) Now even though I’ve been a nutritionist for four years now, and planning diet is like breathing, this was difficult, so much that I almost considered not doing it at all. But come on, no excuses right?
So, after much searching, I think I was able to plan out a regime that should suit most people and I shall try my best to break it down here.
1. The one thing we must understand is that our bodies are functioning differently than it does in the rest of the year. Fasting suddenly for so many hours sends crazy signals to the brain and the body will begin to burn ready sources of energy. For people who have a considerable amount of lean muscle, yes, unfortunately, the protein is used up for energy. The best ways to deal with this is to (a) Eat a low GI carbohydrate source at suhoor, or a low GI meal, that will ensure a sufficient flow of glucose to your cells throughout the day, decreasing your muscle breakdown and (b) Consuming a lean protein source for Iftaar along with a Moderate to High GI carbohydrate source that will replenish the depleted glycogen stores and restore the muscle loss if any.
2. While most people exercise in the wee early hours of the morning, which is good if you’re trying to lose weight, it is particularly advised to avoid early mornings workout sessions, especially high intensity cardio which will burn out your glycogen stores, and deplete the water and electrolyte content leaving you lethargic and sluggish for the rest of the day. This in turn will also cause you to eat more after breaking your fast, which is kind of against the aim here. Your best bet is to squeeze in that workout after iftaar at your convenience, keeping in mind that you have a pre and post workout meal.
3. Keeping track of your water intake is as necessary as is difficult, I mean you can only guzzle so much water at a time! Dehydration causes muscle fatigue, making it even more difficult to workout. An electrolyte rich drink consumed in the duration of your exercise will easily help alleviate the muscle fatigue.
**The timing of your meals, quantity that you consume and the quality of it is dependent on your fitness goal. While gaining mass during Ramadan is not as feasible, maintenance is definitely more achievable.
**If you have a clinical condition, please consult a doctor.
**Note that these are only guidelines and highly subjective, consult a trained professional before making any drastic changes in your diet.
Let’s not forget the main purpose of Ramadan, and spend the entire day thinking about what you will eat and how much. While it is good to eat appropriately and worry about our health and bodies, let’s not forget this blessed month arrives only once a year, so it’s not such a bad thing if you emerge out of it a kilo or 2 lesser or maybe more. (Ok. not more!)
Having said that, RAMADAN KAREEM to everyone, and may we all have the most blessed month!