Every year, millions of Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise (suhour) to sunset (Iftar); dedicate hours/days to spend time with friends and family; look back; reflect; connect with god/a higher power; and exercise more consciously.
Ramadan is the perfect time for both Muslims and non-Muslims to set themselves for more growth, fulfillment, success, connection, health and wellbeing.
Despite the benefits of fasting we already know, including promoting healthy weight loss and fat breakdown; improving cardiovascular health; positively affecting blood sugar levels; and helping in overcoming addiction, it is worth keeping in mind that the Holy month also affects the body, mind and soul.
Health and wellness experts from Valiant Clinic, share tips on how we can make the most out of the Holy month.
Tips on how to maintain a healthy body in Ramadan
1. Keep your body hydrated: The lack of fluid intake during fasting hours can result in mild dehydration, headaches or fatigue in some people during the Holy month. It is recommended to ensure to remain hydrated following Iftar, until Suhour – focusing on water intake and staying away from caffeinated/high in sugar beverages including tea, coffee, and sodas.
2. Break your fast withdates: This natural source of energy provides the body with Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Fiber, making it a great food to have after a long fasting day. Avoid over-eating dates, as 2-3 dates are considered one serving of fruit.
3. Eat smart at Iftar and Suhour: make sure to provide a balance between complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and vegetables for your iftar meal. It is recommended to start off with a soup or a salad, and to avoid foods that are fried, and/or are high in fat and sugar such as baked goods, sweets and dishes with creamy sauces.
For Suhour, make sure to have a late meal in order to have a longer lasting energy during the day as suhoor is one of our main sources of fuel during fasting hours. Aim for meals that are high in fiber/protein and low in salt such as oatmeal with low fat milk and berries or boiled eggs with whole wheat bread and vegetables. If you are unable to wake up in the early morning hours, make sure to have your suhoor meal before bedtime.
4. Maintain a regular exercise routine: although it’s not recommended to exercise during fasting hours due to risk of dehydration, fatigue, and in some cases fainting, if that’s the only time that suits your schedule, it is advisable to exercise 30-60 minutes prior to Iftar – to be able to replace the fluids lost at the end of the session.
Ideally, exercising 2 -3 hours after Iftar or before Suhour is recommended. The type and intensity of exercise will depend on the time of planned exercise and on your fitness level. Always listen to your body and make sure not to set unrealistic goals during this holy month.
Tips on how to maintain a health mind in Ramadan
1. Get to know yourself better: dedicate 5-10 focused minutes a day to quieten your mind; reflect on your emotions, choices, experiences, needs, and wants; dive deep into your habits and pinpoint what continues to serve you and what doesn’t anymore. Follow this with a 3-5 minute breathing and relaxation session. This process will allow you to develop awareness – the first step to a sustainable change.
2. Practice gratitude: think about what you’re grateful for; visualize it, as well as anything you wish to attract into your life or want more of; play and re-play that vision in your mind and bring that energy back to your reality. Focus on breathing in the process.
3. Take charge of your mind, mood and life: think about what you don’t want to be, and then focus on what you want to be. Ask yourself what you want to do today/in the near future to make that intention a reality – and act on it.
4. Manage your time well: most of us get less working hours during Ramadan. Use that extra time to set goals; prioritize activities; reflect; connect with god/friends/family; and in growing yourself.
Give your communication and relationships some thought. Apply the four agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz: be impeccable with your words; do not take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best.
5. Take care of others: not only is giving important, and not only is it crucial during the Holy month, but it is also a happiness booster. Altruistic behavior is said to release endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.” A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. Giving has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.
6. End your day on a high: before going to bed, step into mindfulness again. Bring your senses to life, ‘feel’ everything that you do, and reflect on your day. Make sure to be grateful for all that has happened and only aim to be positive to what’s yet to come. Congratulate yourself and switch off.