Nutrition Advice for Fasting During Ramadan

By: 
Lauren Evans

*Lauren Evans is a nutritionist with BSc (Hons) in Human Nutrition and MSc in Exercise & Nutrition Science

Fasting during Ramadan is already a challenge within itself; however fasting during one of the warmest months of the year not only intensifies this challenge but also requires a true commitment that can only be marvelled. With an average of 14 hours fasting between Suhoor (Sunrise) and Iftar meals (Sunset), nutrition and hydration during meal time are both highly important.

Metabolism

Fasting affects your body in many ways. As your body undergoes quite a drastic change from receiving food and water on a regular basis to not receiving anything for an extended amount of time, it understandably causes a shock to the system. Your body becomes unsure whether food will be readily available and as a result of this, tries to reserve as much energy as possible by slowing down your metabolism.

In this context, your metabolism is the speed at which your body converts food into energy. A slow metabolism means that the food is converted into energy much slower, which can result in weight gain particularly after Ramadan when normal eating habits are resumed.

Therefore it is important that during Ramadan you undertake measures to keep your metabolism as normal as possible. One of the best ways to do this is with light exercise as this can speed up your metabolism, helping to counteract the effects that fasting has on slowing down your metabolism. Exercise should only be carried out after Iftar or before Suhoor and doesn’t need to be anything intense. The best form of exercise would be a 30 minute brisk walk in the morning or evening.

Hydration

Water is said to make up over two-thirds of the human body. It is essential for many bodily functions such as aiding digestion and the transition of waste, lubricating eyes and joints and maintaining healthy skin. Dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, nausea and even affect your everyday decision making. If you are thirsty, this is a sign you body is already dehydrated. As water is not permitted during fasting hours, it is vital that you fully hydrate outside of fasting hours. It is recommended, generally, that you consume at least 2 litres of water per day.

However, due to the possibility of warm/hot weather throughout August, you should aim for 2.5-3 litres per day which is the equivalent of 5-6 small water bottles or 10-12 average (250 ml) glasses. For example, to consume 10 glasses of water you could have 1 glass when you wake up in the morning, 1 before you eat, 1 whilst you eat, 1 after you eat, 1 when opening fast at iftar, 1 before your main evening meal, 1 during your meal, 1 after your meal and 2 before you go to sleep. Although water is the best option to hydrate the body, it is fine to consume other liquids such as cordial, milk and fruit juice. Try to avoid fizzy drinks, tea and coffee as the caffeine acts as a diuretic.

Meals

It is important to remember that there is no need to over indulge or consume excess amounts of food at Iftar and Suhoor than you normally would. The reasons for this being, most people assume a more inactive lifestyle during Ramadan which means they will use less energy thus require less energy.

The metabolism slows down so the rate at which the food is converted into energy is much slower and so the body’s demand for food/energy will also be reduced. Hence there is no need to make up for what was not consumed during the day. A balanced diet similar to that consumed before the commencement of Ramadan should be sufficient.

It is expected that the longest fasting day (1st August) will be around 15 ½ hours and the shortest day (30th August) 13 ½ hours. With these long days it is recommended that complex carbohydrates are the primary contributor at Suhoor. Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly and consistently throughout the day which means food last longer making you feel less hungry.

These are found in pasta, spaghetti, brown rice, granary bread, potatoes, high fibre cereals, porridge oats, beans and lentils. At Iftar it may be more beneficial to consume simple carbohydrates to begin with, as these are digested faster in order to replenish blood sugar levels more quickly. These are basically foods that contain white flour or sugar such as white bread, honey and fruit. Make sure protein is consumed with both morning and evening meals and a variety of vegetables with the evening meal. For dessert, fresh fruit is the best option and as a starter, soup is a good choice.

Summary tips

  • Aim to drink around 10 glasses of water each day
  • Include some light exercise in the morning or evening
  • Be conscious not to overeat during meal times
  • Make sure meals consist of complex carbohydrates (pasta, spaghetti, brown rice, granary bread, potatoes, high fibre cereals, porridge oats, beans, lentils.)
  • Try to consume wholegrain carbohydrates(brown pasta/rice/bread, muesli, oatmeal) where possible
  • Include protein in your meals such as eggs, fish, milk and white meat.
  • Try to avoid eating red meat more than twice a week. Although red meat is a good source of iron, it is also high in saturated fat
  • Include a variety of vegetables with your meals
  • Soup is a good starter and adds to your fluid intake
  • Avoid tea, coffee and fizzy drinks
  • Avoid fatty desserts, instead opt for fresh fruit and nuts
  • Avoid frying foods. Grilling or oven baking food is a much healthier method
  • If you are worried about not receiving enough vitamins and minerals during Ramadan, taking a multivitamin once a day with your meal can help to ensure you reach your recommended daily intake

* For more details visit Lauren Evan's website: www.nutrispex.co.uk

Comments

TPOS
Member since:
8 November 2008
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

I can't drink that much water - it also 'acts as a diuretic.' Fool

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

Lauren Evans (not verified)

True, if you're not used to drinking that much water then it will make you need to urinate more frequently...however, if you stick to it your body will adjust and you will be able to retain and absorb more fluid.

Also, drinking with your meal lessens the need to urinate as the food will absorb some of the fluid; furthermore, drinking lots of water will help you feel fuller for longer.

Give it a go Smile

s.b.f
Member since:
1 October 2008
Last activity:
2 weeks 5 days

Example of light exercise cos my days do not consist of exercising.

 

Lauren Evans (not verified)

A 20-30 min brisk walk, 15 min light jog, cycling, gardening. Light exercise is basically anything that will allow you to talk quite easily whilst performing it.

TheRevivalEditor
Member since:
25 June 2005
Last activity:
5 months 3 weeks

I've had very positive comments regarding this article so far

Quick question Lauren, most ppl are asking is how is it possible to drink 10 glasses of water in ramadan when you have so little time.

I tried it today and drank 5 glasses- couldnt drink a sip more...

Looking To See
Member since:
24 December 2008
Last activity:
3 days 4 hours

*reads the 10 glasses of water bit*
*looks at mug of water i just downed*
*goes get a refill*

will inshaaAllah follow the advice on the carbs bit. i mean, that will be my MAIN thing. oatmeal for suhoor it is...but i swear that thing cooks slower in the morning...

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

TPOS
Member since:
8 November 2008
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

Oh btw thanks for the advice Lauren Smile

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

Foysol89
Member since:
13 February 2011
Last activity:
11 months 3 weeks

ThE pOwEr Of SiLeNcE wrote:
Oh btw thanks for the advice Lauren Smile

+1 Biggrin

Lets reunite the ummah under one flag LA ILAHA IL ALLAH MUHAMMADUR RASULULLAH

Lauren Evans (not verified)

Well its not a MUST that you drink 10 glasses exact but you should aim for this. The main reason is generally when it's not ramadan & you eat normally your body gets a lot of fluid from food therefore its not necessary to drink as much. So its understandable that you will find it hard to drink so much now if you're not used to it however it is important you try as honestly the more you do it you will see how much easier it becomes.

Maybe try this, have a litre water bottle and aim to drink 2 a day which is roughly the equivalent of 8 glasses. If you find you have less time in the morning, try to drink more in the evening. You drank 5 today, aim for 6 tomorrow, 7 the day after and increase each day but don't worry about it as long as you are concious and attempting to drink as much as you can especially when it's so humid at the moment. If you drink cordial rather than water alone you may find it easier to drink more Smile

Lauren Evans (not verified)

Foysol89 wrote:
ThE pOwEr Of SiLeNcE wrote:
Oh btw thanks for the advice Lauren Smile

+1 Biggrin

Your very welcome Smile

bilan
Member since:
26 November 2010
Last activity:
6 months 1 week

Lilly wrote:
*reads the 10 glasses of water bit*
*looks at mug of water i just downed*
*goes get a refill*

will inshaaAllah follow the advice on the carbs bit. i mean, that will be my MAIN thing. oatmeal for suhoor it is...but i swear that thing cooks slower in the morning...

yh porridge is a good idea actually. theres ones that u can make in the microwave much quicker and still nice.

"Verily, in the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find rest"

TPOS
Member since:
8 November 2008
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

I stayed awake from iftar till suhoor and that helped me drink more water. I didn't have 10 glasses but I had some until I thought I was going to burst...then had some more! Good thing I didn't burst Blum 3

But yeah, that was definitely an improvement on the day before and I was going to say 'no headache today' but I feel something starting...

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

Lauren Evans (not verified)

I do admire your determination but don't sacrifice your sleep for water lol, that could be one of the reasons for you getting a headache? But do keep it up and let me know if you start to find it any easier as you go on

Lauren Evans (not verified)

bilan wrote:
Lilly wrote:
*reads the 10 glasses of water bit*
*looks at mug of water i just downed*
*goes get a refill*

will inshaaAllah follow the advice on the carbs bit. i mean, that will be my MAIN thing. oatmeal for suhoor it is...but i swear that thing cooks slower in the morning...

yh porridge is a good idea actually. theres ones that u can make in the microwave much quicker and still nice.

Using the microwave is a good idea if you are stuck for time. Ready Brek and Quaker Oats:Oat so simple are both nice and only take about 2mins. Try adding fruit or raisins to your porridge also

Looking To See
Member since:
24 December 2008
Last activity:
3 days 4 hours

well..i didnt sleep between Suhoor and Iftaar either. twice.

and i tried making porridge in microwave once. one word. disaster.

i made flapjacks!

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

TPOS
Member since:
8 November 2008
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

Lauren Evans wrote:
I do admire your determination but don't sacrifice your sleep for water lol, that could be one of the reasons for you getting a headache? But do keep it up and let me know if you start to find it any easier as you go on

Oh I didn't have a headache afteral Smile

I had 7hrs of sleep, it's all good Smile I didn't stay awake just for the water, although it was good - probably the most water I had in a whole week! :shock:

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

SISTER (not verified)

i was wondering if you could help me...
Why do i get headaches after opening my fast?
i am totaly fine when fasting.

Lauren Evans (not verified)

Hi,

What do you have first when breaking your fast? And do you get a headache right away or a while after?

SISTER (not verified)

Hi, thank you for your reply.

i have a date and mango milkshake glass (mango pulp, milk, sugar, somtimes honey)
is it maybe a sugar rush?
after that i eat like e.g. sandwich, somosa, pasta, salad etc
i dont get headache straight away but i do get it very soon after.

the other thing is my normal diet consists of small regular meals every 2-3 hours its just the way my body is and my diet has been for a few years now, no particular health reason for this diet, im tall and thin, mates say i have a fast metabolism.

i await your reply, really apreciate it, thnks.

Lauren Evans (not verified)

Hi,

Fasting will effect everybody differently. You will have a fast metabolism if you normally eat every 2-3hours and if this is what you are used to then fasting may effect you more negatively than someone who only eats 2 to 3 times a day. So although you feel ok whilst fasting, due to the long hours your body goes without food your blood sugar levels may become depleted. I think your headache could possibly be a 'sugar rush' as milk already contains sugar (lactose) plus the honey, mango and dates is quite alot. This will mean the body is under pressure to regulate your blood sugar levels resulting in a headache.

Try breaking your fast with a complex carbohydrate e.g. a piece of wholemeal toast and a glass of milk without added sugar or water. See if that makes any difference and let me know.

Hope this helps Smile

SISTER (not verified)

i opened fast with a date and water. no mango milkshake or milk. i had a minor headache and it was later than i usually get it. it was clearly a sugar rush i think. so the improvment was good. ill try openeing my fast with mik instead of the water next and see what happens.

i do find fasting harder than others and this can reduce my self-esteem thinking im not strong. However, your comment was very comforting, as it helped me understand my health and fasting.

it took me many conversations and mental strength to beleive i can fast and will be okay to fast (considering the type of diet i have). this was after consulting my shaykh, parents, and doctors.

i really appreciate your comments. thank you very very much.

Lauren Evans (not verified)

Hi,

I'm glad i've been able to help you in some way. If you ever have any other questions about your diet feel free to contact me Smile

TPOS
Member since:
8 November 2008
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

Bump!

"How many people find fault in what they're reading and the fault is in their own understanding" Al Mutanabbi

Looking To See
Member since:
24 December 2008
Last activity:
3 days 4 hours

i made flapjacks during ramadan?! .. ok..focus... euh... i dont think it stayed up after taraweeh just twice.. more like all of rammy except the few days before the last ten days,,was soo sleepy...

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?