The Holy Month of Ramadan is just around the corner, tiptoeing on the edge of summer in the UAE. In addition to familiar scorching temperatures, this month of abstinence promises longer days with suhour starting earlier in the day and iftar postponed until after the summer sun sets. Perhaps now more than ever is the need to exercise caution and ensure a successful fast by being particular with what enters the body beforehand. If you’re looking to stay out of the hospital for the month of Ramadan, follow these simple tips and tricks:
1. Make suhour count
‘Suhour', the meal fasters eat before dawn, replaces breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Taken before the ‘start’ of a fasting day, it is imperative that any pre-dawn meal has the right nutrients and enough water to sustain workable levels of hydration until iftar. A solid suhour meal can also help reduce chances of overeating when breaking fast at sunset.
To make the most of your suhour, try include:
Fibre-rich foods: Healthy cereals, dates, figs, whole wheat, chia seeds, vegetables, fruits (particularly those with edible skin) are essential to keeping your digestive track in order, and promote a feeling of fullness for longer.
Complex carbohydrates: Don’t get too excited – complex carbs doesn't mean you should binge on milk bread and pasta. Oats, wheat, beans and other legumes, potatoes, and grains like flax seeds are slow-releasing carbs that will help temper your blood sugar level throughout the day. These will help keep you energized throughout your fast.
Protein: Throw in some protein like eggs, cheese, yoghurt or meat. As well as having a higher satiety index than many vegetables, protein can be called upon as an additional source of energy when resources are low.
2. Avoid processed and high-sugar meals
No matter the hour, whenever you restock on fuels steer clear of processed foods that are easily digested and give fleeting boosts of energy. Refrain from indulging too heavily in any basbousa, kunafeh, baklava, or rice pudding.
3. Get your sugar-fix from fruits and vegetables
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries (berries in general) are nutrient-dense: high in fibre, energy, antioxidants and a string of vitamins needed to keep you fit and healthy. Load your plate up with them between fast periods, but be sure to include healthy portions of complex carbs to prevent a sugar crash.
4. Avoid strenuous exercise
Yes, exercise is good for you, and many nutritional experts go so far as to argue that fasted exercise is optimal for weight-loss and boasts added health benefits. However, if your body is not accustomed to exercising without fuel, avoid completing physical exercise as you normally would. If you’re eager to keep up some semblance of an exercise regime, wait until after iftar, or indulge in light exercise and stretching – like yoga – during the day.
5. Drink plenty of water – but not too much
You’re not getting away from this rule. You’ve got to drink water. Before suhour ends, try and get 8-10 glasses in, topping up with the same after iftar. Keeping yourself hydrated, particularly during such a hot season is crucial to avoid serious illness and discomfort from dehydration. If you're a fussy water drinker, supplement some of your water intake with fresh fruit drinks.