6 Tips to Stay (or Get) in Shape During Ramadan

by Nadia Kadri

This post was originally published on our partner website India.com:

With Ramadan right around the corner, Muslims who will be fasting from dawn to dusk may be wondering how to prevent weight gain and muscle loss during the 30-day holy month. Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Quran and provides Muslims around the world opportunities to self-reflect, work on willpower, and practice gratitude. This year, Muslims in the US will be fasting for approximately 16 hours each day.

Aside from breaking bad habits, fasting is also beneficial for the body—when it’s done correctly. Moderate and intermittent fasting have shown to have positive results, such as a better digestive system, clearer mind and an increase in mental well-being. Since the fast is broken every evening during Ramadan, you are not starving your body to the point where there is potential to damage organs and wear down muscle. However, with limited intake of water, 16-hour fast, and summer weather, it becomes even more critical that you eat right.

So, put down your third piece of baklava this year—and make this Ramadan your healthiest yet with our list of tips below.

1. Don’t skip suhoor

If you already know you’re not supposed to skip breakfast, then you definitely cannot skip suhoor! The pre-dawn meal is mandatory—both religiously and for your diet—because it provides you with the fuel you need to stay energized and functional during the day. Stick to a balanced meal; a sufficient amount of protein, carbs, fat, and healthy sugar to beat hunger pangs.

2. Eat right between sunset and sunrise

It is very easy to devour everything on the table when breaking the fast, but discipline and self-control are exactly what Ramadan is about. Practice what you’ve built all day when it’s time to eat by staying away from fried foods and meals made up of just one food group. Control portions and break your fast with a date (many already do this traditionally), a large cup of water or fresh fruit juice, and follow with fresh fruits and a well-balanced meal of protein, carbs, and fat. Many people follow the healthy tradition of breaking the fast with a light snack, praying, and then beginning their dinner. This practice helps you digest and prevents overeating.

3. Drink enough water

Since you will only have four to five hours of “eating time” every day, it is critical to incorporate as much water as possible. Try to hydrate immediately after breaking the fast and drink two to three cups per hour that you’re up. This will also prevent overeating—and hydrating during dusk and pre-dawn hours will help beat any dizziness, lethargy and dry mouth you may have experienced during the day.

4. Cut workouts in half—but keep working out

Although you should not be going to your regular spinning or kickboxing classes during fasting hours, you shouldn’t stop working out completely. To prevent a slump, cut regular workouts in half—to about 20-25 minutes—and incorporate strength training or yoga in each workout. Thirty days off can be a hindrance when you return to the gym post-Ramadan, especially for those who are trying to build a regular exercise habit. So, try to move as much as you did before and squeeze in workouts in the pre-dawn hours or at night, after you’ve eaten and are fully hydrated.

5. Give your vitamins a boost

If you already take a multivitamin, consider adding high-quality Omega-3s, or fish oil, to help improve metabolism, muscle building, and intake of essential fats. For those who take no supplements, consider adding a high-quality multivitamin to prevent any deficiencies due to fasting.

6. Stay busy

Whether you are working 9-to-5 or going to school, sitting at home and thinking about food is not going to make Ramadan any easier. Since you will have a lot more free time from not eating, try to accomplish small goals or projects during the day. Tasks like cleaning out drawers, organizing, or even finishing a book will keep you active, both physically and mentally—both of which are necessary to staying fit and healthy.

Ramadan is all about reflection and is a great chance to wean yourself off of an unhealthy diet or bad habits. Whether it is a sugar addiction, smoking or too much coffee, take this opportunity to battle what you’ve been struggling with all year.

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