Today’s blog post was guest written by my sister, Aaliyah Mussa, seeing as she is more passionate about the topic of health and fitness. I know this post is a bit late considering we’re almost half way through Ramadhan but better late than never. Make sure to leave a comment below if you found this post useful!
If you’re someone who finds maintaining a healthy lifestyle in Ramadhan a challenge or is confused about how to remain active, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Hopefully this post will answer a few of your questions concerning the topic and show you that it’s not that difficult. Before I start, I would just like to put out a disclaimer that I am by no means a health or fitness expert. This is merely some of my top tips that I’ve found helpful and would like to share.
1. Make healthy choices – Yup, you guessed it. I know this is the last thing you want to be told and you’re probably rolling your eyes at the screen right now. Resisting fresh hot samoosas requires major will power and even more so when fasting. During Ramadhan, your body is being deprived of food all day long so it’s extremely important that you fuel it correctly by consuming nutrient dense food. Try to eat as much fruit, vegetables and whole foods as possible while limiting your intake of processed, fried or ‘junk’ food. This will make you feel more energized rather than bloated and lethargic.
In addition to eating nutrient dense food, it is extremely important to eat a balanced diet which means consuming a good amount of protein, fats and yes, carbs. While on the subject I’d like to emphasise that eating carbs at night does NOT make you fat. This is a myth. Carbs DO NOT make you fat. Eating too much makes you fat.
2. Stay hydrated – How many times have you been told to drink more water? More than you can count, right? Yet this is probably one of the most commonly ignored pieces of advice. We all know that drinking enough water impacts not only how we feel, but also our bodily functions. However, what many people do not know is that how you drink water is just as important, hence the Sunnat. In order to maximize the benefits of drinking water, aim to drink 2 – 3 litres of water (depending on your size, diet and level of activity) spread throughout the period in which you can eat. Avoid chugging your water in one sitting as this makes it more likely to flush through your body rather than being absorbed by it.
3. Don’t overeat and keep iftar light – This way you can avoid the dreaded food coma which we’ve all experienced more times than we’d like to admit. It also has the added benefit of making Taraweeh easier to perform. Personally, I prefer to break my fast with yoghurt and fruits. I find that this is light but filling and provides my body with essential micronutrients after a long period with no food.
4. Treat yourself – This point may seem contradictory given my first point, however, I like to think that there is no such thing as good foods or bad foods. Rather there are nutrient dense foods and not so nutrient dense foods. If you are someone who is making the transition to a healthier lifestyle, you do not need to cut out foods that you love. This will only make you miserable and is more likely to lead to bingeing in the future. If you crave something during the day then allow yourself to have it. One or two savouries at iftar time will not kill you. A few pieces of chocolate after dinner will not hinder your progress. As the saying goes, “everything in moderation.” However, I do advise that the majority of your food be nutrient dense and be eaten first. Then and only then, if you still want that piece of cake (which lets face it is all the time), go for it. Equally important, DON’T feel guilty about it. Food is meant to be enjoyed so eat the cake and move on!
Working out during Ramadhan is not necessary, however, if you are someone who exercises regularly and want to continue doing so, here is what has worked for me.
1. Set goals – Maybe your goal is to workout 4 times a week. If not 3 or even 2. Do YOUR best and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
2. Plan ahead – Once you’ve decided how many times a week you want to workout, schedule them around school work and tests to ensure you stick to your goals. By making time for working out you will have no excuses and you’ll feel even better once accomplished.
When deciding when to train, pick a time that works best for you, when you feel you have the most energy. This could be right before sehri, before iftar or, what I personally prefer, after Taraweeh. This is usually 2 hours after I’ve eaten a proper meal and ensures my body has had enough time to digest the food.
3. Pick a training style that you enjoy – My personal goal is to maintain my current level of fitness, nothing too intense, in order to avoid putting too much pressure on my body. I personally do not have the strength or energy to go to the gym after fasting and so prefer working out at home. I try to incorporate strength and resistance training to maintain muscle mass and tone.
Workouts do not have to be long in order to be effective. I try to limit my workouts to 20 minutes of high intensity exercise. If you find you lack energy or prefer low intensity exercise, a simple 30-minute walk is more than enough to remain active. Remember, something is better than nothing.
I like to create my own workouts but a good example of something similar can be found by clicking here.
4. Lastly, be realistic – Don’t expect to be perfect and be prepared to slip up now and again. You will overindulge, you will miss workouts and that’s okay. Ultimately the focus of Ramadhan should be on praying and to improve spiritually so don’t overthink it.