Eating well for energy at Ramadan
Long hours of fasting in Ramadan will affect your body. You may experience mild dehydration if the weather is warm, which may cause headaches, dizziness or make it hard to concentrate. If you normally have caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, you may experience dizziness and tiredness as your body learns to adjust without it. When you break the fast, you need to give your body the best opportunity to rehydrate and gain energy from what you eat and drink. This will give your body the best chance to recover and prepare for the fasting ahead.
Having not eaten for a long period, eat slowly. This will give your body the time it needs to digest food properly. After a long day of fasting the last thing you want is the discomfort of indigestion.
Drink at least 8-12 cups of water to rehydrate you and help you prepare for the fast. Avoid sugary drinks – they’re not as effective as water in rehydrating you – they are just ‘empty’ calories that you could do without. Avoid caffeinated drinks altogether as they are diuretic which stimulates faster water loss – you need to keep as hydrated as possible.
Eat fluid-rich foods
Certain foods can help rehydrate. Soup is an obvious one, and it is a good choice for our body after a long period of fasting. But some fruits and vegetables have a high water content too, such as cucumber, watermelon and melon for example, making these good choices too.
Avoid salty foods
Too much sodium will not only make you thirsty but also lead to bloating. The situation can be made even worse by the fact that often salty food is also fried – which can exacerbate your bloating and make you feel tired too.
Avoid sugary foods
There is a limited time to break the fast and filling up on refined carbohydrates (i.e. sugar and white flour), and fatty food (e.g. cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets like Indian mithai) will not give us the fuel we need for the fast. In fact, it can have the opposite effect: after the initial ‘kick’ we get from eating fast-burning food, we can be left feeling even hungrier.
Eat smaller, more wholesome, meals
Eat smaller meals that pack a punch to give you enough energy for the fast. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, beans, chickpeas and lentils, provide a long-lasting source of energy throughout the day. Eating a large, unhealthy meal on an empty stomach may leave you tired and sluggish. Maybe a look back at tradition and break our fast with a glass of milk and a few dates might help.
Good foods to eat
Use the list below to determine good foods to eat – and those to limit or avoid altogether – this Ramadan.
Meat and Protein
• Grilled or boiled skinless chicken or turkey
• Lean lamb
• Moderate amounts of prawns
• Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas
• Fried or fatty meats
• Processed meat
Milk and Dairy
• Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
• Low fat yoghurt
• Low fat cheese
• Whole milk
• Ice cream and cream
• Full cream yoghurt and cheese
• Creamy and cheese sauces
Fruit and vegetables
• All fresh vegetables, boiled, baked, steamed or cooked with a little oil
• Seasoned vegetables or vegetables with lemon juice or a little oil
• Fresh fruits and natural fruit juice (in moderation)
• Fried vegetables
• Vegetables with added butter
• Fruit juices
Bread and grains
• Whole meal bread and cereal (such as oats)
• Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans
• Plain spaghetti or rice (without ghee or high fat sauce)
• Grains with no added fat
• Baked or boiled potatoes
• Pastries and cakes that contain large amounts of fat (doughnuts, croissants etc.)
• Fried rice
• Unsaturated fats such as avocado, unsalted nuts, salmon, olives and olive oil.
• Saturated fats such as butter, cream, ghee, full fat milk and cheese, fatty cuts of beef and lamb and processed meats.
Tips for next year
In the months leading up to Ramadan next year, why not start to prepare your body by steadily increasing your water intake and steadily reducing your food intake.
• Water: Increasing your water consumption will help you to be fully hydrated when the fast begins. It’s very important to do this gradually in the weeks prior to Ramadan and not drink a lot the day before, as it could be potentially harmful.
• Food: Eating smaller meals now will help your body better adjust to the fasting period.