Have A Healthy Ramadan
James Heagney, Head Coach at D5 Gym in Dubai, offers a few tips for ensuring adequate nutrition and continued well-being when fasting
Observing a sixteen-hour fast can at first invoke many difficulties in balancing daily nutrition and hydration.
However, it can be used to your advantage
from a body composition perspective,
depending on the food choices you make.
Intermittent fasting is a popular nutritional
strategy adopted by many people around the
world looking to reduce body fat.
This style of eating fits perfectly into timings
for Ramadan in the Middle East. The 16-hour
fast, eight hour feeding routine is the exact
guideline for intermittent fasting.
The key to your success comes down to your
mindset. The eight hours of food consumption
should be looked at as nourishing your body
and providing it with high quality, nutritionally
dense foods that help to repair and restore.
The 16 hours of fasting is a perfect opportunity
to rest your digestive system, allow your liver
to detoxify and provide an environment to
activate your parasympathetic nervous system
with prayer and meditation.
BREAKING THE FAST
Breaking your fast will have long-standing
family and cultural traditions but can still
be modified for optimised health. I would
recommend you remember not to overload
your digestive system, and slowly bring your
body out of its fasted state. It is important
to stabilise your blood sugar levels, and not
create a blood sugar rollercoaster that will
result in a huge over-consumption of food
Rehydrate with water and coconut water as
this provides a nice supply of minerals and
electrolytes while minimising simple sugars.
Remember your body does not need sugar.
Yes, it will be craving it, but you can survive
very easily without simple refined sugars (your
body doesn’t physiologically need it).
Keeping with cultural traditions, dates are a
great way to break your fast. Adding a large
handful of mixed raw nuts will also help to
stabilise your blood sugar levels. This creates
an environment that is less likely to increase
heightened cravings, because your blood
sugar levels are balanced.
EXERCISE AND NON-EXERCISE
BREAKING FAST NUTRITION
If you are breaking the fast and not
immediately exercising (within 10-20 mins) the
following is a good plan:
Handful of raw nuts of your choice
If you are going to exercise immediately after
iftar then this is good:
A handful of dates
400-750ml of water and coconut water
10g of essential amino acids
What I don't promote is the consumption of
fruit juices, especially orange, pineapple and
apple. They are loaded with sugars and don’t
provide the nutritional support like their
fresh counterparts. Also, processed, fried
foods, pastries and breads aren’t great as
they cause inﬂammation.
THE MAIN IFTAR MEAL
Try and approach the main iftar meal as
any normal meal or daily food intake. If your
daily intake of calories is higher than your
expenditure, then you will gain weight (body
fat). If you are in a calorie defcit, then you
will most likely drop body fat.
If you are not exercising then you do not
require as much food, so you should take
this into consideration. Your metabolism
is bolstered by activity, so with less activity
comes fewer calories needed.
I would recommend that your main meal
of the day should be flled with fresh foods.
Grilled or roasted meat in plentiful amounts
with large salads, greens, and as many
colourful vegetables as
possible. Take light proteins such as eggs, white fsh, seafood,
chicken and turkey.
The things I would suggest removing from
your meal are: breads, pastries, fruit juices,
fried foods, soft drinks and sweets. These
items will move you further away from your
body composition goals. It is okay to treat
yourself if you have stuck to your nutritional
rules for the previous few days – a small
portion of your favourite desert is not a
It’s all about balance and moving closer
toward your goal, and aligning your personal
choices with them. If it fts in, then proceed, if
it moves you further away, then abstain.
Awaking just before the sun rises is an
excellent way to provide supportive nutrition
and hydration for your body. Typically, you
might be feeling tired, not very hungry, and
wish to go back to bed for a few hours. This is
when liquid nutrition is the most effective.
A drink/shake is made best when including
protein, good fats, fbre and water. This
provides your body with a well-balanced
nutrient intake. I strongly encourage you to
include good fats and fbre, not just protein in
your shake. This will exit your stomach at a
fast rate, causing a slow release of nutrients
that keeps your blood sugar levels nice and
The often overlooked most essential
component of successful fasting – water,
water and more water. Look to rehydrate your
body as frequently as possible to keep all
bodily functions running