The 30-day fasting period during the Month of Ramadan means refraining from consuming food and drink in the long hours from dawn until sunset.
This can mean a huge dietary disruption and metabolic shock in contrast to the usual fitness regime you may have followed.
However, with proper planning and the right guidance on diet, nutrition and exercise it is still possible to safely and effectively progress towards your weight loss goals while fasting for Ramadan. Ramadan can be the perfect opportunity for the new healthy beginning! It’s all about maximizing nutrient uptake, maintaining proper hydration, and modifying key fat-burning and muscle-building hormones in your favor-and of course PREPARATION.
If you want to lose weight this Ramadan, follow these SIX Must-Dos!
Although it may seem like mission impossible with the long fasting hours this year, hydration is key to weight loss this Ramadan. Drinking enough fluids will not only keep you from becoming dehydrated while you fast, but it will also control your sugar cravings after you break your fast. How much should you aim for? A good two liters or eight glasses of fluids a day will suffice, and it can be broken down like this:
Two glasses at iftar (the breaking of the fast)
Four glasses in between iftar and suhur (the meal before the fast)
Two glasses at suhur
Keep in mind that caffeinated drinks such as coffee or black tea do not count and it would be best to avoid these diuretic drinks all together. Instead, herbal teas make a great alternative to water and may aid your digestion.
In Ramadan, your metabolism slows down and your energy needs decrease as a result. The iftar meal isn’t supposed to make up those hours you spent without food. Forget that you haven’t eaten all day and imagine you have sat down for your dinner meal and eat accordingly.
Break your fast with dates as they are a quick source of the sugar your body needs after a fast. You don’t need to have more than one date as dates are quite high in sugar. Then, go for a small portion of soup, such as a vegetable or chicken soup, and avoid cream based soups. Follow it with a mixed vegetable salad and limit the amount of olive oil in the dressing to 1-2 teaspoons. Skip all other appetizers including the carbohydrate rich ones. ** If you plan on working out after you break fast, have 1-2 dates with a protein shake for quick food absorption.
Click here for my Nutrition Guide for healthy protein shakes and much more.
When you are done with your appetizers, it is important to take a break. You don’t want to overwhelm your digestive system. This is a perfect time to complete your prayers and workout. When you’re done with your prayers resume your meal, choose only one main dish, choose wisely and avoid fried dishes, make sure it is balanced in carbs and protein, and most importantly control your portions. If you’re done with your workout have a fast absorbing protein shake and then 15 minutes after have a small meal rich with healthy fats and protein.
Click here for my Nutrition Guide to learn about what types of carbs, proteins, and fats you should be having with different recipes to start using!
It’s true that your “eating hours” are quite limited this year, but this doesn’t give you an excuse to forgo your suhur meal, the pre-dawn breakfast before the fast. Skipping your suhur will get you hungrier the next day and you will end up overeating for iftar. Aim to have a high protein and healthy fats for this meal to maxizmine on nutrients and to ensure you’re fuller for longer. Examples of healthy fats are; olive oil, almonds, mixed nuts, nut spread, avocados, egg yolks, etc. Examples of healthy proteins are: eggs, tuna, salmon, mixed nuts, protein shakes, etc. You’re permitted to have a moderate amount of healthy complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, whole grain bread(Ezekiel bread), rice cakes, dates, etc.
When choosing your suhur however, make sure it is limited in salt to avoid getting thirsty the next day. It should also be composed of complex carbs such as oatmeal, instead of cereal, and it should contain a good source of protein such as labneh, or eggs. This combination will ensure you have a stable level of glucose in your blood so you don’t get hungry the next day.
Fasting is not an excuse for us to sleep all day or be lazy. In Ramadan, you should maintain your usual daily activity level to a certain extent, but do avoid the sun and heat at its peak.
Remember that you’ll be burning more fat than ever on an empty stomach. After you break your fast, aim for 30-45 min of vigorous exercise a day that you can do at the gym or at home such as burpees, push-ups, lunges, sit-ups and squats. After you have broken your fast, go for a brief walk to allow the food to digest. Keeping your body moving after iftar is key to make sure you don’t feel lethargic and are more likely to get physical exercise in!
It seems the number one cause of weight gain in Ramadan is not the food you eat for iftar. In fact, it’s the sugar you consume from Ramadan beverages and sweets. This Ramadan, challenge yourself to only eat naturally occurring sugar such as fruits, dried fruits, and honey. This will be life changing and so effective in ensuring you stay on track with your goals! If you’re going to have fruits(simple sugars), aim to have them before or after your exercise so the body utilizes it rather than storing it as fat.
What Should Your Meals Look Like?
What is required is a balanced and nutritional meal in terms of quantity and quality, rather than being deprived of food and sweets. Choose wisely which calories to consume since you have limited time to eat!
Sample Meal Plan****
First: Eat 1-2 dates with one cup of water. If you plan on working out after Iftar you should consume a protein shake so it absorbs quickly providing your body with nutrients during your workout whereas a full meal will make you feel lethargic.
Second: Eat soup every day. Avoid creamy and fatty soups and replace them with vegetables, lentils, barley, or chicken soups (cream free).
Third: Eating appetizers after soup will prepare your stomach to begin the digestion process. Therefore, it is recommended to choose appetizers that are rich in vegetables such as broccoli, green salad and tabouli sprinkled with a hint of lemon or vinegar without any added salt.
Fourth: The main dish
It is preferable that Ramadan tables feature one main dish, as food variety and indulgence generally lead to overeating. Food for the Iftar meal should be high in healthy fats and protein with a moderate complex/fibrous carbs such as quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach, green peas, etc.
Food served at this meal is a balancing act and will depend on the person’s food intake at the other three meals. For instance, if the person had a heavy Iftar, the Ghabgha meal should be light.
You can eat foods containing complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, quinoa, etc.) and change the protein source such as opting for a vegetable protein (pea plant, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
For a healthy sweet treat. you can have fat-free yogurt with rice cakes with a drizzle of honey.
Include a salad to ensure that the body’s requirements for fiber, vitamins, and minerals are met.
Avoid serving fried foods and sweets at this meal and remember to drink sufficient amounts of water to ensure an adequate supply of the body’s requirements for liquids.
The best time to eat Suhoor is half an hour before the Adhan. You can break your fast with something light such as:
Dates with oatmeal, cinnamon, honey and a healthy nut spread of choice.
Egg omelet with avocado toast and dates.
Rice cakes with healthy nut spread, bananas, and a protein shake.
Stay away from sweets that can increase your feeling of hunger a few hours after you start your fast. Also, avoid salty foods because they trigger thirst.
Break your fast with dates.
Incorporate soups and salads into your food plan.
Avoid eating out!
Stay away from fried and fatty food as much as possible and substitute frying with baking or grilling.
Avoid eating sweets every day during Ramadan and restrict them to special occasions (such as dining out or inviting guests to the Iftar meal).
When you break fast, pretend like you’re about to have dinner. You wouldn’t normally overeat for dinner so don’t do so during Ramadan!