Fasting is all about sacrifice. However, abstaining from food and water for prolonged periods and a change in schedule in eating and sleeping patterns can cause health problems ranging from dehydration and weight gain, to fatigue and indigestion. Unless, it is done with a healthy awareness, you cannot benefit from its wellness.
Hydration: Fasting especially during summers, can cause dehydration. Make sure you consume adequate amounts of liquids; preferably water, after you end your fast with iftar, the post-sunset meal, and during the period until suhour, the pre-dawn meal, to keep your body well hydrated. You can add slices of lemon or cucumber to cold water and sip it after you break your fast. This is a cool and refreshing way to energise your body, quench your thirst and ingest a host of vitamins and minerals that build your immunity. Citrus juices are also a healthy and refreshing complement to an iftar meal. Citrus juices, high in vitamin C, rejuvenate the body after a long day of fasting. Avoid too much tea and coffee when you are fasting, as they are diuretics and may stimulate further water loss.
Eat light; eat right: Prolonged fasting can deprive the body of its nutrients, so you must make sure you’re actually feeding your body nutritious foods, with good fats, vitamins and minerals. For suhour, eat meals that are high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, balanced with protein and healthy fats. They will keep you feeling full for longer, and release the energy your body needs over a sustained period. A good example of that is a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and a spoonful of flaxseeds; scrambled eggs with a piece of wholegrain toast, or muesli with yoghurt and berries.
At iftar, don’t overeat. Avoid heavy and fried meals, as this can cause indigestion and weight gain. Instead, eat steamed, grilled, baked, roasted or sautéed dishes. In fact, it’s best to break your fast with one to three nutrient-rich dates, followed by some lentil soup and a light dinner that has carbohydrates, protein and good fats. Consume vegetables and fruit to get nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals, to replenish what you lose through fasting. Avoid sweets.
Don’t sweat it: Avoid heavy exercise, especially intense cardio sessions.Moderate activity is advisable to keep you feeling energised throughout the day. A 30-minute walk just before sunset or an hour after iftar is ideal.
- The writer is Consultant Endocrinologist, Medeor 24x7, Al Ain