Your expert Ramadan nutrition & fitness guide

WE’RE ABOUT HALF way through now and, if you’re fasting, chances are you’re well into a regular routine. We hope it’s working and you’re getting everything you wish to embrace from it. Though, if you’re still finding it a bit difficult, or you just want to try something new, we’re here for you. Maybe you’ve cut back on your exercise? Should you? Or is there a way to carry on as normal? Does that last cup of tea in the evening help or hinder the process?

Read what three of Dubai’s top nutrition and fitness experts have to say as pointers.

Sinead Scott, Talise Fitness Clinical Nutritionist gives us her facts to make sure your body has what it requires.

. During Suhoor include whole wheat foods as many of these foods can take around 6-7 hours to digest and which will help you to not to feel too hungry too early.
. Also for your late evening meal try to include some seafood because it is low in fat and cholesterol and rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 fatty acid.
. Reduce intake of oily food as it makes you feel lazy and less energetic.
. Make sure to eat complex carbohydrates as they will provide you a long lasting source of energy throughout the day. Examples of these are fruits and vegetables.
. Also with your meals try to incorporate healthy unsaturated fats like avocado, nuts, fish and healthy oils.
. Try to avoid any processed foods as they tend to be high in sugar and salt which will cause dehydration and unstable blood sugar levels.
. Make sure drink sufficient water between Iftar and Suhoor.
. Try to avoid drinking all your water at the one time as this will flush through your body too quickly, try to constantly sip your water from Iftar to Suhoor.
. Increase hydrating foods such as cucumber, celery and watermelon which will help to keep you hydrated for longer and they will also increase your electrolyte levels.
. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola because as caffeine is a diuretic and will cause more frequent urination which will lead to dehydration.
. Listen to your body, if your urine is dark you are dehydrated, you want a pale colour of urine.

Rob Richardson, the Director of Training at Embody Fitness, answers our questions on pumping iron.

If you’re a regular hard trainer, what should you do during Ramadan? Cut back?
Don’t use Ramadan as a reason to stop training for the month. When you are fasting its important to maintain your hard earned muscle and the best way to do that is to make sure you perform some workouts during the month. You don’t have to break any of your workout records or hit new highs, just aim for two to three whole body workouts per week. Your exercise intensity should be set at a level you can recover from during the fasting month.

Which specific foods are absolute no-goes during the month if you want to keep weight off?
Avoid all junk foods and processed foods, your body is dehydrated and nutrient deprived after a long fast so you want high quality whole foods full of nutrients. Any thing that comes in a pack or is full of ingredients you cant pronounce is not worth eating. Also stay away from high carb foods – these are generally low in nutrients and are mostly empty calories.

What food do you enjoy the most that you can eat as much of as you want?
You can eat lots of nutrient dense high quality meats and fish, green vegetables and healthy fats like avocado and coconut oils. Foods with lots of good quality proteins , vitamins, minerals and nutrients all help the body recover from the fasting quickly and are easier to digest that processed foods. Think of chicken with green salad avocado and nuts, or beef with sweet potato mash and steamed veg .

How does tea and coffee effect the body and are they recommended during Ramadan?
Some teas and most coffee can have a dehydrating effect on the body, this is especially bad when your are fasting as your body is already in a dehydrated state. The best thing to drink is fresh water, natural spring or mineral water. Coconut water is also a great option as it contains electrolytes  they can replenish the trace minerals such as such as potassium, sodium that can be lost through sweating.

Nutritionist Lulwa Alarmali has outlined six tips to ensure you maintain your equilibrium throughout your fast, focusing on food and exercise.

Stay Hydrated
To stay hydrated during your fast, don’t leave all your water-intake to the last few hours of your day. The body will excrete it if it’s too much in one go. Instead, aim for 250-500mL of water per hour during the hours you’re not fasting.

Avoid Crashing
Don’t break your fast with high sugar or high amounts of refined carbohydrates such as white breads, pastries, large amounts of white rice, and juices/ sodas. This will result in an insulin spike followed shortly by a crash. The “crash” will trigger cravings for more high-sugar foods, resulting in somewhat of a cycle. Instead, to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and eliminate bad craving, consume foods high in protein and healthy fats, and choose slow digesting carbohydrates.

Thermodynamics & Electrolyte Balance
The concept of thermodynamics still applies to weight management during Ramadan, which simply put is energy in versus energy out. It’s possible for people to gain weight or lose it depending on the amount of food they consume between the Maghreb and Fajer prayers. Electrolyte balance is important in order to avoid feelings of thirst. Before the Fajer prayer, have a banana or a few dates for their potassium content. If you’re avoiding sugary foods, have an electrolyte drink or powdered greens mixed with water.

Protein Power
If you train before breaking your fast, it’s important to supplement immediately with fast-digesting proteins and possibly carbs. Whey protein is a great option for breaking your fast, before starting your main meal. BCAAs or an essential amino acid drink works just as well if you’re avoiding dairy, as whey comes from milk. Casein is a slow digesting milk protein, which can be taken before the Fajer prayer to provide a slow releasing source of protein during the fast.

Training Times
Speaking of training, the best times to train during Ramadan is either early in the morning soon after your last meal, directly before breaking your fast, or 1-2 hours after breaking it. This enables the body to utilise exogenous fuel sources rather than breaking down muscle and protein without the ability to recover.

Don’t Forget Your Fibre
Having a high fibre meal as your last meal is essential for preventing hunger during your fast. It keeps the stomach fuller for longer, and doesn’t result in an insulin spike, eliminating the cravings you would get for the reasons mentioned in the second bullet point.

[Source”timesofindia”]