How to get your body back
Ramadan is the ideal time to lose weight and start a healthy lifestyle, says Riham Adel
Ramadan, the holy month, is just around the corner and many people fear putting on weight as a result of eating its delicious dishes and sweets. Fortunately, many experts say that people can actually lose weight during Ramadan, using the holy month as a way of turning their lives around and starting a better, healthier way of life.
There is a saying regarding the three big Cs: choices, chances and changes. You should make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change. However, how can Ramadan be the chance to change your lifestyle? To what extent can one benefit from the month to lose weight? In fact, in addition to the obvious spiritual benefits of Ramadan, many people can feel physically and physiologically better at the same time too.
Ramadan arrives this year in the middle of summer, and as a result it may seem strange to be exercising or fasting during the long, hot summer days. However, "an hour before Iftar [breakfast] is the best time to exercise," gastroenterologist Mohamed Adel told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Exercising during this time forces the body to burn stored fats, he said, considered a hard target during normal days. As a result, for people who want to lose weight and decrease their body fat, Ramadan is a golden opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.
Adel recommends walking for 45 minutes before Iftar. "To avoid exposure to dehydration, especially in summer, drinking water is a must, which is why heavy exercise is not advisable at this time when the body lacks water," he added.
For people who feel they are low in energy during fasting, or have headaches, weakness or dizziness, they can work out for three hours after Iftar.
The way in which exercise can be teamed up with fasting clearly depends on a person's age, health and eating habits. "To make a success of your dieting programme, exercising for three hours after Iftar is the perfect time. This is because your body naturally burns the food immediately after you eat. Therefore, when you exercise three hours later, your body is burning further fat," Adel said.
He added that fasting from sunrise to sunset can restore youth and rejuvenate the biological functions. Unfortunately, some Egyptians treat Ramadan as if it were a month in which it is possible to eat more, consequently possibly losing God's blessing.
"I am not exaggerating when I say that every organ in our body rests and benefits from fasting, but only if you eat food in moderation," Adel said. He recommends breaking the fast with a glass of milk, or two or three dates with yoghurt instead of milk or soup, and then waiting another hour before eating a main dish.
"I would advise people to start with a big plate of salad. Then they can eat proteins and vegetables," he added.
For the meal of Sohour, Adel says that yoghurt and a boiled egg or cheese with salad is more than enough. It is very important to increase the intake of fluids between Iftar and Sohour. "Water is the number one recommended fluid, and you can drink all kinds of hot drinks, as long as they are sugar free, in order to avoid getting dehydrated during fasting."
After a few days, your stomach will get used to this small amount of food. If you also exercise during the times Adel recommends, then you should be able to lose weight by the end of the month, reshaping your body as a result and decreasing body fat. "After that, you will be able to continue this new lifestyle," Adel adds.
According to Wageeh Mahmoud, a personal fitness instructor, exercising an hour before Iftar can have real benefits for the body because the blood at this time is sent to the muscles due to the empty stomach. "Building muscles increases the body's metabolic rate, which is very helpful in losing weight," he added.
Mahmoud agrees with Adel on the importance of working out in Ramadan at certain times, either an hour before Iftar or three hours afterwards. "If you want to shape your body, or develop and sustain your muscle mass, or maintain a precise dieting programme, you should eat only carbohydrates for Iftar and exercise one hour later. Then you should wait for another hour after you have worked out before eating protein."
Carbohydrates are readily absorbed and turned into glycogen as a result, which gives the body the energy to exercise successfully. "Eating protein after exercising with weights is a significant factor in building and repairing the muscles. One needs to be both selective in what one eats and follow a healthy exercise regime in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle," Mahmoud added.
Success, happiness, and self confidence are key elements that most people seek in their lives. Why don't you make the decision to get your life back into shape this Ramadan? Life is about working out a balance between work and play, and health is not something we can bargain with.
Manage your time well and make use of this year's Ramadan, so that you can obtain the three sides of the triangle of happiness: a healthy mind, a healthy soul and a healthy body.
Some advice to help you achieve a healthy lifestyle and make use of Ramadan as a catalyst for positive change:
- Drink as many sugar-free liquids as possible, and increase water intake between Iftar and Sohour. Drinking water helps your body to increase its metabolism, and without water losing weight is hard to do.
- Perform light exercises and eat a balanced diet, so that you can gain all the benefits of Ramadan, both spiritual and physical.
- Exercise either an hour before Iftar, or three hours after you eat.
- Break your fast with soup, dates or juice and then wait for an hour before you eat a main dish. Small amounts of food are preferable.
- Have a light Sohour, such as a boiled egg, yoghurt, some fruit, vegetables or food with fibre, such as breakfast cereal.
- Never sleep immediately after you eat. Some people wake up before sunrise to have Sohour, as they think this will help them not to feel hungry the next day. But they should have Sohour early instead, such that the body can cope better with fasting. Not eating before you sleep can also decrease digestive problems.
- Don't eat spicy, greasy, or fried food or sweets. Instead, eat vegetables and salad together with protein and a small amount of carbohydrates as your main intake for Iftar.
- Don't exercise right after you eat. You should take a three-hour break after eating and before exercising.
- Don't work out heavily before Iftar, as the level of blood glucose is usually below normal during fasting.
- Don't consume large amounts of caffeinated drinks like coke, coffee and tea. Before Ramadan, decrease the amounts gradually, thereby avoiding potential insomnia and weakness.
- Don't eat highly salted food. This will help you avoid becoming thirsty and prevent your body tissues from storing excessive water. Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking gradually, building up to a salt-free diet over time.