While Ramadan is a time for prayer and reflection, it’s also a time for fasting from dawn to dusk. Since you’re fasting, what you consume during your eating window becomes incredibly important. Whether your goal is to lose weight or maintain muscle mass, you have to fuel your body with the right nutrition.
As this meal is meant to tie you all the way through the day, it’s important to eat a meal full of protein, complex carbohydrates, as well as healthy fats to keep you full throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates are great because they take longer to process, which results in a more gradual release of energy as compared to an energy spike followed by a crash. Breakfast foods such as milk, eggs, avocados and cheese are high in protein and healthy fat, which helps you to feel full for a longer time while repairing and building body tissue.
You’re also encouraged to consume a serving of fruits and vegetables, as they are rich in fibre, they increase the feeling of fullness and also helps prevent constipation! Not only that, they’re chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals that will help keep you healthy.
While it’s tempting to go straight into a big meal when Iftar begins, it’s suggested that you break your fast with a few dates and two glasses of water, or hot tea. This helps prevent overeating, as thirst is often confused with hunger and causes you to consume more calories than your body actually wants.
According to Dubai-based nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary, the Iftar meal should consist mostly of protein-rich foods with only one carbohydrate in order to counter muscle loss. If you’re trying to maintain muscle mass or even grow your muscles, eat calorie-dense foods. As you’re restricted by the amount of food you can consume during Ramadan, calorie-dense (low-volume, high calorie) foods ensure that you’re getting the most calories out of a small amount of food. As fat provides more than twice as many calories (per gram) than carbohydrates and protein, choose to consume healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and egg yolks. Supplement this with dense whole-grain carbohydrates like oats and brown rice.
If you want to lose weight, the worst thing you could do is go on a low-calorie diet. Your body will naturally be in a caloric deficit, and eating less than normal will put it in starvation mode. Eat food high in nutrients, as your muscles need nutrients to function and muscle breakdown does not help
In-between Iftar and Suhoor
If you lift weights and want to maintain muscle mass, you should take the supplement casein before bed and after suhoor. This protein slows down digestion, allowing you to stay full for longer and produces a stable elevation in amino acids, lasting up to 7 hours.
It’s also recommended to take natural laxatives, such as prune juice, during this time as it would help any digestion problems that occur due to the dramatic change in eating habits.
Lastly, it’s extremely important to stay hydrated during the Ramadan period. Hamza Ayyad, fitness center manager at Burjeel Hospital, recommends fasters to drink 2.5 litres of water between Iftar and going to sleep.