Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during the day. They do this to focus fully on their spiritual existence and connection with Allah. Fasting also allows them to appreciate the blessings they have while being mindful of others who are in need.
Fasting the Right Way
Fasting, though, is not the easiest thing to do.
It helps that all restaurants near Haram Makkah are closed during the day during Ramadan. However, going for hours without eating anything can cause even the healthiest person to feel a variety of side effects. These side effects include headaches, dehydration, and fatigue.
Below are five helpful tips that can help you fast safely anytime and, of course, during Ramadan. The same are also useful if you are on the 5:2 or intermittent fast diet.
- Drink milk and eat dates for breakfast
People who are about to fast are recommended to eat a healthy, filling breakfast that includes milk and dates.
Many people who fast (especially those for the first time) will feel weak and dizzy. This is because of their empty stomach, their low blood sugar, or mineral/salt imbalance.
If you are fasting, milk comes highly recommended. Milk is a complete protein drink that contains a variety of nutrients. It is a beverage that gives the body energy, and helps with making the body feel full.
Dates, on the other hand, are high in potassium and other minerals. Because of their nutrient content, they can address the mineral-salt imbalance that you may experience while you are fasting.
With the benefits milk and dates provide, they are two of the best foods people about to fast should consume.
- Continue having a balanced diet
To stay healthy, even if you are fasting, you should still continue having a well-balanced diet. This means eating something from the different food groups daily in the recommended amounts.
During non-fasting hours, it is best to fill up on high-fibre foods high since they can help make you feel full. This means eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as oats, barley and rye.
When you are fasting, it is also best to avoid caffeine-based drinks such as coffee, tea, and sodas. This is because caffeine is a diuretic and will stimulate faster water loss through urination.
- Drink plenty of water during non-fasting hours
To rehydrate and re-energise your body quickly, drink plenty of water after Iftar.
Drinking lots of water during breakfast will also help reduce the side effects of dehydration. It will also give your body the energy it needs to power through some of your daily activities.
Aside from hydrating with water, you can also naturally rehydrate with fresh fruit juices, salads with plenty of freshly-prepared vegetables, and fresh-cut fruit.
- Avoid eating a lot after Iftar or a regular fast
Instead of eating a lot in one sitting to compensate for the lost calories, eat only small portions every 30 minutes or so.
Eating a lot after a day without food can cause indigestion. Listen to your body’s natural signals as to when to stop eating as well.
In addition, avoid eating and drinking too much of raw and cold foods as well as beverages after Iftar or a fast. These foods are hard on the stomach and may cause digestion issues.
When eating at an international cuisine restaurant or at home after fasting, it is best to have warm dishes and beverages. Examples of good food items to consider are lentils, vegetable soups, herbal tea, and plain water.
- Take a nap
Lastly, to get additional energy and stay awake, take a 15 to 20-minute nap during the day. People who take a nap during the day also look more refreshed and less stressed out.
Also try to squeeze in more sleep during the fasting hours if your lifestyle allows for it so you don’t compromise your health.
Benefits of Fasting
Aside from spiritual and emotional benefits, intermittent fasting and fasting during Ramadan also offer a variety of health benefits. These include:
- Improved heart health
Fasting can help regulate glucose in the body and cardiovascular health. In addition, this practice has also been proven effective in lowering blood pressure, triglycerides, and body mass. It can also aid in improving the body’s insulin sensitivity and levels of good cholesterol.
- Weight loss
Eating less means reducing the chances of gaining weight. Fasting also helps people avoid overeating since it regulates the body’s ghrelin or hunger hormone levels. Additionally, studies also show that regular fasting can improve one’s eating patterns over time.
- Better immune system
When fasting, the cells in the body regenerate quicker. New cells replace the old ones that make up the immune system faster as well. This leads to a stronger immune system.
Abstaining from eating, drinking, and smoking can cleanse and correct imbalances in the body. This is because when there is no food in the body, the body automatically turns to the fat deposits for energy. This process causes the release of chemicals from the fatty reserves. This, in turn, will allow the organs and the body to flush out these chemicals.
- Healthier skin
The process of autophagy or self-eating involves recycling of cellular components which happens when unnecessary cells are destroyed or reduced. Fasting aids in this process. This results in the production of healthier cells and tissues throughout the body leading to better skin. It also boosts collagen production and with reducing acne.
When done correctly and in a healthy manner, fasting can provide people spiritual satisfaction and, at the same time, several health benefits.
As such, follow the tips above to experience all these benefits during Ramadan and when you are undertaking intermittent fasting.
Mohammed Ghanem is the General Manager of Shaza Hotel in the Makkah Governorate in Saudi Arabia. His newly opened 5-star hotel offers the best of both worlds: an intimate cocoon of serenity and exclusive city tours covering all the places listed above and more.