Ramazan: Eat, pray and exercise

Experts recommend everyone to engage in low intensity exercise an hour before iftar.

Saadia Qamar June 30, 2014


During Ramazan, people often tend to overeat which leads to weight gain, acidity and digestion problems. Not only is eating wisely tricky, so is fasting wisely. There is no reason why you should not make the most of the shorter hours at work and fit a workout plan into your routine.

Mozamila Saeed, the senior dietician at the Aga Khan University Hospital, shares a few workout and nutrition tips that should be followed during the holy month. She recommends everyone to engage in low-intensity exercise an hour before iftar, this includes light exercise, such as stretching or walking. “Any sudden high-intensity exercise without proper warm-up results in early fatigue and chest pain. The best way is to start slow reach peak for short duration and then slow down,” explains Saeed.

Do people continue their regular exercise regimen during Ramazan? Sumayya Ahmed, a gym instructor at Shapes, says that there is no definite answer to that and it usually varies from person to person. “For some, it is a habit and they exercise regularly, whereas, others are lazy and may not visit the gym at all during Ramazan,” says Ahmed.

According to Saeed, the health expert, hitting the gym an hour before iftar is the best time, however, Ahmed, the gym instructor, holds a different opinion. “Most people come right before iftar time, no matter how hard we try to convince them to come in the morning,” says Ahmed.

Just like Saeed, Ahmed also discourages a high intensity workout during Ramazan. “In regular days and months we tend to offer a workout for one and a half to two hours, however, during Ramazan we cut it short to an hour,” says Ahmed.

The gym instructor implores those who visit the gym on a regular basis to opt for an exercising model during Ramazan as well. “A one-month gap from the gym is not advisable; it would steadily affect your body structure. If you have a laid back approach and don’t have the energy to head to the gym, then going for a walk is a good alternative,” says Ahmed.

Model Omer Shahzad, who is regular in following his exercise regimen, says that his experience of exercising during Ramazan is much better than the rest of the year. “I work out before iftar regularly and do my normal exercises as per schedule. It’s a refreshing feeling as the body gets pumped up. The best part is that you don’t even get tired after iftar this way,” says Shahzad.

The 27-year-old model not only exercises regularly, but also maintains a balanced diet. “I have lots of fresh fruits during iftar and try to avoid oily stuff and bakery items. I make it a point to have a lot of fresh juices and water,” he adds.

In terms of dietary intake, Saeed says that due to the long hours of fasting, the so-called ‘complex carbohydrates’ or slow digesting foods should be consumed during sehri so that the food lasts longer (about eight hours) - resulting in less hunger during the day. These complex carbohydrates are found in foods that contain grains and seeds, such as barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour and unpolished rice.

She says that fruit and vegetables add colour and variety. They are often termed as ‘protective’ foods as they help the body fight sickness. They are rich sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals. An added benefit is that they are relatively low in calories and also contribute to our daily fibre intake.

“Always include water in your diet and limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic and will not provide adequate hydration,” adds Saeed, “three to five days before Ramazan, reduce the intake of fizzy drinks, coffee and tea. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.”

In summary, the discipline of Ramazan does not mean lack of proper nutrition and exercise.  Yes, it will be challenging and require both discipline and moderation, but that is what the whole process is really about.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2014.

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iFind | 8 years ago | Reply

Excellent Article. Please advice frequent water intake during the night. Add Chick pea with beans & lentils, plus egg, bananas for long hold. Simple methodical Resistance Exercise(use 4to5ft rubber bands/bungees of different grades) done at home, can do wonders for body toning without taking away huge chunks of energy reserve from you. Time you rest, work & food routine for extra healthy body. Happy Ramadan!

Genius | 8 years ago | Reply

Why do we eat lunch? We eat lunch simply because we have been addicted to it. The first time I came across a person who told me he is not in the habit of eating lunch I was quite surprised. Eating lunch is perhaps one of the reasons to have excess of acidity in the stomach. Drinking milk before bed is the best way to ensure excess of stomach acidity. So my plea with all is that please please continue with the habit of allowing the least amount of food and drink during the daytime for ever after getting your body into this precious habit of going without food and drink during the day in Rumzaan. Rather instead one should try to keep the daytime intake of solid and liquid at a bare minimum after Rumzaan. Does striking a balnce of food intake make sense to people. The balance is achieved when we eat breakfast ater dinner and dinner after breakfast. I am not sure if people going to gym before Iftaar cause any damage to themself but brisk walking perhaps would be a better option for many.

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