During Ramadan, many people are likely to put on weight. And if you are one of them, you may be falling victim to a number of Ramadan mishaps. You may find yourself consuming large portions of food at iftar, more than you would have ever at any meal, or grazing your way from iftar to suhoor on all the available Ramadan delicacies. Accompanied by inactivity, weight gain seems inevitable.
At the same time, it has been proven that reduced food intake, which could easily be accomplished in Ramadan should you regulate your food intake in the evenings, is the most effective factor in improving health and longevity. In addition, fasting during Ramadan, if done properly, allows our body to use stored fats and can promote weight loss.
Look out for these common mistakes that could prevent weight gain this Ramadan if tackled.
Lack of planning: Failing to plan is planning to fail. In Ramadan, lack of planning is the biggest mistake you can make as you’ll find your schedule all over the place. Make a plan for your diet. Are you going to eat a balanced and nutritious iftar and do you have healthy suhoor options in your kitchen? Include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables as well as lean meat, chicken or fish and low fat dairy products. Make a plan for your workout. Could you fit in some cardio before iftar, and some weight training after? Make a plan for your sleep. Will you sleep early and wake up for suhoor, or sleep late and nap before iftar? Secure your 7-8 hours of sleep in Ramadan.
Dehydration: Although it may seem like you’re on mission impossible with the long fasting hours this year, hydration is key to weight loss during Ramadan. Drinking enough fluids will not only keep you from becoming dehydrated while you fast, but it will also control your sugar cravings after you break your fast. How much should you aim for? Drink at least eight glasses of water during the non-fasting hours. Introduce two glasses of water at iftar, four glasses in between iftar and suhoor at a rate of one glass per hour, and two glasses at suhoor. Limit diuretics such as coffee or black tea as they’ll only serve to dehydrate your body further. Replace them with herbal teas that make a great alternative to water and may aid your digestion.
Overeating: Have a light iftar that includes reasonable food portions and avoid grazing from iftar to suhoor. As a rule of thumb, don’t exceed amounts you would have for lunch or dinner. Look out for unhealthy food choices you wouldn’t typically make outside of Ramadan only because you feel you deserve them after a long day’s fast. Break your fast with weight loss foods that are high in fiber, water and protein. Start with non-creamy soup and salad as these are low in calories and make you feel full. Incorporate healthy protein such as fish, chicken breast, lean meat, beans or low fat dairy in your main meal along with complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, freekeh, or bulgur. These will stabilize your blood sugar and prevent overeating.
Excess sugar: Too much sugar intake lies on the list of top reasons for weight gain in Ramadan. This Ramadan, challenge yourself to only eat naturally occurring sugar such as fruits, dried fruits, molasses and honey. Have fresh fruits and fresh juices without added sugar, instead of the readymade ones or sugar laden sodas. Enjoy a fruit salad, fruit smoothie or dried fruits instead of Arabic sweets.
Eating high fat food: Avoid unhealthy fats whenever possible. When cooking, make your favorite Ramadan recipes healthier without deep frying. Instead, reduce the amount of fat in your meals by stewing with some vegetable oil, baking, roasting, steaming or grilling. But don’t forget to add good fats. You can slice avocados on top your salad, or sprinkle some sunflower seeds in your soup. Use olive oil in your dressings and sauces.
Inactivity: Ramadan doesn’t have to be a time of weight gain and laziness. Cardio and training should continue to be part of your schedule. Make sure that during the fasting day you get 15-to-45 minute of light cardio like walking, shopping, or house cleaning. Continue to strength train to prevent muscle loss. Keep lifting weights just move your training schedule to after iftar.
Skipping suhoor: It’s true that your eating hours are quite limited this year, but this is no excuse to forgo your suhoor meal, the pre-dawn breakfast before the fast. Omitting suhoor will only worsen hunger the next day and make you more prone to overeating for iftar. When choosing your suhoor meal look out for salt to avoid getting thirsty the next day. A balanced suhoor is composed of complex carbs such as whole grain bread instead of white refined bread, and contains a good source of protein such as labneh, cheese or eggs. This combination ensures a stable level of glucose in your blood that will sustain you until iftar.