Ramadan: Eating too little slows down your metabolism, UAE dietician warns

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Eating too little during Ramadan will slow down your metabolism and put your body under stress, UAE-based Clinical Dietician Dr. Sara Abdelghany told Al Arabiya English.

When the human body does not get enough food, it goes into “famine-mode” and lowers its metabolism to ensure its physiological functions are running normally, the dietician at HealthBay Clinic Dubai warned.


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During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Many often use the month-long period to kickstart their weight loss journey or improve their eating habits.

But one mistake people may make is not balancing their meals and meeting their required food intake for the day, according to Abdelghany.

A woman eating food out of the fridge. (Stock photo)
A woman eating food out of the fridge. (Stock photo)

Medical research has long proved that not getting enough food forces your metabolism to slow down to survive. Severe diets, especially when combined with intense exercise, teaches your body to cling to what little calories it’s being given, making it harder to lose weight.

“Food is a physiological need for the body. Under stressful conditions, such as fasting, our bodies are programmed to lower their metabolism and physiological functions to help us survive,” she explained.

“During this month, if we drastically decrease our food intake, the body will go into famine-mode and lower its metabolism to survive, leading to muscle and water loss more than fat loss.”

Not eating enough also leads to decreased energy levels, headaches, dehydration, sleep disturbances, changes in bowel movements (such as constipation), and increased hunger, the clinical dietician added.

Preventing under-eating

It is very important that people have at least two balanced meals that contain protein, carbohydrates, fats, vegetables, and fruit to keep the body well-nourished, Abdelghany told Al Arabiya English.

They should also have a snack in between meals to help them meet their required macros, she added.

“At both meals, make sure you have a source of complex carbohydrate – such as potatoes, whole wheat bread, or basmati rice; a source of protein, like meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or cheese; and vegetables and fruits, which are very important to maintain a healthy fiber intake to support gut health and avoid constipation and vitamin deficiencies,” she said.

Making sure you eat enough is especially important for those who have an exercise routine, Abdelghany added.

A man exercises at a gym. (Envato)
A man exercises at a gym. (Envato)

“Our calorie intake should always be matched with the level of activity, the intensity, and duration of the exercise performed. Our food intake should be enough, meaning not too little and not exaggerated, to support the exercises and optimize the energy that the body needs, especially during the dry fasts like Ramadan,” she explained.

The general recommendation for exercise is between 150 to 300 minutes per week, the clinical dietician explained.

This means people should get at least a minimum of 30 minutes, five days a week or up to 40 minutes to an hour a day, six days a week.

The time, type, and intensity of exercise depends on each individual’s goals, gender, weight, and physical condition, Abdelghany said.

“During Ramadan, if a person’s diet is balanced, and their macros are complete and well distributed, then they can follow the same exercise routine they did before they began fasting.”

Read more:

Ramadan: Five ways to feel energized throughout the holy month

Ramadan food tips: 10 things to eat to prevent fatigue, stay energetic

Ramadan do’s and don’ts: Your guide to staying healthy, fit throughout the month

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