Friday, July 29, 2011

Making the Fast: How to Eat to Live During Ramadan

Available in paperback and electronic download!

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Excerpt from Chapter 6 Hydration:

"The average individual requires 96 ounces (3 quarts) of water per day. For individuals who are participating in a weight loss program, an additional 8 ounce glass of water for every 25 pounds over ideal bodyweight is required. Extra hydration is also needed for those who live in warmer humid climates as well as those who perform brisk exercise. During Ramadan, the challenge lies in maintaining water intake levels within a shorter window of opportunity. In this chapter, we will cover the benefits of good hydration, how water is lost, causes of dehydration, effects of dehydration, hydration guidelines, foods to avoid, and foods to help stay hydrated during Ramadan.

"There are many benefits to good hydration. The following systems and are positively affected: 1) endocrine gland function increases, 2) fluid retention is alleviated, 3) liver function improves which increases the percent of body fat percentage used for energy (which promotes weight loss), 4) natural thirst returns, 5) appetite decreases significantly, 6) metabolic functions improve, 7) nutrients are well distributed throughout the body, 8) body temperature regulation improves, and 9) blood volume is maintained." (Micheal A. Clark, 2008)

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Are You Ready for Ramadan?

Ramadan begins in just one week. Hopefully, you have already started your preparations. If not, there is still time. Here are some of my annual rituals that set me and my family up for a successful fast.

1. Eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet.
It is critical that we eat nutritionally-dense foods during Ramadan. Processed foods, fast food, junk food, etc. typically do not contain adequate amounts of protein and fiber. They also lack vitamins and minerals. You will still be hungry and want to eat more to compensate for the lack of nutritional value. You could potentially gain weight. Also, ensure that you eliminate bodily wastes regularly.

2. Reduce/eliminate caffeine intake.
Drinks that contain caffeine like coffee and green tea act as mild diuretics which will work against your efforts to stay hydrated. Make sure to get adequate rest to conserve energy. Also, consuming slow-release carbs will help keep your energy levels up.

3. Plan your meals and shop now.
Take inventory to ensure that you have sufficient amounts of healthy foods on hand. Consider: What will your diet consist of for the month? Will you eat salads, beans, soups, and fruit? How much time will you have to cook daily? Which foods can I cook in advance and freeze? Do I have enough water? Will I host iftar feasts?

4. Clean and organize your home.
Pay special attention to your kitchen and spaces where ablution, prayer, and reading will take place. Eliminate any clutter. Your home should be a restful and inviting refuge.

5. Take a moment to count your blessings.
Your attitude about Ramadan should be one of gratitude and humility. Be grateful for every blessing and trial. The way you start is the way you will end. If you focus on what you must sacrifice, you will miss out on the benefits.

6. Commit to making or breaking a habit.
Ramadan is a wonderful time to re-focus and establish discipline. If it takes 21 days to make or break a habit,then imagine where you will be in thirty!

7. Plan your day.
Your daily routine will require some adjustments. Be realistic about your limitations. You may decide to scale back non-essential tasks for the month. It may be necessary to change the time of day that you prepare meals. You may take naps before dinner. You may move your workouts to early morning so that you can drink. Choose the best time to complete your daily reading. Do what works for you.

8. See your doctor.
If possible, squeeze in a doctor's appointment. It is critical to know your numbers and how the fast may affect your overall health. The Ramadan fast can be quite beneficial for generally healthy people. If you are ill, pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should not be fasting. Those who take prescription medication due to existing health conditions may be unable to participate. Listen to your body and follow your doctor's orders.

9. Figure out the frequency and intensity of your workouts.
If you don't already follow an exercise regimen, this may not be the best time to start one. If you are currently active, adjust your workouts accordingly. You may work out 5-6 days and need to drop back to 3 or 4 days to conserve energy and manage hydration. Exercises like walking and yoga can help with circulation, mood, quality of sleep, and appetite control.

10. Adjust your daily schedule.
Start pushing dinner time later in the day. If you normally eat at 6pm, gradually delay your meal 15-20 minutes each day. Today, eat at 6:20 pm. Tomorrow, eat at 6:40 pm. Follow a similar regimen if you do not rise before dawn for prayer. Adjust your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier every day. By the start of the fast, your transition will be much easier.

Be good to yourself! More next time...