Ramadan is a special month for Muslims.
Celebrated in many parts of the world, the holy month is marked by prayer and refraining from consuming food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
For many, this is also a time of self-reflection and self-improvement. As such, on top of charity, devotion and sacrifice, the period also entails paying attention to one’s health.
This aspect is one of the reasons why many non-Muslims have now taken to fasting alongside their Muslim friends and family members.
As bountiful as the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting are, however, it can be challenging, and entirely possible for one to feel short of strength and energy.
Fortunately, staying healthy during the 30 days of Ramadan and maintaining focus — especially for entrepreneurs, direct sellers and many others who continue to work during this time — isn’t too difficult. All you need is to maintain your resolve and adhere to a few simple and practical tips.
1. Eat a balanced morning meal
Suhoor or sahur, the pre-dawn meal taken at the start of the day before fasting, is an essential part of the holy month and crucial for ensuring you have the nutrients needed for the rest of the day.
Essentially, you want to consume a meal that will keep you full. It should also be balanced.
For vegans, get enough plant-based protein to help manage those hunger pangs. Include pulses and whole foods like kale and spinach in your diet. Waterlogged fruit such as watermelon is also good for stabilising water levels.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Speaking of water, fasting shouldn’t mean cutting down on fluids.
Yes, Muslims aren’t allowed to drink during the fasting hours. But you certainly should ensure you sip enough when you break fast in the evening, plus several times at night, and before the start of the fasting day.
The recommended daily intake of fluids when one is fasting is 2-3 litres. As for what to drink, water is always best. And do limit caffeinated drinks — coffee, tea and sodas — that can increase urination.
3. Move, but don’t overdo it
It’s tempting to not want to exercise when you’re fasting, but the fact is light physical activity will both keep you fit and give you an energy boost.
So try a brisk walk or gentle stretches when you’re at work and feel your energy levels flagging.
For those who have a regular exercise routine, meanwhile, experts recommend taking it down a notch and just aiming to maintain what you’ve previously achieved.
Moving your workout schedule around will also help. Ideally, exercising before the breaking of fast is best. But you could also do it after eating.
4. Don’t overeat when you break fast
Yes, you’re hungry and everything looks tempting. But a huge meal at iftar, the breaking fast meal, is going to leave you feeling fatigued. Worse, feasting can cause indigestion and be detrimental to your health and weight.
Traditionally, one broke fast with dates and water, and there’s good reason for that. Dates are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and can help restore the body’s glucose levels.
Of course, as mentioned, you can eat more than dates. But do pace yourself when you eat. And just like with suhoor, make sure the evening meal is nutritious and balanced.
5. Prioritise sleep
Sleep rejuvenates the body. And it’s even more important when you’re fasting.
The problem, however, is that many people’s sleep schedules are adversely affected during Ramadan by both irregular patterns and eating habits. So try sticking to a fixed routine and watching what you eat.
As a rule of thumb, you should be aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep a day, broken into blocks. But everyone’s situation is different, so just ensure you’re getting what you need.
Incidentally, a short power nap in the middle of the day — something the best entrepreneurs advocate — is recommended to help you improve focus.
Challenging but fulfilling
Fasting can be challenging, but on top of the spiritual blessings, when done right, it can be extremely beneficial to your physical self.
The most important things to remember, however, are to maintain a balanced diet and to listen to your body.