Every year Muslims around the world observe Ramadan by fasting for a month to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Over the course of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, foregoing any food or drink until their nighttime meal.
When an individual is fasting during the day only to eat in the evening, it’s important for them to ensure that their body is hydrated and energised so that it’s able to cope efficiently with deprivation.
There are a number of ways that one can keep their overall health in check while fasting for the festival, from keeping an eye on salt intake to doing light exercise.
Here’s how to stay healthy while fasting during Ramadan, according to the experts:
Drinking a decent amount of water in the evening is essential during Ramadan, especially as the month falls during the warmer months when the days are longer and the temperatures are higher.
Yasmin Badiani, a physiotherapist and head of sport at Phizz, recommends drinking at least eight glasses of water in between iftar (the time when the fast is broken at sunset) and suhoor (the time before sunrise).
“Avoid caffeinated drinks as they are diuretic and increase water loss via urine,” she adds.
“Fizzy drinks too are not a good source of hydration, as they can often slow down the digestive process.”
It could also be worth adding electrolytes to your water, as they can help replenish your body’s store of vitamins.
Avoid fried food
However, consuming food that isn’t nutritious can lead to bloatedness and fatigue the next day.
“At a time where we only have a few hours to get our balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and protein, make sure you turn to something which has higher nutritional value,” Badiani advises.
“Fried foods are one of the key reasons why people feel sluggish and bloated after fasting as the stomach is very sensitive to rich food.”
Do light exercise
While it isn’t recommended that a person does exercise that’s too rigorous while fasting, there’s no reason why they can’t exercise during Ramadan if they do so sensibly.
“It’s vital to remember that your body won’t have the same amount of energy that you would have on a normal day,” explains Ayazullah Safi, assistant lecturer and PhD researcher in the department of sport and exercise at Birmingham City University.
“People should try to maintain active lifestyles where possible but during Ramadan light exercises such as walking, full body stretching, mat exercises as well as meditative exercises are highly recommended as this can help to keep the system working and blood circulation.”
Safi suggests avoiding workouts that involve any exercises that are too intense, such as sprinting and heavy lifting.
Doing high-intensity exercise while fasting can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness and even cause injury, so it’s essential to take care.
Watch salt intake
Consuming too much salt when the fast is broken in the evening can have detrimental consequences the next day, Safi states.
For anyone observing the fast, they should try to keep an eye on their salt intake, whether in the form of table salt sprinkled on their food or as an ingredient integrated into a cooked dish.
It’s traditional for many Muslims to break the fast with a date, so as to follow in the footsteps of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Practise healthy habits
While refraining from consuming any food or drink during the day, Ramadan could be a great opportunity to practise self-restraint and take up healthy habits.
“Ramadan is not just about fasting, but just as importantly, it’s about self-control and improving yourself,” says Badiani.
“Cigarettes and shisha are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle as it has detrimental effects on the body, both physically and mentally.
“There’s no better time to give up smoking than in Ramadan when you have to already go most of the day without a cigarette!”
Furthermore, if you’re unwell, pregnant or have any other health concerns, Badiani recommends consulting with a GP before fasting as Islam does exempt individuals from the fast who are unable to observe it due to health issues.