We’re already in the second week of Ramadan and although my body is growing accustomed to fasting this year, at times I’ve felt I blow up faster than a dal puri on a hot tawa; that was, until I started incorporating changes in how I eat during Ramadan.
If like me, you’ve pondered why you’re always tired and putting on weight when you’re not eating all day, well, I have some answers for you. A quick Google search led me to quite a few answers. Here’s a quick recap: After a few days of fasting and depleting your energy, your body begins to store the food you eat when you break your fast as fat. Research shows that culturally, Iftar and Suhoor meals tend to be carb and fat heavy which is why people can gain weight and feel lethargic. But really how could anyone resist mom’s pakora and fresh jalebi Ramadan season?
The food coma and lethargy can also be due to the over-eating that tends to happen at both suhoor and iftar. Let’s not forget the lack of sleep because of suhoor, the meal Muslims wake up before sunrise to eat. Because sleep is interrupted, it can affect mood, cognition, and weight gain since sleep deprivation increases the stress hormone cortisol which leads to increased appetite as well.
To battle the lethargy, weight gain and food coma this Ramadan, I’ve got a few tips to help you have a healthier Ramadan and avoid the food coma.
Here are some tips for a healthier Ramadan:
- Pace yourself during iftar, it’s all about portion control. When you break your fast start with a water and a date then head to prayer. After prayer, you can begin with a small meal and eat another meal for dinner a few hours later.
- It’s not always about how much you eat at iftar, but what you eat as well, so watch your caloric intake during eating hours. It’s helpful to start with a light soup like a vegetable minestrone or leafy green salad with kale, spinach, and low-calorie dressings. The light meal will keep you feeling full and yet is low in calorie.
- Prep to stay feeling satiated during the day, so organize your suhoor and iftar meals with items that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats as these types of foods can help you keep your energy up during the day. For example, you could include dishes like grilled or baked lean meats, avocado toast, couscous, zucchini noodles, hard boiled eggs, chicken stir-fry with veggies, grilled salmon, greek yogurt, hearty soups, peanuts, almonds, and pecans.
- Try to throw in low carb vegetables into your dishes that are also high in nutrients like spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, tomato, onions, cucumber, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, and cauliflowers. The additional vegetables will help you avoid weight gain while keeping up the vitamins your body needs this month.
- I know Ramadan is all about that good food, but try to eat less of the processed sugars during iftar and suhoor. Instead, add natural sugars like fresh fruits, dried fruits, dates to your meals and use molasses or honey in your tea if you have that sweet tooth to please. Though some of these natural sugars are high calorie, the also provide fibers, vitamins, and nutrients you’ll need during the day, while processed sugars offer only calories.
- Drink lots and lots of water! You’ve been fasting all day and your body needs the hydration. Try to take in at least 64 ounces of water, which is roughly 8 glasses during the non-fasting hours of the day, especially during suhoor.
- Replace those fried dishes this month with fresh fruit or try roasting or grilling dishes instead of deep frying everything. If you must fry items, try to use a minimal amount of vegetable oil or even air frying.
- For energy, many people drink soda or other sugary drinks. Don’t break your fast with sugar-filled drinks, opt for water or a freshly squeezed juice instead. You can even try drinks like lemon water, or ginger tea with peppermint and lemon for better digestion after meals.
- Avoid foods like salty snacks, coffees, sodas, and teas during suhoor and iftar because they make you more thirsty during the day.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! I know the food coma hits you hard and you’ll feel lethargic after iftar, but try to fit in some high-intensity exercise after your meal. Even if it’s a half-hour workout, a small step will go a long way. Also, don’t just wait until after iftar, try to include some light work out during the day. Be aware of your body and its capabilities, you don’t want to push yourself too far. A simple 10-30 minute light work out of stretching or a brisk walk could keep you energized and help you keep the weight off during Ramadan.
- Don’t eat continuously between iftar and suhoor. The feeling of being full will make you even more tired and lethargic.