Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Ramadan 2019: a week-by-week eating guide for those fasting

The nutrition manager at Fitness First Middle East shares her top tips

Dates are a good source of natural sugar, which helps the body recover after a long day of fasting. Courtesy The Date Room
Dates are a good source of natural sugar, which helps the body recover after a long day of fasting. Courtesy The Date Room

While many fasters decrease their portion sizes in the days leading up to Ramadan, day one is never easy. Not eating and drinking for more than 12 hours is a completely new routine and can be stressful, especially if you are used to having a morning coffee and grazing over the day.

Here are some ways to ease into your fast.

  • If you have a chance to take some time out and rest at home, it will help your body to adapt to the new routine. If not, at least try to work a little lighter than usual.

  • When you break your fast, do not start with coffee right away. Instead, eat a small amount of food first, as your stomach will be more sensitive as it has not been put to work for many hours.
  • Make good food choices for iftar as you will be hungry on the first day and might overindulge. For example, choose low-sugar foods to help you to recover and adapt quickly to fasting. A good source of protein, such as chicken or fish, will help the body maintain muscle mass.
  • Divide your water intake over non-fasting hours so your body is well hydrated.
  • Ensure you eat suhoor; the early breakfast will help to energise the body the next day.
Starbucks and McDonald’s recently backed the $10 million NextGen Cup Challenge—a “moon shot” to develop a more sustainable to-go cup. Reuters
Tempting as it might be, don't break your fast with coffee. Reuters

Week 1

You would already have adapted to fasting by the end of the first week, and will likely feel more energised and less hungry in the day. Now is when your fat-loss process is ongoing, and you can boost it by doing the following:

  • Eat small, but frequent meals after sundown – and eat slowly.
  • Start with dates and water, take a break for five minutes, then have soup and a salad. Ideally, have your main dish after two hours, and eat on smaller plates.
  • Drink more water to make sure your body is well stocked, and decrease your salt intake to avoid water retention.

Weeks 2 and 3

You should still be feeling great, but should now focus on foods with a high nutritional value to make sure you continue feeling strong for the rest of the fasting period. Here’s how:

  • Focus on foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, oysters, most types of nuts and seeds, and flaxseed and soybean oil). These will aid your alertness and concentration, as well as keep your skin healthy.
  • Increase your intake of magnesium sources to improve the quality of your sleep. Look to green leafy vegetables, legumes and seafood for this.
  • Focus on exercise, hydration and fibre these weeks to avoid constipation.
Fouga salmon (salmon fillets panfried in Emirati spices served with biryani rice) at Treej Cafe
Salmon is a good source of omega-3. Photo: Treej Cafe

Week 4

You are almost there, but you may feel a bit tired and less vibrant. The key things to do now are:

  • Focus on high-quality protein to maintain muscle mass
  • Increase your carbohydrate intake by 10 per cent and make sure you choose quality and quantity wisely
  • Avoid sweets and high-sugar foods and beverages at night to help the body stabilise its insulin levels

Updated: May 6, 2019 03:31 PM

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