Long days = Planning is essential
Here in the west of Canada, the sun sets at around 10pm and that means around 18 hours of fasting! In the past, Ramadan had always been quite tough to the point where I had no energy after Iftar to pray or do anything. However, last Ramadan, it was the best (in terms of energy levels) despite the 18 hours of fasting and a hectic work schedule. We admit, every year we are always confused what to eat during this sacred month and yet we don’t find the ideal way to keep our energy levels high! This is why I am eager to share with you my plan.
Background on Ramadan
Today is day 1 of Ramadan. For those who don’t know, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims as the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said that this is the month where the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed. Also, Muslims believe that this the month where the holy Quran was revealed to us. During this month, every day from dawn till sunset, Muslims fast for a spiritual discipline. It’s also a time of celebration and joy because everyone comes together to pray, eat etc. Then there is Eid (the day after the last day of Ramadan) where all Muslims celebrate (to Muslims, Eid day is big just like how Christmas is to Christians).
Since there are over a billion people across the world who experience the same hunger, thirst etc, Ramadan feels extremely special. It reminds us what it feels to be hungry and thirsty and have compassion for the poor. This is obligatory for all muslims, but those who are sick, pregnant or breastfeed can postpone it until later/or feed the poor.
In our culture (Bangladeshi), women spend hours in the kitchen cooking Iftar (the meal when we break our fast) that mostly consists of fried foods such as poori, spring rolls and aloo chop. However, this leaves us extremely sluggish and unproductive afterwards, which actually defeats its purpose of Ramadan!
- Do not drink juice to break your fast as this causes weight gain
- Aim to drink 2 glasses of water at Suhoor and 2 glasses of water at Iftar
- Choose food with high water content (cucumbers, tomatoes, smoothies etc rather than bread)
- Avoid eating all fried foods
- Avoid having caffeine (tea and coffee)
- Don’t overeat at Iftar (break fast with dates and water)
- Don’t miss Suhoor (it’s the most important meal of the day!)
My Daily Plan
Proper rest/sleep and diet are vital for a productive ramadan month. Last year, I followed this plan:
Iftar (the meal where you break the fast at sunset) ex: 10pm – Break with dates and yogurt (as below), then pray (Maghrib)
10:30pm – Dinner (see below)
11:30pm – Have fruit and pray (Isha)
12:30am – Sleep
3:15am – wake up to eat pre-dawn meal (Suhoor)
4am – Pray (Fajr) and read Quran
4:30am – Sleep
7:30am – Wake up for work and leave
Lunch time – 30 minutes nap
6pm – Nap until 9:15pm
9:15pm – Prepare Iftar and dinner
Since Iftar is so late, it’s important to get some sleep after work and a nap at work if possible.
This is the meal plan that I prefer follow.
Dinner (30-60 mins after Iftar):
- Protein (chicken, fish, beef, eggs, vegetarian sources)
- Complex carbs (ex: brown rice, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread)
- Vegetables (fibre is needed to prevent constipation and stomach issues)
- Dairy (milk, yogurt or cheese)
- Healthy fat (needed for hormone production and brain activities). Ex: avocado, coconut oil, egg yolks, omega 3 fatty acid from salmon fish
Snack (60 mins before sleep):
- Fruit to facilitate digestion
Suhoor (pre-dawn meal):
- Complex carbs
- Examples include overnight oats with chia seeds and fruits, haleem, banana and date smoothie made with greek yogurt and oats
Focus of the month should be doing good deeds (e.g. praying and making duas). You will not gain weight if you follow a healthy eating schedule (yes people normally gain weight due to slower metabolism from not eating and having a very poor diet). Many people worry of losing their muscle mass; but this is not true because we break our fast within the same day so our bodies don’t go to the extreme where it uses muscles to burn as fuel. It is better to avoid an intense cardio workout in order to maintain your muscle mass. If you want to train and retain your muscles, train 1.5 hours after dinner (ideally before Tarawih prayer).
Remember, Ramadan is a not a temporary change in our lifestyle; it’s a time to implement healthy lifestyle habits. Without proper nutrition and planning, fatigue and tiredness would not go away.
For all you Muslims, I hope that you all will have a very productive Ramadan (InshAllah)!