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Fasting and fitness: keep the pounds off

Some Muslims have the misconception that since they fasted all day long, they can eat as much as they want after sunset. The bottom line is that if you do not burn the calories that you consume, you will gain weight. And the fact is, that most Muslims will consume more calories and move less during Ramadan.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

(Why does this happen? Read more here).

So here is some easy advice that might help you during the month of Ramadan.

First off—and probably most importantly—do not mistake thirst for hunger.

Your body will naturally be dehydrated during Ramadan, especially in this heat. People will often mistake this for hunger and overeat. So here’s an easy fix: drink at least 24 ounces of water (room temperature might be easier) as soon as you break your fast and continue to drink plenty of water until you go to bed, and again at Suhoor. Eat high fibrous foods, especially green vegetables, to have the feeling of being full. And lastly, eat smaller meals throughout the night, so that you never stuff yourself at one time.

In terms of exercise, if you can, try to get into the gym at least three times a week. Maybe at least on the weekends so that you can sleep later and sleep in a little. Move more throughout the day, so that you will burn more calories.

Daytime activities can be physical while not being too strenuous. For example, you could  park further away from places, so that you walk a little more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Dance around a little, maybe do some squats, while cooking dinner. The more you move, the better!

Nevertheless, this Ramadan is going to be a challenge. The temperature is hot and the days are long! So plan accordingly and we should all get through this Ramadan healthy and free of excess calories!

So why do we gain weight during Ramadan in the first place?

What do we tend to do during Ramadan? More naps? Less exercise? Eat junk at night because you are treating yourself for fasting all day long?

Let’s start off with calorie consumption. Look at the number of calories you consume in 24 hours. Whether it’s during the day or at night, calories are calories. So if you consume more at night during Ramadan, then you usually do during a normal day, then you will gain weight.

So let’s take Muslim “X” for example. She will break fast with a couple of dates (100 calories). Followed by a bowl of soup (200 calories). Then their meal, typically consisting of higher fat foods, which means more calories. Maybe some juice or soda to go with it, then some dessert after?

That one meal could easily be in excess of 1,500 calories. But that’s not all.

How many of us tend to snack the rest of the night, consuming maybe another 500 calories? But wait…it’s Ramadan! We need to eat Suhur, which means another meal, maybe an additional 500 calories? That brings our grand total to over 2,800 calories!

Now lets look at calorie expenditure. This equation is simple: A+B+C=calorie expenditure. (A-Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), B-Daily Activities and C-Daily Exercise) So your resting metabolic rate is naturally going to decrease during Ramadan due to the simple fact of decreasing exercise, which in turn decreases your lean body mass. Your daily activities will usually stay the same (getting out of bed, getting ready for work, working, etc.), And your daily exercise will probably decrease as it will be harder to get into the gym. All of this results in a decrease in calorie expenditure.

So if we are consuming more calories and burning less, this will result in gaining weight.

There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. So lets take Muslim “X”, who was staying at a constant weight, before Ramadan. That would mean that her calorie consumption had equaled calorie expenditure before Ramadan; if she had typically consumed about 2,500 calories prior to Ramadan, then she was probably burning around the same.

Now, during Ramadan, the extra calorie consumption Muslim “X” has been taking in totals about 2,800 calories. And because of decreased activity she may only burn about 2,100 calories daily. That would equal an excess of about 700 calories every day during Ramadan.  And that excess means Muslim “X” will store an extra 3,500 calories for every 5 days of fasting, which will add up to an extra six pounds during the month of Ramadan.

Through good eating habits and increased activity, let us hope that we can maintain healthy form throughout the month.

Emre Ozgur is a licensed personal trainer and club manager of 24-Hour Fitness in Upland. Contact him at emreozgur2003@yahoo.com for more information.

Looking for more Ramadan health advice? See what the British National Health Service has to say on the subject.


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3 Responses to Fasting and fitness: keep the pounds off

  • Tarik with a K says:

    Salaams, Emre. Thank you for your timely advice. I want to be smart about diet and exercise this Ramadan. I recently started a new workout regiment (weights+cardio) and have been pondering what to do (if anything) during Ramadan.

    I decided, in addition to my spiritual workouts (extended prayers, taraweah, etc.), God willing, I plan to continue my physical workouts as well, completing them just before iftar. It should reduce the amount of time I’ll have to deal with a headache (which usually happens when I try to workout during the month). Plus, I’ll be more apt to drink low- to zero-calorie beverages (water or Gatorade) than heavy juices or empty calory sodas.

  • Naureen says:

    incredibly informative! so glad youre putting this information out there… thank you!

  • Yusef Shakeer says:

    Jakalhkarium for the most informative article. Everything is Al hu du Allah Rabil Alimeen. What prompted me to post a comment was the brother who said he would quince his thirst..Inshallah…with gatorade. I just wanted to share the fact that gatorade has frutose sugar in it. Frutose sugar is very harmful to anyones health. I would suggest alkaline water as a replacement, or a natural juice not from concentrate and no added sugar.
    asalaam u alikum.

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