Choosing healthy foods and keeping your energy up can be tough on a regular day. But when you are fasting for religious reasons, making healthy choices about what to eat and drink can be even more challenging.
One such religious fast happens during the month of Ramadan, one of the pillars of the Islam. There are nearly 2 billion Muslims around the world, and during Ramadan many abstain from food and water from dawn until dusk.
Those taking part in this fast are allowed a meal before sunrise. After that, they go without anything to eat or drink until they break their fast after sundown.
Anyone who has gone without a meal for several hours knows this type of lengthy fast can do more than just leave you feeling hungry. It can also cause a drop in energy and make you reach for less-than-healthy foods when the fast ends.
Because fasting can be hard on a body, anyone who takes part in a spiritual fast will want to plan ahead so they can stay hydrated and have the proper foods available after it ends for the day, said Holiday Zanetti, a senior research scientist and clinical investigator for Nutrilite™.
Make your pre-dawn meal count
Your predawn meal should be packed with protein and fiber to fuel your energy as long as possible throughout the day, according to the World Health Organization.
This meal is typically small, but it can be nutrient-dense, containing a good balance of complex carbohydrates like oats, lentils or grains, high-fiber foods like vegetables and fruits, and foods high in protein such as eggs, fish or legumes.
For example, a pre-fast meal might be a small serving of oatmeal, a banana or a few dates and a cooked egg. You can boost the protein level by adding a supplement, like Nutrilite™ All Plant Protein Powder. This type of balanced breakfast will help keep your energy level from flagging too much during the day.
Choose water over caffeinated or sugary drinks to maintain your hydration during non-fasting hours and drink whenever you are able to ensure get the recommended amount of water each day, which some experts say is about 2 liters or a half gallon. You can also prioritize hydrating foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables and soups.
Choose your foods wisely
The temptation to indulge on sugary, high-fat treats when it’s time to break your fast is strong. For some, the evening meal is a communal gathering with a large feast.
But over-indulging can cause discomfort and might not be the best idea. If that is a concern, Holiday recommends choosing whole foods and smaller meals.
“Following a fast, it is critical to bring blood sugar levels back up and prevent dehydration,” Holiday said. “However, it is important that you gradually do this, not gorging yourself in a small amount of time.”
Meat, eggs, legumes, fruits and vegetables are good choices, she said. “Also, be sure protein is on the list of nutrients you are consuming during non-fasting hours to prevent muscle loss and keep your blood sugar at a steady state.” This is another opportunity to consider Nutrilite™ All Plant Protein Powder as a way to add protein to your meal.
If you are concerned about getting essential vitamins and minerals, consider some nutritional supplements like Nutrilite™ Gluten Free Daily, Nutrilite™ Double X or Nutrilite™ Vitamin C Extended Release, which slowly releases its nutrients all day long.
Adjust your workout
Excessive exercising without being able to rehydrate is not recommended. Try to schedule any necessary major workouts for the non-fasting times when you can readily replace any fluids lost. Or replace them with smaller efforts throughout your day, like choosing the stairs over the elevator or getting up frequently for walks around your workplace.
“Stay cool and limit physical activity during the fasting hours,” Holiday said. “Rest when possible.”
Because nighttime hours are filled with eating, gatherings and prayers, your sleep schedule can take a hit, too. Try to adjust your daytime schedule to allow for power naps or additional hours of sleep at the same time each day to keep your overall total of sleep the same.
Consult your doctor
Consult your doctor before beginning your fast, this goes especially for children, seniors and those with any sort of health condition. Small children, pregnant women, seniors and those with health issues or other concerns are not required to fast during Ramadan.
“And even if the doctor gives you the go ahead, be sure to be aware of your physical well-being,” Holiday said. If you feel overly tired, weak, foggy or not able to carry out routine tasks, call your doctor again.
By preparing yourself and ensuring you have healthy foods on hand each day, you’ll be able to stay energized during your religious fast.
The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), an international leader in Halal certification, has recognized the compliance and execution of more than 35 Halal-certified Nutrilite vitamin and supplement products in the U.S. and more than 75 products globally.