Each time Ramadan rolls around, we are faced with the issue of keeping our fitness and nutrition plans on track. There are some who say that fasting breaks down tissues and causes a net loss of muscle and concurrent increase in fat; however, there is evidence that fasting actually makes the body more efficient. Proper hydration, nutrient consumption and exercise tailored to optimize the fat-burning and muscle-building hormones can truly make this the best opportunity for one’s body to be fit. Fitness professionals today are committed to stoking the metabolic rate by frequent consumption of proteins and nutritiously potent meals.

Dr. I-Min Lee of the Harvard School of Public Health, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that seven hours of exercise per week helps maintain our present weight (March 2010; Journal of the American Medical Association).

Monitoring consumption, as well as daily activity, are essential to maintaining optimal weight and body composition, according to health experts. However, many Muslims tend to over indulge during Ramadan, perhaps to compensate for the day’s self-discipline. While mindful of the less fortunate as we fast and give zakat during Ramadan, we should also balance celebration of our blessings and material comforts with a prudent attitude toward avoiding excess.

The Quran says:

“Oh, Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters” (7:31). So what is a tired and famished devout Muslim observing the pre-dawn to sunset fasting ritual to do during the 29-30 days of Ramadan each year? Many Muslims confess that after fasting all day—and these summer days in the Northern Hemisphere are long—they indulge ravenously in traditional heavy cuisine. The result is usually an increase in weight and girth, and a respectively inverse decline in fitness and activity. Those with perhaps weaker levels of faith,or lacking insight to the multi-faceted benefits of fasting are inclined to justify cheating on the obligation to fast.

“Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint”(2:183). However, there is hope and a solution for the resolute.Certified fitness instructor John Ali Rodgers, who holds a degree in kinesiology and nutrition, advises that hydration is key to optimal metabolism efficiency. Rodgers advises against working out while fasting because muscles can breakdown from a significant rise in the stress hormone cortisol.


Also, dehydration of 3 percent causes a 12 percent loss in strength. He also related,“The wisdom in Islam is never ending. We break our fast with dates and water, but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrient content. They contain very high levels of potassium, a key re-hydration mineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhances hydration above and beyond water alone.”

He has suggested the following guide so you can read Quran, pray, eat and keep your metabolic engines still burning all month during Ramadan:

• When breaking fast at sunset, begin with three dates, water and eat a nutritious meal with protein, fibrous raw vegetables and plenty of liquid. Do not overeat! Treat your body gently after the fast, and know that more nutrition is coming.

• During taraweeh prayers, whether you do 8 or 20 rakat, have a protein bar at the midpoint with a quantity of water. You can also include a complex carbohydrate meal to ready the body for working out. Eating small meals can speed up the metabolic rate, nutrient absorption, and stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels.

• 1 . – 2 hours later, drink a whey protein shake. Consult a protein calculator to know how much you need.

• After taraweeh, work out doing up to two days of moderate cardio work each week and concentrating on weight training during the other days. This helps preserve lean muscle. If you cannot access a gym, the next best time to weight train is about one hour after eating, when the body has absorbed nutrition and hydration.

• The early morning meal should have some high quality protein or a protein shake, carbohydrates, and essential good fats that have fat burning and muscle building properties. Be sure to have enough liquid and a bit of cucumber or other quenching vegetable before you begin another fast.

May be a multi-vitamin is advised. Rogers recommends extra vitamin C and states that doing cardio before suhoor is the best time for maximum fat loss. A brisk walk or 30-45 minutes on the treadmill is ideal after some tea, coffee, or green tea to get you up and going. Whatever your exercise choices, just keep up some kind of movement, and carry some weight to maintain muscle and bone mass.Be wary about over-eating those bad, empty calorie temptations while socializing.

Susan Labadi, project coordinator, American Halal Association, is president of Genius School, Inc, a principal of ActionNet Trade, Inc..Republished with permission from ISNA
Photo Credit : Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net