Pace yourself this Ramadan
FASTING begins today, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar. That means Muslims around the world begin their annual month-long fast by abstaining from food and drinks from sunrise to sunset. It’s also a time for prayer, reflection and acts of worship such as kindness, charity and compassion.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This is why all Muslims take the act of fasting very seriously. However, certain people are exempted from fasting, such as those suffering from illness, are travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating, and the elderly. The details of who are exempted and how they can make up for it are clear. You can always ask your ustaz or ustazah about it if you’re unsure.
During this month, many of our routines change — from the time you have your first meal of the day before the first light of dawn (sahur) to the time you break your fast at sunset (buka puasa or iftar).
There is this perception that one may be considerably weakened by the lack of food during the fast, which lasts about 14 hours. Personally, I’d say that yes, we do get a little more tired from the lack of nutrition we’re accustomed to every few hours but we are not starving. We’ll still get our two square meals a day, just at different times. Some people may even manage to pack in three or four meals after sunset despite fasting during the day.
After day four, everything becomes routine. The body gets used to it and it’s business as usual. The challenge is only at the start. The trick is to eat and drink wisely. Pace yourself. Avoid certain food and drinks.
For example, it’s always good to break your fast with some dates to give you a quick boost that’s full of nutrients and minerals. It may be sweet, but it’s the kind that your body will thank you for. No other sweet food in the form of cakes and dessert can compare.
When breaking fast, drink water or fluids that are at room temperature or slightly warm as it is gentler on the body. Drinking iced drinks to break your fast may cause blood vessels to contract and cause indigestion. You might even get a brain-freeze. So go easy on those slushies. If you need something cold, chilled drinks are better alternatives.
You will need about two to three litres of fluid to remain hydrated during the day. But don’t overdo it, pace yourself and sip throughout the evening.
You may want to drink about two glasses when you break fast, then have dinner like you would on an ordinary day instead of feasting just because you’ve been fasting. Then have another half a glass after dinner. Do your prayers. Drink again after that. Remember to bring a bottle of water so you can sip it between performing your evening Tarawikh prayers. Have a glass or two after prayers, and another before you sleep.
When you wake up for sahur, have a glass of water. Sip while you’re preparing your meals, have your meal and drink until it’s time to stop at imsak. See! You have plenty of opportunities to replenish on fluids and drinks.
Have your tea or coffee if you must but remember, these are diuretics and can make you more thirsty. The general rule of thumb to drinking coffee is to always follow it up with a small glass of water.
How can you prevent thirst while fasting? Avoid salty foods such as salted fish, salted eggs, pickles and highly processed, instant food.
Also, try to avoid hot, spicy and/or oily food. These types of food tend to increase thirst. You can have them, but be mindful and don’t overdo it.
You may also want to opt for more fruit and vegetables due to their high water content. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Choose fresh fruit juices over packet ones; the latter tends to be sweeter and can make you more thirsty.
I would like to caution those with health issues. For example, all of the above cannot be applied to those who are on haemodialysis. They have a different set of rules to go by. The same can be said for those with certain illnesses.
Those on medication should check with their doctors on when and how to time medications. Twice daily doses are easy to manage. It’s those three or four doses a day that needs to be reviewed. Just remember, if your illness prevents you from fasting, you shouldn’t. Allah is ever merciful. You can still do your acts of worship in different ways.
Ramadan Mubarak and Selamat