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


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