FAT, FIT­NESS AND FAST­ING: THE FACTS

Some of us gain weight, de­spite eat­ing less, while oth­ers strug­gle with di­ges­tive is­sues. Rashi Chowd­hary, Fri­day’s nu­tri­tion and weight-loss ex­pert, re­veals the com­mon ques­tions she comes across at her clin­i­cal prac­tice each Ra­madan, and pro­vides some ea

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1Why do I gain weight dur­ing Ra­madan?

Weight gain dur­ing Ra­madan can hap­pen only if you eat the wrong kinds of foods at the wrong time, don’t drink enough wa­ter or eat too lit­tle. If you are able to eat four meals dur­ing your wak­ing hours, which are well bal­anced with all your macros, you will not gain weight. Aim for slow carbs from veg­eta­bles, whole­wheat (if it suits your gut), sweet potato and fi­brous fruits; ef­fi­cient protein from eggs, chicken, meat; and good fats from av­o­cado, co­conut chunks and nuts. You will have sta­ble sugar and in­sulin lev­els, which can help with burn­ing fat in­stead of gain­ing it.

2I ac­cu­mu­late fat around my belly ev­ery Ra­madan although I eat very con­sciously dur­ing this month. Some­times I even skip my suhour. Where could I be go­ing wrong?

Many peo­ple falsely be­lieve that weight loss is all about con­sum­ing fewer calo­ries than they nor­mally would. Those who are watch­ing their weight tend to eat less af­ter fast­ing in the hope of los­ing some pounds quickly. But fat loss can be tricky and quite the op­po­site. When your body is starved of nu­tri­ents, it re­sists weight loss. It goes into star­va­tion mode and in­stead ac­cu­mu­lates fat, be­cause fat is a reli­able, long-term source of en­ergy for our body. It shifts the fat stores to your belly, lead­ing to in­flam­ma­tion and in­sulin re­sis­tance. Grad­u­ally your hor­mones sig­nal to shift healthy vis­ceral fat to un­healthy ab­dom­i­nal fat, which is ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing to you.

Eat wisely, and never skip suhour – it needs to be bal­anced, with hy­drat­ing flu­ids. This meal will fuel your body all day, will keep en­ergy lev­els main­tained and en­sure that your body does not en­ter star­va­tion mode.

3I can’t eat much dur­ing suhour be­cause I have a poor ap­petite. What are some lighter bites?

If you have a small ap­petite at suhour, load up with high-calo­rie, nu­tri­ent-dense foods so you can get some nu­tri­ents first thing in the morn­ing and your en­ergy lev­els do not crash later in the day. Protein shakes with nuts; av­o­cado with eggs; muesli crushed with dates, seeds and but­ter and rolled into balls: All of these are easy to eat and give you just enough nu­tri­tion to last a cou­ple of hours.

4Can I work out dur­ing Ra­madan?

Yes. But if your aim is fat loss, then work out just be­fore if­tar, so you can end your fast with a protein-rich meal. But if your plan is to main­tain mus­cle mass, you should work out af­ter a light if­tar and have a protein shake or two whole eggs just be­fore bed to im­prove mus­cle re­cov­ery.

5What are the best foods to eat dur­ing suhour?

I would sug­gest three op­tions:

Eggs with mashed pota­toes ■ and nuts

Chicken with rice and ■ veg­eta­bles

Quinoa paratha cooked in ■ ghee with home-cooked veg­eta­bles. These are loaded with good carbs and fi­bre, and have suf­fi­cient protein and good fats to last you through the first half of the day. The slow-re­leas­ing en­ergy from nuts, eggs, meat and veg­eta­bles will help you feel­ing en­er­getic with­out crash­ing your lev­els by noon.

6Does fast­ing have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the body?

There is much re­search that shows how fast­ing can help your me­tab­o­lism and your or­gans to func­tion more ef­fi­ciently. Here are some facts about plain in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, in which you eat for 8-10 hours in the day and switch off eat­ing any calo­ries for 14-16 hours. (In this type of fast­ing, you can con­sume wa­ter, green tea, black tea and black cof­fee with­out sugar.)

Fast­ing shows tremen­dous prom­ise ■ for fat loss, pre­vent­ing cer­tain dis­eases such as can­cer and in­creas­ing re­silience to ail­ments.

It has shown mas­sive im­prove­ments ■ in in­sulin re­sis­tance and re­vers­ing type 2 di­a­betes (when done cor­rectly and un­der med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion).

Our body kick-starts some ■ im­por­tant cel­lu­lar re­pair pro­cesses and changes hor­mone lev­els to make stored body fat more ac­ces­si­ble.

Growth hor­mone lev­els shoot up ■ al­most five-fold, which makes it eas­ier for your body to ac­cel­er­ate the fat-burn­ing process.

7Is it a good time to lose weight?

The spir­i­tual pur­pose of Ra­madan does so much for body and mind. It’s a great time to start good habits, and for those who are do­ing ev­ery­thing right, but do not see changes. Since Ra­madan puts you in an in­ter­mit­tent fasted state, it works as a new stim­u­lus for your body and can give you re­sults – if you eat the right macronu­tri­ents when your body needs them the most.

8What is the best way to end the day’s fast?

Do not skimp on your calo­ries and make sure you eat clean, keep sugar min­i­mal and con­sume qual­ity protein from grilled meats, fish, chicken and eggs. These op­tions hy­drate you and pro­vide es­sen­tial mi­cronu­tri­ents like mag­ne­sium, potas­sium, vi­ta­min C and vi­ta­min E that have been de­pleted through­out the day.

Dates with a hand­ful of nuts and a glass or two of ■ co­conut wa­ter. A bowl of fruit with co­conut chunks in it. ■ Ba­nana and al­mond milk or an al­mond but­ter ■ smoothie.

Dates with lentil soup. ■

9My fam­ily wants fried food dur­ing if­tar at home. How can I give them that, but do dam­age con­trol?

One rel­a­tively healthy op­tion: You can start by fry­ing your food only in co­conut oil, ghee or but­ter. Re­fined veg­etable cooking oils have a low smok­ing point, so when you use them for fry­ing, the fat con­tent changes to the bad kind of fat that is not good for your heart.

Oils that have a high smok­ing point are rel­a­tively bet­ter. When pre­par­ing frit­ters with onions, cau­li­flower or potato, for in­stance, use chick­pea flour in­stead of bread­crumbs to make the en­tire dish healthy. You can also sub­sti­tute potato with sweet potato or make a mash of veg­gies with a lit­tle potato, coat it in egg white and then fry. You can also use minced meat with lentils to make a patty and pan-fry in ghee. These are far health­ier op­tions than deep-fried samosas and kibbeh.

10What can I do to avoid bloat­ing and con­sti­pa­tion while fast­ing?

One of the first things you should do is avoid eat­ing too many dairy prod­ucts. It does not agree with ev­ery­one’s gut. Also, avoid hav­ing too many fruit juices; the sugar in these robs your body of B vi­ta­mins and can de­hy­drate you. Cut down your in­take of tea and cof­fee, which cause de­hy­dra­tion. There’s noth­ing like pure wa­ter. Have fi­bre-rich foods, like oats with nuts and al­mond milk. Also in­clude 8-10 prunes into your diet for a cleaner gut and bet­ter bowel move­ment.

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