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After Ramadan: Doctors discuss the best ways to get back into rhythm after fasting

After Ramadan: Doctors discuss the best ways to get back into rhythm after fasting
11 Apr 2024 09:46


As Ramadan concluded and Eid Al Fitr commenced, Muslims around the UAE and the world are breaking their bodies’ newfound rhythm and heading back into normality. This transition can bring all sorts of challenges, underscoring the importance of doing it right.

According to Dr. Rahat  Ghazanfar, Staff Physician of Preventive Medicine in the Medical Subspecialties Institute of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, fasting for a month can have various effects on the body, both physiological and psychological. Dr. Ghazanfar said that it is critical to understand the extreme changes that one’s body is going through in order to give it the best shot at recovery. In a recent interview with Aletihad, she highlighted the various benefits of fasting, and discussed the ways in which people can transition back into their normal diets smoothly.

“During fasting, the body shifts from using glucose as its primary source of energy to utilising stored fats. This metabolic transition can lead to changes in insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels,” she told Aletihad.

“Fasting can lead to weight loss due to reduced calorie intake and increased fat metabolism. However, the extent of weight loss may vary depending on factors such as individual metabolism, dietary choices during non-fasting hours, and activity levels. It triggers cellular repair processes, such as autophagy, where damaged or dysfunctional cellular components are broken down and recycled. This may have beneficial effects on cellular health and longevity.”

Dr. Ghazanfar said fasting could lead to improvements in cardiovascular health, including reduced blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation. She said that it can also have psychological effects, such as increased mindfulness, self-discipline, and spiritual awareness.

“Staying hydrated is always important. Dehydration can contribute to feelings of fatigue, so prioritise drinking plenty of water when the fasting period ends,” she said.

Regaining Energy

Dr. Ghazanfar said that feeling tired towards the end of a fasting period, such as during Ramadan, is common due to changes in diet, sleep patterns, and daily routines. To replenish energy levels effectively, she advised several dietary strategies.

“Focus on consuming balanced meals that provide a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber to sustain energy levels throughout the day. Incorporate complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals to support steady energy release,” she said.

“Choose foods that are rich in nutrients known to boost energy levels, such as bananas, nuts, seeds, yogurt, lean meats, leafy greens, and whole grains. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support energy production and metabolism.”

Dr. Ghazanfar also endorsed prioritising protein rich foods, saying they could help prevent energy crashes by providing a steady source of amino acids for muscle repair and energy production. She also advised eating regular meals and staying away from refined carbohydrates and sugars, which could cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar.

Alongside the dietary considerations, Dr. Ghazanfar also suggested several lifestyle strategies, including light exercise and proper sleep. She said this would ensue the body had the best chance to transition without hinderance.

“Prioritise restorative sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a sleep-friendly environment. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night to support energy restoration and overall well-being,” she said.

“Gentle physical activity, such as walking, stretching, or yoga, can help boost circulation, improve mood, and alleviate feelings of fatigue. Incorporate light exercise into your daily routine to promote energy levels and overall vitality.”

“You should also manage stress. Stress can contribute to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, so prioritise stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises to promote mental and physical relaxation.”

Getting it Right on the First Day

For many, the first day of Eid Al Fitr is a celebratory occasion that typically involves enjoying a special meal with family and friends. Dr. Ghazanfar said there are preferred foods to start with that would allow for a less tiring and gruesome first day without fasting.

“Traditionally, it is recommended to break your fast with dates and water. Dates are rich in natural sugars, fibre, and essential nutrients, providing a quick source of energy and hydration after fasting. Water helps rehydrate the body and prepare it for the upcoming meal,” she said.

“It is best to start with light and easy-to-digest foods that are rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, and soups. These foods provide hydration, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to replenish the body’s stores and support overall health.”

“While breaking your fast on Eid, it’s also important to avoid overly processed and high-fat foods, as well as sugary desserts and fried dishes, which can lead to digestive discomfort and energy crashes. Additionally, moderation is key when consuming sweets and rich foods to prevent overeating and maintain balance in your diet.”

Dr. Ghazanfar noted that it is easy to avoid the all-too-common feeling of being sick on Eid. According to her, the secret lies in moderation, and not allowing the festive spirit to take you overboard.

“Consuming an excessive amount of food in a short period, especially after fasting, can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to feelings of discomfort, bloating, and indigestion. To avoid overeating, practice mindful eating by chewing food slowly, listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and stopping when you feel satisfied rather than stuffed,” she said.

“Eid celebrations often include rich and heavy foods, such as fried dishes, sweets, and desserts, which can be difficult for the stomach to digest, particularly after a day of fasting. Opt for lighter and more easily digestible options, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to reduce the risk of post-meal discomfort.”

The Gradual Return to Normalcy

Dr. Ghazanfar said it was generally recommended to gradually transition back into your normal eating routine after a period of fasting, rather than abruptly returning to regular eating habits.

“After a period of fasting, especially prolonged fasting such as during Ramadan, the digestive system may need time to readjust to regular food intake. Abruptly consuming large or heavy meals can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to discomfort, bloating and indigestion. Gradually reintroducing foods allows the digestive system to adapt and function more efficiently,” she said.

“Gradually reintroducing carbohydrates and other nutrients into your diet helps stabilise blood sugar levels and prevents rapid spikes or crashes in blood glucose. This can help prevent energy fluctuations and mood swings associated with sudden changes in food intake,” she added.

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