Dr Ali Razzak is a Family Medicine Consultant at Aesthetics by King’s College Hospital London. He has over a decade of experience in family medicine after training and working in London before moving to Dubai. Being both a Family Medicine Consultant and Aesthetic Practitioner puts Dr Ali in a unique position of being able to holistically assess a patient’s individual health and aesthetic requirements together, harmoniously combining evidence-based medicine with beautifying treatments in order to give you the very best results. He is also skilled at managing a wide range of medical dermatological conditions. Here he discusses some of the ways in which we can prepare our body and mind for Ramadan.
12 Top Tips for preparing the body before Ramadan:
- Have Voluntary Fast days
Before Ramadan begins, take up some voluntary fast days. This can help a great deal as it will give a true picture of what’s to come. This can also help you to make up for any fasting days you have missed (if any) previously. As the saying goes – practice makes perfect.
- Visit your doctor
If you have a certain illness and you’re not sure if it’s safe to fast, contact your doctor to be able to know if you are in the right health condition to fast.
- Early breakfast
Begin having an early morning breakfast. It is important not to skip Suhoor because it will provide the strength you need to get through the first few hours of fasting, so by starting to have breakfast earlier your body will be accustomed to it before Ramadan starts.
- Stock up
Meal planning before Ramadan gives a greater edge. Having a menu for the first seven days is a great thing to do and most importantly, stock up on all the food items you’ll need to buy before beginning to fast.
- Avoid snack times
Get used to have three meals a day and avoid eating snacks in between. This is because during Ramadan you’re only accustomed
to two meals (suhoor and Iftar). Avoiding snacks will help a great deal as it will prepare you to adjust to the two meals.
- Regulate sleep
If you often sleep in late, try to adjust your sleep patterns to wake up earlier. This will make it easier to wake up for Suhoor. Ramadan does not mean that you don’t have to work so regulate yourself, considering all aspects of your day-to-day life.
- Avoid Coffee intake
If you’re a big coffee drinker, try to minimize it or cut it out totally. You can start by cutting the number of cups you take per day. Limit it to one cup and start drinking decaffeinated coffee until you’re able to cut it out of your diet. During Ramadan, intake of coffee may give a pounding headache.
- Food consumption
Try as much as possible not to splurge on food in the run-up to Ramadan. This will only increase your appetite thereby making Ramadan seem difficult.
- Reduce smoking or quit
Smoking is an addiction. Quite a good number of people can smoke a full pack or more within 24 hours. If you are a smoker, just before Ramadan is a great time to being the process of giving up smoking which can be continued throughout the Holy Month.
- Reduce your portions
Another healthy tweak before Ramadan is reducing your portions. Rich Ramadan tables may tempt one towards over-indulgence. You can adapt your body to a balanced and well-rounded diet by getting used to reducing your portions.
- Cut down sweet foods
Long periods of hunger during Ramadan followed by overindulgence in desserts may cause sudden fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Commit now to reducing your consumption of sweets for a healthier fasting experience. Choose fresh or dried fruits or nuts to satisfy your cravings and stay away from unhealthy snacks.
- Start consuming healthy foods
Salads with fresh and green veggies before Ramadan to get into a healthy habit. This will help you recalibrate your diet more towards salads and away from fatty and salty foods.
What about drinking water – is it a good idea to limit water intake in the lead up to Ramadan?
It is, in fact, it’s better to increase your water intake prior to Ramadan as you will be fasting during the greater part of the day. You need to make up for the liquid loss by drinking at least 10-12 glasses of water per day. To prepare your body for an extended period of water deprivation, drink water without waiting to get thirsty.
Are there any ways we can prepare our sleeping patterns?
It is best to try and adapt your sleep pattern in a way that you are able to get up early in the morning for the pre-dawn ‘Suhoor’ meal, which may mean you need to go to sleep earlier than usual. You are suggested to have around 6 to 8 hours of sleep every single night. By doing so, you are not only fully equipped with enough energy for the day but also can decrease the risk of chronic problems such as heart disease and stroke. It takes around 4 days to form a regular sleeping pattern so practice and stick to it before Ramadan if possible.
Does the outbreak of Coronavirus outbreak mean we should be doing things differently this year?
Naturally, everyone is concerned over the current Coronovirus pandemic. Provided you are healthy and symptom-free there is no problem with fasting this Ramadan. Fasting itself has been shown to have many benefits, including boosting our immune system which helps our bodies fight viruses and other infections more effectively. We should be practising the general measures to minimise the risk of potentially exposing ourselves and transmitting the virus. These include having a good handwashing technique and keeping a safe distance from people. During the Iftar time when we break our fasts, this should be limited to breaking the fast with people in your immediate family (who you are living with normally), as Iftars (and Suhoors) are usually done in big groups with extended family and friends, which could increase the risk of transmission.
What about those who experience symptoms would you recommend continuing to fast as normal?
As per Islamic teachings, if you are unwell then you are permitted to avoid fasting temporarily, and to make up the fast at a later date when you are feeling better, which can be after Ramadan
If in self-isolation when Ramadan begins are there any tips you can give to those who will be home all day?
Try to remain positive! Ramadan is a time of self-discipline and reflection, and it’s during these challenging times that our physical, mental and spiritual growth comes. Also, make sure you have enough supplies to last you the isolation phase.
When fasting what recommendations would you give to parents who still need to ensure their children have regular meals?
Having to prepare regular meals for your children can be challenging, particularly when you’re fasting as it will stimulate your hunger further! Try to pre-prepare meals for them during the time of the day that you’re not fasting, and get them to join you for the Iftar meal so they can get a feel for breaking the fast together. If your children are old enough they may be able to fast for part of the day, which is a nice way to feel the spirit of Ramadan and train them for one day doing the full fast.
Why do so many people eat dates during Ramadan?
There are a number of benefits of eating dates during Ramadan including that they are easy to digest and they decrease the feeling of hunger, preventing one from overeating. Dates will also prepare
the stomach to receive food after many hours of fasting so are a great way to break you fast. They are rich in sugar and energy, restoring nutrients in the body.
Which foods should we avoid during Ramadan?
I would recommend avoiding the following foods:
- Deep-fried foods – fried samosas, fried chicken, fried spring rolls and fried potato chips
- High sugar and high-fat foods – Arabic sweets like baklawa, Asian sweets like gulab jamun, jalebi,
- High-fat cooked foods – oily curries and greasy pastries
There are a number of healthy alternatives that you can try:
- Baked samosas, baked spring rolls, oven-baked potato chips
• “Dry frying” – using a non-stick pan or non-stick food sprays
• Grilled or baked meat, chicken, fish as a healthier alternative –
while retaining the flavour and taste of the food.
Should we avoid eating a lot of sugar?
It is better to avoid high sugar foods, as these cause a sudden surge in sugar levels in the blood which puts extra strain on your insulin-producing cells (insulin is the hormone in our bodies that controls sugar levels), which results in an equally sudden reduction in sugar levels making you feel tired and sluggish. Ramadan is a time to also form good habits, which includes healthy eating. This can help to improve your overall health and to maintain that behaviour – making it a lifestyle that can be continued even after the fast has passed. Make the most of the opportunity to get physically, mentally and spiritually healthy this Ramadan.