Ramadan Kareem! It’s that time of year again and I’m sure if you’re Muslim you’re sick of the typical comments about how fasting is impossible and not healthy. Don’t forget the most famous proverb around this time of year “What…not even water?” *rolls eyes*. I thought I’d put together a quick post on the benefits of fasting when done correctly and a few tips on healthy fasting.
About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is fasting with a break in-between. This is the type of fasting Muslims take part in during Ramadan (right now we are doing an 18 hour fast in the UK).
When you fast, your body uses the glucose stored in your body as the it’s first source of energy. Once your body is out of glucose, it then uses fat as the next source of energy.
Your body won’t get to use protein for energy as it takes prolonged fasting for days/weeks nonstop for you to get to this point (technically starvation). Keep in mind it takes 84 hours of fasting before your glucose levels are really affected.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- It makes you feel good! After a few days of fasting higher levels of endorphin appears in your blood. You’ll feel more alert and it has a great impact on mental wellbeing. Whoop whoop!
- Because the body is using fat for fuel, you can lose weight whilst fasting – get you that summer body boo. Eventually your cholesterol levels should reduce and can reduce blood pressure.
- When your body adapts to burning fat for energy instead of sugar as it’s main source, it can drastically reduce your chances of getting chronic diseases.
- It can teach you self discipline and self control.
- Fasting twice a week can help you live longer.
- Fasting can encourage cellular repair processes e.g. removing waste material from your cells
- It can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body. Oxidative stress is a big contributor towards ageing and many chronic illnesses. Inflammation his a key driver of all sorts of common diseases e.g. arthritis
- It’s great for your brain – reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, the reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance can increase the growth of new nerve cells. This keeps your brain sharp.
- It can positively counteract conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and Dementia
- Regular intermittent fasting can help improve your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cancer
- It’s a great for of detoxification – buh-bye toxins stored in my fat!
- Fasting can help regenerate immune cells. Dr Longo suggests that when you fast your system tries to save energy. In order to save energy it recycles a lot of your immune cells that aren’t really needed, especially the ones that might be damaged. Cancer patients that fasted 3 days before chemo were protected against the damage put on their immune system which is caused by the treatment. So in short, fasting can help regenerate your immune system.
Believe it or not, you can gain weight whilst fasting if you’re not careful from over indulging and piling up a lot of food in a shorter window of time so I’ve got some tips on how to fast the healthy way…
Tips for a healthy fast
- Having a balanced food and fluid intake is a MUST. Our kidneys are great at maintaining body water and salt levels BUT I’d avoid caffeine based drinks. Caffiene is a diuretic; it makes you pee a lot so you’re losing water quicker. Caffeine whilst fasting is not your friend!
- For all gym-goers, to prevent muscle breakdown ensure that your meals have enough energy food in them including carbs and some healthy fats.
- Fasting all day can make you crave sugar but try to limit the amount of directly sugary food you have when you break your fast. Have healthy alternatives like whole-grains, sweet potatoes, fruit and veg. I’ll be trying to have my green smoothie daily to get in some fruit and veg.
- High fiber food can help to keep your bowels healthy and helps bulk up your meals which will help you feel full for longer. Try to include fruits, veg, pulses and starchy food like wholegrain to your meals.
- Before you start fasting, try to have something wholesome and filling that provides energy for hours. Something slow digesting like oats would be a good option.
- For those new to fasting don’t be put off by your grumpiness in the first few days of fasting. Once your body has transitioned into eating less, it’s cognitive performance, activity, sleep and mood aren’t really effected in healthy people (no shade). You should be the same as if you were eating. Once your body has adjusted to not eating all day errrrr’day, the grumpiness should become less prominent. Remember that it’s more of a mental adjustment.
- In regards to exercising, I would do what your body can handle. I will be doing very limited cardio, because I’m trying to gain or at least maintain my weight. I usually lose weight during Ramadan very quickly.
I hope encourages some of you to fast even outside of Ramadan. When done right, it can have great health benefits that are defo worth not skipping out on!
Hope you all have a blessed Ramadan.