Protein, fiber, naps and more fasting tips to avoid getting hangry during Ramadan

Ada Tseng, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Another reason to pay attention to your fiber intake is because fasting often throws off your bowel movements.

"Any changes to your sleep patterns or diet, like the timing of the meals, will alter your bowel movement and cause hormonal changes in your body," Haddad said. "Your appetite might be increased and you might retain water and feel bloated, but the way to combat that is with fiber."

Dietitians say they get a lot of complaints about this during Ramadan, and if anyone finds themselves having issues, Ghani recommends eating more probiotics, as well as adding flax meal to your diet. Naely recommends getting a Squatty Potty, a curved stool around your toilet which elevates your feet and puts your body in the optimal position to have healthy bowel movements.

How to hydrate

A good strategy to prevent dehydration is to think about how much water your body needs in a regular day — and to make sure you get a similar amount of water between sunset and sunrise.

It doesn't need to be a gallon, like Kubba, but for some, it amounts to drinking one or two glasses of water between each of the nightly prayers.

"If people have a hard time with water, they can add some lemon to it, or have some seltzer or teas," Khan said.

Other tips to minimize thirst:

•Avoid high-sodium food and fried foods. Too much poultry can also make you thirsty, Haddad said.

•Drink liquids with electrolytes, such as coconut water, bone broth and sugar-free Gatorade.

•Don't gulp the water. Drink it slowly and steadily through a straw.

•Eat foods with a lot of water content, including watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, yogurts, broths, nuts, seeds and dates.

•Try hydrated chia seeds, Naely said. You can soak them in water or almond milk overnight.

The best way to tell if you're dehydrated is the color of your urine. It should be light yellow or clear, so if it's too dark, increase your fluid intake. If you're showing signs of dehydration and fatigue, Naely recommends electrolyte supplements such as Nuun Sport.

Don't neglect sleep

It'll be a challenge to get enough sleep if you're waking up before sunrise, eating after sunset and doing nightly prayers.

In Muslim countries, entire schedules will shift to later hours during Ramadan. But in the U.S., many people will be expected to keep their regular routines.

Maintaining a normal sleep schedule is crucial, Naely said. It also helps regulate hormones that might cause you to feel hungry and then overeat.

And if you can, take naps. "Not gonna lie, during lunch break, sometimes I just go to my car and I take a nap," Naely said. "People who work from home are lucky because they can just go to their bed and take a nap. A 30-minute power nap is fantastic."

Some people will just stay up all night during Ramadan and sleep during the day. Malik doesn't recommend this, but admits it's probably OK short term.


"If you speak to someone coming from a religious perspective, that's not the purpose of the month," she said, laughing. "It's about sacrifice, not sleeping while you're supposed to be fasting. It's better to maintain your normal routine."

How and when to exercise

Just as Ramadan is not the right time to start a new diet, it's also not the right time to start a new exercise regimen.

"Stick with what you know and take it easy," said Naely. "Basically, all forms of movement are going to be good for you."

When to exercise can depend on your fitness level and what type of workout you're doing.

Haddad, who is Christian but was part of the mostly-Muslim Syrian national table tennis team as a teenager, remembers practicing even earlier in the morning so they could eat beforehand and have an effective workout. Others might prefer to work out right before iftar, so they can break fast immediately afterward.

However, doing too much cardio or strength training after an entire day of fasting could lead to fatigue and dizziness.

"I recommend waiting until after you've broken your fast, and you've eaten, so you have more energy to work out," Naely said. "Make sure you have a carb beforehand for energy. And then post-workout you want to have a carb to replenish the glycogen your body used and a protein to help with muscle recovery."

Or just keep it light.

"Flexibility exercises like yoga or Pilates or light cardio — walking — don't require a lot of energy, so they can be done any time you're able," Khan said.

Minimize mood swings

Even if you follow all these best practices, you'll still get hungry and cranky.

"The goal is that when you do start feeling hungry or hangry, it's closer to the time where you can break fast, versus in the morning or midday," Khan said.

Malik blames most mood swings on carbs. "Those emotional swings are triggered by the glucose swing," she said. "If you have too many carbs, you have a quick glycemic response, because carbs become glucose quicker than protein."

When you do get hangry, try distraction. Take a power nap. If it's not so hot outside that the sun will dehydrate you, take a quick walk. The Vitamin D and endorphins could help, Naely said.

Or practice gratitude.

"Ramadan is meant to be a time, again, of reflection, discipline and also gratitude for our blessings," Khan said. "And also acknowledging that we are fortunate that we can break our fast with a beautiful meal with family and friends. Not everyone has that opportunity or privilege."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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