Eat,Sleep,Fast,Pray--Tips for a Healthy Ramadan

Don't let this be you this Ramadan ;) ^

As I get older, I have become more interested in learning new things about life, people, places, culture, traditions, the world and about me and my faith. The past year, my goal was to relearn to read the Quran since my lack of reading it daily in the past few years caused me to forget a lot. Allhumdilliah, I am proud to say that so far, I have been consistent and all praise goes to my online Quran teacher: iqrarozaacademy313 (add her on skype) who works so hard to assure I reach my goals. Besides that, my other daily goals consist of me becoming the happiest and healthiest that I have ever been. Though some weeks...it's a struggle, I try to feed my body and soul with clean food and thoughts on a daily basis. "Surround yourself with people who empower you, who inspire you, who support you in everything you do & dream of, who encourage you!"..."...and distant yourself from those who don't uplift your soul & only bring in negative feelings and energy in your life". My thoughts & words I have tried to live by the past year or two... :). This year and month, my goal is: Ramadan

So anyways, a few days ago, I was writing in my daily journal and a sudden thought about Ramadan occurred to me. I realized that Ramadan is approaching very soon and wondered how will I incorporate it with my daily routine?! I eat at least 5 times a day! I eat every meal and snack throughout my day and drink my daily 8. I've fasted in the past but my lifestyle was completely different than it is now. Ahh. 

As I sat there and thought to myself, I started to realize that Ramadan is not about starving yourself. Yes, fasting plays a huge role in it but there is a reason behind the fasts that I grew up always knowing but unfortunately, never REALLY obeyed by all aspects of Ramadan. 

Ramadan, is about taking a step back and reflecting on your life and your goals. I think that this holy month forces us to change our routine. It helps us to slow down and simply reflect on our life...helping us to think about and appreciate what's happened over the past year and where we're headed. On the other hand, feeling hungry helps us connect to what's important to us. During our daily routine and life (especially living in America where everything moves so quickly), we get too busy and forget what it's all about. I think that Ramadan helps us reflect on life by sitting back and enjoying the ride of life and appreciating every moment and grain we put in our mouth rather than letting life drive us. It is about reflecting on our life and showing gratitude for everything, job, friends, family, healthy and opportunities we have today. Now I don't want to turn this post longer than it has already become (sorry!!) so continue reading below to read some tips on how to have a healthy ramadan without being "too tired" for what Ramadan is actually for: 

A few problems I've had in the past with ramadan- 
1- Lost a lot of weight 
2- Gained a lot of weight 
3- Skipped suhoor on some days 
4- Didn't feel AS connected to the holy month as I had anticipated to 
5- Skipped around on my fasts because I felt sick some days & then felt guilty afterwards 
Ramadan Kareem!

My goal this year is to prioritize ibadah and not cooking. Doing so, I don't want to spend so much time "meal prepping" and exercising this month, but I do want to sustain the hard work I have put in to get to the healthy lifestyle I live today. Here are some tips that I plan to go by and I hope some of these come useful to anyone reading this post too. I want to share some tips to a healthy Ramadan that I anticipate to follow myself: 

Time, Food, Exercise: 
Time & Sleep:
1- We all know that sleep is SO important for our normal every day functioning BUT also an essential part of our healthy lifestyle. One thing that becomes difficult in the US with full time working hours is the lack of sleep you end up with during Ramadan. I think it is so important to adjust your sleep, eating, and workout times during this holy month. So bottom line, TRY to squeeze in a nap before you open your fast at night. For me, it may be during my "normal" lunch time at work...CAR NAPS are THE best ;) ---If you can't nap during the day, try to nap for at least 30 mins after work before prayer and opening fast.  When you wake up for Suhoor and Fajr, TRY to get some sleep afterwards right before getting ready to go to work. This sleep is not the best for me (personally), it actually makes me feel so tired afterwards, but I'm going to give it a try again this year. Lets see! 

Time & Eating: 
2- In Ramadan, you obviously have to adjust your eating times, duh! Your "feeding window" is VERY important during this month as it is the only time you are able to feed your body with nutrition to function the rest of the day---fasted. So for example, for me: if my Iftaar time is 8:30, I would open my fast with water and dates (dates= my personal fav) and eat some type of protein and if you are up for it, add in some fruit/veggies. About an hour after that, eat some type of carb. And finally, your last meal should be about an hour or so after that, right before bedtime, eat some type of (light) snack. For me, I am thinking acai bowls, cottage cheese, nuts or berries. Then when it is time for suhoor, I believe this meal needs to be strong and full of nutrients as this is your only meal before a full day of fasting. It has been suggested to consume lots of veggies so for me, I plan to eat protein (eggs and/or shake), veggies, and probably light protein such as fish or chicken (not exactly sure if I actually will eat the chicken/fish THAT early in the morning but we will see). Lastly, hydration! During all your feeding windows, don't forget to hydrate your body! Some of my favorites this year will be: Water, coconut water, and fresh lemonade.  

Also, growing up, my mom has always told me something that has always stuck to me: portion control was suggested by our Prophet to live a healthy life. You should never eat to "get full". So don’t overeat in Ramadan because it is very easy to do this on a fasted stomach!


Time & Workout: 
3- Don't stop working out! Instead, adjust intensity as well as workout timings. This means to simply continue your exercise routine BUT cut-back on intensive training. Intensive exercise can cause fatigue, dizziness and cause you to get sick on a fasted stomach. Instead of an intense workout, adjust your workout to where you are preserving what you have. So if you are doing cardio 1-2 times a week, possibly cut that out completely and replace it with a core or strength training workout. Do weight training and 2-4 compound exercises for 45 mins to 1 hour maximum. Also, I think it is important to cut down the amount of reps you do per exercise too. Remember, this month, goal should not be to become skinnier, stronger, leaner, etc., instead, it needs to be about preserving what you have so you can focus ON RAMADAN. I personally hope I am as strong as my words this Ramadan!! ;) Also, I know that some people workout before iftaar and some after. For me personally, it will most likely be about 30 min to 1 hour before iftaar. Again, my intensity level will go down a lot since I will be fasting. I have not made a new workout schedule for myself yet, but once I do in the next day or two, I'll try to post it on our Facebook page. EDIT: So I have been doing more research on when to workout---it has been said that weight training on a fasted stomach can actually breakdown muscle by dehydrating them...which can be more detrimental than beneficial. I am thinking to now only do "core exercises" & yoga on weekdays 1 hour before Iftaar and then on the weekends (since I'll have more time with no work the next day) I'll do weight training then--after iftaar.

I hope this post was even a tiny bit helpful to anyone looking to find change in their Ramadan routine this year. I am NO specialist in this field but I am learning things on this road of life and just love sharing to inspire and motivate whoever! :) xoxx--

Story of my life in Ramadan ;)