May marked the beginning of Ramadan, an Islamic month that consists of fasting 30 consecutive days from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan involves abstaining from food and drink throughout the day, and focusing more on good human values and spirituality. To get an idea of what a typical day in Ramadan was like, here is a brief outline:
- 3:25am to 4am – eating Suhoor (the pre-fast meal)
- This consisted of eating either eggs, oatmeal or dates. These foods are high in energy but release their energy over longer periods of time (they have a low glycemic index). These foods don’t spike the blood sugar as fast as pasta or soda and are generally more healthier and can help prevent diabetes. For a list of low glycemic foods, click here.
- 4:00am – morning prayer
- 4:00am to 7:30am – sleep
- 9:00pm – time to open the fast
- 10pm to 12am – night prayers
Ramadan, like intermittent fasting, can provide some incredible health benefits. Weight loss aside, fasting makes the body more efficient on how it uses its resources. Here is a list of the more common health benefits:
- Fasting reduces insulin blood levels, helping to promote burning of fat, which is similar to a ketogenic diet.
- Fasting increases human growth hormone levels which helps to increase muscle mass and reduce fat.
- Fasting can help speed up your body’s metabolism, which is another way to help reduce fat. A faster metabolism is not only more efficient, it may also help you live longer.
- Fasting can help improve your immune system, it can also promotes cell repair.
Other benefits of fasting include:
- Self-control: being more mindful of your day to day routine, being more patient and utilizing your time more efficiently
- Quality over quantity: focusing on eating better calories, especially in the morning hours is important as that is the energy you will be depending on throughout the day. As well, after a long day of fasting, your shift focuses to eating better foods to break your fast, as well as drinking more water. Sugary and caffeinated drinks do not appeal as much.
- Spirituality: fasting allows the mind to focus away from our preoccupation with food and focus more on ourselves. Especially in our ultra-uber-distracted lives, fasting may be the best tool to help us look inwards and reflect. In a way it is a ‘mental reset’, allowing us to focus on priorities and engage in deeper thinking.
Thirty days of consecutive fasting during Ramadan is an intense process and is not easy, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was similar to the feeling I had when crossing the finish line during my 10km run. Just as with any new health change in your life, try a small intermittent fast during the day and work your way up from there. I am sure the benefits will outweigh the hunger pains!
**Please Note: Fasting isn’t advisable for everyone, before starting a fast talk to your health practitioner to see if fasting is safe for you.**