Are you fit to fast?

Aug 14, 2012, 13:14 IST | Ruchika Kher

Fasting and abstaining from your favourite food is a common occurrence during the holy months of Ramzan and Shravan, which are underway at the moment. While the faithful follow fasts strictly, it's equally important to concentrate on a nutrition-rich diet and correct fitness routine, to avoid burnout and blackout. Ruchika Kher gets experts to share the ideal diet plan and exercise regimen, to stay fit and healthy during fasts

Most people, who follow healthy diets and intense workout regimes in their day-to-day lifestyle, tend to miss out on this daily dose of nutrition and exercise during the holy months of Ramzan and Shravan, if they choose to observe fasts. However, many now believe in altering their food intake and exercise designs to meet their body’s nutritional needs.

Diet matters
“Not many are aware of the importance of diet during the fasting month. It is important to let people be aware that our body needs more tender love and care during its lowest phase,” says Anjali Peswani, Nutrition & Food Consultant. “During the fasting month, it is important for people to ensure that their daily nutritional needs are met as meals are limited and this may cause discomfort during the day. The meals that one consumes must be high in complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, bajra, jowar, oats), proteins (dals, soya bean, chickpeas, kidney beans, sprouts, nuts), for non-vegetarians (lean chicken, fish, egg whites) skimmed milk and its products (curd, buttermilk, paneer), dietary fibre (fruits, salads, vegetables) and water,” she adds.

Aftab Bandukwala

Anjali also stresses that the most important thing to remember during this time is not to gorge on too much food in too little time. One must make sure that they consume food slowly and chew properly. “It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to get a signal that we are full. Whenever one sits to eat, one must make sure they begin with some liquid; it could be a glass of fresh fruit juice or nimbu paani (lime juice) as this will help stabilise blood glucose in the body,” informs the nutritionist.

Pic for representation purpose

Work out, wisely
Along with the diet, one very important fact that people need to concentrate on is their workout. People who skip working out during this period, it’s integral to indulge in some form of physical activity as that helps in diverting one’s mind off food and also helps in better digestion and assimilation of essential nutrients. For others, who follow an intense workout regime, a few changes can help.

“For those who have a set workout regime at the gym or at home it will be best to modify exercise goals during this period. If one is working towards losing or gaining weight, modifying the goal to maintaining weight is appropriate. This is not the best time to push one’s body, as one will require a lot of energy. A person should not overwork his system and instead focus on maintaining his present body weight so that he doesn’t regress,” explains Sankar SB, Assistant Fitness Manager, Fitness First. The fitness expert also maintains that reducing workout intensity during this time is the key word for a robust body.

“If you run, switch to brisk walking. If you lift weights of 15 kg to work on your chest or any other muscles reduce them to 10 kg. This will help you stay consistent in your workout. If you normally workout for 1 hour, bring that down to 30 mins,” he suggests.

The trainer suggests circuit training as one of the most effective ways to burn fat with its additional benefit of burning more calories in a shorter duration. Between 5 and 6 exercises with 10-15 repetitions of 2-3 sets without a break should help. This can be done by combining all body parts including the chest, back, legs and shoulders. “To exercise, you can use your body weight, dumbbells, bands, barbells or TRX,” he explains.  

Case study: Balanced Diet + Ideal Exercise Routine
Mumbai resident Aftab Bandukwala has been observing fasts during Ramzan for years now. However, the architect makes sure that he follows a diet filled with nutrition and protein, and continues with this workout even during the fasting period. The 43-year-old shares his typical fasting day with us:
“In the morning, when I wake up to begin my fast, I eat a bowl of porridge, a bowl of green salad and a glass of protein shake.

Dairy products like curd
In the evening, after I break my fast, I eat a bowl of lentil salad and a cup of tea. Post that I finish my prayer and eat my dinner, which consists of high proteins and less carbohydrates. It’s mainly chicken or mutton or homemade paneer, one roti, and two-three boiled egg whites.

Proteins for non-vegetarians: chicken
Later, after two hours, I head for my workout that includes weights thrice a week and running thrice a week, eight kms, every alternate day. For weight training, I focus on back and biceps on one day, on shoulders and biceps for the next, and on the third day, it’s the lower body. On the seventh day, I take a day off, I don’t work out and I indulge as well.

Proteins for vegetarians: Lentils
Essentially, it’s about time management. It is intense because you work through the day, prayer timings have to be sustained, you eat your meals and then, workout, so there is very little time for anything else. In fact, the result is that I have been able to maintain a far better lifestyle during Ramzan, as compared to other days.”

Oats for complex carbohydrates

Fast and fit
>> It is important for one to make sure that a complete balanced meal is consumed rather than concentrating on one or two nutrients. Many people consume too much of fried food, sweets, oil-laden gravies and butter, which they feel is required to maintain their lost nutrients. Too much fat will lead to more laziness and one may not be able to work properly.
>>  Drink water and juices to keep the body hydrated.
>>  Dates are an excellent source of energy; ensure you eat plenty of dates, especially when you break your fast. 

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