It's the sad truth but day-long fasts this Ramadan are going to be broken in isolation. But despite the circumstances brought on by the pandemic, it's still just as important to remember that you need to follow a healthy pattern to fast in a safe way.
There's going to be no congregation across Australia for prayers, sehri or suhoor (the meal you consume at dawn in order to fast for the day, or iftar (the meal you break your fast with at sunset).
Regardless of the social distancing measures, Muslims will continue the month-long tradition of fasting - April 23 to May 23 - for many personal reasons such as learning self-discipline and devoting more time to prayer and reflection.
And as they do, it's good to have another reminder of how to stay healthy during the 30 days to maintain a mental and physical state of well-being.
Make sure you don't skip suhoor
No matter how tired or sleep deprived you are, make sure to keep an alarm for suhoor and don't hit snooze. You don't need to eat a full fledged meal - just keep a few essentials by your bedside to motivate you to consume food regardless of how early it is. You'll need the energy to sustain you throughout the day and stop bouts of nausea and that annoying sluggish or lethargic feeling that'll send you straight to bed.
For a quick and easy suhoor meal, drink a lot of fluids such as water or a glass of yogurt thinned out with water and a whisk; eat bananas; an egg sandwich made with whole wheat bread the night before or even a bowl of healthy cereal.
Just avoid caffeinated drinks as they lead to dehydration or any foods that cause your stomach to heat up — opt for slow digestive foods (barley, wheat, oats) and fibre-rich meals to help you avoid acidity (dry fruits, whole wheat, vegetables).
A common New Year goal is to start "eating healthy". That's easier said than done for those of us who don't enjoy the usual healthy foods or are simply picky eaters. Whether you have the palate of a toddler or are bored to tears by healthy food, a few simple tricks can help you start eating better.
Don't sit in one place all day; keep moving
Fasting in itself can be physically draining for the body but it's important to stay active. It's a popular question among Muslims whether you should exercise during Ramadan and while the simple answer is yes, there are certain guidelines to follow. Perhaps reduce the number of high impact exercises you perform and switch to yoga instead. Go for short walks during the day and stretch instead; or enjoy a workout post iftar when you do have energy and eat nutrient-rich foods to avoid a burnout.
"While exercising in a fasted state, it’s possible that your body will start breaking down muscle to use protein for fuel. Plus, you’re more susceptible to hitting the wall, which means you’ll have less energy and not be able to work out as hard or perform as well," Chelsea Amengual, MS, RD, manager of Fitness Programming & Nutrition at Virtual Health Partners told Healthline.
Don't overeat during iftar
It's easy to hold down an entire feast when you've been fasting all day but as tempted as you are — don't do it. Make sure you portion control and avoid junk food even if all you want to eat is fried items such as samosas and KFC. Instead, opt for whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein and healthy fat, to give your body all the nutrients it needs to keep you going throughout the month of fasting.
Also, chopping up different fruits and making essentially a fruit bowl should be your go-to during iftar. Keep it in the freezer 15 minutes before and help yourself to a bowl with a couple of dates on the side. It'll also give you the push to get in an evening workout instead of holding a full belly for hours after sunset.
When should you avoid fasting?
For the most part, the following people are exempt from fasting. It's always good to consult with a doctor if you're feeling unwell but still want to fast.
- Young children
- Menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding women
- People who are traveling long distances
- Those who have acute illness
- Those with a chronic illness who would be harmed by a fast (e.g., diabetes)
- Those who are not able to mentally comprehend the reason for the fast
- Frail or elderly people
Video: The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins on May 6 this year. As an American-Muslim, I find that many of my non-Muslim friends and colleagues still don’t know much about it.