Posted on May 21, 2018

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, many people including athletes suddenly change their diet which may lead to some digestive disorders that can affect athletic performance.

Nutrition experts at Aspetar, the orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital, have developed a set of ‘golden rules’ on how best to combine physical activity with a balanced diet in order to help people maintain a healthy and active lifestyle during Ramadan. In addition, they have developed tips on ensuring that Iftar and Suhur meals provide the necessary energy boost over a sustained period of time.

Surely, there is a blessing in Suhur [Prophetic Hadith]

The Suhur [predawn meal] is the main energy source throughout the day for people fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Aspetar experts suggest that the Suhur meal should ideally be light and easy to digest, and recommend that it consists of food groups that release energy slowly, e.g. carbohydrates, proteins, fibres as well as important minerals such as potassium.

Experts also recommend that the Suhur meal contains ingredients such as milk or yogurt which is both a key source of protein and vitamins, and an ideal alternative to soft drinks and artificially sweetened juices. The Suhur meal should also ideally include some vegetables or fruits as well as beans, lentils or eggs, served with whole grain bread since such foods sustain blood sugar levels for longer periods.

Divide your Iftar

It is recommended that people fasting divide their Iftar meal into two phases. Phase one should consist of eating dates or drinking a glass of water, milk or a small bowl of soup – equivalent to ‘alerting one’s digestive system’ – which should then be followed by a break of around 15 minutes. Then, food served during the second phase should contain some vegetables along with a main course that contains proteins such as meat or chicken served with legumes, plus carbohydrates such as bread, rice or potatoes. One of the benefits of dividing one’s Iftar meal into two phases is that it prepares the digestive system to produce enzymes and helps control the amount of food eaten, thereby minimising the risk of gastric disorders after a long day of fasting.

Fasting without exercising weakens the body

Recent research has shown that fasting for 30 days without doing any physical activity may decrease one’s physical strength and can also contribute to digestive problems. The ideal recommendation is to exercise for between 10 to 30 minutes daily, either before Iftar for people without any health problems, or three hours after the Iftar meal.

Aspetar experts share golden [].jpg

How to achieve the optimal benefit from exercising

Consuming a large meal can undermine the benefits of exercise since as much as 15% of one’s energy is diverted to food digestion and absorption. That is why experts recommend that people exercise at least three hours after any meal. Aspetar experts also recommend that athletes should exercise gradually, starting with warm-up exercises and stretches followed by some aerobic and strength training and followed by a cool-down at the end of any session. According to experts, training intensity should range from light to medium dependent on one’s level of fitness.

Training intensity determines the diet one should follow

Aspetar experts say that the type of sport one practices should defines one’s diet. For example, athletes who are engaged in team sports should divide their meals into smaller portions. They should eat light meals such as fruit including bananas or yogurt and milk after matches or training sessions to supply them with energy. Athletes can always consult their nutritionist to calculate the right balance of proteins, carbs and minerals they need dependent on the intensity and duration of their training programme.

Healthy Ramadan campaign

Aspetar has recently launched a new “Healthy Ramadan” campaign. The campaign seeks to increase awareness of the importance of adopting an active and healthy lifestyle during the Holy Month, promoting physical activity among community members in Qatar as well as professional and recreational athletes alike. Running throughout Ramadan, these tips and suggestions will be shared via Aspetar’s official social media channels. These will comprise a number of short videos posted across all Aspetar’s social media channels including Facebook and Instagram’s “Story” feature, as well as the hospital’s official YouTube channel to encourage people to be active.