By Dana Dinnawi – Certified Health Coach
The absence of food and water that our bodies go through while fasting, leads to dehydration and blood sugar imbalances. Which are normal and expected. However, the way we interpret these symptoms is what leads us to overeat and feel bloated, heavy, and lethargic after iftar.
The mass amounts of food we typically consume at iftar, although large in quantity, are usually lacking in quality. And this is key. When you haven’t eaten all day and your blood sugar is low, yes you will feel like all you need is sugar. But what your body needs is not sugar per se, but simply fuel. If you fuel yourself with good protein and vegetables, the feeling will go away. If you fuel your body with processed carbs and refined sugars, you will feel heavy and exhausted because these foods do not nourish your body on a cellular level.
And these foods will dehydrate you. Your body is already deprived of liquid all day and then you fill it up with foods that dehydrate even more. With each passing day, you will find your energy decreasing, your headaches increasing and your bowel movements becoming more irregular. I love Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results.” If you want this Ramadan to be different, if you want to feel different, then you have to eat differently.
What Happens to Your Body When You Fast?
The gateway to your health is your digestion. Your digestive tract starts in the mouth and ends at the anus. Many people suffer from digestive upset somewhere along the tract, whether it is acid reflux, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. So unless you balance your digestion, you will not be able to feel good during Ramadan, or any other time.
- The most important tip I can give you is to not to eat everything at once. The main culprits that make you feel tired, sleepy and heavy after iftar are the grains and sugars. The grains (pasta, rice, breads) are naturally processed and not digested well by our bodies at any time of year. The meal will literally just sit in your stomach for hours, undigested and putrefying, which leads to bloating, constipation, headaches, dizziness, moodiness, and lack of energy.
- Don’t mix proteins and starches. When you do that, you slow down your digestion and the food sits in your belly for many hours, causing discomfort. This is because proteins take the most time for the body to break down, so it’s best to combine them with easily digestible, leafy green or non-starchy vegetables that aid in the absorption process.
- Grill or bake your proteins instead of deep-frying them and avoid breaded varieties. You can substitute almond flour or flax meal for flour.
- Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables, whether a salad or cooked vegetables, or a combination of both.
- Avoid any fruit with your meal. Fruit is made up of simple sugars that pass through the stomach easily and digest quickly. However, when they’re eaten with complex foods that take longer to digest, like protein and starches, fruit will linger in the stomach and start to ferment, leading to bloating or an upset stomach. Wait at least 3 hours after iftar to consume your fruits.
- Use raw honey instead of traditional sugar syrup on your desserts
- Avoid bread with your eggs or foul at sohour time, as bread is very dehydrating and as a result, will make you thirsty throughout the day. Instead, have your eggs with avocados, tomatoes and greens—all very hydrating.
- Drink 2.5 liters of water between iftar and sohour
Dana Dinnawi is a Health Coach certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition