Every Ramadan, we come across a load of information on the impact of fasting on the human body.
With the holy month just around the corner, Riham Shamseddine, senior dietitian at healthy meal delivery service Right Bite, debunks some of that information to separate what is true and what is not:
Myth #1: Fasting helps you lose weight:
Fasting is not aimed at weight loss nor does it help you lose weight, according to Shamseddine. While breakfast generally jump-starts metabolism and helps us burn fat faster, fasting reduces our overall calorie intake and tells our body that the calories we absorb are less than the ones we need.
This pushes our body to slow down our metabolism and conserve energy to remain efficient, activating our body’s natural protective mechanism to resist what it perceives as starvation. This slows down our calorie-burning rate, which, at the contrary, might lead to weight gain.
Myth #2: A heavy suhour will help you fast easier:
Suhours should not be heavy. Big meals loaded with calories and fat, regardless of their amount, cannot compensate for energy lost during long fasting hours, says Shamseddine.
“Even if we eat more than normal, there is the tendency to feel low on energy on the next fasting day because of the deprivation of food. The key to surviving a whole day of fasting is eating the right foods. Suhour has to be balanced in carbohydrates, protein and good fat, i.e. egg omelette with vegetables and whole-grain slices of bread plus green vegetables or a little bit of mashed avocados,” she says, adding that the most important thing is not to consume fried foods and foods high in salt during suhour in order to prevent excessive thirst the next day.
Myth #3: Fasting eliminates toxins from the body:
Eating does not create toxins in our body. It is eating the wrong food items and consuming unhealthy meals that gives our body oxidative stress, according to the nutritionist. For instance, if we are fasting, having simple sugars (Arabic sweets, cakes, juices) and eating a lot of fried food will not help in removing toxins from our body.
The most important thing, whether fasting or not, is to limit unhealthy food and maintain a diet rich in antioxidants. This fights free radicals that cause illnesses, malaise and diseases. Make sure to consume super foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, salmon, avocado etc. Fasting alone is not enough to remove toxins. It has to be accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet.
Myth #4: It is not safe to exercise when fasting:
Exercising while fasting can be safe if we are generally able to work out on empty stomach. The only problem with exercising while fasting is that our body is not receiving energy from food. What might happen is depletion of muscles to produce energy that is already stored in the muscles as glycogen, says Shamseddine.
“If we need to exercise while fasting, we can do it directly before Iftar and then replenish our energy needs from the food, or after consuming a light Iftar (1-2 hours post meal) and then again have a post-workout meal rich in protein and carbohydrates to replenish our energy levels,” she says, adding that it is also imperative to seek the advice of your health care provider prior to starting any exercise routine.For all the latest health and fitness news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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