Ramadan and its effects on health

Hi all,

During the month of Ramadan, we will be giving tips and giving guidelines for a healthy fasting explaining one more aspect each time . As an introduction to Ramadan, we will discuss the effects of fasting on health: metabolism, hydration, weight, food intake, blood sugar levels, lipid levels, performance, sleep… Fasting affects your body in many ways.

  1. How does your body respond when you fast?
    In the normal state, the body and the brain’s main source of energy are glucose. During fasting, when the body remains deprived of glucose, it tends to depend on the glycogen stored in liver and then muscles. We will give tips in next episodes on how to overload our liver in glycogen and what kind of carbohydrate needs more time to get digested.
    When the glycogen is depleted, we switch to a chronic fasting mode: because the brain needs glucose, it will turn to fat for glucose/energy production.
    If after this phase, the body fails to get further glucose supply, then the starvation phase sets in. Starvation happens only with a prolonged fast of many days to weeks that makes your body eventually turn to protein for energy thus affecting your health adversely. As the Ramadan fast only extends from dawn until dusk, there is an opportunity to replenish energy stores at pre-dawn and dusk meals. This provides a progressive and gentle transition from glucose to fat as the main source of energy, thereby preventing the breakdown of muscle for protein. It is very important to have a pre-dawn meal. This helps reduce the time of food deprivation and prevent ketosis. This is the same reason why breakfast is considered as an important meal of the day. To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain adequate levels of ‘energy food’, such as carbohydrates and some fat.
  2. What about Metabolic rate?
    As your body undergoes quite a drastic change from receiving food and water on a regular basis to not receiving anything for an extended amount of time, it understandably causes a shock to the system. Your body becomes unsure whether food will be readily available and as a result of this, tries to reserve as much energy as possible by slowing down your metabolism. In this context, your metabolism is the speed at which your body converts food into energy. A slow metabolism means that the food is converted into energy much slower. Your body will store fat rather than burn it.
    Therefore it is important that during Ramadan to undertake measures to keep your metabolism as normal as possible. One of the best ways to do this is with light exercise as this can speed up your metabolism, helping to counteract the effects that fasting has on slowing down your metabolism.
  3. What about weight?
    Weight gain: the person is very likely to pack on a few more pounds in the process because:
    1. Increased calories: People gain weight when their energy intake exceeds their energy output. In other words, this happens when a person consumes calories more than he/she burns.
    2. Reduced activity during Ramadan
    3. Skipping meals all day and eating only after 6 p.m. or so is counterproductive as a weight-loss regimen.
    4. Lower metabolic rate weight gain during Ramadan and particularly after Ramadan when normal eating habits are resumed
    Watching our weights is necessary for a healthy life you need to follow the guidelines that we will give during Ramadan.
    Maintaining weight appears only in those who maintain their diet and do not exceed food on iftar and suhur. The diet during Ramadan should not differ from the normal one.
    Weight loss: A small body mass loss is a frequent, but not universal change during Ramadan. They lose on average about a kilogram of weight over 4 weeks, and the lost weight is quickly regained
  4. What about Hydration?
    The kidney is very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, such as sodium and potassium. However, these can be lost through sweating and loss can increase during hot weather. Balanced food and fluid intake are important between fasts.
  5. What about health problems?
    Most health problems at this time are likely to arise from inappropriate diet or as a consequence of over-eating and insufficient sleep.
    1. HDL decreased and LDL increased significantly during fasting in Ramadan because fat intake increased
    2. Increase gastric acidity levels in the stomach causing a burning feeling, a heaviness in the stomach/ indigestion and reflux
    3. Headaches
    4. Dehydration
    5. Low blood glucose
    6. Low blood pressure
    7. Constipation
  6. What about lifestyle?
    Fasting during Ramadan resulted in:
    * increased fatigue
    * reduced physical, mental, and social activities
    * frequency of napping during daytime
    * sleep deprivation

    Ramadan Kareem!


    Helwi El Hayet

    Follow us on Twitter: @HelwiElHayet


About helwielhayet

Helwi el-Hayet discusses your favorite topics every week day at 4:30 p.m. Beirut time. From fashion to psychology to books to art to nutrition to cooking and coaching (and much, much more), Helwi el-Hayet is here to shed light on the latest trends and to share with you reports, interviews and recipes from Lebanon and the region!
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