By: Saima Shah
Ramadan is a time where we give up many of the conveniences of our life, especially food and drink. In Ramadan we abstain from these blessings in order to strengthen our connection with Allah SWT, to focus on the soul instead of the stomach, and to comprehend the blessings Allah has bestowed upon us on a daily basis. However, for us to reap the rewards and the full potential of Ramadan, we need to be able to nourish our bodies at the right times: Suhoor and Iftar. With the right foods we can maintain energy and balance throughout our fasting days. This will allow us to feel energetic for a significant part of the day and perform our Ibadah at night without feeling the desire to fall asleep due to overeating and exhaustion.
When it comes to taking care of our physical needs in Ramadan, the key element to remember is to hydrate. Oftentimes, during Suhoor and Iftar we are focused more on eating than actually hydrating ourselves. Between 65 to 70% of our bodies are made up of water, and water helps to carry oxygen and other vital nutrients to our cells. Throughout the day, our body loses water through breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. As we lose fluids we become dehydrated, but there are several steps we can take to avoid any serious consequences from dehydration. First we need to make sure to drink plenty of water at Suhoor, Iftar, and throughout the night while awake. Water is the best way to hydrate our body. Second, eat foods with high water content such as watermelon, grapes, apples, cucumbers, and celery. Dairy such as milk and yogurt also contain lots of water. Be sure to avoid fizzy and/or sweetened drinks.
These foods prevent your insulin levels from rising too quickly and then crashing; instead they maintain a steady stream of energy to your body because it takes longer for the body to process these foods. Examples are: eggs, meat, sweet potatoes, oats/oatmeal, whole wheat bread/roti, brown rice, quinoa, avocado, chia seeds, Greek or full fat yogurt, dates, and such. Diversify your plate so your body feels energized the rest of the day.
One of the benefits derived in Ramadan is controlling our bodies and our desires. This means that we learn to appreciate it and be grateful for our blessings, not that we eat to such an extent that we must roll ourselves to the musalla to pray and burp our way through the night prayers. Our bodies will make us feel like we need to eat a lot due to our day long fast, and that we must stuff ourselves to ensure our survival, but this is where we take control of our eating and eat as the Sunnah directs: slow, controlled, and with gratitude.
Physical activity will help you feel more energized instead of sluggish. Try to incorporate either a walk (inside or outside the house) or some yoga in the early morning or a little before Iftar. Commit to just a few minutes, but get your body moving. While walking, do dhikr, recite or listen to the Qur’an, listen to a lecture or a book. Keeping ourselves active even while fasting helps pass the time and keeps us energetic throughout the day.
It is easy to go through Ramadan doing the bare minimum, but in this holy month we need to push ourselves to do the best in our worship. If we want to have energized fasts, spiritual qiyaams, and concentration in our recitation and understanding of the Qur’an, we need to make sure we appropriately nourish our bodies so that we can nourish our souls.