Welcome back! Part I covered when to train, now it’s time to learn what to eat and drink (think water, water, and more water!).
Suhur meal (morning/pre-dawn)
For Suhur, it is imperative to drink plenty of water, eat a good blend of protein, carbohydrates, and essential fat—that’s right “good fats” have many fat burning and muscle building properties and their importance is even greater during Ramadan. Some good “suhur” foods include:
- Egg whites (1 yolk)
- Chicken breast
- Cream of wheat
- Protein shake
- Raw, Dark Honey
- Fibrous vegetables –This will help increase the feeling of fullness as well.
- All natural peanut butter
- Flax seed oil – A great and tasty brand is Omega Swirl from Barleans
- Olive oil – preferably extra virgin (which means it’s cold processed and the essential fatty acids are preserved)
Plenty of water
It is important to take a solid Multi-Vitamin/ multi-mineral supplement with Suhur as well, to make sure that the daily minimum requirements of key nutrients are met. Taking extra vitamin C and vitamin E can also be helpful. It is very important to watch your sodium intake at this time as high sodium can cause greater dehydration plus increase thirst during the day—not good for fasters. Avoid high sodium foods like soups, sauces, condiments, gravies, high sodium bread products, and canned meats. Of course eating fried foods and heavy oil items can cause heartburn and problems for you all day so it is best to avoid those if possible!
This is a key time for rehydration. The wisdom in Islam is never ending. We break our fast with dates and water but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrient content. They contain very high levels of potassium (much more than a banana), a key re-hydration mineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhances hydration above and beyond water alone. They contain a special blend of glucose and fructose for short and long term energy. They also have a special nutrient called beta D-glucan which is a soluble fiber that can enhance satiety and digestive health.
So basically when you eat a date and water for iftar your body gets hydrated again much faster than with water alone(this is a complex topic and I don’t want to bore you with the details — You can think of dates and water as a very advanced form of Gatorade®). In fact, clinical research published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition entitled “The fruit of the date palm: Is it a possible use as the best food for the future?” concluded that “dates may be considered as an almost ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.”
You should also eat some quality protein at iftar time as well. Of course, drink plenty of water – In fact, keep a water bottle with you at all times after sunset! Then 1- 1.5 hours later have a food meal. Then during taraweh, depending if you pray 8 or 20 rakahs, have a protein bar or ready to drink protein shake in the middle (not while you are praying of course!) or have another small protein and complex carbohydrate meal after the 8 rakahs—drink plenty of water if you have a protein bar. After the workout also, have a nutritious shake with plenty of water
Eating small meals at night can trick your body into speeding up metabolic rate (not to mention increase nutrient absorption and stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels). Your body loves homeostasis and wants to maintain a certain balance—you literally have to shock it constantly to lose fat and gain muscle over the long run!
There is so much wisdom in “Eat and drink but not to excess” and we should try and follow that especially during Ramadan.
About the Author:
Rehan Jalali is President of the Supplement Research Foundation. He is a nationally recognized Certified Sports Nutritionist (C.S.N.) who has developed over 100 cutting edge products for the dietary supplement industry. He has developed cutting edge customized nutrition and supplementation programs for actors getting ready for movie roles, and celebrities for award shows. Visit his website at http://www.rehanjalali.com/