As this year’s Ramadan fasting enters its second week, a Lagos based family physician, Dr. Abdufatah Hameed, has warned that eating unhealthy when breaking the fast daily may cause people gain weight.
Hameed noted that fasting could have salutary effect on people’s health when properly observed.
He said it could offer an opportunity for the obese to lose weight, provided they eat healthy when they break the fast.
“What happens to your body when you fast depend on the length of the continuous fast. The body enters into a fasting state eight hours or so after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorbing nutrients from the food,” he said.
The medical doctor noted that in the normal state, “body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. During a fast, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Later in the fast, once the glucose runs out, fat becomes the next source of energy for the body.
“With a prolonged fast of many days or weeks, the body starts using protein and breaking down protein for energy. This is the technical description of what’s commonly known as “starvation”. You are unlikely to reach the starvation stage during Ramadan, because the fast is broken daily.
“After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing. A balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts and the kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, but these can be lost through sweating.
“So, the best way to approach your diet during fasting is similar to the way you should be eating outside Ramadan. You should have a balanced diet, with the right proportion of carbohydrates, fat and protein. If you’re not careful, food eaten during the pre-dawn and dusk meals can cause some weight gain.
He, therefore, recommended that the fasting should be observed with some discipline, adding that if done otherwise, an opportunity to lose weight and be healthier might be wasted.
Hameed said, “The underlying message behind Ramadan is self-discipline and self-control as this should not fall apart at the end of the day. Always aim for a balanced diet and those observing the fast should have, at least, two meals a day: the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor) and a meal at dusk (Iftar).
“Your food intake should be simple and not differ too much from your normal diet and it should contain fruits and vegetables, bread, cereals and potatoes, meat, fish or alternatives, milk and dairy foods. Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and, instead, include healthier sources of carbohydrates in your diet such as rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and lower fat dairy products.
“Endeavour to drink plenty water, which helps rehydration and reduces your chances of overindulgence. Avoid the rich, special dishes that traditionally celebrate the fast, especially deep-fried foods, high sugar and high fat foods.“