The trick to losing weight in Ramadan isn t just exercise, but smart exercising
CAIRO: Too much food makes you fat. This is a fact that cannot be argued. But, what exactly is too much?
Foremost on everybody’s mind during the month of Ramadan is, “Why do I gain weight, I barely eat anything. Well, sorry to say, but the old equation of energy in, energy out does not change. It is irrelevant that it is Ramadan, Christmas or any other festive occasion, if you put more energy (calories) into your body than it needs, it will store the extra as fat. And that is the reason people gain weight.
If you spend your day sitting at a computer, sleeping or laying around on the couch, eat a huge meal and spend the rest of your time watching television and “grazing your way through the rest of the evening, it stands to reason that you will gain weight because your body naturally conserves energy during the fasting period. Our basal metabolic rate (BMR), the amount of energy we need to survive on a daily basis, slows down when we do not eat, as digestion consumes calories. So, the trick is to balance the amount of food you eat, with the amount of energy you put out. It’s not difficult. We all know when we can feel that extra roll appearing around the middle, or when the jeans are a little harder to do up. When that starts to happen, back off a little; cut back on the sweets and keep your meals light, remember little and often – little being the key here.
An easy way to keep the BMR boosted is to exercise. Now, that does not mean going on a mad run at 6 a.m., but it does mean doing things to keep you active. Yoga, pilates and stretch classes are a great way to exercise in the morning; the slow, meditative style can help you deal with the demands of fasting. Other ways to stay active are to take the stairs instead of the lift, even if it’s only a couple of floors, park the car a little further away from your destination or, as many people do, hit the track.
Sporting clubs and gyms start getting busy around 4 p.m. during Ramadan, with people trying to pass the last couple of hours and hoping that this year they will exercise not only their bodies, but also more self-control. For those people looking to burn fat, doing some sort of aerobic exercise (walking, riding a bike, using the elliptical machine) one to two hours before iftar can be very effective. However, care should be taken not to push too hard – for two reasons. The first is commonsense; over-do-it and you could end up feeling dizzy and nauseous, undoubtedly not encouraging you to exercise the following day. Secondly, keeping your heart rate in what is known as the “fat burning zone, the point where you are working, but can still manage to say a few sentences, encourages the body to use fat as your energy source.
For those that like to go to the gym or attend classes that work on strength, then waiting an hour after finishing iftar will ensure you have enough energy to get the maximum out of your training session. Once you have finished, wait another 30 to 60 minutes and then eat another meal of protein and some vegetables or salad – not mixing protein with starches such as rice or pasta will make it easier to process the food and gain maximum benefit.
Overeating can do a great deal of damage; not only do you gain weight, but the fact is, it’s always a lot easier to put it on than it is to get it off. My advice is, as always, don’t overeat, take it easy on the sweets and stay active.
Gina Grant is an AFAA certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, an APEX and ISSA certified sports performance nutritionist and a J.G. spinning instructor. She writes for various international publications on a variety of topics relating to health and fitness.