Health & Fitness: “Fast” Way to Better Health

Here we go again…

For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan brings them closer to a peaceful afterlife, while for others, a chance to become healthier, challenge themselves or simply be able to relate, on some level, to the millions around the world that suffer from hunger and thirst on a daily basis.

As a person who grew up with Islamic traditions and practices, the month of Ramadan is something I am familiar with. Even though a child is expected to begin fasting at the age of 14, I began abstaining from food and drink at the “grown-up” age of eight. Apart from a few years during my early 20’s, I have fasted every year. My failure to partake was due to health reasons which no longer affect me. I had a condition known as being overly handsome, whereas now I am the perfect level. Thank you for everyone’s concern, though.

All joking aside, this month is a great opportunity for people to flush out all of the rubbish that infects their insides and start fresh with a health-kick. I remember fasting as a kid, and still playing football. I wasn’t able to play longer than 45 minutes as water is prohibited. When my mum saw that I was unwilling to stop running after a ball of air, she insisted that I ring the Imam at the mosque that I attended as a child.

The conversation was short, sweet and went something like this;

“Is it ok to skip a fast day and make it up at the end of the month because I play football on Saturdays?”

“Yes, but for each day you miss, you need to do three extra days”

“THREE extra???”

Guess as the saying goes, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

So, I decided to do the crime.

As you can imagine, my performance levels were affected greatly.

The problem is that skipping one day of the fast alone will prevent the occurrence of any serious injury, but won’t allow you to perform at the peak of your abilities. Which is why many sporting stars have to change their training schedules, choices of meals and sleeping habits. This month long challenge affect everyone, unless you’re 48 year-old American triathlete Khadijah Diggs who dropped down to do sprint triathlons (consisting of a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike race, and 3.1-mile run) instead of the full triathlons she would normally do. Incredibly, in 2016, she ended up winning a super sprint event while fasting.

 

Are you thinking of partaking for the first time?

Nowadays, many trainers and health and fitness authorities talk about intermittent fasting as a great method for weight loss, but like any other diet-like process, it is useless by itself. On the scales, you will definitely weigh less, simply because of the water weight that you will lose but your body is unlikely to look any different.

During the fast, it is important to eat healthy, which I am going to say, even though it goes without saying.  When fasting there are two important times of the day known as Sahur/Sehr, which is during the early hours at which you have to stop all food and drink consumption. The other time being Iftar, when you can start stuffing your face again (which no one actually does).

Recommended foods for Sahur/Sehr:

  • Slow digesting foods such as wholegrain cereals and starches. (Oatmeal etc)
  • Slow digesting fruits, such as, apples, peaches, pears, citrus and bananas.
  • Smoothies are great for people with no appetite

Recommended foods for Iftar;

  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Starchy foods like rice and potatoes
  • Lean proteins
  • Dates and fruit juices help provide the glucose you were denied all day

As a note, it is better to avoid all coffee, heavy sauces, sweets and chocolate, fried food etc…

Not easy…

As well as the fast, you should do some exercise per day, which is to be done one hour after breaking fast, as your body needs time to digest the food you have eaten and turn it to energy. Energy which is vital for your body not to hate you.

Take it from me, your body will hate you.

Whatever your religion, ethnicity, cultural background or profession, the month of Ramadan will be spiritually, physically and mentally rewarding as long as you respect yourself and treat your body like a temple. At least this way you can feel healthier before you ultimately corrupt yourself and return to the days of using your body as a trash can, unless you realise that this whole fasting malarkey isn’t so bad after all…

I Can’t Stop Doing 30-Day Challenges!

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Third month of the challenge activated!

Just over a month ago, I talked about my 30-day challenge and how it was going to make me look and feel amazing. For anyone who missed that article, well, here it is: A Better Body, 30 Days at a Time.

As you can imagine, the second month wasn’t as easy. I had decided to up the workload and put in dietary requirements. Yes, it’s just one fruit, but I can never seem to find fruit  anywhere. (Obviously, “anywhere” seems to never be the grocery store. I never seem to have the same difficulties when searching for a chicken wrap. Isn’t that weird …)

So let’s get the basics out of the way:

Yes, I am doing another month.
Yes, it will be even more difficult.
No, the last month wasn’t easy.

You see, the problem with December was that it was going to coincide with Christmas, New Year, a pre-planned trip with Alexandra, my partner, to Harbin, and the below-freezing temperatures that Beijing’s winter had to offer. Despite this “adversity,” I managed to complete the month. It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. The last week was a ball-ache to say the least.

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Last day of the 4th week…

Everything was going very well up until the fourth week. Saturday 29th December 2018, it was -8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit). I was too afraid to scroll down and look at the “Feels like” section. I had run a total of 0 km and was looking at the possibility of endless mocking from a somewhat smug Alexandra, as she had wrapped up her daily challenge earlier on in the day.

The next part I am not proud of, but I will admit that I started bargaining with Alex.

She was having none of it. (See, this is true adversity.)

Holding back the tears, I put on some running attire and hit the streets.

Now, before you start celebrating my success. I have something else to admit. Although I had done my entire day’s workout on the 29th, I had missed a couple of days prior to that. So on the 31st of December, I found myself with five times my normal day’s workout to do.

I know, I know, you can’t make up missed workouts and blah blah blah, but in my defence … shut up.

So, there I was, in my hotel room on the final day of 2018, with a long list of exercises that I needed to do. It took me a while to say the least. However, it was the wake-up call I needed going into the third month.

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Another 30-day challenge completed

Firstly, I reduced the workout, just incase I had any catch-up days. We don’t want a repeat of New Year’s Eve, now do we? Secondly, I increased the run to 10 km per week. I also need to do yoga three times a week, which I have been loving so far. For anyone interested, you should youtube “Yoga With Adriene” or click here. The most difficult aspect of this month will be the “no bread” rule.

For me, bread is like an addiction. I have been brought up eating bread with everything. It’s the one thing that would always be on the dining table. It was only later on in life that I realised bread likes to camp out on the lower level of your belly, making me look big and cuddly.

I hate looking big and cuddly.

As you can imagine, there are some exceptions to the bread rule for this month. Why? Well, simply because I don’t want to die from going cold turkey, or even worse, end up at cafes sucking up the breadcrumbs left from a prior guest’s half-eaten muffin. The fear is real, people!

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So far, so good.

I can happily say that everything is going very well. Then again, this time last month, I was feeling the same. Hopefully by the end of the month I will feel as in control as I do now.

Ha! I just made myself giggle with that line!