It's important for all students to make efforts to stay well during a busy and possibly stressful end of the semester and exam period, but those who observe Ramadan may need to take some extra time to plan and consider how to support their well-being.
Eating Well During Ramadan
You are what you eat- it is important to consider that how you eat during non-fasting hours can affect your mood, energy, and stress levels the rest of the day.
Breaking the fast. A common recommendation is to eat 5-6 dates soaked in one cup of milk. Dates are a potassium-dense food, which aids in hydration and restores electrolyte balance. Milk is high in calcium, and water, and is balanced in macronutrients. This combination is perfect for restoring energy.
Slow down & savour. When you break your fast, try to avoid eating as much as you can and as quickly as you can, allow yourself to enjoy the food and for your stomach to absorb it.
Avoid fried foods. Use the oven to bake your food or use an air fryer instead. Both these methods help to decrease the amount of fat and calories that come from frying. If you must fry or are invited to an iftar dinner with lots of fried goodies, try to limit your intake to one item only. This will allow you to enjoy your treat while not overindulging.
Protein, protein, protein. Be sure to include a source of protein at every iftar to provide your body with the required nutrients it needs after a long day of fasting. Protein can be from meat but also consider plant-based proteins such as lentils and beans.
The importance of snacking. It is recommended to eat at least two small snacks between breaking the fast and going to sleep.
Stick with water. For flavour, infuse your water with lemon slices, mint leaves, and fresh fruit. Levels of hydration will affect how much energy you have and your alertness during the day.
Suhour: Maximizing energy for the day
Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids and choose fluid-rich foods to make sure you are well hydrated for the day ahead.
Maximize energy. Choose starchy foods for energy, opting for high fibre or wholegrain varieties where possible as these can help keep you feeling fuller and can aid digestion, helping to prevent constipation.
Prepare this meal (or parts of it) before going to bed. This allows you to sleep as long as possible.
Other suggestions for Suhour:
Include fruits and vegetables, especially those with high water content (watermelon, cucumber)
Use whole-grain carbohydrates. Whole grains are high in fibre which means the energy will be absorbed slower in the body helping you feel fuller and energized for a longer time. Examples of whole grain carbohydrates are:
Whole grain bread, pita, oats, cereal, brown rice, and wild rice.
Fill up on healthy fats. Healthy fats will also help you feel full and satisfied throughout the day and are an important part of a balanced diet. Examples of healthy fats include:
Nuts and seeds
Make drinking water a priority. In order to avoid dehydration throughout your fasts, it’s important to ensure you’re drinking enough water at suhoor. Aim to have at least 2-3 cups of water while having your suhoor.
Check out the Healthy Muslim for recipe ideas
Physical Activity while Fasting
Regular exercise can help manage stress, increase energy levels and improve focus- so it is important not to dismiss fitness altogether during Ramadan but there are some things to consider.
Maintain muscle mass. As well as using the body’s stored carbs for energy during fasting, it is likely that your body will also turn to protein stores; this can lead to loss of muscle mass. Resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass, so opt for bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges and push-ups or add in lighter free weights for deadlifts, shoulder press, chest press and rows.
Limit high-intensity cardio. Keep cardio low intensity during fasting as high intensity will eat up glycogen stores and force the body to use protein for energy. If you want to do some cardio during the day, a walk just before iftar is a good option to safely burn some calories.
Maintenance and recovery. Ramadan is not the time to try to make gains, fasting makes this near on impossible. So focus on maintaining muscle and cardiovascular fitness during this time.
Timing is everything. Physical activity can further deplete energy stores so you may have to reconsider your nomal fitness routine. Here are some suggestions as to when you get in a workout.
After your evening meal. While cardio can be difficult on a full stomach, around one hour after iftar is a good time for weight training. On the days you plan to exercise after your meal, you may want to add in a little extra food to fuel your body and ensure you drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
Between 11 pm and 2 am. For night owls, the best time to work out may be between 11 pm and 2 pm, after your food has had a little time to settle and your body has fully rehydrated. If you have managed to get some rest in the afternoon, exercising at this time can be favourable, as it will still leave you with a couple of hours more sleep until you get up to start the day.
Between 3 am and 4 am For early risers, the best time to work out may be just before your morning suhoor. This way, you will have energy from the previous night's meal, yet be on an empty stomach. You can hydrate while you exercise and once you are done, eat again to refuel. This method will also get you to get energized for the day ahead.
If your gym is not open 24 hours a day, consider home workouts. If exercising outdoors consider the safety of being out at night- wear reflective clothing, stick to well-lit areas and paths.
Usually is it recommend that individuals get 7-8 hours of sleep in one block but during Ramadan, this is not possible. Try to get the same amount of sleep over the 24-hour period.
Make a plan before Ramadan which fits in with your schedule and that you can stick to as best as possible. This may involve going to bed earlier than normal. For example, try to go to bed by 11 pm and have four hours’ sleep following iftar, then wake up at 3.30 am ready for suhoor and fajr and return back to sleep at around 5 am for two hours. If you are working reduced hours then this sleep can be a little longer. If not, then a nap after work, but before iftar, can make up for the last one to two hours of lost sleep. Whatever plan you make, try to stick to the same routine daily.
Power naps. If your energy levels are still low during the day, a power nap can be helpful. Find a quiet place and take a 20-minute nap. Set an alarm to ensure you do not sleep for longer than 20 minutes otherwise your body will go into a deep sleep and you will wake feeling tired and groggy.
Make the environment conducive to sleep, no matter what time of day. Ensure your sleep area is quiet and dark. Earplugs and eye masks work wonders for getting into and staying in a deep sleep. Avoid using electronic devices such as your mobile phone, laptop and TV close to bedtime as studies suggest that the blue light from screens can interfere with quality sleep.
The end of the semester and exam period is stressful.
Practice self-care. Make time for things you enjoy, stay connected with friends and families, spend time outdoors, practice meditation.
Talk about it. A problem shared is a problem halved, and hearing from someone else can put things in perspective.
SHW counselling- Thunder Bay- call 343-8361 or email email@example.com to book an appointment. Orillia- request an appointment through MySuccess.
- Connect with other students in the Lakehead Muslim Student Association
Talkcampus- 24/7, global, student, peer support app. Download from the app store and log in with your Lakehead email.
Naheesa- Mental health hotline for Muslim and non-muslim youth. Call or text 1 (866) 627-3342. Available 7 days a week,m 12 pm-12 am EST.
Good2Talk- 24/7, free confidential support for post-secondary students. Call 1-866-925-5454, text GOOD2TALKON to 686868 or connect via Facebook messenger.
The WeConnect Student Assistance Program is available to those who did not opt-out of the LUSU health plan. It provides eligible students and their dependents with short-term therapy, lifestyle counselling, courses, tools, and events to improve mental and physical health.