MTS Health & Wellness Blogs
Blog Contributor:Ms. Stephanie Karl – Clinical & Sports Nutritionist at Emirates Integra
Welcome to MTS monthly Health & Wellness blog post series.
In this issue, as our Muslim friends prepare for the Holy season of Ramadan, it is apt to touch on the topic of fasting and its benefits during this period.
Ramadan & Fasting: reflections and rejuvenation of the body and mind
Our blog contributor this month is a nutritionist with many years of experience and shares her thoughts on fasting and doing it the right way.
Any burning questions? Send us an email at email@example.com and let us know what’s on your mind – we might feature your topic next month!
Ramadan & Fasting: Reflections and Rejuvenation of the Body and Mind
Fasting has been lauded for its health benefits promoting protection against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease, anti-aging and improving cellular maintenance. There is a big difference between the type of fasting that some people elect to do for health or fashion, compared with the month of fasting during Ramadan.
Fasting over this holy time is to promote cleansing of the body and mind and to remember also those who are less fortunate. Because of its nature of sharing and bringing people and groups together, it can however, become a time of too frequent feasting and the aspect of cleansing and detoxing gets lost.
Plenty of fluids is essential to life and especially after a thirteen hour fast. Water is the best choice with something to boost glucose but not overwhelm blood glucose levels. A lightly salted soup and three dates along with water is perfect especially in hot climates to replace energy, fluids and salt balance.
Iftar is the main meal and should be the same as a normal size meal taken during the rest of the year. Nutrient density is very important such as good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and plenty of vegetables. This meal is known for its sweet treats during Ramadan and this is where some restraint and planning needs to be asserted. If you are enjoying these, you must watch the portion of rice, bread and potato taken at the meal as it is very easy to flood the system with glucose.
Breakfast before sun up will take you through the day and needs a balance of complex carbohydrates such as oats or wholegrain bread, a small portion of fruit and protein such as Laban, yoghurt, eggs or fish. Watch that you don’t overdo carbohydrates by drinking excess juice or too much sugary tea and coffee. It may be that you skip coffee over this time if it interferes with sleep.
If sleep is an issue, foods high in the amino acid tryptophan can help make melatonin and be taken before bed. Milk, Laban, a small piece of banana, turkey meat are high in tryptophan.
The two foods that can be taken during the holy month in abundance at meals are water, vegetables, fresh lemon and ginger. Carbohydrates, protein, sweet treats and fat all need to be taken in small amounts.
Fasting Protocol – what works for you?
Fasting is gaining much attention for its benefits as a weight loss strategy and especially intermittent fasting. However, popular wisdom also maintains that skipping meals will only lead to deprivation and binge eating. Mounting evidence does in fact suggest that eating three or five small meals a day may not be important for weight loss and performance.
There is also the regime whereby you fast for one or two non-consecutive days of a week or that you take around 500 calories on the two days. This could be a glass of fresh juice or a small salad.
The success of whatever fasting protocol you choose to follow, will be helped by your body’s ability to adapt to produce energy from different substrates. For those who do not adapt well, this can increase the stress hormone cortisol which is not beneficial to weight loss and liver detoxification.
Fasting causes a biochemical trigger of the hormones glucagon and cortisol which stimulates the release of fatty acids from fat tissue into the bloodstream. The fatty acids are taken up by the muscles and other tissues and broken down (oxidized) to produce energy in the cells. Eating triggers the hormone insulin into the blood to shuttle glucose into muscles and tissues to be used as energy. Excess glucose is converted to fat and stored as fat.
During fasting, the body switches from utilizing carbohydrates to fats as its primary fuel and ensures a constant source of energy to the body. This is all very convenient as long as the body can actually make th
e metabolic switch. In science it is called “metabolic flexibility,” or “fat-adapted.” If you are “fat-adapted” or “metabolically flexible,” you can switch easily from oxidizing carbohydrates after eating to oxidizing fat in the fasted state, and vice versa. On the other hand, people who are said to be “carb-adapted” are “metabolically inflexible,” meaning that they are constantly burning carbohydrates and have trouble switching to fat oxidation. Fatty acids are still released from fat storage into the bloodstream but have diminished capacity to oxidize fatty acids in the muscle and other tissues. This is closely linked also with insulin resistance and weight gain.
The science of metabolic inflexibility may explain why some people need a good breakfast and are not good candidates for fasting unless they slowly train their biochemistry to be able to make the switch. To do this, a balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein is important rather than sudden fasting, or following a low carb or low fat, or high protein diet.
To fast or not to fast?
Researchers have been struggling to find consensus on this topic as well as how many meals are best and whether one should fast for periods of the day. Many cultures have established patterns of fasting and may well have slowly adapted to make this practice work as part of a healthy diet to manage weight and cleanse the body.
My suggestion is to establish what works for you by starting to either fast with just fluids and add a fruit juice; or skip breakfast for a period of time and see how it affects your weight, performance, mood, productivity, digestion and appetite. Transition slowly as you are trying to establish it long term and accept that the predictors of success with fasting, are individual and only you can really know if works well for you.
Contributor of the month: Ms. Stephanie Karl – Clinical & Sports Nutritionist
Stephanie is a clinical & sports nutritionist providing nutrition counseling and education for 25 years. After working in the Middle East for a decade, she joined Emirates Integra to collaborate with a team of passionate advocates of health and wellbeing. She often lectures on nutritional and wellness topics to corporations, community organisations and various athletic bodies including the New Zealand institute of Sports.She is the founder of nutritional website (purenutritiondubai.com) & contributes to several local publications on matters of diet and nutrition.
Ramadan Special Pop up Education Talk31 May 2018 – Limited spots, book now!
MTS will begin a community initiative from May 2018 where we will be organising a meet up (yes in meetup group) where we will host a common topic of interest among the public from a professional expert in the field.
And the community has spoken!
The first MTS community initiative begins this Ramadan with a special pop event happening at Boutik Mall, Reem Island on 31st May 2018. There will be a short talk and discussion with a health professional on the right way to fast and detox, followed by a mini detox yoga session.
Register and sign up today to book your spot. Space is limited.
You can book on our website.
Sign up for our meet up group, tell us what you would like to know (yes, please talk to us) and we will do the rest for you! Sign up now – YOURS-MEDICAL-WELLNESS