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There is a physical and a spiritual aspect to fasting. I'm going to discuss the physical aspect and how it benefits your body, how to practice safe fasting by suggesting what to eat before and what to eat after fasting.


There are many spiritual reasons as to why we fast that I've been taught since I was a child. But I've always believed that there is more to it than just feeling for the poor, appreciating food and water, teaching us patience, and so on so forth. I knew there was a health reason for it as well. Why did Ghandi, Buddha, and Dali lama all fast? I began doing some research and I was amazed by the good fasting does to your body. I was always told, in order to be healthy you have to eat and eat some more. So how can not eating for an entire day be good for your body?


"The only reliable way to extend the lifespan of a mammal is under-nutrition without malnutrition." A study was performed on earthworms that demonstrated the extension of life due to fasting. The experiment was performed by isolating one worm and putting it on a cycle of fasting and feeding. The isolated worm outlasted its relatives by 19 generations (the equivalent of a human living for 600-700 years!!) , while still maintaining its youthful physiological traits. So what happens when you fast? How does your body benefit from fasting?


Once the body is deprived of food, this is where the benefits of fasting begin. Due to the lack of incoming energy, the body will start turning into it's own resources. This process is called Autolysis, it's the process of which your body begins to break down stored fat in order to produce energy. Human fat is valued at about 3500 calories per pound, which is approximately the amount of calories your body needs to survive for one day, of course this is depending on the persons size, age, and level of activity. This fat gets created when your body receives an excess amount of glucose and carbohydrates that don't get used for energy so your body simply converts them into stored fat. The main benefit of this process isn't the fat loss, but rather the detoxification process. Fasting will eliminate/neutralize toxins throughout your major organs such as liver, lungs, colon, kidneys, and skin. When the fat reserves are used for energy during fasting, the fatty acids release chemicals in your system which are then eliminated through the aforementioned organs. These chemicals are absorbed from our environment, then stored in your body and cause you to grow weaker by harming your immune system and simple body functions.


Have you ever wondered why animals stop eating when they are hurt or sick? Why we humans lose appetite when we get sick?? Many of our ancestors used to rely on fasting for healing. When you fast, you're body diverts energy and blood flow from your digestive system due to it's lack of use and directs it to your metabolism and immune system resulting in a strong immune system and a more efficient metabolism. Also, production of protein to replace damaged cells, which is a process known as protein synthesis occurs more efficiently when you're fasting. This is because fewer mistakes are made by your DNA, which control this process resulting in healthier cells, tissues, and organs.


When you're fasting, you're basically keeping your body on its toes. We've discussed how you will begin to burn stored fat for energy, and how you will eliminate stored harmful toxins, how your body's immune system is more efficient. Perhaps the most amazing thing about fasting is when your body starts producing growth hormones at a higher more efficient rate. This is an anti aging hormone that will speed the cellular reproduction leaving you looking younger and healthier.


In order to get the highest level of benefits from fasting you will have to be smart about it and eat food that will help you maintain high energy levels while keeping you feeling satisfied. The early morning meal (Al sohoor) before you begin fasting is essential! This meal will determine how the rest of your day will go. You will need to focus on slow digested, high energy foods that will be easy for your digestive system to process.


Do:

  • Eat complex carbs (sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, beans, lentils)
  • Eat a slow digested protein to eliminate muscle shrinkage (eat beans and dairy products)
  • Eat a Banana- they are very high in carbs, potassium, and magnesium
  • Eat Dates - Great source of sugar, fiber, and carbs
  • Eat veggies that are high in fiber
  • Drink plenty of water


Don't:

  • Eat fried food
  • Eat red meat during the sohoor (especially when eating carbs, as carbs are known to give you the  full/satisfied feeling. However when combined with meat, there's a chemical reaction that occurs which I  won't bore you with too much. You will basically get hungry faster and slow down the meat digestion  process which leaves it to ferment in your stomach leaving you feeling weak and bloated.)
  • Don't eat anything that is high in sugar (That means no candy, artificial juice, pop, or any form of  processed sweets)
  • This might be the hardest thing to do, but do not over indulge! Eat only until you're satisfied and  remember that there's approximately a 10-20 min delay until your brain figures out that the stomach is full..  so eat slow, and control your portions.
  • Avoid too much caffeine, especially tea as it causes you to urinate more taking with it valuable minerals potentially causing dehydration.


When breaking your fast, start with a drink of water first, then eat something that will get your sugar levels back to normal, which is the reason why we traditionally start with Dates. Give your stomach a few minutes to adjust before you begin to eat, remember to keep it light, and healthy by maintaining a small portion size! I wish you all a happy Ramadan, I hope this was a useful article. For those of you that workout, don't let Ramadan be an excuse to take a break, contact me and I'll discuss how beneficial fasting can be to your workouts and what diet you need to be on to stay healthy and maintain a good lean muscle mass.


Cheers,

Mohammed Latif

Comments
Dear Mohammed Latif,
Thank you for the insightful article. Currently I am in week two of P90X Lean, which requires sufficient amounts of energy something that is rare during this month of Ramadan, as personally experienced. I plan to do the one hour workouts anywhere in between iftar and sohoor. What advice can you give that I would be able to accomplish this. I sincerely appreciate it!

-Omid Adabi
Omid Adabi | Dec 31st, 1969 19:00
I found just what I was neeedd, and it was entertaining!
Honney | Dec 31st, 1969 19:00
There are some useful information for me, thanks for the sharing.
Chrise126 | Dec 31st, 1969 19:00
There is a great book out called The China Study. It skepas about a high vegetable diet versus a high animal content diet. It does not touch much on the glycemic index but i will help with nutrition.Check with you local library they may have the written or audio book.
Jae | Dec 31st, 1969 19:00
Thanks for the guide
sac longchamps le pliage | Dec 31st, 1969 19:00
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