How to Prepare for Ramadan Fasting?
This year, Ramadan most likely starts on the evening of March 22nd and lasts until April 20th. Besides being a month of reflection, Ramadan is a month in which extra attention is given to tolerance, generosity, charity, and togetherness. Health too, is a recurring aspect that seems to get more attention each year! Dr. Ludidi was previously interviewed by Men’s Health NL and you read all about it below!
Original interview: Mart de Jong, Men’s Health, Netherlands
Dr. Samefko Ludidi says, "During Ramadan, Muslims pay extra attention to their faith, which includes fasting. Ramadan fasting is a unique form of fasting, as you refrain from having any foods and drinks, water included. We can live several weeks or even months without food, but we do need water, daily. Restricting your eating and drinking window makes it much more challenging to get adequate water and nutrients in”
Fasting in winter and in summer
“Since the Ramadan month lasts about 28 days and the months according to the Gregorian calendar - the one we typically use in everyday life - are slightly longer, the Ramadan month falls on a different moment every year. Dr. Ludidi: “This has a significant impact, because fasting during winter is much easier than during summer. That’s not only because summer is much hotter, which means you lose more water through breathing and sweat, but also due to its longer days, hence shorter eating window.”
Ramadan Fasting in 2023
As said, dry fasting refers to the abstinence of food and water intake. With still fairly long days in March and April, you can easily imagine that completing the fast is not an easy task. If you cannot (fully) participate for health reasons, please do not force yourself. Health first. Muslims for whom fasting may be dangerous due to their health are exempt, as are pregnant women, young children, and soldiers in wartime.
“It is recommended to start preparing about 10 to 14 days before Ramadan begins." - Dr. Ludidi
Fasting, Science and Health
Mind you, fasting is not something that is exclusively intertwined with islam. Apart from Ramadan fasting, many different forms of fasting exist: intermittent fasting is a modern form of ‘fasting for health’ that has gained interest recently. There is the 16:8 method (16 hours of fasting daily, with an eating window of 8 hours) and the 5:2 method (2 days of fasting and 5 days of eating). During such fasting blocks, intake of water, tea or coffee is typically allowed; calorie-containing drinks are a no-go zone.
“On top, fasting has been a centuries-old ritual that has been practiced all over the world among many different cultures, from Islam, to Catholicism to Buddhism and many more” Ludidi continues. “Fasting has also been practiced among indigenous cultures. What brings all these different cultures and religions together is that they apply fasting as a means of reflection or even repentance and inner healing, physically and mentally. It’s not until recently that science has re-discovered the power of fasting and now we also understand the biological mechanisms behind various forms of fasting.”
“It’s not until recently that science has re-discovered the power of fasting” - Dr. Ludidi
Preparation for Ramadan fasting
"Especially the not drinking part is what makes Ramadan fasting harder than other ways of fasting," says Dr. Ludidi. "Therefore, it is recommended to start preparing about 10 to 14 days before Ramadan begins."
"If you stop drinking, you will become dehydrated. But you can train your body to handle fewer drinking moments. You see, in the West, we drink all day long, we keep sipping from the bottle. That's not necessarily normal or how Mother Nature intended it to be: babies and animals only drink when they are thirsty, and then they drink a lot. But of course, too little fluid is fatal!"
Little water intake: how to cope with it?
The most common problems during Ramadan fasting are fatigue, nausea, and headaches. “Which affects performance in everyday life” Dr. Ludidi says.
He continues: "This is because the water balance is temporarily dysregulated and it takes quite a bit of time to reprogram it according to the new rhythm. You see, this is what happens: on one hand the body is not used to fewer drinking moments, while on the other hand, you still want to keep doing the same work, sports, and other activities,".
Your body needs a lot of fluid to function properly. "You exhale almost half a liter of fluid per day- at rest. If you exercise or are active, it's even more. Under normal circumstances, you compensate for this by drinking and eating throughout the day."
However, during Ramadan, this is not allowed during the day. Fortunately, there is a solution: bulk drinking. Dr. Ludidi says, "This is a method in which with 2 to 3 enormously large drinking moments per day, you are sufficiently hydrated for the rest of the day. Even with fewer drinking moments, on which you drink more, your urine remains clear; an indicator that you are getting enough fluid."
"Fasting is typically broken with dates and milk because the prophet did so. It’s a great way to re-feed your body” - Dr. Ludidi
Listen to your body
Ramadan is about to start, so start preparing as soon as you get the chance, ideally no later than 7 days prior to its start. "If you are reading this now and you are about to go into Ramadan, try to step back a bit, for the first 1 to 2 weeks and give your body time to adjust. And for next year make sure to: start preparing on time."
A practical tip from the Doctor
Dr. Ludidi has been guiding clients during periods fasting for more than a decade, including muslims who engage in Ramadan fasting. In previous years, the doctor has joined some of his clients during the Holy Month and also speaks from experience. "Fasting is typically broken with dates and milk because the prophet did so. It’s a great way to re-feed your body as dates contain a lot of fiber, nutrients, and natural energy from sugars, the milk contains good fats and some protein and vitamins as well. Looking at it from a contemporary perspective, if you process this all together into a nice smoothie, perhaps with some additional avocado and some protein powder, then you already have a very good nutritious and delicious first meal”.