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CommunityFitnessRamadanFit Sister’s Ramadan challenge: give up sugar

Increased sugar consumption, in turn, increases hunger, cravings and fatigue.
Sylvie EberenaJune 4, 201818 min
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Ramadan sugar
Sylvie Eberena, aka Fit Sister, in her home gym. Photo courtesy Sylvie Eberena.

When I first started writing about Ramadan a few years ago, I worried that some people’s behavior was the opposite of what should be expected in the month of Holy Month of abstinence. Eating too much of the wrong food; wasting money and time in the kitchen – what a lot of nonsense at a time when we are supposed to show gratitude, to renounce material belongings and to be reminded of the condition of the poorest. Moreover, the consequences of these bad choices on health, energy and productivity prevent Muslims from fulfilling their acts of worship, as well as their daily responsibilities. I felt there was a real need to go back to more simplicity and restraint, to the Islamic tradition in which we can find so many useful and beneficial recommendations.

But as the years passed and as my vision of fitness evolved from a focus on diet to a more comprehensive approach, I realized that the problem was deeper than just lapses in the spirit during the fasting month. In fact, our inability to fast properly is just a small part of a much wider problem: our modern lives, not only as Muslims, are in contradiction with our prime nature and the physiological state that should allow us to reach an optimal mental and physical health.

This issue can’t be addressed within a month or by getting ready just a few weeks before Ramadan. It involves deep changes and a questioning of our lifestyles. However, Ramadan is a good moment to raise awareness and it can be used as a stepping stone to a healthier lifestyle in the long term. This year, my Ramadan challenge includes four goals, three of which are related to lifestyle. I want people to realize that it is not just about what we eat, it is also about understanding how our bodies are supposed to function, and finding a balance between progress and physiology. There are many more issues that deserve to be addressed, but I chose four that I believe have the most impact on health in general and are most related to the spirit of abstinence.

Challenge 1: No sugar during Ramadan

Many people know that sugar is a public-health enemy. Yet, they seem to forget this during Ramadan. (What irony!) If we take a look at iftar tables and the groceries that supermarkets promote, we see a lot a sugary food such as pastries and sweet beverages. The focus seems to be less on the fast than on the feast, which surely is not the intent behind Ramadan. Moreover, this increased sugar consumption is the main reason fasting is difficult for many people.

Increased sugar consumption, in turn, increases hunger, cravings and fatigue. It weakens the immune system, reduces our recovery capacities, disrupts sleep and makes fasting much harder.

It is all the more harmful when sugar is consumed during suhoor (the pre-fasting meal). This results in an insulin peak, followed by hypoglycemia, which will make you feel weak, hungry and less productive.

For these reasons, avoiding sugar during Ramadan should be a non-negotiable point. It is not just about how it can affect health in the medium to long term: the sugar we eat has an immediate effect on all our sensations and lasts for hours. Worse, the more we will feel fatigued and frustrated during the day, the more likely it is that we will need to reward ourselves with sweet comfort food after breaking the fast, a real vicious circle.

This is why I encourage people to avoid sugar, including what is found in hot beverages, pastries, juices and sodas. Also syrups and dried fruits. All these foods can wait until Eid day, and for now can be replaced by healthier options such as fresh fruits, dark chocolate and nuts, which can help curb cravings and improve sleep while providing the body with good nutrients. 

At the start of Ramadan, Sylvie Eberena issued a 4-part challenge to her clients and followers. Come back for challenge #2 on livehealthy.ae tomorrow.

Instagram: @fitsister   Website: fitsister.fr    Twitter: @fitsister

Featured photo Unsplash

Tania Melnyczuk

Sylvie Eberena

Sylvie Eberena is a fitness trainer, writer, blogger, paleo guide and single mom who homeschools her four children. Through her videos and e-guides, she comes up with accessible eating plans and do-anywhere workouts for readers of her blog and for her more than 16,500 Instagram followers.

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