The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Health & Fitness

The Cairo 360 Guide to Staying Healthy During Ramadan

The Cairo 360 Guide to Staying Healthy During Ramadan
    written by
    Tanya El Kashef

    Every Ramadan you hear the same complaints about gaining
    weight instead of losing it, feeling fatigued and exhausted as opposed to feeling light and refreshed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why;
    stuffing your face after a day of abstaining from
    food is bad for you. So while most people know deep in their hearts what the
    proper approach to this holy month is, we’re here to remind you once again.


    -Yes, we know all you fantasize about during the sunlit hours
    is food, most likely food that is fried or dipped in sugar. What else would you
    daydream about? A lettuce leaf? The truth is, your stomach may flirt with the
    idea of a burger within its walls, but what it needs is entirely different.


    The meal that prepares you for a day-long fast is very
    important. Many people choose to skip it, either because they can’t be bothered
    to wake up once they’ve gone to bed or because of the fear that a midnight snack that doesn’t
    help to shed some weight. Truth is, making sure to eat something for sohour is
    important in balancing out the fat in your body.  

    -What to eat: Wholesome, moderate food for this meal is best. Complex
    carbohydrates such as wheat, oats and beans are good because they slowly
    release energy throughout the day. Fibre-rich foods such as cereals, grains and
    most fruit are also a good because they are slow to digest.

    Keep your sohour light and stick to salad, balady bread
    (full of fibre), cereals and fruit. Yoghurt is also a good option since it’s hydrating and won’t add on unwanted weight.

    -What not to eat: Stay away from heavily processed, fast burning foods that
    contain refined carbs such as sweets, chocolate and other preserved foods.
    While some people like to have their coffee before they sleep, try and avoid
    caffeine since it’s a diuretic and stimulates water loss.


    Awaiting this meal can be painful sometimes; all you want to
    do the second the prayer goes at sunset is hurl yourself at the table and
    devour all that’s in sight. Take a deep breath and control yourself. Your mind
    may be telling you one thing, but your body is screaming another.

    -What to eat: The best way to break your fast is to eat something small.
    Dates are a common suggestion because of their sugary energy boost. Another option
    is a bowl of soup, which warms your stomach and gently
    prepares it for the incoming food.

    It’s good to wait a while before having a proper meal. Most
    fasters find that their appetites shy away from food should you attack it with
    too much at once. Waiting an hour, or even two, gives it a chance to wake up
    and appreciate the meal.

    Stick to baked foods and grilled meats for fitar. They’re
    lighter and less hectic for your stomach to digest; they also help with
    unwanted weight gain. While konafa and basbousa lure you in, stay strong and opt for rice pudding instead as milk-based desserts are better
    for you.

    -What not to eat: Anything deep-fried, high in sugar and fat, or spicy is a no
    go. These foods are most harmful to your stomach since it requires a more
    delicate approach during the month of fasting.


    Water is of utmost important regardless of Ramadan,
    especially in this heat. Add to to that the fact that while fasting, you have
    none for 12 hours of the day – not the ideal situation. So it’s very important
    to try and compensate for those hours during the night-time.

    When you fast your glucose levels drop, therefore your
    energy levels do which in turn affects your metabolic rate. Water is an
    important component to this balance and your need for it is dire.

    Break your fast with water for rehydration but also for its
    ability to prevent overindulgence. Don’t make yourself sick with too much
    water, but introduce it to your fasting stomach and a good eating balance will

    Instead of downing soda after your meal, have a glass of
    water. We’re not
    saying you shouldn’t enjoy traditional Ramadan drinks, but opt for water
    more often than a sugar-laden liquid.

    Throughout the night, sip on water; go to the kitchen, have
    a glass of water; take a walk, have a glass of water; your favourite mosalsal
    just started, have a glass of water. Water, water, water! It’s very important.


    It isn’t encouraged to workout while you’re fasting, though
    many people do, because there’s not enough energy to spare. Exercising while
    fasting puts an extra strain on your body that does it more harm than it does

    Instead, head to the gym for that workout right after fetar.
    Have a bowl of soup and some salad then go for that run, then go home and enjoy
    a wholehearted meal.


    A favourite Ramadan pastime is to sit in badly ventilated
    tents and puff on shisha all night. Sounds a bit like a torture chamber but Egyptians just love their shisha. While this is
    outright discouraged, we also suggest that maybe it’s a chance to quit smoking
    cigarettes as well. Spending half of your day without puffing on a cancer stick
    might just be a kick-start to quitting entirely.


    Last but not least is getting a good night’s sleep. We know
    the television is oh so tempting and we know the city doesn’t sleep till it’s
    practically sunrise, but if you have a job to get up for in the morning then
    make sure to get a sufficient amount of sleep. This is the only time your body
    gets to rejuvenate itself for the coming day of, so let it rest.

    Stay healthy Cairo!