· Lifestyle

How To Stay In Shape During Ramadan

The religion of Islam, like all other major Faiths, teaches many things through fasting which basically boils down to improving the self through being humble, open-minded, and kind to the environment around us while reaching a higher state of consciousness.

Dear Reader,

Are you aware of the health benefits of celebrating Ramadan? Its the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a period when Muslims observe a month of fasting and dedicate more time to reading the Koran. According to an article published by Huffington Post, Ramadan has been proven to have ample health benefits and to be a time for both physical and spiritual reboot.

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We all know the importance of having your three main meals a day accompanied with in between snacks. However, during this period, one abstains from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. The physical ritual allows you to understand the suffering of others. So how do you manage to stay in shape during this period? We spoke to Marina Farook, a Transformation Strength & Health Coach who is based in Bangladesh to share with us details of how she does it.

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TIZI: How old are you?

MF: I am 29 years old :)

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TIZI: What do you do for a living?

MF: I am an entrepreneur and I run a textile factory in Bangladesh with my husband. I am also a Transformation Strength & Health Coach on www.marinafarook.com; and recently launched a food company called 'The Health Food Co' which tailors nutrition calibrated meals. I am also in the process of launching my own clothing line.

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TIZI: How long have you been working out generally?

MF: I started powerlifting and strength training 5 years ago.

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TIZI: What has your experience been like going to the gym wearing a hijab?

MF: Luckily, I have never experienced anything too scary for wearing the hijab and modest clothing in the gym - especially working out in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am the only female that works out in the weight training section of the gym. There are occasional women who come and go but very rare. The men around me at first used to stare out of curiosity of seeing a hijabi, but the last few months have made it all better and people are respectful. I have worked out in gym through the States (my home), Bangladesh (second home), Thailand, and Singapore and people are always in awe of seeing a hijabi train hard. I will be honest though.... sometimes it's extra hot in here and I have to stand in front of a fan if I ever find one, but I don't mind because I don't have to worry about bad hair days.

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TIZI: What does Ramadan mean to you?

MF: The religion of Islam, like all other major Faiths, teaches many things through fasting which basically boils down to improving the self through being humble, open-minded, and kind to the environment around us while reaching a higher state of consciousness.

To me Ramadan means exactly that. It is a 30 day period of working on improving myself, mentally, physically and socially.

....Amazingly, fasting has some powerful benefits for the body such as clearing away senescent cells. A senescent cell is technically a living cell but it is not functioning in a way that is consistent with maintaining the overall health of an organ, in fact, quite the opposite. Senescent cells can accelerate the aging of nearby cells and promote tumor growth by secreting pro-inflammatory molecules and other factors. Senescent cells are bad news and as we age they are everywhere from our livers to our hearts to our brains and they accelerate the aging process. From growing new stem cells to regenerating mitochondria (power house of cells), to regenerating tissues, muscles and organs, prolonged fasting has life chaning benefits that we should all experience no matter what faith you believe in.

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TIZI: Do you workout during Ramadan?

MF: Yes! Staying physically active during fasting is important to keep your metabolism sharp, boost energy levels and enjoy over all vitality. But how to workout without causing the opposite to happen is key. For example during Ramadan, we go to the gym / work out every 3rd day and on those days we do compounds exercises like the dead-lift squat and bench press.

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....These workouts are full body exercises that keep all the muscles 'active' and prevent wasting & loss. Importantly, the workout routine is short so as to not burn too many calories. After a day of fasting, working out too hard and too long will cause your metabolism to go into shock, slow down and preserve energy. Here is why I keep away from too much cardio during fasting. A short and proper strength training routine energises the central nervous system without burning out my adrenals and zapping me of too much energy. If you were to do cardio, keep it short and sweet and stick to HIIT.

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TIZI: How do you plan your meals?

MF: Exactly like how I eat the rest of the year. Fasting does not require you to get into some rocket science food / nutrition plan. This is where everyone makes the mistakes of bending over backwards and over thinking their meals. If you have been following a macro plan, then you would just follow that during Ramadan but time the meals differently. I never miss meals, meaning I will not miss out on my protein, healthy fats, carb and fibre intake. This is why I don't have to do any extra planning for Ramadan. I would suggest you have get a proper macro plan ready and follow that for Ramadan, if you don't have one then you can contact me for a calibrated nutrition programme that fits to your lifestyle. Everyone is bio-individual, 'diets' don't work.

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TIZI: What would you advise anyone who wants to workout during Ramadan?

MF: Don't miss out on a chance to strength train but at the same time, don't over do it trying to burn body fat. Understand your body and learn about your hormones. You are different and you need to know how your body operates and reacts to food and exercise. Take this Ramadan to go back to basics on working out, practice form, and work on core strength. Mindlessly working out while not eating enough of the right type of food will not only ruin your energy levels, but cause you to gain stubborn body fat. You don't need to go to the gym either. A good workout can be done in your home that keeps you sharp and full of energy for all the 30 days.

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Thanks to Marina, you can apply these tips and get in touch with her for further advice on how to stay in top shape during Ramadan. Let us know how you fair, we would love to hear your story! Ramadan Mubarak from the Tizi family.


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