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Manal Rostom on How to Stay Healthy During Ramadan

Manal Rostom for the Nike Pro Hijab campaign. Courtesy of Nike

During Ramadan, many people diverge from a diet of healthy, leafy greens in favor of deep-fried foods and a handful of calorie-laden sweets such as katayef and kunafa. These minor indulgences could result in weight gain, bloating, overeating, and feelings of lethargy. In addition, too much sugar and salt and not enough water will affect your skin – and not in a good way. To help you stay fit and healthy this Holy Month, we tapped certified exercise expert and face of Nike’s Pro Hijab, Manal Rostom, for her fitness and health tips.

“Ramadan is the ideal time of year for spirituality, self-reflection, and giving back, but there’s no excuse not to also look after your body,” says Rostom, who suggests treating the Holy Month the same as any other time when it comes to your diet and exercise. According to the Egyptian athlete, one easily implemented way to avoid a bloated belly and general discomfort is to eat light foods before the rest of your meal during iftar. “Break your fast with three dates, a glass of water, and soup and then see how you feel. If you don’t feel full, have a small meal, but try to avoid spicy, salty, deep-fried food as they are packed with calories and don’t necessarily fill you up.” Rostom suggests salads packed with greens, raw nuts, and a grilled protein as a delicious alternative to calorie-filled samosas, pakoras, and kebba.

When it comes to exercise, Rostom says there are three optimal times to work out during Ramadan: an hour before iftar, immediately after, and three hours after breaking fast. “If you decide to work out an hour before iftar, you have the luxury of breaking your fast immediately after your workout,” she says. Those who break their fast with dates, water, or soup can go back and enjoy a full meal. If you exercise a few hours after iftar, the body will have properly digested the food and you’ll have more energy. The workouts she suggests are cardio, yoga, and strength training.

Other things to keep in mind include getting enough rest. “Most of the time it’s not the lack of food or dehydration that drains you; it is staying up and not giving your body a chance to recover and rest,” she says. While getting the recommended seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep is difficult if you’re waking up for suhoor, it helps to take a quick nap before iftar, and go to bed early.

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