Ramadan 2014: how to stay productive

Ramadan 2014 is slated to begin sometime next week, and with the heat of summer that means long days of fasting with no food or drink from dawn to dusk. How to stay productive without feeling dehydrated, sluggish, and generally lethargic? It all starts with the morning meal before dawn.

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The month of Ramadan is good time to start good or break bad eating/drinking/personal habits. For instance, one Ramadan I gave up caffeine entirely for the month and it felt great! As such I suggest having little to no caffeine for the morning meal. Why? Because caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it will make you pee) and thus will counter effect the hydration process. I would also avoid surgery or sweet breakfast items as well as very salty foods or heavy meals with meat. Salt too will dehydrate you while raising your blood pressure, while sugar packed pastries and donuts will digest quickly and make you hungry again (resulting in a crash later)! So what should you eat for breakfast to keep you full, hydrated and energized for most of the day at least? Here’s a sample breakfast menu that works:

Oatmeal cooked with soy milk or milk, dashed with honey, nuts, fruit

Greek yogurt with granola, berries, and nuts

Eggs (any style you like) with whole wheat bread

Protein bars (I prefer Luna bars: http://www.lunabar.com/products/luna-protein)

Pure Orange juice and/or Coconut water

2-3 glasses of water

For people who have actually met me I can eat like three meals during the morning meal before my fast. I suggested these items for your morning meal in particular because they almost all have some fluid intake and/or protein. Oatmeal gives you energy for hours, and juice and/or electrolyte enhanced water (like Smart Water http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/glaceau-smartwater) keeps you hydrated for hours. Chugging glasses of tap water will just make you pee all morning and by afternoon you’re thirsty and drowsy. Drink water after eating all your food (there is a hadeeth about this mentioned somewhere as well) and after having juice, then drink as much water as you can. If you have a full feeling (I hate the full feeling!) don’t lay down or rest for at least 2 hours. That’s another thing I must repeat: after eating your morning meal Do Not go to sleep! You will get indigestion and feel ‘clogged’ for hours totally ruining any chances of productivity. Instead, read, pray, hang out with the family, get some work done. If you must catch a wink, put pillows up behind you and rest in a sitting position. This can make a world of difference.

As someone who has been fasting every year since she was a kid, I hope these measures can help make your Ramadan or anyone who fasts (during Lent for instance) a more pleasant and therapeutic experience, because Ramadan isn’t about starving or stuffing your face (when it’s permissible to eat) its about being grateful for what we do have and learning to overcome our bodily desires. Peace!

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