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Ramadan & Intermittant Fasting

by Suz on July 11, 2013 · 4 comments

in Health, Weight Loss

You might be aware that the Islamic month of Ramadan has just started. Having just arrived on my travels in a Muslim country, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject – from a Paleo perspective.

Ramadan Intermittant Fasting Paleo Diet

Ramadan is a month of fasting , where Muslims from all around the world start their fast at sunrise, and don’t eat or drink until sunset – for the whole month. Fasting is something I’ve read a lot about, and tried myself in the form of Intermittent Fasting. In the Paleo world intermittent fasting refers to the not eating part – people undertaking an intermittent fast drink water. Some people even take BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) to decrease cravings and hunger signals at the level of the brain – something that wouldn’t be done in Ramadan.

As so many people fast during this time, a lot of scientific studies have been conducted – with very interesting results. Whilst intermittent fasting as part of a Paleo protocol is different to fasting during Ramadan, there is still a lot of useful learning from these studies.

A number of studies concern diabetes – and have shown during Ramadan, diabetics blood glucose levels are far more stable. A study on a group of students also demonstrated that over the month weight loss was common; more significantly in overweight participants. Studies have also shown a significant decrease in markers of inflammation during the month of Ramadan, which is speculated to decrease the risk of heart disease.

One area of Ramadan that is hard to reconcile to intermittent fasting, is diet. Many people will break their fast on Ramadan with the refined carbohydrates that someone breaking a Paleo intermittent fast would avoid. What impact does this have on the application of Ramadan studies to understanding the benefits of a Paleo intermittent fast? Another part of Ramadan which is hard to quantify is the peacefulness that surrounds the period – something which must surely have health benefits?

Whilst clearly limited, the studies conducted on Ramadan certainly seem to imply eating less frequently has many benefits. This is completely contrary to the conventional wisdom advice, which is often to snack frequently, and eat lots of small meals.

It’s going to be an interesting time being in the midst of Ramadan. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of Ramadan and intermittent fasting in general. Do you think it’s beneficial to health? Have you ever fasted?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

tess July 11, 2013 at 1:11 am

i’ll be interested to hear more about what you observe! i was just reading a short piece on Ramadan WRT diet, and it seemed to me that the writer was assuming a lot of things rather than speaking from actual knowledge of what people experience.

for example, do most people live nocturnally and sleep during the day, as i’ve heard? i’ve always thought that it must be brutal to not drink water during daylight in some of the hot countries where Islam is widely practiced….

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Nada El-Basyounee July 17, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Actually, we just wake up late 10 or 12 in the morning. You see, when the sun rises we start fasting. So, before it rises , people have a quick meal, which makes us less hungry in the morning.

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Jane July 13, 2013 at 8:17 am

I’ve been trying the 5 days of eating as normal, 1 day of fasting and the next day much smaller potions than usual. I’ve been doing this for 5 weeks and I do feel a lot fitter I have also gone down a dress size.
The only thing is it’s difficult to kept up.

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Paul July 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Hi,
This is an interesting subject.

I have severely changed my eating habits recently and I find when I restrict what I eat I can actually get through a day of activity without feelings of fatigue and drowsiness as often as I used to get those symptoms when eating.

Today for example, I ate lamb meatballs with garden salad for lunch and for dinner a plate of broccoli, silver beet, capsicum, onion, pumpkin, cabbage, squash, and a small amount of chicken, and that is all. I worked all day, travelled on trains for about three hours and now at 1039pm, I still feel great.

I often ride my bicycle now before food in mornings and I am amazed how my body is feeling.

It is logical to me that the human body evolved to thrive during regular periods of hunger.

Hunger is normal, common, and should be a regular part of life in my opinion.

On the diet I am on, without bread, grains, sugar, or other refined food I don’t get huge food cravings, but I know that if I ate some bread, or some junk food, or some pasta, breakfast cereal or sugar, I would be very hungry and feeling ill after a few hours without eating again.

I love this slightly hungry feeling, and honestly, the way these veges taste is sublime.

I relish the flavour and intricacies they have but when I was eating poor quality food I was craving stodgy, high sugar, high grain food, and these cravings blinded my taste buds to the delicious flavours in vegetables.

Tonight I ate some raw capsicum (red) as I sliced it for my meal and it was absolutely full of sweet flavour, and had a number of different, subtle tastes within it that I had never noticed before.

There are some interesting documentaries by Michael Mosley, one about intermittent fasting and how it affects the body, switching on certain processes that just don’t occur with constant feeding, and another doco about high intensity, short period exercise (30 seconds x 3, a few days a week), and how this also changes the body’s ability to process fat, and various other functions.

I have a fairly lean body shape, so up till now, at 47, I have been able to get away with eating, at times, too much poor food and beer, but that won’t last forever, and god knows I have probably caused internal problems for years, or at least not been as healthy as I could have been.

I am just loving how I am feeling after only a few weeks of changing my eating habits, though I have gradually been changing over a year or so, initially eliminating dairy, then sugar, now grain, and although these concepts would have seemed incomprehensible a year ago, now it is actually enjoyable.

My food tastes better, my body feels better, my brain works better, and I can cope with much more physical and mental stress than I could ever handle before, while simultaneously having reduced anger, and general overall happiness.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cheers.

Paul

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