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Common Fasting Myths debunked
May 25, 2017, 9:18 am

As we approach the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Muslims must prepare to answer a flurry of questions by people unaware of what it really means.

Fasting, or 'sawm' as it is known in Arabic, is one of the five pillars of Islam and a very spiritual time for Muslims all around the world.

But to some, there is an air of mystery surrounding the practice and confusion about what exactly the rules are. Here are some common misconceptions and explanations that quash the misplaced beliefs:

Myth: Fasting helps lose weight
Fasting is not aimed at weight loss nor does it help you lose weight. While breakfast generally jump-starts metabolism and helps burn fat faster, fasting reduces overall calorie intake and tells the body that the calories absorbed are less than the ones needed.

This pushes the body to slow down the metabolism and conserve energy to remain efficient, activating the body’s natural protective mechanism to resist what it perceives as starvation. This slows down the calorie-burning rate, which, at the contrary, might lead to weight gain.

Myth: A heavy suhour will help you fast easier
Suhours should not be heavy. Big meals loaded with calories and fat, regardless of their amount, cannot compensate for energy lost during long fasting hours. Even if we eat more than normal, there is the tendency to feel low on energy on the next fasting day because of the deprivation of food.

The key to surviving a whole day of fasting is eating the right foods. Suhour has to be balanced in carbohydrates, protein and good fat, that is egg omelet with vegetables and whole-grain slices of bread plus green vegetables or a little bit of mashed avocados. The most important thing is not to consume fried foods and foods high in salt during suhour in order to prevent excessive thirst the next day.

Myth: Fasting eliminates toxins from the body
Eating does not create toxins in one’s body. It is eating the wrong food items and consuming unhealthy meals that gives the body oxidative stress. For instance, while fasting, having simple sugars (Arabic sweets, cakes, juices) and eating a lot of fried food will not help in removing toxins from the body.

The most important thing, whether fasting or not, is to limit unhealthy food and maintain a diet rich in antioxidants. This fights free radicals that cause illnesses, malaise and diseases. Make sure to consume super foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, salmon, avocado and more.  Fasting alone is not enough to remove toxins. It has to be accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet.

Myth: It is not safe to exercise when fasting
Fact: Exercising while fasting can be safe if one can work out on empty stomach. The only problem with exercising while fasting is that the body is not receiving energy from food. What might happen is depletion of muscles to produce energy that is already stored in the muscles as glycogen.

If you want to exercise while fasting, you can do it directly before Iftar and then replenish your energy needs from the food, or after consuming a light Iftar (1-2 hours post meal) and then again have a post-workout meal rich in protein and carbohydrates to replenish your energy levels. It is also imperative to seek the advice of your health care provider prior to starting any exercise routine.

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