Fasting during the month of Ramadan can be good for your health if it’s done correctly.If you’re overweight, it can be an opportunity to lose weight – provided you eat healthily when you break the fast.
What happens to your body when you fast
The changes that happen in the body during a fast depend on the length of the continuous fast.The body enters into a fasting state eight hours or so after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorbing nutrients from the food. In the normal state, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy.During a fast, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Later in the fast, once the glucose runs out, fat becomes the next source of energy for the body.With a prolonged fast of many days or weeks, the body starts using protein and breaking down protein for energy. This is the technical description of what’s commonly known as “starvation”.”You are unlikely to reach the starvation stage during Ramadan, because the fast is broken daily,” says Dr Razeen Mahroof, a consultant from Oxford.
Gentle transition from glucose to fat
As the Ramadan fast only lasts from dawn till dusk, the body’s energy can be replaced in the pre-dawn and dusk meals.This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy to using fat, and prevents the breakdown of muscle for protein.The use of fat for energy helps weight loss. It preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level. In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure.After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing.A balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts. The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, but these can be lost through sweating.To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain enough energy food, such as carbohydrates and some fat.