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Life after Ramadan: how to eat, sleep and exercise like normal

Ramadan is coming to a close. We powered through the fasting, then ate our weight in good food and celebrated long into the night. While most people seem to have had a good time, it’s a shame how much weight we put on.

Of course, the gain in weight is understandable, even innevitable. Ramadan not only changes our diet, it does so abruptly. One day you’re having a wholesome breakfast and your diet is going great, and the next day you’re forced to fast and change your eating habits drastically. Where you might have been careful with your food intake, now you’re tempted by all that fatty, salty, sugary goodness.

Over Ramadan, our metabolism changes and our body starts to acclimatize to the new fasting-bingeing regime, and the results are not good, taking us far from our ideal "beach body" look.

Now that the month is almost over, and we drift into Eid, we face the prospect of getting life back to normal. While a return to normal routine seems simple in itself, getting back in shape can be tough.

According to certified nutritionist Dr. Sherry Rizk, there are a few rules one can follow in order to salvage what's left of your health, while making a smooth transition from fasting into normal dietary habits.

Golden rules for metabolism recovery

Over Ramadan, people generally gain weight and end up with a lower metabolism, and so one thing we need to do is get our metabolism back on track.

It’s no secret that eating once a day is bad for your metabolism, and so we are advised to divide up our meals over the course of the day. It's much healthier to consume meals that are more frequent but smaller in size, and so this constitutes the first golden rule for a good metabolism.

Another golden rule is to eat the bulk of your daily caloric intake in the morning and keep it light at night.

Obviously, Ramadan messes up these two rules, because we don’t eat all day and then at night we eat a couple of really big meals — which means a slower metabolism. The most important aspect of the transition from Ramadan into normal life is making sure you let your metabolism recover by setting regular meal times and ensuring that they are the right size.

Eat big breakfasts with a lot of fruit and protein, and try to limit eating at night. During Ramadan all your eating is done at night, and getting your body off its night-time eating routine is essential for returning to full health.

Dr Risk says you should also increase your consumption of nourishing foods, such as vegetables and salads. Fruits and vegetables are a fast-track ticket to losing weight, and they are great for detoxing as well. We have all heard this advice before, but it’s everywhere because it works — and it could make a huge difference.

Working out is a must

According to Dr. Rizk, the transition back to a normal body can be assisted with a little exercise on a regular basis. She recommends working out for about 30-45 minutes each morning.

For those who hate working out, it doesn’t have to mean running a marathon. It could be a nice long walk somewhere. Some people prefer to head to the gym, where all the equipment is laid on. Others, meanwhile, prefer to exercise in the privacy of their own homes, perhaps with some floor exercises or dumbells on the living-room carpet.

Whatever you do, the point is to get the body out of its torpor, without straining it too much, so the key here is to take it easy. If you're not in the habit of exercising or have been in the sofa for the past year, it might be wise to talk with a doctor or physical trainer before you begin.

Exercise not only burns calories, but also helps remove toxins from the body, gets the heart and lungs working properly and builds muscles that have withered while watching dramas on TV.

There is also evidence that regular exercise reduces the craving for food, which can be a useful thing if you're trying to get your food intake down to normal, pre-Ramadan levels.

Get your sleep back on schedule

Ramadan also upsets your sleeping schedule. People need to wake up in the middle of the night to have suhour, or else they will miss the first meal of the day. Without that meal, their health and metabolism may end up suffering throughout the month, and so rising early is common practice.

During Ramadan, people are also invited out for suhoor a lot. As a result, they may need to stay up all night, thus losing precious sleep in a big way.

A lack of proper sleep increases both hunger and anxiety the following day, making your fast all the more unbearable. But studies show it can also severely affect your metabolism, which is one reason why people put on weight over Ramadan.

So, as we drift into Eid and the "normal" life beyond, it might be wise to start setting a regular bed time, allowing plent of time to catch up on all that missed sleep. Many people will have a sleep deficit by the end of Ramadan, and there may be some serious catching up to do!

With sleep, as with food and exercise, the key thing is to have a regular lifestyle based on balance, routine and sensible portions. Fingers crossed, within a few weeks, you'll be back in shape and ready for action.

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