The importance of all year-round nutrition - especially during Ramadan

Dan Owen 10/05/2018
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Red Bull's Shaikha Al Qassemi

As part of my passionate endeavor to educate the public about better ways to embrace a fitter, healthier and balanced lifestyle, I have come up with a series of articles to share with you to take you one step closer to living better.

As we approach the month of Ramadan, my last article for this series will be to ensure that the month of Ramadan you are energized, well rested and hydrated!

As we all know, during the month of Ramadan, all the temptations rise to surface with family and friends gathered around mountains of delectable savory and sweet snacks. We forget to hydrate ourselves because we are too tired and the only thing that would help us function is either tea or coffee. We spend most of our hours sleeping or sitting and don’t move enough,  so here’s a few things that you can do differently during this holy month.

  1. Hydration: It is vital that you continue to hydrate yourself from when you break your fast until sunrise. Hydration prevents intoxication, muscle cramps, muscle fatigue and stimulates metabolism of proteins and carbs. We are limited with time to get enough water in so I suggest to fill your meals with water based fruits and vegetables as well. Coconut water is a great way to hydrate as well, drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water a day as well as some coconut water or added electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are very important for human health, some of those minerals are calcium, chloride, magnesium and potassium. Electrolytes are responsible for directing water and nutrients to the body where it’s needed to make sure fluids are balanced in the cells.
  1. Ditch the sugars for nuts: Whether you are on a low carb or high carb diet, I would like you to look into increasing your fats during this month. Fats will help you stay focused, energized and will suppress your hunger for longer. I know how hard it is to resist those Nutella filled cupcakes and lotus dipped EVERYTHING. But try to limit your sugar intake as much as possible and substitute sugars for healthy fats and carbs like a handful of nuts.
  2. Food and exercise: Why I put the two in one point is very important. We have done it every year “I’ll have a light meal then go work out” then our stomach monsters take over and consume 2 plates at iftar. Food: I urge you this year to try to control your portions at iftar because your stomach has been empty for more than 15 hours. A lighter meal will prepare your stomach for easier digestion throughout the night. Make sure you focus on well balanced meals, a good amount of protein, carbs and a little more fat than you’re used to. Your fats will come from sources of fatty protein like salmon or red meat or from salad dressings, avocado and nuts. Every Ramadan I break my fast with oatmeal with either fish or chicken as my protein source. Oats help me stay full a litter longer and is a great source of energy before my sessions as well as a can of RedBull. I usually have a can post iftar to help with energy levels and also digestion. RedBull contains B vitamins that aid towards better digestion. Exercise: If you do exercise while fasting, make sure that you are not pushing yourselves too hard during workouts, to avoid nausea, dizziness and dehydration, be mindful of your training while fasting.
  1. Sleep: The month of hibernation! We sleep more during Ramadan than the rest of the year don’t we? This year my plan is to divide my sleep into chunks of hours to make sure I get in 8-9 hours of sleep in total but not at one go. Now this will help me get enough water and food throughout the night if I do get 2-3 hours of sleep in the evening and 6-7 hours from suhoor to early afternoon. That way I get to have a better sleeping cycle than putting myself through a complete life change in one month and spend the following month trying to reverse it.

At the end of the day, this all depends on your personal preference and what you find accommodates your lifestyle. Find what works for you and get it going!

That’s it from me, I hope you have a mindful beautiful month of Ramadan!

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CrossFit for life: How small changes can make a big difference

As part of her passionate endeavour to embrace a fitter, healthier and balanced lifestyle, Red Bull athlete Shaikha Al Qassemi shares her advice to take you a step closer to living better.

In CrossFit, we always emphasise getting your body moving – carrying, lifting, throwing, pulling, pushing, stepping and squatting. These are movements that we used to utilise daily, but have decreased in our everyday lives as we now spend more and more time sitting down. We eat sat down, we commute to work and sit at our desks for hours then drive home sat in our cars.

I recently read about how sitting for too long can lead to heart problems. Studies have shown that instead of sitting on chairs,  being sat on the floor improves posture and mobility in the hips, knees and ankles. Research also shows people who spend more than eight hours a day sat down are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or a stroke.

Red Bull athlete: Shaikha Al Qassemi

Red Bull athlete: Shaikha Al Qassemi

It’s important to ensure you walk, stretch and move if you’re spending most of your day sat working at your desk. Get in the habit of setting an alarm and walking for two minutes every half an hour to keep your blood circulating and if you have space to stretch then I recommend you do that as well.

Training in the gym for an hour will not reduce the health risks if you go back to sitting on the sofa when you’re done. Walking will help keep your blood circulating, and keep your digestive system healthy as well as your heart. During the week, walk to get your lunch instead of ordering it and if you take food to work with you move to a different area, or eat standing up to get your blood flowing.

At weekends, add exercise to your day instead of spending time watching Netflix. Gather a group of friends, buy a ball or Frisbee and meet at the beach for some activities and get some Vitamin D in the process. With summer just around the corner, take the opportunity to walk in the early morning or in the evening. Take stairs instead of escalators and park a little bit further from work than usual.

It may be overwhelming to fit all this in to begin with but a little does go a long way. Take more steps than usual and track it to see your improvements throughout the week. You’ll feel the benefits in no time.

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CrossFit might be gruelling but can be the start of a new you says Red Bull athlete

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Life-changing: Red Bull's Shaikha Al Qassemi

As part of her passionate endeavour to embrace a fitter, healthier and balanced lifestyle, Red Bull athlete Shaikha Al Qassemi shares her advice to take you a step closer to living better.

In 2014, I got my first job in CrossFit as a part-time coach for ladies classes in Altitude, Sharjah. In the first month of coaching, some classes would have just one attendee and most of the time classes were cancelled.

However, within a few months, the classes started to grow into a thriving community of students, working ladies and mothers. In my experience, commercial gyms and personal trainers didn’t give me sufficient guidance when it comes to nutrition, recovery or the importance of sleep.

I’ve always said that people lose sight of what CrossFit truly is because of its competitive nature. Fitness is about improving your physical, mental and emotional health. For me, the benefits of training mentally outweigh physical results. The ladies in the gym would always emphasize improvements to their mental and emotional health as well as their energy levels and quality of sleep.

Mental strength: Fitness is more than physical results

Mental strength: Fitness is more than physical results

Many of us have a busy work and social life with little time to mindfully change our eating and resting habits. Many don’t take into consideration how important food and sleep is for the mind and body. Your quality of sleep improves with exercise, as it lowers stress-levels throughout the day, especially if you start your mornings with exercise. The brain also functions better when your stress-levels are low.

The psychological benefits of training also include gaining confidence, reducing anxiety and improving your well-being and mood. Exercise and physical activity help improve mental health, cognitive skills and helps you to focus.

I sat down with some of the girls that I could at my gym and wanted them to reflect on how CrossFit has made such an improvement in their day-to-day lives. I have always said that people lose sight of what CrossFit truly is because of its competitive nature. Fitness is about improving your physical, mental and emotional health.

Sukaina, a 40-year-old thyroid patient and a mother of three started her CrossFit journey in August and now trains five times a week. “CrossFit means everything to me, it has changed my life completely,” she says passionately. “I am calmer, more aware of the food I eat, more confident and CrossFit has changed my mindset. I have also lost 10kgs having cut out sugar.”

Anne, a 34-year-old housewife and mother, who trains six times a week, started her CrossFit journey in June. “CrossFit has enabled me to change my lifestyle completely, it’s all about the supportive community. It continuously breaks personal limits that I set myself.” She says, “I have started to eat better and eat more. I’ve seen a big improvement in my sleep, movement and stress levels. I feel lighter, healthier and more relaxed than ever”.

23-year-old Afra has a full-time job but has never skips a week of training. Since 2016 she’s been coming to Platform four times a week. “To me, CrossFit means community, support, challenge and competitiveness. It helps you to quickly learn, challenge yourself and try new things. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, I am more confident, social, outgoing and physically stronger”, she says. “It has changed my mood, improved my sleep pattern and I spend my day looking forward to the class”.

CrossFit is one of the best ways to kick start your fitness journey due to the positive and supportive community. The gym thrives on support and encouragement. I found a purpose in one of the lowest moments in my life, when I felt lost, confused, depressed and unhappy with where my life was going.

When I began training consistently, I noticed both my focus and learning improved drastically in comparison to when I was studying in university. So begin your journey and let’s get physical to improve our quality of life together.

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