I accumulate fat around my belly region during every Ramadan although I eat very consciously during this month. Sometimes I even skip my suhoor. Where could I be going wrong?

Many people falsely believe that weight loss is all about consuming fewer calories than they normally would. Those who are watching their weight tend to eat less after fasting during Ramadan in the hope of losing some pounds quickly. But with fat loss it can be tricky and quite the opposite. When your body is starved for nutrients, it resists weight loss. It goes into starvation mode and instead accumulates the fat because fat is a very reliable, long term source of energy for our body. It shifts the fat stores to your belly region further leading to inflammation and insulin resistance. It does not stop here. Gradually your hormone signals to shift healthy visceral fat to unhealthy abdominal fat, which is exactly whats happening to you.

My suggestion: Eat wise, never skip your suhoor meals - they need to be balanced in terms of food macros accompanied by hydrating fluids such as coconut water, herbal teas or plain water. This meal will fuel your body throughout the day, will keep your energy levels maintained and ensure that your body does not enter a starvation mode.

If you can’t wake up for suhoor, then make sure you eat a late-night snack before you hit the bed. At iftar and post iftar, do not skimp on your calories and make sure you eat clean, keep your sugar intake minimal and consume enough efficient quality protein from grilled meats, fish, chicken and eggs.

What are the best foods to eat during suhoor?

I would suggest three options:

Eggs with mashed potatoes and nuts

Chicken with rice and vegetables, or

Quinoa Paratha cooked in ghee with home cooked vegetables.

These are loaded with good carbs and fibre, and have sufficient protein and good fats to last you through the first half of the day. The slow releasing energy from nuts, eggs, meat and vegetables will help you feeling energetic without crashing your levels by noon.

Does fasting have a positive effect on the body?

There is much research that shows how fasting can help your metabolism and your organs to function more efficiently. Here are some proven facts of plain intermittent fasting. Intermittent fast is where you eat for 8 -10 hours in the day and switch off eating any calories for 14-16 hours, but you can consume water, green tea, black tea, black coffee without sugar.

Fasting shows tremendous promise for fat loss, preventing certain diseases specially cancer and increasing resilience to ailments.

It has shown massive improvements in insulin resistance and reversing Type 2 diabetes (when done correctly and under medical supervision)

Our body kickstarts some important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.

Growth hormone levels shoot up almost five-fold, which makes it easier for your body to accelerate the fat burning process.

Why do I gain weight during Ramadan?

Weight gain during Ramadan can happen only if you eat the wrong kinds of foods at the wrong time, not drinking enough water or eating too little. If you are able to eat four meals during your waking hours, which are well balanced with all your macros, you will not gain weight. Aim for slow carbs from vegetables, whole wheat ( if it suits your gut), sweet potato, fibrous fruits plus efficient protein from eggs, chicken, meat and good fats from avocado,coconut chunks and nuts you will have stable sugar and insulin levels, which can help with burning fat instead of gaining it.

What can I do to avoid bloating and constipation while fasting?

One of the first things you should do is avoid eating too much dairy products. Generally it does not agree with everyone’s gut. Also, avoid having too many fruit juices; the sugar in these robs your body of B vitamins and can dehydrate you. Cut down on intake of tea and coffee which cause dehydration. Nothing like pure water. Have fibre-rich foods like oats with nuts and almond milk. Also include 8-10 prunes into your diet for a cleaner gut and better bowel movement.

What are the best food options at iftar? What is the best way to end the day’s fast?

I can suggest a few options:

Have some dates with a handful of nuts and a glass or two of coconut water

A bowl of fruits with coconut chunks in it.

Banana and almond milk with an almond butter smoothie

Dates with lentil soup

All of these options instantly hydrate you and give you all the essential micro nutrients like magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, Vitamin E that have been depleted throughout the day.

I find that I can’t eat too much during suhoor because I have a poor appetite. What foods should I be eating?

If you have a small appetite during suhoor, load up with a high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods so you can get some nutrients first thing in the morning and your energy levels do not crash later in the day. Protein shakes with nuts; avocado with eggs; muesli crushed with dates, seeds and butter rolled into balls; all of these are easy to eat and give you just enough nutrition to last a couple of hours.

There is so much fried food during iftaar at home. How can I damage control if I eat some?

One relatively healthy option: You can start by frying your food only in coconut oil, ghee or butter. Refined vegetable cooking oils have a low smoking point, so when you use them for frying, the fat content changes to the bad kind of fat that is not good for your heart.

Oils that have a high smoking point are relatively better. When preparing fritters with onions, cauliflower or potato, for instance, use chick pea flour instead of bread crumbs to make the entire dish healthy. You can also substitute potato with sweet potato or make a mash of veggies with a little potato, coat it in egg whites and then fry. You can also use minced meat with lentils to make a patty and pan fry in ghee. These are far healthier options than deep-fried samosas and kibbeh.

Can I work out during Ramadan ?

Yes you can. But if your aim is fat loss, then work out just before iftaar, so you can end your fast with a protein-rich meal. But if your plan is to maintain muscle mass, you should workout after a light meal at iftaar and have a protein shake or tw whole eggs just before bedtime to improve muscle recovery.