Ramadan Kareem!

Millions of people around the world will soon be observing the holy month of Ramadan, considered by many to be a special period of sacrifice, giving, piousness, kindness, and self-restraint. While the essence of fasting in Ramadan is spiritual, a large body of evidence supports the beneficial health effects that fasting brings to the body, from better weight management to digestive support and better cardiovascular health.

Because the human body has evolved to withstand starvation, fasting triggers adaptation mechanisms, such as self-repair, cellular regeneration, and optimization of energy utilization, all of which enhance our body’s ability to cope with such pressures. In other words, fasting makes the body grow stronger – that is as long as adequate time is allowed to replenish the body’s energy stores and recover.

But what’s actually happening in the body, hour by hour, while we’re fasting?

0-4 hours: your body is digesting the meal you just had, breaking it down into glucose (from carbs), amino acids (from proteins), and fatty acids (from fats). Your body is flushed with leptin (satiety hormone) and insulin, which shuttles all these nutrients into the cells to be used as energy, or stored as glycogen in the liver, fat, and muscle. You feel satiated & satisfied:)
4-8 hours: your blood glucose starts to gradually drop and so do the levels of insulin and leptin – which is good news if you are at risk for diabetes or insulin resistance. Towards the end of this phase, your liver will begin to use its stores of glycogen – breaking it down to glucose – triggered by the release of a hormone called glucagon. The hunger hormone ghrelin starts to rise which turns your appetite on. You’re starting to get hungry.
At 12-14 hours: your blood glucose would have been used up at this point. Your pituitary gland starts producing growth hormone which stimulates protein synthesis – which helps maintain muscle and bone mass – while promoting fat breakdown. Your body starts burning fat instead of sugars for energy – a process known as ketosis. Your digestive system is beginning to rest. You’re starting to reap the benefits of your discipline.
At 14-16 hours: your growth hormone levels continue to rise. Your body is turning into a fat burning machine. You’re at the fasting sweet-spot. Life is good:)
After breaking the fast: your body is longing for a heart-warming, belly filling meal to replenish its glucose stores and nutrient levels. Choose your meal wisely:)

The Ramadan fast happens to offer just the right amount of fast to rest, providing ample time for your body to replenish its energy stores, as well as a progressive and gentle transition from using up glucose stores to using fats as a source of energy while preventing breakdown of muscles.

During this season we’ll uncover how these changes translate into long-term health benefits, join the journey!