Ramadhan fasting and the new age Intermittent fasting?

By Sister Farah Zehra

While most of the people around the world wonder as how Muslims fast for such long hours like 16 hours and in some countries for 18 hours, intermittent fasting has become a buzz word amongst the fitness freaks these days. Earlier, fasting was like a foreign thing but now with extensive research, profound benefits of fasting have been found. The only difference in intermittent fasting and religious fasting is that one cannot take water during the fasting hours in the latter form of fasting. 1400 years back, our beloved Prophet used to fast every Monday and Thursday, Intermittent fasting is also the same where one can undertake fasting not every day but a few days in a week.

Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity these days among youngsters where one restricts food intake for 16 hours and eats for 8 hours or fasts for 18 hours and eats for 6 hours. It does not specifically talk about what foods one should/ should not eat, but rather when should eat/ not eat. The diet regime has proved to have numerous and wonderful health benefits. It ramps up fat burning process and helps in weight loss. It’s not because of restricting from eating for extended hours but because it optimises the hormones that help to lose weight and thus guarantees weight loss. Apart from weight loss, it minimises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With scientific evidences available, intermittent fasting helps improve metabolism and thus weight loss happens.

It is often believed that fasting reduces brain activity and one feels sluggish and dull during fasting. However studies have proved that fasting reduces insulin resistance and oxidative stress that helps improve mental health and activity of the brain. In fact, studies have revealed that fasting improves alertness, mood and mental clarity. It also helps boosting energy levels since fat is used for energy instead of carbohydrates. Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi (Nobel Prize winner, 2016) proved that fasting activates autophagy, which provides protection against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Intermittent fasting also helps reduce “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and thus improves heart health. With so much of health benefits and most importantly the benefit of weight loss, people complain of gaining weight by the end of Ramadhan. Well, this is because we often forget that Ramadhan is not about feasting, it is more than just fasting and abstaining from food. The constant 30 days of social gatherings and feasting would certainly not help reap physiological and spiritual benefits. We need to be mindful of what we are eating even if we are fasting in Ramadhan or undertaking intermittent fasting. Making wise food choices and following proper diet routine helps making intermittent fasting as well as Ramadhan fasting work effectively. Thus, it is a lifestyle change, which certainly has farsighted and incredible health benefits.

Intermittent fasting cleanses and detoxifies our body, likewise Ramadhan fasting not only cleanses our body but our soul too. One tries to refrain from committing sins during fasting hours for almost 30 days. Thus, one becomes conscious of not indulging into any sinful activities even after the month of Ramadhan ends.

With intermittent fasting being so much talked about and popularly practised among youngsters all around the world, the Muslim youngsters should no longer hesitate in responding to any misconceptions regarding our religious fasts. They should take pride in elucidating to the world that what today’s world is trying to propagate has been told us to do 1400 years ago!!