Between rising temperatures and longer days, Ramadan will bring with it the challenge of adequately hydrating between iftar and suhoor. There’s also the added matter of giving your skin and hair a little extra TLC to offset the lack of food and water consumption during the day. With that in mind, The Gaggler tapped four experts from the fields of nutrition, fitness, skincare, and hair care for easy and practical tips to boost hydration – here’s what they had to say.
Farah Hillou, Nutritionist at The Chiron Clinic
Our conversation with Farah Hillou, Nutritionist at The Chiron Clinic starts with the basics, covering the best foods in general to hydrate the body. “The U.S. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) of water is 3.7 litres (15-16 cups) per day for men and 2.7 litres (11-12 cups) for women. These take into consideration fluids from water, beverages, and food,” she says. “As a general rule, we should aim to drink (in ounces) half of our body weight (in pounds). Additional fluids are needed depending on activity, season, and temperature. Up to 20 percent of our daily water intake comes from the food we eat, especially fruits, vegetables, and soups. Great hydrating foods include cucumber, lettuce, celery, radish, zucchini, watermelon, melon, grapefruit, and strawberry. These can be added to smoothies. Yoghurt is also a great option since it is about 80 percent water.”
In contrast, she says the likes of coffee, tea and soft drinks – all of which act as diuretics – should be avoided during Ramadan. “Caffeinated drinks can increase fluid loss from the body and raise risk of dehydration. If you desire some caffeine, go for green tea, which is considered to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well.” Water aside, there are other beverages that can help hydrate the body, according to Farah. “Keep hydrated through water infused with lemon slices, berries, ginger, mint, star anise, or cinnamon in order to add a burst of flavour and health benefits, too! Coconut water may be another option as it contains some electrolytes. Herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger, fennel, or peppermint support hydration and can also aid in digestion. Milk and unsweetened dairy-free drinks, like almond milk, are good options as well.”
We ask her for a few outward signs of dehydration worth looking out for – chapped lips, for example. “Symptoms are usually not present during early dehydration, but become obvious when we are moderately dehydrated,” she explains. “Outward signs include dry skin and reduced urine output. We may also start to feel thirsty, dizzy, fatigued, and develop a headache. Moreover, we may experience muscle aches and joint pain. The lymphatic system, which is responsible for removal of waste and toxin build-up, is 90 percent water. Dehydration can thus affect its function. Remember that water provides lubrication for tissues, cartilage, and joints. Staying hydrated is essential to support kidney function, neurological function, circulation, muscle contraction, body temperature, and optimising digestion.” Farah also recommends breaking your fast with water, and consuming soup or broth followed by a colourful salad at iftar.
Aleksandra Macura, Personal Trainer and Clinical Dietitian at Enhance Fitness
But it’s not just what we eat and what we apply topically that matters – our workout routines call for a little adjustment as well. “The best time to train during Ramadan would be around two to three hours after breaking the fast,” says Aleksandra Macura, PT and Clinical Dietitian at Enhance Fitness. “This allows you to have a good meal, replenish your energy stores, optimise hydration, have enough time to digest the meal, and get into your workout with optimal energy levels – meaning you can maximise performance. A lot of people like to train right after breaking the fast with dates and milk or water, which can also be an option. However, your workout intensity level will need to be reduced in this case.”
As for how we should adjust our workout routines? “Sub-optimal hydration levels have a multitude of effects on our body and performance. Since dehydration greatly increases risk of injuries, we want to adjust workout intensity. This means lifting lighter weights and increasing rest intervals between exercises. A good reference can be reducing your workout intensity by 15 to 20 percent. You also want to be careful with exercises that include sudden changes of levels (burpees, inchworms), explosive moves (power jumps, sprints) and heavy overhead exercises. The golden rule is listen to your body!”
Aleksandra says Ramadan ought to be seen as a deload phase when it comes to training. “Allowing our body the time to recover will not only help us come back to where we left off, but can also make us come back stronger than before. Remember that we don’t get stronger from the act of intense training, we get stronger during recovery from intense training. Ramadan is not the time to break your personal best, but rather stay active at levels that feel good and allow yourself the time to recover.” She also (very rightfully) advises our readers to take mindset into consideration. “Since Ramadan is a religious and spiritual month, it is a great time to practice mindfulness and shift our focus inwards, which can in turn help us build healthier habits and make more conscious decisions.”
Rebecca Treston, Medical Aesthetician and Laser Specialist at Dubai London Clinic
“To ensure an angelic glow during the holy month, switch your regular face wash with a cleanser containing glycolic acid (normal-dry skin) or salicylic acid (oily skin). If your skin is sensitive, use a gentle cleanser daily and scrub once a week,” says Rebecca Treston, Medical Aesthetician and Laser Specialist at Dubai London Clinic. “Gentle exfoliation every day will stimulate your skin while removing any dead skin cells, imparting your skin with a healthy and radiant glow.” As for switching up the products used, she adds: “Opt for lightweight hydrating lotions or serums to let your skin breathe easy and avoid breakouts. Reapply a moisturising serum every time you wash your face to make sure your skin stays supple and hydrated. For your daily anti-aging skincare needs, look for products with vitamin C and A, as they are the true rockstar ingredients that can change your skin from drab to fab.”
Sticking with sunscreen, for obvious reasons, is essential. “UV rays from the sun are extremely damaging to skin. Not only do they promote pigmentation problems, but they also damage the skin’s collagen and elastin leading to premature ageing in the form of wrinkles and skin sagging, so invest in a broad-spectrum sunscreen,” she advises. And like Farah, she emphasises that you are what you eat. “This year, why not make a special effort and avoid oily/fast food, sugar, and refined carbohydrates? Your skin will thank you as you’ll avoid blemishes, breakouts, and lacklustre skin. Instead, eat fresh vegetables, proteins, and fruits. Eat as many nuts as you can – cashews and almonds are packed with healthy fibres, fatty acids, and proteins, thus effective in maintaining your skin glow. Fruits such as strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants, which are known for their positive effect on healthy skin.”
To eliminate any toxins from the skin, Rebecca advises drinking plenty of water between iftar and suhoor. “Perhaps you can make sure some of the meals you have are water-based, like soups,” she advises. And last but not least comes beauty sleep. “Get eight to ten hours every night if you want to avoid dark circles around the eyes and a tired look at the end of Ramadan. Our body goes through multiple changes in our circadian rhythm; different hormones for different purposes are secreted during day and night. Research has shown us that day sleep is not as beneficial as night sleep because the body only repairs and rejuvenates during night, with peak repair activity after midnight,” she explains. She also touches on how the body’s focus shifts this time of year. “The white blood cells in the body start to become more active during Ramadan, and the body repairs any damaged cells at this stage, so it’s a perfect time to optimise your body’s system of repair.”
Natalie Andrew, Top Stylist and Trainer at Trevor Sorbie
With hydration levels dropping during Ramadan, dry and limp hair often follow. An easy at-home hair hack to offset this? “Try to avoid washing hair every day, and steer clear of hot water as it only adds to dryness,” says Natalie Andrew. She also shares her insights on what we should and shouldn’t be using. “Replace your usual shampoo and conditioner with hydrating ones, so the hair doesn’t dry out. This is because your hair will get a lower amount of vitamins during Ramadan, and it is important to adjust your hair care routine accordingly. I also suggest using a nourishing night serum, like the 8H Magic Night Serum by Kérastase, before going to bed. It will nourish your hair while you sleep.”
Heating tools like dryers, curlers, and straighteners also contribute to dry and brittle hair, according to Natalie, so slow down on their use during this time. There are a couple of hydrating treatments on offer at Trevor Sorbie salon if you’re not the DIY type and looking to tend to your hair, with two in particular recommended by the expert in question. “The Naturaltech Nourishing treatment by Davines is perfect if you’re seeking a deeply moisturizing treatment, while the KeraStraight Smoothening and Hydrating treatment locks in strength and moisture for up to 30 days,” she says.