CAIRO - With blistering heat simmering across the United States, Ramadan fasting this year is set to pose a new challenge for American Muslims who will refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during the long, hot days of summer.
Dehydration is a very big concern, Mubarakah Ibrahim, a personal trainer and founder of FitMuslimah.com, a fitness site for Muslim women, told Daily Herald on Friday, July 20.
You're going to go 16 hours without eating or drinking anything and most people don't drink enough anyway.
US Muslims celebrate the start of the holy fasting month on Friday, July 20, making it the first time for Ramadan in 30 years to come in mid July.
In Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset, a period that exceeds 16 hours in some US areas.
Under Northern Hemisphere's scorching sun, going without water can be dangerous.
Personal trainers and physicians say it is challenging, but possible, to stay hydrated in the long hours from sunup to sundown.
Create a plan, literally write down how much water you're going to drink and when, Ibrahim said.
She recommends people drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day with about 10 ounces every half-hour or so throughout the evening.
At the end of the fasting day, Ibrahim said nutrient-rich foods such as collard greens, kale, broccoli and other vegetables are all better choices when breaking the fast.
People think we would lose weight during Ramadan, but actually we usually gain weight because by the end of the fast you're so hungry that you're eating things you normally wouldn't touch, she said.
You just eat everything in your path. Do not stand in between a fasting Muslim and a plate.
For a healthier fast, it's important to resist that temptation and eat healthy first.
When you do eat, your food has to be fuel and you have to get all of your nutrients whenever you can, she said, adding an early morning protein shake can keep you full hours longer than a doughnut or sugary cereal.
For many Muslims, the holy fasting month of Ramadan can offer an excellent chance to abandon bad habits and make a plan for medication and staying healthy.
One of the benefits of fasting is to have better control of your body, Mohammed Sahloul, a member of the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview and chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said.
So if you have addictions, it's the best time to get rid of those as well, he added.
The summer dates of Ramadan may actually be easier on students because they don't have to worry about having enough energy for school, gym classes or studying.
Anisha Ismail Patel, a mother of three in Arlington Heights, said she and her oldest daughter will take time this month to read the entire Quran.
Patel will also be busy as executive director of the Muslim Women's Alliance, helping to organize 14 different events throughout Chicago and the suburbs for the month of Ramadan.
The group would prepare food baskets for needy families and help at homeless shelters.
Charity is a pillar of Islam and it's really important that we take care of our neighbors in need whether they're Muslim or not, Patel said.
Patel's children are too young to fast during all of Ramadan, but charity work is a way for them to mark the holy month and give back.
Ramadan is a really exciting time of giving and reflection, Patel said.
Life gets hectic with kids and family, but during Ramadan you're really conscious of your prayer times, improving yourself, bettering yourself.
Ramadan would also give young Muslims a better chance to rid themselves from bad habits, such as devoting too much time to watching TV or the Internet, Sahloul said.
It's a time to really change your lifestyle and think of how to improve yourself, to recharge your spiritual battery so to speak, he said.
During the year, we don't have a lot of time to reflect on that, but Ramadan gives us that chance.