As we approach the Islamic holy month of Ramadan healthy fasting and workplace routines are critical for employees and also for employers to understand so that staff performance can be assessed fairly.
Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, International SOS is raising health and travel awareness among organisations around the world. This year, Ramadan is expected to start around May 16 or 17 and end around mid-June, depending on the Islamic lunar calendar. Taking into account longer daylight hours and warmer weather, medical experts at International SOS have collated essential health tips for fasting employees.
Medical Director Dr. Issam Badaoui said: “Each year, we remind organisations and fasting individuals that there are simple steps they can take to ensure they have a healthy, productive month. Practically, the advice we offer should be applied throughout the year, as part of a balanced, active lifestyle, and the good news is we are noticing a growing interest in both nutrition and exercise.
At International SOS, we are keen to champion wellness and ultimately contribute to the prevention of avoidable, lifestyle-related noncommunicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes – and what better time to encourage the adoption of sustainable, wholesome habits than during the holy month of Ramadan.”
International SOS’s top five tips for employees observing the fast this Ramadan are:
Do not skimp on rest and sleep – Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and gatherings of family and friends. Though it may be tempting to stay up late for Suhour and only sleep after Imsak, you should still aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest. A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate at work and have more energy throughout the day.
Stagger your hydration – Thirst can be one of the most challenging symptoms of fasting, leading us to chug plenty of water and liquids as soon as we break our fast and then just before Imsak. However, rehydration should be a cumulative process. The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least 2 litres of water – one or two glasses at a time – between Iftar and Imsak. It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks at night, and to top up your liquid intake with soups, fruits and vegetables rich in water, such as cucumbers and watermelon.
Beware excess salt and sugar – After a full day of fasting, avoid satisfying cravings by filling up on sweets and sugary beverages such as soda and energy drinks, which lead to an unhealthy spike in glucose levels. Instead, opt for the natural sugars found in fruits, and consume complex carbohydrates such as rice, bread and wholegrains alongside vegetables, which will keep you fuller for longer.
As for salt intake, it is worth keeping in mind that having moderately savoury foods with water can help you retain some hydration for longer. However, consuming too much salt will have an adverse effect and contribute to thirst and dehydration during the day, so go easy on salty snacks such as popcorn and salted nuts at night.
Do more in the morning – Where possible, schedule more difficult tasks requiring greater concentration or physical effort in the morning, when you will have more energy. International SOS encourages businesses each year to schedule important meetings during the first half of the day, when fasting employees will have more energy and will be better able to retain new information.
Don’t stop exercising – Though you may feel more tired and understandably less active while fasting, skipping regular exercise for a full month is unhealthy, particularly as most of your food intake will be consumed at night. Moderate exercise is advisable and will also help you feel less sluggish. Just remember to wait a couple of hours after Iftar before going to the gym or simply for a brisk walk. If you still prefer to schedule workouts while fasting, avoid being in the sun for a long time, take frequent breaks, and stop if you feel faint, light-headed or extremely thirsty.
In addition, individuals suffering from chronic illnesses should consult their doctors on how to manage regular medication and to ensure it is safe for them to fast.