How Keto Compliments Ramadan Fasting

Both fasting and a well-managed ketogenic meal to break your fast improve insulin sensitivity and help you lose excess weight.

20 - April 2020, by Ahmed Afifi

Ramadan

In Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, which is around 17 hours this year. Neither food nor drinks are allowed before sunset. Other than the spiritual purpose; one of the purposes of Ramadan’s fasting is to let people feel what it is like to be the poor people who cannot even afford one tiny meal a day.

Another purpose, in my opinion, is to teach people how to eat. It was never meant to be the month of food gulping from sunset until dawn! Unfortunately, the majority of people lose the benefits that come along with Ramadan’s fasting by eating excessively during the nights of Ramadan. For those, Ramadan has become the month of getting heavier with higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, higher triglycerides and amazingly it has become the month of higher food bills, although they abstain from food almost ¾ the day.

Psychological vs Physiological Hunger

Opting for the right healthy food at the breaking-fast time in Ramadan is a crucial element in controlling the surge in insulin secretion and as a result achieving normal blood sugar which keeps hunger at bay and eventually leads to maintaining a healthy weight. I noticed that the major problem with many people during fasting in Ramadan, or fasting in general, is feeling hungry. I happen to meet people who refused to fast because of the psychological fear of the possibility of feeling hungry.

Based on my personal experience with Ramadan fasting I could easily differentiate between mental and physical hunger, passing the fifth or sixth day of fasting. This is especially true if I break my fast away from sugary and starchy food.

In other words; by adopting the ketogenic way of eating in Ramadan, hunger diminishes massively.

It seems that many overweight people and people with diabetes/pre-diabetes lack the skill of controlling the food entering their mouth; quantity and quality wise. One of the main things helped me to control my own weight and to normalize my blood sugar as a LADA diabetic was that I learned how to be cautious with food choices, how to control my desire to eat all the time and how to know if I am really hungry or not.

I learned that food that raises insulin secretion or injections makes us hungry all the time and here comes the beauty of a healthy and well-managed ketogenic diet especially when it crosses hands with fasting as it is the case in Ramadan.

Let me explain how fasting and keto together work together like the perfect couple. Fasting supresses hunger as the body adapts to nutritional ketosis (burning fat as fuel instead of glucose). Passed the fifth or sixth day in Ramadan, people who commit to the right choice of food after breaking their fast, lose the screaming hunger signal that invades their stomach around 4 pm.

This is because they became keto adapted. Their bodies start to use their stored fat as a source of energy during the 24 hours.

Recognizing real hunger is a basic pillar in the losing weight journey. In his book The Complete Guide to Fasting Dr. Jason Fung said that hunger is often a mental state; not a physical state. He said, “Hunger, obviously, is not simply a reflection of the amount of food filling our stomach. Instead, hunger is partly a learned phenomenon. Even when we don’t think we are hungry, smelling a steak and hearing it sizzle may make us quite ravenous.”

That is true, sometimes I pass by a restaurant and smell the Shish Kabab I like and instantly I crave the Kabab although I am full. The mental hunger is working here not the physical one. That is why fasting is a good exercise to differentiate between real hunger and imagined hunger.

In other words; by adopting the ketogenic way of eating in Ramadan, hunger diminishes massively.

How Keto Helps

To better understand why keto and fasting complement each other let me explain. For most people, fasting for 17 hours depletes most of the stored glycogen in liver and muscles (some people need about 36 to 48 hours of fasting or Keto for this to happen). When glycogen stores are depleted, the body starts to look for another source of energy. In the absence of food or carbs the body is forced to create it’s own energy source in the liver. In other words, the body uses its own stored fats to create energy. Think of fasting as a kick start process for nutritional ketosis.

If fasting people break their fast on rice, bread, sweets and juice, as they usually and sadly do in Ramadan, they replenish their glycogen stores again and bring the body back to the easy fuel consumption (glucose) and of course stop the fuel burning machine they had created in nutritional ketosis.

If fasting people commit to keto, very low carb with moderate protein and moderate healthy fat consumption, there will be minimal insulin secretion and no glucose to be converted to glycogen, and body will continue the journey of burning its extra stored fat.

Modern Continuous Feeding and Ramadan

One of the major beliefs in the mind of Ramadan fasters is that they think they must eat the three meals from sunset to dawn. This belief came, of course, from the well-worn misguided nutritional advice. The majority of our nutritionists keep us in a continuous feeding state by recommending eating three meals a day along with a couple of snacks. We have even invented another name for a meal between breakfast and lunch “brunch!”

Continuous feeding vs controlled feeding is another example, parallel to the diabetes example I talked about in my book, From 10 to 5 My Journey With Diabetes, where going in the opposite direction of mainstream advice, makes a big difference.

Rather than buying into this constant appetite creation as suggested by nutritionists, I believe in the use of fasting; not only in Ramadan. Intermittent fasting is a major approach used by many throughout the ages. Dr. Jason Fung uses this approach in reversing T2 diabetes. In other words, the reduction of food consumption along with better choices of food play a vital role in weight and diabetes management. While Dr. Fung mainly talks about losing weight and type 2 diabetes, intermittent fasting shows fruitful results with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes as well.

Continuous Feeding and Leptin Resistance

The key is that breaking the fasting should only take place with a well-managed keto meal. Please note that overweight people who choose eating keto, should reduce their consumption of fat as they become fat adapted, as they will be using their own body fat as a source of energy and this will substitute the external fat needs. Dr. Eric Westman and Dr. Gary Fettke advise the same.

Remarkably, many people with diabetes and even non-diabetics (especially overweight ones) have an increased appetite for food. Their brain no longer receives the satiety signal to stop the continuous desire for eating. Most likely, this happens because of Leptin Resistance. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells to signal the brain they are full. Upon receiving the signal, the brain transmits back signals to the body to stop eating and start raising the metabolic rate. Therefore, when you are leptin sensitive, you could burn your fat easier, feel full faster and enjoy high metabolic rate. But, when you are leptin resistant, your brain does not get the required Leptin signal. As a result, the brain refrains from giving the three big commands:

  1. Stop eating.
  2. Stop storing energy as fat.
  3. Increase the metabolic rate.

Instead, it induces the body to eat more, store more fat and to slow the metabolic rate, as it thinks you are starving. Fasting along with sensible ketogenic diet help a lot in correcting the leptin resistance problem.

Many of us have never experienced nutritional ketosis, as we leave no room and time for utilizing our stored fat. In fact, our bodies have become fat storing machines as we live in a state of continuous feeding. When we are in this state, we are going completely against our manufacture’s catalog. We are not programmed to have food available all the time. We must search for it and hunt it as our ancestors always did.

Islam, Ramadan and Fasting

Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) said

“No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drinking and one-third for his breathing."

The true wisdom of this Hadeeth (quote) sums it up all. You should never fill up your stomach to the maximum extent; otherwise, it will influence your health negatively. You only need a little food (the right food of course) to enable you to move around, be active and take care of your daily chores. The rest is wasted and damaging.

Fasting provides a clear mind and body. Fasting is a natural state we faced in our daily lives, over and over in history, when food was scarce. It improves our health as it cleanses our bodies from within. It allows the recycle of malignant, weak and dead cells through Apoptosis and Autophagy. Both fasting and a well-managed ketogenic meal to break your fasting improve insulin sensitivity and help you lose excess weight with no money spent. Above all, it makes normalizing blood sugar and losing weight a piece of cake – a low-carb cake of course.

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Ahmed Afifi

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Ahmed Afifi

Thank yoi with respect and appreciation 🌺

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