How to stay hydrated during Ramadan and foods to avoid

Here are the best ways to keep water levels up outside fasting hours

One doctor warns against drinking large amounts of water in one go, as our bodies cannot absorb it all. Unsplash
Powered by automated translation

With Ramadan under way, staying hydrated is one of the main considerations for people who are fasting.

About 60 to 70 per cent of the human body is made up of water, which carries oxygen and vital nutrients to our cells. Among other things, this also helps to regulate body temperature, which is important for those living in hot climates such as the UAE.

“Staying hydrated during Ramadan can be tricky, especially with the long days and soaring temperatures that accompany the holy month when it falls during the summer,” says Dr Thamir Alkasab, a specialist in urology at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.

Dr Thamir Alkasab, a specialist in urology at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, advises those fasting to take fluids before dawn and after sunset.
Dr Thamir Alkasab, a specialist in urology at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, advises those fasting to take fluids before dawn and after sunset.

We all lose water throughout the day through breathing, sweating and going to the bathroom, and not replacing those fluids can lead to dehydration, which presents a challenge during Ramadan. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate the loss.

“You can guard against dehydration in two ways: firstly, by taking fluids on board before dawn and after sunset, and secondly, by limiting the amount of water that you lose during the day,” says Alkasab.

“Outside of fasting times, drink plenty of water in frequent sips. Water hydrates the body better than fizzy drinks and fruit juices. Don’t drink very large amounts of water in one go, as your body won’t be able to absorb it all. Avoid drinking coffee, tea and soft drinks that contain caffeine, as these will make you go to the toilet more often and cause dehydration,” he says.

Dr Mona Mobarak, a nutritionist who works closely with Abu Dhabi 360, also suggests ensuring you eat water-rich foods during iftar and suhoor. "Try eating fluid-rich fruits and vegetables such as apples, watermelon, cucumber, blueberries, tomatoes and spinach," she says. "They will help keep hydration levels high during the day, which will help with energy levels."

She also suggests limiting salt intake where possible. "Salt can have an immediate effect on thirst if eaten in excess," she says. "When cooking swap salt with herbs, spices, lemon, and lime to add flavour."

Being outside in warm temperatures will lead to a further loss of fluids through sweating and faster breathing, Alkasab says, so it is better for hydration levels to opt for a lighter form of exercise, such as walking or cycling at cooler times of the day.

“Just because you’re not thirsty doesn’t mean you’re not dehydrated,” he says. “Look out for warning signs such as yellow urine, reduced frequency or volume of urine and feeling faint or dizzy. Brown urine is a sign you are severely dehydrated and you should seek medical help.”

Alkasab also offers advice for those with children who might be fasting for the first time this Ramadan. "Make sure they drink lots of fluids, especially water, after breaking their fast and until they go to sleep – on average, children aged 9 to 13 need two litres of water during the day, while older kids, especially boys, need around 2.5 litres, to stay properly hydrated."

He also says that sugary foods should be kept to a minimum, as they can lead to children feeling very thirsty the next day, while eating wholegrains, dried fruits and foods high in fibre will help them with essential bathroom visits.

Encouraging children to wash their face and neck throughout the day will keep them cool and avoid excess sweating, Alkasab says, and suggests limiting exercise or outdoor play at the hottest points of the day.

A version of this story first appeared on The National in May 2020