'Water is the struggle' this Ramadan

Extra care must be taken to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids before and after the daytime fast during one of hottest summers in a decade.

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ABU DHABI // A desire to show solidarity with her employees was what first prompted Sarah Bartlett to join her Muslim work team in fasting four years ago. Ms Bartlett, an executive with Weber Shandwick, a British communications company, enjoyed the experience.

Every year since, the process has fostered friendships, prompted better self-knowledge and generally been "spiritually beneficial", she said. But, looking ahead to the coming month, there is one aspect that stands out as the most challenging. "For me it is the water," she said. "That is the struggle and this year it is going to be very difficult." She is not alone. Ramadan falls during one of the hottest summers in more than a decade at a time of the year when the days are longest.

As temperatures push in to the high 40s, those who fast are being advised to stock up before and after the fast to minimise the impact of going without liquid during the day. "The most important risk is dehydration," said Dr Richard Nabhan, consultant physician at Dar al Shifaa hospital in Abu Dhabi. "People should drink a lot of water during sohoor [the meal before sunrise]." Corey Oliver, founder and managing director of Original Fitness Co, said everyone who lived in the region should drink from three to 4.5 litres of water per day. The same amount of liquid should be consumed at the times when water intake is allowed, he advised.

"Summer is very, very high risk for dehydration," said Mr Oliver. "Here, people work in air-conditioned offices, live in air-conditioned homes and exercise in air-conditioned halls. "The air-conditioning dehydrates your body. It saps all of the moisture from your body and absorbs it into the air." The heat, fasting and air-conditioning "is a recipe for disaster if not managed properly", he said. People should stock up on liquid at night and prepare for the day ahead, said Mr Oliver.

He also advised avoiding coffee and tea. "If you have one cup of coffee, you need three cups of water to rehydrate yourself," he said. People can still exercise while they fast, said the long-term fitness professional, who has been in the UAE for four years. However, they should exercise after iftar, their first meal of the day, and reduce the intensity of their workouts. The UAE's freediving champion, Adel abu Haliqa, plans to scale down his daily workouts. Although deep-sea diving will be off-limits, he will focus on milder exercise such as yoga in the morning, as well as swimming and breathing exercises.

"I plan my training so that I do not overexert or lose too much liquid during the day," he said. This is the third year Mr abu Haliqa has found himself fasting and training at the same time. Abstaining from water will be difficult, he said, but not impossible to manage. "The psychological part plays a big role," he said. "It has a lot to do with your beliefs. If you know this is something you should do, that makes it easier."