Co-authored by Mohammad Al-Kayani and Shivani Sharma-Savani.
Losing weight and fasting often go together. And if you’re observing Ramadan this year, you’re probably wondering how to balance it with your weight loss efforts.
Let’s take a look.
Fasting with weight loss medication: the official advice
GLP1-RA medications were originally used for type 2 diabetes so have plenty of examples of use during Ramadan. The same advice can be applied to those taking these medications for weight loss.
According to a study, you should take daily weight loss tablets when breaking the fast after sunset at Iftar. Wait 30 minutes while participating in the Maghrib prayer, then eat afterwards. This follows the dosing instructions of taking it on an empty stomach and waiting for 30 minutes before eating or drinking.
With injectable GLP-1 medications like Wegovy or Saxenda, the advice is the same as usual. Take it on the same day each week at roughly the same time. It can be taken with or without meals.
When fasting while on weight loss medication, inform your clinician and health coach to discuss your options. It may affect your dosage or side effects.
What to eat after fasting
Fasting during the day might lead to a binge session when you stop. Suppressing your appetite with medication should stop this but it’s still important to choose your food wisely if you want to continue losing weight. It’ll be tempting to indulge.
Make sure you enjoy a balanced diet. Don’t skip your pre-dawn meal and choose whole foods containing high amounts of fibre and protein. Buying in advance will help with this. If you want to carry on losing weight, you can’t throw all nutritional value out the window just because you haven’t eaten all day. Instead, be mindful of the nutritional values of the foods you consume in the time frame you do have.
However, forming healthy habits is all down to enjoyment, so don’t be hard on yourself if you enjoy Iftar with an indulgence or two. When it’s over, it won’t hurt to start again.
Other lifestyle changes to be careful of
Your routine changes during Ramadan which may affect weight loss or cause weight gain.
It’s tempting to do less exercise as you’re fasting and that feels like enough. Exercise is vital to weight loss so you won't lose weight at the same rate. Don’t start a new exercise program during Ramadan, as this won’t be sustainable. Focus on maintaining current levels of activity safely, or even doing less depending on how you feel.
Your sleep routine may also change. You might rise for the pre-dawn meal (Suhur) and dawn (Fajr) prayer, whilst you might delay your start to work or work shorter hours. Any change to your routine will impact your shut-eye which is a big part of weight loss.
Consider temporarily stopping
If you’re worried about taking weight loss medication whilst fasting, you can stop taking it during Ramadan. It won’t harm your long-term goal of losing weight by stopping for a month.
If you’re fasting anyway, you’re unlikely to put on weight in that month. Studies have shown a significant reduction in fat percentage between pre-Ramadan and post-Ramadan in people with obesity. It could even be the kick you need to follow through with your weight loss.
Alternatively, illness constitutes an exemption from fasting during Ramadan according to the Qur’an. Obesity is classified as a disease, so there is leeway if you think it’ll negatively impact your health. It would be worth talking to your Imam or GP to discuss the options if you’re unsure.
The numan take
Ramadan could affect your weight loss efforts. But only temporarily. Losing weight isn’t about restriction, it’s about finding healthy habits that’ll stick. Don’t worry about indulging yourself or if you hit the pause button on your medication. Some things are more important. As soon as it’s over you’ll be ready to fight weight once again.