Whether you wanted to detox from an unhealthy diet or drop a few pounds to look svelte in your bikini, I can almost guarantee that you’ve considered a juice cleanse at some point in your life. Food marketers and manufacturers know this too. That’s how the fresh-pressed juice market has reportedly become a $3.4 billion industry. Yes, that’s right, I said BILLION.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to the temptation. The only thing that has kept me from taking the plunge is the cost. Juice cleansing does not come cheap. For a three-day cleanse, you’re looking at spending around $200 – for juice.
So, why do we buy into it? For one, marketers do a really good job of romanticizing the idea that a juice cleanse will undo all the ways we’ve mistreated our bodies. When, in reality, there is very little science directly supporting their claims.
Note: I am in no way suggesting that drinking green juice is bad for you – it’s filled with vitamins and antioxidants that are absolutely beneficial for your health. My issue stems from drinking ONLY juice for days on end with the belief that it will fix all your problems.
Still, it’s hard to resist when these companies make you believe their product is the magic bullet you’ve been waiting for. The thing is, unless you have a medical issue and your doctor tells you that you need to follow this type of diet, you may be setting yourself up for more bad than good – and wasting your hard-earned money in the process.
Let’s look at some of the downsides of a juice cleanse so that you’re fully informed next time you’re tempted:
Have you heard of starvation mode (a.k.a. adaptive thermogenesis in scientific circles)? It’s a natural response to long-term calorie restriction, in which your body reduces the amount of calories it burns (metabolizes) as a way to conserve energy. Basically, your body realizes it’s getting less food, so it decreases the energy output to compensate by lowering your metabolism.
Why am I telling you this? Because long-term or repeated juice cleanses can put your body into starvation mode and I’m guessing you wouldn’t be so quick to consider a juice cleanse if weight loss was taken out of the endgame.
Even if the duration of your cleanse isn’t long enough to send your body into starvation mode, functioning on so few calories (especially while missing major macronutrients like protein and fat) puts undue stress on your body.
Guess what chronic stress does to your body?
It makes you hold on to weight.
Destabilizes Blood Sugar.
While it’s absolutely true that consuming fresh-pressed juice is an easy way to get in phytonutrients, which can help protect your body from disease-causing free radicals, it also contains a large amount of fructose (fruit sugar). Yes, fruit has sugar.
Let me back up. Whole fruit contains natural sugar (fructose). It’s what makes fruits sweet. Some fruits (like bananas) contain more sugar than others (like berries). When you consume fruit in its whole form the effects on your blood sugar are reduced, because, in addition to the fructose, you are also getting fiber. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream – keeping your blood sugar levels more stable. The process of juicing removes the fiber from the fruit, leaving the sugar behind.
What does all this mean? It means that without the fiber, fructose suddenly has a fast lane to your blood.
Not to mention that it takes multiple pieces of whole fruit to get one glass of juice, meaning that you’re consuming the sugar of three apples instead of one.
To put things in perspective, some of these juices have 30-40 grams of sugar per juice. The typical cleanse has you drinking six of these per day. This means you are consuming around six times the World Health Organization’s daily recommended limit of 25 grams.
All the excess sugar has to be stored in the body somewhere. Since your energy levels will likely be lower because of the reduced calorie intake, your body won’t need all that sugar for fuel. Guess where it gets stored? Your fat cells. That’s not what you wanted, is it?
Any Weight Loss is Temporary.
You just finished your 7-day juice cleanse. You’re euphoric and feel like you can accomplish anything. You step on the scale to find that you’ve lost 5 pounds, reinforcing your decision to do the cleanse in the first place. Sounds great, right?
Not so fast…
Did your scale tell you what KIND of weight you lost? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t 5 pounds of fat.
It’s much more likely that the weight loss was water weight or loss of muscle. If you go on an extended cleanse that doesn’t contain an adequate amount of protein, your body will start taking the protein it needs to function from your muscles. This results in a loss of muscle mass, not fat.
Once you start eating normally again, your weight will even itself out.
Your body is already equipped to detox.
The human body is more amazing than most of us (myself included) give it credit for. In fact, our kidneys, liver, and GI tract are meant to be cleansing every day. They are actually very good at it.
Although I completely understand wanting to reset your diet to break away from unhealthy eating habits, you’d be much better off “cleansing” with real, whole foods.
What does this type of “cleanse” look like? For 4-7 days max completely avoid the following:
- Packaged and/or processed foods
- Foods with added sugars (limit fruit intake to 1/day max)
- Artificial sweeteners
So, what’s left? Fill up on greens, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, clean protein (for meat eaters: grass-fed beef or organic fish), and healthy fats. I promise, if you do it correctly, you will never feel hungry or deprived and your built-in cleansing system (kidneys, liver, and GI tract) will get a break – although it’s not clear they need one.
Avoiding the foods above will also help clear your mind and make you feel better overall because it can set a framework for a healthier lifestyle – whatever that means to you. Just make sure you plan the days after the cleanse at the same time as you plan the cleanse itself. What you do after is just as important (if not more so) than what you do during.
Have questions about cleansing? Leave a comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.