Juice cleanses – we’ve all heard about them, and most of us attempted one at least once in our lives.
They’re heavily promoted by celebrities who claim they help to lose weight, detoxify their bodies (whatever that means, but more on that later) and maintain this unearthly “healthy glow”. The best example is probably Gwyneth Paltrow, who claims that juicing is the way to be healthy, feel better and be happier.
So is juice cleanse really such a great way to help you feel better and lose weight?
The answer, unfortunately, is not really.
First of all, switching from your everyday diet, which consists of mostly solid food, to a diet based entirely on liquids is a bit of a shock to your system.
It’s a big change and your body will let you know that. You are likely to feel more tired, experience some stomach issues and generally feel a little less productive, not to mention the bad breath. That’s normal, any drastic change in diet can cause that, especially if you’re consuming fewer calories which is giving your body less fuel.
But unlike other diets, juice cleanse is not going to have long-lasting benefits on your body. Because it’s such a drastic diet change that only lasts for a short period of time, you will get back to how you were before very quickly.
So are the claims made by all juice cleanse enthusiast untrue?
Claim 1: Juice cleanse is going to detoxify your body and help it get rid of toxins
This is one of the main reasons why people are attracted to juicing – the perception that it will rid the body of harmful ‘toxins’.
What are toxins exactly? This is where it all gets a bit vague. Toxins are generally a controversial term. One definition is that they are poisonous substances produced within living organisms, although it is often expanded in everyday use to include non-biological agents, such as heavy metals and environmental pollutants.
Juice cleanses are supposed to help your body flush out all the harmful substances, leaving your system clean and toxin-free. The bad news is our insides don’t work the same as the outside of our body. You can’t just wash it with water and hope it gets clean.
The good news is that we have organs dedicated to the task of inactivating and excreting harmful substances, such as the liver and kidneys, that are constantly helping us to clear out potentially dangerous compounds. If they work correctly, you will be able to get rid of harmful substances in your body naturally. And a juice cleanse will have virtually no effect on that. Many juice cleanses will recognise that your body eliminates ‘toxins’ and detoxes itself but will go on to state that there are others, ‘hidden’ that your body does not know about, or can’t detox. Although if that were the case then surely there’d be some science behind it.
Claim 2: It’s the best way to lose weight
You will lose weight during a juice cleanse. That is definitely true. But the proportion of that weight that is actually fat is another matter. In the case of very fast weight loss, more often than not the major contributors are water, muscle glycogen, and physically carrying less food in your digestive system. All of which will come right back after returning to your normal diet.
That is often true about restrictive diets – you are likely to gain some weight back after you finish them. However, for a diet to be truly effective, it should be treated more as a permanent, long-term change of your eating habits. Juice cleanses are unsustainable for long periods of time because they can have adverse effects on your body, even causing severe malnutrition.
Also if you exercise regularly and aim to build muscles, you need to take into account that the protein intake during a juice cleanse will not be enough to sustain your muscle, and some of weight that you lose during a cleanse is more likely to be muscle tissue.
The trick is to use the juice cleanse detox as a starting point to a healthier lifestyle. If you feel as though your body is in need of such a cleanse remember that for actual results you’ll need to change your entire lifestyle and diet.
Claim 3: Juice cleanse is going to restore your “healthy glow”
This is a tricky one because we are not sure what that is exactly and presume no one does.
If you mean the way celebs look on the red carpet, that’s just the wonders of make-up. And very expensive skincare.
Juice cleanse is not going to make you look like Beyonce. That glow that you see is most likely skilful use of makeup done by a trained professional, good lighting and potentially photo editing.
Is juice cleanse just pure evil then?
Well, no. It’s not really harmful to your body if done for a short period of time; it can give you a bit of a vitamin boost and can help you cut out junk food for a while, which is clearly the reason why after coming out the other end of a detox you feel a whole lot better and more energetic.
But it’s not sustainable, and therefore not an effective strategy for long term health.
What can we recommend instead? Eat more fruit and veg with your meal. Fresh or cooked, it’s good for you. Striking a balance between the food you eat and how much of it you eat, while incorporating healthier, nutritious foods is a much more effective way to achieve your body goals.
Download our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Nutrition to help you get started with your healthy lifestyle