Clean Eating

Juice Cleanses: Harmful Or Healthy

If you want to lose weight, or if you’ve had a few weeks of alcohol and junk food, you’ve probably at some point thought about doing a juice fast. Just sign up, pay some company a huge chunk of money for fresh-pressed juice and don’t think about eating for 3-10 days. Sounds like a great quick fix, right? The problem is that quick fixes rarely work, and can even do more harm than good.

What right do I have to talk about juice fasts? I have been down that road and I know the effect they can have. You may feel great and “light” after the hunger and cravings have subsided, but you can get that same feeling with a healthy cleanse (AKA clean eating) without the negative side effects of a juice fast.

What’s my problem with them?

When you drink only juice, you are giving your body a surplus of some vitamins and minerals, yes, cool… BUT you are also robbing it of some other ones. Juice is made entirely of fruit and/or vegetables, which are carbohydrates. Therefore you’re putting yourself on a 100% carb diet. If you are doing a cleanse that has some cashew milk thrown in there, that makes it a little better, but you are still on probably an 85% carb diet with 10% calories from fat and 5% from protein. And I might be being generous.

The worst effects of juice fasts are: 

(1) Losing muscle

(2) Slowing down your metabolism.

Here’s why…

The reason you lose weight on a juice fast is because you are putting yourself at a caloric deficit.  A lot of that quick weight loss is going to be water, some of it will be fat, but a portion of it will also be muscle. In a caloric deficit, your body is going to take from your fat and muscles, but without much protein in your diet, your muscles will definitely diminish.

Your metabolism slows down for a few reasons.

  • One of the reasons is because you lost muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat.
  • Also, you’re hardly digesting (which some “health” people will say is a good thing but I disagree because now your stomach doesn’t really have to work all that much, and that’s its job. It doesn’t need a vacation.
  • Your macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) aren’t balanced.
  • You are having far too few calories. While some caloric deficit can be good, too much can cause your body to go into “starvation mode,” which means that your metabolism slows down to compensate for a lack of fuel.

So now you have finished your fast, you feel great and you look thinner, but unfortunately you lost muscle and your metabolism slowed down soooooo…. You go to eat a regular diet again, and guess what happens… You gain weight! And then that makes you want to do another juice fast (because “oh, I lost so much weight last time”), and that starts the whole cycle over.

Does that “oh so healthy” juice fast sound like a good idea anymore? Trust me, it’s not worth it. Before I studied nutrition, I was into “health” and thought it was healthy to do juice fasts. I got into that cycle of juice fast after juice fast and lost significant muscle, killed my body’s ability to digest well, and plummeted my metabolism. It took awhile to get it all back.

If you’re thinking about a juice fast, think again. And if you can commit yourself to not eating for 3-10 days, I think you have the strength and the will power to commit to clean eating for 3-10 days. You’ll feel good, your cravings will start to diminish, and you can keep your muscles and metabolism healthy.