Whether it’s for their perceived detoxification purposes, an attempt at “cleansing” the body, or a short-term weight loss strategy, most people start a juice cleanse with the best of intentions: improving their health. But despite their enduring popularity, juice cleanses just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to results. In fact, any dietitian will tell you they’re actually not that healthy. Here’s what you need to know about juice cleanses.

What are juice cleanses?

Juice cleanses typically involve consuming fruit and/or vegetable juice only, for a duration of anywhere between one to seven days. Three day juice cleanses are a popular option. One of the major reasons that people go on a juice cleanse is because they believe it will help them to lose weight. Well, this is true, they will! But… not in the way that people commonly think.

Can a juice cleanse help you lose weight?

Unfortunately, it’s not fat loss that occurs during a juice cleanse. What happens during a juice cleanse is that you’re basically drinking pimped up water for an extended period of time, and in doing so you put your body into an energy deficit, i.e. you are consuming less kilojoules than your body requires to function and do everything you want it to do. Our body likes to run off of something called glucose, and it likes it so much that it stores extra away for a rainy day (when we don’t consume enough through diet) in the form of glycogen, which gets tucked away in our liver and muscle tissue. For every gram of glycogen that we have stored, we also store a few grams worth of water with it. So, when you put your body into an energy deficit during a juice cleanse, you’re triggering the body to use up the muscle glycogen stores, and along with it the water stores – you’re not actually hacking into your fat stores! The grams or kilos you see disappearing on the scale are glycogen and water.

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Can a juice cleanse detox your body?

Another major reason that people hop on the juice cleanse bandwagon is that they believe they’re giving their body a detox or cleanse. You actually don’t need to do this! Your liver is the body’s major detoxification organ, it does the cleansing for you! Yes, your diet and lifestyle can make the liver less effective, but it’s not the juice cleanse itself that helps your liver do its job. It’s the break from overconsumption of processed foods and alcohol. You’d be helping your liver just as much, if not more, by simply giving the processed foods and alcohol a break, whilst maintaining an overall nourishing diet. To this point, a major red flag is the fact that juices cleanses are typically void of fibre, protein, and healthy fats, which are all incredibly healthy and important in the body. Anyone who is health conscious has likely learned of the importance of the gut microbiome and its role in numerous aspects of our health. What feeds and encourages a healthy microbiome? Fibre! Protein is also incredibly important for energy production, balancing blood sugar levels, building and repairing muscle tissue, making hormones and enzymes, and much, much more. Healthy fats encourage cellular health, support hormone health, and are actually needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).

What can you do instead of a juice cleanse?

So, what do we suggest doing if you’ve been overindulging in the choccies, or out on the sauce a bit more regularly than you’d like? Step one: don’t panic and buy a juice cleanse. Step two: go back to basics. Health really is about nailing the basics, consistently. Here are our top tips: 

  • At each meal, aim to have the following proportions on your plate: ½ plate colour (fruits or veggies), ¼ plate lean protein, ¼ plate wholegrains, and a sprinkle of healthy fats. 
  • Aim to eat up to 30 plant foods per week for a hefty dose of nutrients. This includes legumes, wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Drink water. 35-45ml per kg of body weight is a great starting point. Bump this up if you’re engaging in vigorous, sweaty exercise. 
  • And if you’re ever going to try a ‘diet’, make it the Mediterranean Diet. Need some recipe ideas? Download our Food & Mood recipe eBook below!