This is what a juice cleanse does to your body
Your metabolism slows down and you lose muscle
by Helena Baron
One of the most popular health fads of the moment is the juice cleanse. Countless businesses run on selling these products to customers in need of a “quick fix” before hitting the beach, their cousin’s wedding, or even just trying on that new skimpy blouse.
Of course, as it is with every money-making scheme, the marketing around these products is crafted with such precision and focus that the target audience, often young professional women, seems to lap it up without a second thought. Throw in some key words such as “detoxifying”, “cleansing” or “renewal”, a carefully edited picture of some vibrant-looking juices in quirky bottles, and a couple of celebrity “ambassadors” for good measure and you have yourself a successful brand.
Unfortunately, this kind of marketing brushes over some very serious and very real side effects that such juice cleanses can have. We talked to Clare Fargher, a degree-qualified nutritionist to find out exactly what the adverts fail to mention.
You can lose muscle rather than fat, as you’re effectively starving yourself
Ultimately, if you are only drinking fruit and veg for a week, you’re missing out on some majorly important food groups. Not least of these is protein. Without protein, you can’t maintain muscle tissue and so, in the long term, juice cleanses can actually promote muscle wastage rather than fat loss.
You can get nausea, fatigue, constipation, diarrhoea or bad breath
Another side effect of processing so few calories per day is ketosis, when ketone bodies are produced due to “the incomplete breakdown of fat when glucose is not available”. At worst, when there are high levels of ketone bodies in your system, this “can cause the body’s metabolism to go awry, potentially causing nausea, fatigue, constipation or diarrhoea, low blood pressure… and bad breath.”
It could actually slow your metabolism down
What is more, because of the major lack in nutrients your body is receiving, it will go into starvation mode, meaning your metabolism slows down. Not only does this mean you will have less energy, but once you come off a juice cleanse and resume a normal diet, your now “skewed metabolism, will try to [over]compensate, which can often result in overeating, quickly regaining any lost weight”
High sugar in fruit can lead to sugar spikes and imbalanced hormones
Although it isn’t obvious because it isn’t the more typical processed kind, fruit is extremely high in sugar – in fact, Clare explains, “juice can have as much sugar as some soft drinks”. This can lead to sugar spikes, especially when coupled with the fact that the juicing process removes a lot of the vital fiber in fruit and vegetables, which usually mediates blood glucose response. In the long term this can be negative both in terms of hormones and your metabolism, as your body is continually in a cycle of extreme sugar highs and lows.
Don’t believe the marketing, it won’t cleanse your system
One of the main attractions of a juice cleanse is said to be that it helps remove toxins from your body and cleanses your system. “This is a fallacy”, Clare told us, explaining that the body has built-in methods of detoxing and cleansing our systems. Specifically, one of the main purposes of the liver and kidneys is to make sure our body’s contents is in balance and that it is healthy enough to function, so the idea of ‘flushing out’ toxins simply isn’t possible!
Instead, if we want to promote a balanced and healthy body system, Clare suggests: “We would be better off eating really healthy food for five days rather than drinking juice alone for five days” – this way you are providing your body with the exact nutrients it needs, just without unwanted additions of processed food, alcohol and too much sugar.
In addition to all of the above, Clare points out that people “get caught up in the marketing” and justify spending what is actually quite a high amount for what you are getting. Instead, she suggests that “it would be cheaper to buy healthy fruits and vegetables for a week”.
Clearly there’s no “quick fix” when it comes to our bodies – it’s a change in lifestyle, not a miserable week spent sipping on over-priced juices, which will really show us the results we want.