By Lucy Gornall
Juice cleanses are more popular than ever. What are the benefits and changes you can expect to experience if you try one? I decided to take the plunge and try a juice diet myself, and these are my candid (perhaps for some tastes, too candid) thoughts.
Go on a juice cleanse, they said. It will kick start your digestion, they said. And help you poo, they said. I say ‘they’', I mean advertisers, promoters, and juice-diet advocates. Ahh, go on then, I thought. Despite the fact that a previous attempt at doing a juice diet left me so ridiculously hungry that I caved after half a day, I vowed that this time I would be strong. Armed with my juicer and an arsenal of juice recipes, I was ready.
Step one of the juice cleanse process is understanding what you're doing, it's not to be confused with blending! Juicing is when you consume the squeezed juices from fruits and vegetables and you separate them from the pulp. Blending mixes all the edible parts of the fruit and vegetables, including the pulp and fibrous parts (we do have a guide to the best blenders and some great smoothie recipes if juicing isn't your thing).
How long is a typical juice cleanse?
Juice cleanses are short, intensive periods of time, usually lasting between 3-10 days, where you only consume only the juice of fruits and vegetables. The makers and promoters of juice cleanses claim that they aid weight loss and detoxify the body.
I opted for a two-day Juice Fast Diet by well-known juicing brand Nosh Detox, which claims to help you lose weight and feel great, purify and nitrify inside and out without feeling hunger, and clear toxins from your system. Priced at a generous £110, I was hopeful. In fact, Nosh Detox says that 98% of clients have lost a few kgs within a few days.
Beginning my juice cleanse journey
Two black gift-bag style bags arrive at my flat the afternoon before I kick off my juice cleanse. I’m actually spreading generous lumps of hummus on crackers when the delivery man turns up. There are also sausages and garlic bread in the oven. I sheepishly put the juices away—back to the hummus. Each bag carries a day's worth of juices. There’s one morning tonic and four 500ml juices—each a bright, vibrant ‘healthy’ color. I’m excited, although I'm still skeptical that this will keep me full. Nosh Detox also says that the cleanse helps to reduce sugar cravings, so I’m praying this kicks my 4pm chocolate habit to the curb.
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Day 1 of the juice cleanse
It’s recommended that hard cardio is avoided whilst on the cleanse, although gentle exercise is encouraged. As a personal trainer and health writer, would I be listening? No. Should I have listened? Yes. I throw myself into my usual morning workout – a mixture of weights, cardio and high-intensity interval training. Post-workout, I arrive at my desk and knock back a sour-tasting Lemon & Ginger Tonic—to be drunk at 8.30am—aptly described as ‘the healer’. I despise the taste at first. In fact, I despise the taste full stop. But, it’s bitter lemon and firey ginger with no honey to offset with sweetness, so what was I expecting?
Later in the morning, it’s time for my first 500ml juice—The Rehydrator, to be drunk at 11am. But it’s only 10.20 and I’m peckish and I can't resist. It’s a tasty mix of summery fruits, as well as flaxseed, known to help digestion and, erm, push things along. Well, just 15 minutes later, things ‘have been pushed along’ alright and I experience my first juice diet movement.
At 11.35am—just 1 hour and 15 minutes after my second juice—I cave in and have some seeds. And a few Malteasers. I’m legitimately hungry and it’s not even been half a day. I’m unsure whether I’m hungry because I KNOW I can’t eat, or if I am in fact starving, which does feel possible. Lunchtime is at 1.30—another 500ml bottle of goodness—which actually does actually fill me up this time. I am feeling great. Honestly.
Then 4.30 is The Healer, a green juice. I’m a sucker for green juice, but as they tend to pack in insane amounts of fruit, I am also a little wary of the sugar hit. This one contains avocado, mango, watercress, pineapple and Green Synergy Powder—packed with protein. It’s surprisingly good. Like Bali in a bottle. Plus, I feel quite energised after and ready for a busy evening of teaching gym classes. Digestion wise, I’m quite gassy. I’m not bloated, but I keep getting urges to ‘go’. I get home for dinner—a yellow, fruit-filled juice, which also tastes great. I cheat again with a huge bowl of yoghurt and granola afterwards though. Oh, and a carrot. I can’t help it—I have this incessant desire to chew something.
The juice cleanse diet racks up about 900-1000 calories a day, a far cry from the NHS recommended 2000 calories-a-day. So, it’s no surprise my stomach is wanting some grub. However, that night I sleep like a baby. Apart from my overly full bladder waking me up at 1am, desperate for a wee. That’s what happens I guess when you drink half a litre of juice before hitting the sack.
Day 2 of the juice cleanse
I awake on day two full of energy. At 8:30am I only drink half of the Lemon and Ginger Tonic—it makes me physically wretch. Instead, my coffee kick starts my digestion today, and trust me—you don't want me to expand on that.
I mix up my juices today opting for the 4.30 juice at 11 am. It’s The Healer again – this time made with kiwi, leafy greens, banana, oranges, and Green Synergy Powder—and it tastes amazing. I down it so fast though, that it doesn’t even touch the sides. So half a fruit and nut bar along with some almonds finishes me off.
I feel like such a cheater but remind myself that I have been exercising so I am going to need some extra calories. In between the 1.30pm and 4.30pm juices, I snack a little more; crisps, Malteasers (again), dried fruit, granola straight from the box. By 4pm on day two, my bowels are not happy. I have to run to the loo a good few times and whilst out on the tube, the urge to go strikes me and I have a mild panic. I guess it’s the combination of random snacks and over two liters worth of fruit and vegetables. By the end of day two, I get into bed and enjoy another blissful sleep. My juice diet is over.
The verdict—is a juice cleanse really worth it?
So what’s changed? Are my skintight jeans feeling baggy? Is my skin glowing Honestly, no. My size certainly hasn’t changed and my skin looks the same, but I do strangely have heaps of energy.
The most obvious thing I noticed was the increased bowel movements. I feel flushed out. Empty. Not surprising really as I’ve just spent the past two days dashing to the loo. I was expecting that the juices would make things move a little—but I wasn’t prepared for just how much, the experience could rival colonic irrigation. Whenever I went to, ahem, relieve myself, it always felt unfinished, and 10 minutes later I would be back. I lost count of the number of trips I made.
Doing a juice diet also taught me that if you’re exercising, whether at the gym or during at-home workouts, your body really does need extra fuel. If you don’t fill the tank, you can't expect it to run. However, knowing that I have spent two days giving my body so many great vitamins and minerals, is reassuring. I hope that this health injection helps me to ward off the endless bugs and lurgies which are flying around right now.
How to juice cleanse
If the trips to the loo haven't put you off and you're looking to try a juice cleanse—here are our five top tips:
1. Set your expectations
Why are you doing the juice cleanse? Whatever your aim, be aware that while a juice cleanse might help with a lot of problems– it’s not a fast-track solution. According to the NHS, the best results will come from a set of sustained, healthier changes to your lifestyle.
2. Avoid strenuous exercise during the cleanse
While gentle exercising is encouraged on a juice cleanse, strenuous exercise should be avoided.
3. Don’t feel guilty about adding some solids
To keep the cleanse going, some people need to add a little something extra. That’s okay! Why not turn one of your juices into a smoothie with a cow’s milk alternative, like cashew milk? Or include a handful of almonds? We have a great selection of drinks that will help you lose weight when drunk in the evening
4. Be aware of how much juice you’re drinking
If you’re making your own pressed juices for the juice cleanse, be careful that you don’t drink too much or too little. For a cleanse of one to three days, it’s advised that you drink around 32 oz. of juice, with at least half of that being green juice.
5. Eat lightly after the cleanse
Juice cleanses are supposed to revitalize your system, so it’s important that you don’t jump straight back into a normal eating regime. Ease into eating solid foods again by adding ingredients back over a number of days.
Lucy Gornall is the former Health & Fitness editor at Future and a personal trainer specializing in pre and post-natal exercise.
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