Juice fasts (or juice cleanses) get a lot of positive and negative press. Some say that it's great for detoxing, losing weight, curbing cravings, and more. The critics say that it's a "fad" and is bad for your metabolism.
I can only speak from personal experience, and personally, I love juice fasts! I use it as part of a healthy lifestyle- physically, mentally, and spiritually. I do a 3-day juice fast a few times per year, typically when the weather changes. I don't get sick often, but the few times I've gotten very sick with cold-like symptoms, doing a juice fast helped me to heal so much faster.
Firstly, what the heck is a juice fast?
I couldn’t find a credible definition online, so I’ll define it in my own words: A juice cleanse, or otherwise known as a “juice fast”, is when one drinks solely fruit and vegetable juice and abstains from any other food, usually for a few days.
I'm not talking about Mott's Apple Juice or V8 (please don't ever drink those- full of sugar and preservatives!). I'm talking about real, high-quality juice that is made fresh and not pasteurized or heat processed in any way.
As always, I recommend that you do your research. There aren’t a lot of studies proving that juice fasts are “good for you” or “bad for you”. From my research, the few studies that have been done around juice fasting are around its effects on weight loss. Let me be clear: juice fasting is not an effective way to lose weight. During a juice fast, you aren’t eating solid food and are consuming less calories that you normally would, so naturally your belly will flatten and you may drop a few pounds of water weight. But you gain it all back once you start consuming solid food again! So, I don’t recommend using a juice fast as a sustainable way to lose weight. There are no “quick fixes” when it comes to your physique- you can only achieve the results you want through a clean diet and exercise!
So, why do a juice fast?
Great question! Fasting has been used as a healing technique for thousands of years. Almost every religion has a season where many devoted to the faith will fast. Some of the world's greatest minds have used fasting for health and/or healing. There’s all sorts of ways to fast- intermittent fasting and water fasting are two common versions.
Specifically when you're on a juice fast, you're abstaining from food and getting all of your nutrients and calories from cold-pressed (and hopefully organic!) juices. The quality of the juice is the key part- which I'll dive into below.
Personally, I choose to do a juice fast not only for the physical benefits, but for the mental benefits. For me, it’s a mental and spiritual cleanse just as much as it is a physical one. When I do a juice fast, I usually try to do a “digital detox” as well- putting my phone away and staying off of social media as much as possible. I try to relax, do low-impact activities I enjoy (like walking my dog, gentle yoga, etc) and spend time connecting with others. I try to be as present as possible.
In my hectic life, I tend to do a lot of things mindlessly- eating, scrolling through social media, spending time with others while my mind is elsewhere, etc. By taking a break from those things, it forces me to live in the moment, mindfully.
When I do start eating solid food again, I eat it mindfully and I stay in the present moment, so I know what my body needs, and I know when to stop eating because I’m full!
So, what can you expect when doing a juice fast?
You’ll feel amazing afterwards! Usually by day 3 I feel energized and even slightly euphoric. I don't need caffeine for energy and I sleep amazingly.
You’ll glow! My skin is always glowing after a juice cleanse. The bags under my eyes reduce, and I'm less inflamed.
You’ll have a clear mind- As mentioned above, the mental benefits of abstaining from solid foods for a few days are incredible.
Kick cravings to the curb. I find that a juice fast is a great way to kick-start a cleaner eating regimen. My body craves the fuel that I give it- the more sugar and junk food I eat, the more I want! Abstaining from all of that junk for a few days extinguishes those cravings.
You’ll be hungry. I’m usually really hungry on the first day. The second and third day aren’t too bad as long as I consistently drink my juice throughout the day and stay hydrated. But that first day can be rough!
“Detox” symptoms- Many people report headaches, nausea, and drowsiness.
It’s really expensive! It can take several pounds of produce to create 1 bottle of juice. There are other effective ways to detox, so if the cost is a deal breaker for you, it's not the end of the world.
Tips for a successful juice cleanse:
1.Quality: Not all juice is made equal! Opt for organic, locally sourced produce when possible. If you're making your own juice, make sure you have a proper juicer that "cold-presses" the juice. If you are purchasing your juice, make sure it is cold-pressed and made fresh so that you're getting all of the benefits.
2.Go Green: The green juices don’t taste as great, but they are the best ones for you. If you’re only drinking fruit juice, you’re getting a lot of sugar. Leafy greens have so many essential nutrients, so make sure those are a big part of your cleanse.
3. Start Early: Prepare 3-5 days before. Hydrate, cut out refined sugars and processed foods. Cut out caffeine. This will make the experience so much better- especially cutting out caffeine!
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! While the juice does have some water content, it's important to hydrate your body even more so than you normally would while fasting. You may feel like you are drowning by drinking so much water, but I promise you'll feel the difference!
5.Lay Low. As mentioned above, you’ll most likely experience some or all of those detox symptoms. I recommend doing the first day of your cleanse on a day that you don’t have much to do, so you can rest. I work Monday-Friday, so I start my juice cleanse on a Saturday.
6. Drink Herbal Tea. I have found that hot beverages help to control the hunger the first day because they make me feel more full. It also gives you something to do... I never realized how much time I spend eating!
Most importantly, listen to your body.
My juice cleanse has almond milk for the last juice. I consume a high-protein diet, so I find that having a second almond milk on the first day helps me a lot. Do what's right for you. Maybe you need more juice, or maybe you don't want all of it. Maybe you need to sleep all day! Use your fast as some "you" time. :)
*Please note that I am not a medical doctor and all the information above is based on personal experience and extensive research. You should always consult your doctor with any major health concerns.
Want to know more? Click here for an exclusive interview I did with the owner of my favorite juice bars in Houston, Sustain Juicery!
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