Run with an Idea #3 : Juice cleanse – healthy or hype?
Ha ha. Hardy-ha-ha…
It’s a perennial joke but it pretty much sums me up. So when Carrie and Christine from Run with an Idea decided to tackle the recent diet phenomenon of juice cleanses I didn’t really feel qualified to discuss it from the point of view of someone who had tried a juice cleanse, or even the point of view of someone who was even likely to try it. The reason? I’m a sceptic.
So why am I a sceptic?
I was brought up by parents who never went on a diet, they just managed their weight (and that of my siblings and I) through sensible eating and exercise, and this has obviously rubbed off on me. I also think that despite all our recent advances; the human body is not very different from those of our ancestors. And I’m not talking grandma or grandpa, I’m talking about thousands of years ago where food was restricted to what you caught, picked or could grow.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m a ‘paleo eater’ or ‘raw food’ eater or anything, I just tend to stay away from foods, and especially diets, which could not have existed way back when. Don’t worry; I’m no saint either. I eat McDonald’s. I generally have pizza once a week. I snack on potato chips once in a while. I’ll gobble a Mars bar during a round of golf or after a long run. And shock horror, I drink alcohol, and worse, Coke. But in between I eat sensibly, and make sure I eat sensible portions, balanced with a good level of exercise.
The way I look at it is that if you choose a diet where you need to radically alter your eating habits from what you normally do, and from what humans have been doing for thousands of years, then it is unlikely to have much benefit, certainly over the long term. My litmus test is this : Could you live only on that diet for a year? If not, then you’re doing something wrong. A juice diet is going to consist of mainly fruit and veg, so would be lacking in protein and essential fats. We aren’t hummingbirds with a need for a high-carb low-protein diet, and I reckon if we were meant to eat everything in liquid form we would have evolved with a proboscis.
Enough scepticism. Are there benefits to a juice cleanse?
One common thread that seems to appear when reading about juice cleanses is weight loss, and sometimes lots of weight loss. I don’t doubt this would happen. Generally speaking a diet of juice is going to have a lower daily energy intake than one which includes grains or starchy foods, or junk food, and it would be virtually free from saturated fat. However, if you are running a daily calorie deficit through lower energy intake, then you are ‘fasting’, and the natural outcome will be to lose weight. This would be the same for any diet where daily calorie intake is lower than expenditure, although I concede that juicing will give you all your vitamins and minerals you need which many other ‘calorie deficit’ diets do not. For me, as someone who (luckily) doesn’t need to lose weight, this means I am already in carbohydrate-balance. Therefore, a juice cleanse/fast could leave me significantly under my required calorie intake, impacting on my ability to work and exercise as I like to.
People also talk of ‘detox’ a lot when talking about juice diets. I’m sure a juice diet would help cleanse you, and so long as you have a varied intake of different fruits and veg, most of your vitamin and fibre requirements would be met. However, my inner sceptic tells me that so would drinking enough water and not putting the toxins into your body in the first place. Everything in moderation, and all that…
So, I’m still a sceptic. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, it just means I don’t think it would work for me, or for most people. However, for the other side of the coin check out Neil’s post on the subject. Juicing changed his life and he continues to juice daily including regular juice fasts. It certainly works for him.
Would I try a juice cleanse? Not for me, thanks. I’ll stick to a balanced diet with more good stuff than bad, all balanced to my level of exercise.
Are any of you ‘juicers’? Who has tried a juice cleanse and what did you think of it? How did it affect you?
Happy running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!