Wellness Wednesday: The truth about juice cleansing

Welcome to Wellness Wednesday! This article is part of a series of weekly wellness stories written to help inspire healthy and happy living in our wonderful readers. Be sure to check back every Wednesday for the latest in fitness, nutrition, natural beauty and lifestyle tips to help you be your best self!

Nature's take aways
Nature's take aways


Enticed by the thought of a flat belly and immediate weight loss results, many New Year's resolution makers think a juice cleanse is the perfect way to start off the new year. Many resolution makers, however, are quickly disappointed when their weight loss is minimal to none and they feel like they've just starved themselves for a week for nothing.

So what's the real deal with juice cleansing? To get to the bottom of whether or not three to five days of straight juice is actually worth it or not, I chatted with a few juicing experts and then did a cleanse myself.

Nick Geyer, the founder of Juice Supply, helped me really zero in on what the purported benefits of a juice cleanse are.

"The goal of a cleanse is to detoxify the system and replenish nutrients," Geyer said. "One of the biggest benefits of a juice cleanse is that it's not just what you're putting in your body, but what you're leaving out."

Makes sense, right? If we're on a juicing program and sticking to it, that means we automatically aren't eating things that are bad for us. But what about the weight loss thing?

"Weight loss is a byproduct of a cleanse, but it depends on everybody's individual body chemistry," Geyer said.

Slim & Glow juice cleanse from Juice Supply
Slim & Glow juice cleanse from Juice Supply

While it's highly likely that weight loss of some kind will occur, founders of Vim+Vigor juice company Annie Stull and Liz Black clarified that any weight loss from a three- to five-day cleanse is primarily just water weight.

If weight loss is what we're going for, calorie intake is the variable to focus on rather than whether your calories are liquid or solid.

"If you do a food cleanse and stay around 1,200 calories a day, you're going to lose weight," Stull said. Most juice cleanse programs are closer to 1,600 calories per day to help you feel less hungry, but if you're just looking at the numbers, that's potentially 400 more calories than you need to lose weight eating real food.

That's one of the reasons Stull and Black recommend snacking, even when on a cleanse: "There's no reason to be uncomfortable," Black said. "It's just a smart way to do it."

One way you might experience long-term weight loss after doing a cleanse, however, is that your body gets used to taking in healthier foods and stops craving things like sugar. "In the days before and the days following a cleanse, once you've really focused and you're careful about everything you're eating and drinking, the days post-cleanse you don't want a hamburger," Stull said.

So it's safe to say that weight loss is possible, but no more than a few pounds of water weight initially and then possibly more over time if you continue with a healthy and balanced post-cleanse diet. Detox? Check. Weight loss? Check. But what else can a juice cleanse do for us?

JUICING MAKES US PRETTIER! Don't believe me? Some juice cleanses, like the Slim & Glow cleanse from Juice Supply, are made with ingredients like Vitamin E and Chinese herbs, which are known for their beautification properties. Other spicy ingredients like ginger root, turmeric root and curcumin are helpful for bloating in the midsection. The Slim & Glow cleanse even has one drink called Pearl Mylk that is made with freshwater ground pearl powder, a Chinese tonic herb great for skin complexion that's been used in Asia for thousands of years, according to Geyer. Other alleged beauty benefits include brighter eyes and healthier hair and nails from ingredients like Beta-carotene, said Stull.

Roots Juices pressed juice cleanse
Roots Juices pressed juice cleanse

Juicing also makes us healthier! In addition to being filled with greens, antioxidants, probiotics and more, some juices even include ingredients like bee pollen (like the Bee Well juice from Roots Juices), which is considered a superfood and can help the immune system stay strong to fight off illness.

So what happened when I did a cleanse myself? I'm not sure if I looked a whole lot prettier, but I did lose three pounds and I did have WAY more energy than usual, which is another benefit of cleansing that you don't often hear about. I worried that without my morning cup of black tea I wouldn't be able to function, but I found that I was more productive at work, was in a great mood (not at all 'hangry'), and had awesome workouts (and energy to simply just get to the gym in the first place). As such, I think a juice cleanse is the perfect way to kick off any type of 'new year, new you' goals you have for 2016. Even if you don't lose weight right away, a cleanse has the potential to help you crave the right foods and give you the energy you need to work out, both of which will ultimately lead to weight loss, and will probably make you feel a lot better mentally, too.

Here are some helpful tips for doing a juice cleanse right:
1. Prepare for a cleanse by avoiding processed sugars and limiting gluten and wheat intake for at least two to three days leading up to the cleanse.

2. If you want to work out while cleansing, listen to your body and don't overdo it. Thirty minutes of cardio or 30 minutes of strength training should be fine, but don't necessarily go run the New York Marathon, Geyer advised.

3. Do your research. What kind of ingredients are in the cleanses you're considering? Does the juice company use High Pressure Pascalization to extend the juices' shelf life, and does that bother you?

Beginner cleanse from Vim+Vigor
Beginner cleanse from Vim+Vigor

*High Pressure Pascalization, or HPP, according to Vim+Vigor's website, is an external process in which extreme pressure is applied to products in their final packaging stages, thus eliminating the possibility of contamination. Some juice companies like Vim+Vigor use this process because it eliminates the possibility of Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which means it's safe to drink while pregnant or nursing and safe to give your kids. "Pathogen reduction makes it safe for anyone with a compromised immune system, too," Stull and Black said, like some of their customers who are going through chemotherapy. The other side of the coin, however, is that HPP extends the shelf life of juice, meaning products might be less fresh. Geyer, who does not use the process for his line of juices put it this way: "If you buy a bag of spinach at the grocery store and put it in your fridge, do you want to eat that bag of spinach a month later?" The choice is yours.

4. Start out with a 3-day cleanse, which is much more manageable, and if you absolutely have to have a snack here and there, don't deprive yourself -- just reach for healthy options like fruit or nuts.

To recap:
Benefits of cleansing include possible weight loss, beauty bonuses, increased energy and better mood. Do your research to find the right cleanse for you, and continue to live a healthy lifestyle after cleansing -- everything in moderation, as always.

Check out the gallery below for several juicing programs you could try this year!

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