Well, I finally did it. I gave my blender a vacation and plunged head first into a five-day juice fast (or juice feast, as some prefer to call it).
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly excited about it, either. I mean, I love to eat, so the thought of doing a juice fast scared me a little. But I wanted to experience one first hand.
I’ve written about juice fasting before. Long term weight loss is best facilitated by permanent lifestyle and diet changes rather than short term liquid starvation diets that are not sustainable. When you end the juice fast and return to old eating habits, the weight will always come back.
As far as detoxification, cleansing requires fiber, which even the greenest of juices lack. So my overall views about juice fasting have not changed, but I did gain some insights from doing it myself.
This is the first fast I have ever done. I’ve never once felt the need to do one before.
I am often surprised and perplexed when I hear raw foodists and other healthy eaters say that they need (or want) to do a juice fast. I wanted to see how a juice fast might improve my sense of well being, beyond what I already feel from my healthy diet.
Since being introduced to green smoothies back in 2008, my diet has transformed over the years. I’ve settled on a whole foods, plant-based diet.
I eat a LOT of fresh sweet fruit, about two bunches of leafy greens per day and small amounts of plant fats like avocados, nuts and seeds. I do eat cooked quinoa, brown rice, beans and steamed veggies as well.
I have made a lot of fitness gains on this diet, not to mention the 40 pounds I lost. I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.
My 5-Day Juice Fast Protocol
I followed a 5-day juice fasting protocol that involved starting the day with coconut water and lime.
Then I made a large juice using lots of fruits and greens for breakfast.
My lunch juice included vegetables and greens, but less fruit.
My dinner juices were savory and usually contained no fruit. On average, each juice was about 32 ounces.
I also drank tea whenever I felt like it.
I purchased an Omega 8005 masticating juicer to do this juice fast (I ordered mine from Amazon.com). I always wanted to get a juicer so this was a good excuse to finally purchase one. I’ll write more about this juicer in a future post, but I really like it a lot and I’m glad I bought it.
I didn’t come up with my own juicing recipes and instead relied on an e-book that outlined a 5-day fasting protocol complete with recipes. I’m actually glad I followed a program because it guided me though everything I needed to know about my fast and gave me lots of great recipes.
I’m not sure I would have been as successful with the juice fast had I tried to wing it on my own.
My Juice Fast Results
I thought that the first day was going to be the toughest. It wasn’t. In fact, I felt amazing during the first two days. I can see why people would fast for spiritual reasons. Waking up on day two with the feeling on nothing inside my body felt great.
I can’t say that I felt an increase of energy. My energy levels stayed the same. I reigned in my usually intensive workouts during the five days to conserve energy.
I was surprised at my lack of hunger. I thought that it was going to be a struggle, but for the most part I was never starving or craving food. I was also surprised at how much water I drank in addition to the juices.
I did however, have a mild headache almost every day. It wouldn’t last all day, though. On the second day, I made the mistake of waiting to have my green juice for a couple of hours after I woke up.
I wasn’t hungry and was enjoying my “light” feeling. All of a sudden, I could feel my blood sugar plummet and I became dizzy. Needless to say, I made my juices first thing in the morning during the rest of the fast.
Despite enjoying the feeling of “lightness” during the first two days of my juice fast, I stop noticing it by day three. My diet is so healthy as is that I didn’t experience any “detox” symptoms and there wasn’t any dramatic health improvements beyond what I’ve already experienced with green smoothies and whole foods.
As my juice fast progressed into the final three days, I grew frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t work out at the intensity I was used to. I was ready for the fast to be over. I really missed my intense workouts.
I did take it easy over the five days that I drank nothing but green juices. I watched several movies, caught up on some reading, and socialized with friends – all the while exercising my willpower to not join them in dining out.
What I Liked About Juice Fasting
1 – The Juices Were Delicious: With the exception of one vomit flavored concoction, the juices were delicious and a pleasure to drink.
2 – Spiritual Feeling: It’s hard to explain the feeling I had during the first two days on the juice fast. I don’t really consider myself a religious person, but I can definitely see why someone would do a juice fast to experience or enhance a feeling of “spiritual connectedness”.
I recommend incorporating a self-care regimen into your juice fast. You can do some of these 25 self-care activities while you cleanse.
3 – Weight Loss: Okay, so I “sorta” like this aspect of juice fasting. Weight loss is a big reason why many people do a juice fast.
I didn’t need to lose weight, but I wasn’t at all surprised that I lost about five pounds over the five days. Juice fasting results in a severe reduction of calories so there’s some weight loss with that.
I’ve heard of people losing 10 to 11 pounds on a 5-day juice fast. It just depends on how much weight you have to lose.
However, I do not promote or agree with using juice fasting for weight loss. Juice fasting is a temporary “quick fix” solution that will not facilitate long term weight loss. It’s not a healthy habit long term and can lead to nutrient deficiencies and metabolism disruptions if done too often or for too long.
There’s no getting around the fact that a juice fast is basically liquid starvation to facilitate weight loss. For healthy, long-term weight loss, my proven protocol is green smoothies and whole foods with long-term, diet and lifestyle changes.
What I Did Not Like About Juice Fasting
1 – Mess & Clean Up: This is an often cited disadvantage of juicing. There is simply more cleanup involved with juicing than with blending. Blending is easy to clean up after, and if you have a Vitamix blender, you know how simple and easy it is to wash the pitcher in under 30 seconds.
A juicer has to be disassembled after each juice you make. You then have to wash each piece and set it out to dry. I had to wash the pulp basket, juice basket and all five juicer parts every time I made a juice. Doing this three to four times each day is time consuming. I missed the easy 30-second cleanup after making a smoothie.
2 – Less Convenient/More Time Consuming: Making a juice is not as convenient as making a green smoothie. On average, it took me about 30 minutes to make a juice from start to finish (including the clean up). I make a green smoothie in under ten minutes. Juicing requires more steps, more prep work (chopping) and clean up.
3 – Requires Twice As Much Fruits & Greens Than Smoothies: It takes a lot more fruits and greens (and veggies) to make a green juice because you’re losing all that wonderful fiber. This means that juicing is much more expensive than smoothie making.
I was lucky enough to get most of my produce at a local fruit and vegetable market so I was able to get lots of organic produce inexpensively. However, not everyone has access a discount organic produce market.
On a side note, since I was doing someone else’s fasting protocol, I used their shopping list and got a crazy variety of produce. I was disappointed that I had to buy expensive things just to use a tiny amount of it to make a specific recipe. The shopping list was a little off so I ended up buying more than I needed.
4 – The Waste: I hated wasting all of the pulp. Inevitably, you’re tossing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients when you fractionate foods.
While the pulp was fairly dry and the juicer did a fantastic job of extracting as much juice as possible, there are still nutrients being wasted, not to mention all of the important dietary fiber.
I know some people dehydrate the pulp into raw crackers, but what is the point of removing the pulp, just to eat it after it has sat out and oxidized in a dehydrator for hours?
5 – Removing The Healthy Fiber: Fiber is an important nutrient, and when you are on a juice fast, you simply are not getting enough of it.
Dietary fiber is critically important for detoxification and that is one of the main reasons I don’t support juice fasting for detox.
Fiber also plays a role in weight loss and managing blood sugar, so green smoothies have a significant advantage over juices in this respect.
6 – Oxidation & Rapidly Perishable: While not a concern for me because I drink my juices and smoothies immediately after making them, juices simply cannot be stored for very long.
Juices oxidize much more rapidly than smoothies. They lose their nutrients faster when they sit.
For this reason, juices should never sit more than a couple hours. You can’t make up a huge batch of green juice and drink it throughout the day or over a couple days, unlike green smoothies.
Juice Fast Conclusion
All in all, I enjoyed my 5-day juice fast. After completing it though, I really don’t feel I need another one.
It probably comes as no surprise that I prefer green smoothies to juices, and I’d recommend a green smoothie cleanse over a juice fast any day.
Why Green Smoothies Are Better Than Green Juices
1) Green Smoothies Provide Whole Food Nutrition – A green smoothie is still a whole food, complete with fiber and all nutrients.
Juices, on the other hand, are not whole foods since the fiber has been removed.
2) Blended Green Smoothies Oxidize Slower Than Juices – Juices are highly susceptible to oxidation due to the way they are processed.
Experiments have shown that juices oxidize at a much faster rate than green smoothies.
3) Fiber Slows Sugar Absorption – While the sugar content of sweet fruits are not a health concern for most people, juices made with sweet fruits or sugar-rich vegetables (carrots, beets) can essentially become a concentrated sweetener.
4) Blending Takes Less Time – Blending is much faster than juicing
Juicing requires cutting produce into smaller pieces. Feeding all of those pre-cut ingredients into the juicer is a time consuming process.
There is also less cleanup and waste.
5) Juices Don’t Fuel My Workouts – Fitness is an important part of my lifestyle, particularly running. I love distance running and my green smoothies fuel my runs – even my half and full marathons.
Green juices, on the other hand, do not give me the fuel I need to run like smoothies do.
6) Green Smoothies Are A Sustainable Dietary Habit – Green smoothies can be meals. You can swap out your breakfast or lunch for a green smoothie every single day for the rest of your life if you want.
However, juicing makes me feel like I’m on a temporary diet. The thick texture of green smoothies feels like and digests like a proper meal, where juices do not.
Is Juice Fasting Unhealthy?
I wouldn’t say that the occasional juice fast is unhealthy.
But green juices are not a major part of my health and wellness regimen.
Relying too heavily on green juices, or juice fasting, can be damaging to your health. Fasting can disrupt your metabolism.
Drinking nothing but juice during long-term (10-day+ juice fasts) deprives your body of essential dietary fiber and can deliver a massive dose of rapidly absorbed sugars into your bloodstream.
The diet that I follow and recommend (green smoothies, whole foods, plant based) provides all of the same health benefits (and more) that a juice fast is supposed to provide.
You can sustain the type of diet I promote long term, which will lead to long term health benefits. Juice fasting only provides short term benefits and it is not sustainable long term.
However, I can’t say I am done with juicing. I definitely think that green juices have their place.
I might experiment with two or three-day juice fasts periodically. And sometimes I just want a delicious green juice made with green apple, grapefruit, ginger, dandelion green, mint and spinach – YUM!
If you are curious about juice fasting, feel free to try it out for a day or five.
If you want to truly improve your health, lose weight (for good) and facilitate detoxification every day, then give your body what it really needs – whole, fresh, ripe foods! And green SMOOTHIES!
PS: If you’re busy and don’t want to deal with all of the mess and cleanup of juicing yourself, you can order a bottled juice cleanse – or skip the liquid diet and do my 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse (it’s only $5)!