Life. It’s an amazing gift! Why not squeeze every drop of juice out of it that you can? One way to best experience life’s juice is to… quite literally… juice.
There are many benefits to juicing, whether it is just supplementing fresh juice into a healthy diet or going on a juice fast. When you drink fresh-squeezed juice from whole, raw foods, you flood the body with fresh, concentrated, living nutrients. You give your system nutrients in a more concentrated form than you could ever consume if you ate the entire vegetable. For once, your system doesn’t have to deal with tartrazine (food color), ethyl para hydroxybenzonate (preservative), or castoreum (labeled as natural flavorings but from the anal gland of a beaver). Your body instead recognizes tomato juice, cucumber juice, kale juice – living juice. Instead of engaging protection mode to try and filter out all the processed junk we cram into our systems daily, your body embraces concentrated nutrients it can use to cleanse and heal itself.
I would hardly consider myself an expert on juicing (my longest fast was only 14 days), but I have done several different juice fasts and helped other people on their journey. So, I will throw what little experience I possess out there with the masses.
For the purpose of this post, I will focus on actual juice fasts. After all, you can take all of this knowledge and also apply it to simply supplementing the diet with one or two glasses of juice per day. Redundancy does not a ready reader make!
First, to avoid unnecessary carnage, let me tell you what NOT to do.
- If you are under the supervision of a doctor, obtain permission before going on a juice fast. Juicing is not a magical cure for all things.
- Do NOT drop medications without the permission of your doctor. Your body has adapted to those meds and they are prescribed for a reason. Think about the reaction most people have when dropping caffeine vs. weeding off it slowly. Option #1 equals massive headaches and withdrawal symptoms. Option #2 offers only a mild reaction, if any. Even if medications aren’t healthy, you need to slowly weed off of them with the help of your doctor to give your body time to adjust.
- Do not expect people to understand what you are doing. Do not expect others to still count you among the planet’s sane populace. Do not expect this to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is…
If you’re still reading, I haven’t scared you off yet. That’s good – least I be accused of overselling this. Like a true realist, I wanted to get the tough stuff out of the way first and weed out the crowd. Now, all my brave finalists, to the benefits!
What’s In It For Me?
The benefits of juice fasts are numerous, but also individual. Every person reacts differently. Because of this, I am going to stick with the benefits that I have personally experienced. You can google the rest, but I can’t speak for those people.
- Weight Loss: I cannot think of a faster, healthier way to lose weight than juicing. I find I lose the most weight the first week, about two pounds average per day, and then it tapers off to about one pound per day as my body and metabolism adjust to the limited calories. However, I have worked with men with faster metabolisms and have seen them drop three pounds per day consecutively. I will make no promises as to the rate of your weight loss, but if you just stick to fresh juices, you will lose weight in some form.
- Increased Energy: This usually happens for me after day three. There is a tougher period that happens before this which we will get into later. However, after the third day, I notice more energy and vitality.
- Mental and Spiritual Clarity: There is a good reason fasting is in all major religions. It helps move our focus away from food and physical needs and centers us on God. I often fast when I need to clear my mind and body of distractions or when I’m struggling with something. It also helps me think clearer and faster in general.
- Increased Senses: I noticed both my sense of smell and my dreaming increase during longer fasts. My dreams are more insanely entertaining than usual (think rainbow hair and T-rex battles). Also, I can smell individual ingredients in my husband’s fajitas from three rooms away.
- Positive Emotions: I can’t explain it, but towards the end of my 14-day fast, I started feeling peaceful and joyful. I saw beauty in everything. During a time when I was struggling with depression (due to outside circumstances), I felt unexplainably happy in the second week.
- Increased Healing: This one has been better documented by others, because I really wasn’t sick when I started my fasts. However, I did have a few chronic annoyances (phlegm in my throat and an ear that popped occasionally from an old scuba-diving injury) that disappeared during the two-week fast. The ear seems to be completely healed as the popping hasn’t returned for over a year. The throat thing comes and goes depending on how healthy I eat.
- Clearer Skin: It’s a given. If you eat all those concentrated raw fruits and vegetables, you will experience a more youthful clear skin tone. While some people see acne outbreaks early in the fasting, it clears up after this. If you continue to juice and keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your life long-term, you will probably age more gracefully as well.
What to Expect
When you first start a juice fast, you will go through a time where you actually feel worse – called the detox period by many juicers. Your body throws a tantrum! Depending on how bad your diet was prior to juicing, you may have a range of symptoms and severity as you wean your body off of food and caffeine. For me, coming off a vegan diet packed full of fresh fruits and veggies, I only experienced mild hunger pain, a coated tongue, bad breath, and slight tiredness the first three days. I felt slightly colder over the entire fast, but it was easily fixed with adding an extra layer of clothing. I was able to go about my schedule and even run light 5ks, swim, and bike for my triathlon training. However, for someone who regularly drinks four shots of expresso in their morning mocha while downing a hot cake and sausage biscuit from the Golden Arches, be prepared to go in your cave for a bit as this is going to be rough. I have heard you can lessen the symptoms of coming off a poor diet by eating lots of raw fruits and veggies a few days before going on a juice fast, but have not experienced this personally.
There are different theories on the detox experience. Pro juicing people say your body finally has the necessary nutrients to dump the toxins stored. It’s kind of like when you finally have the energy to clear out your basement. You have to get messy before you can clean up. In the same way, your body, armed with increased nutrients and extra energy normally used in digesting food, releases toxins it has stored in fat into your blood stream to have them filtered out by your kidneys to clean house. However, many scientists claim that “detox” diets are the newest gimmick out there to sell snake oils to the unsuspecting public. I do not doubt that many of them are. Without reviewing actual studies, I’m not sold on either side. But, whether the body is just adjusting to the change in glucose levels and lack of stimulants or detoxing, you will feel bad the first few days. Plan for it, and start your fasts over a weekend or during a stress-free time so you can rest.
You will go through a LOT of produce. You cannot do a successful juice diet with store-bought juice. Don’t even try. It’s like trying to fill up your car’s tank with dirty water vs. gas because they are both liquid and brown. Even if it’s 100% juice with no added sugar (which few are), it has been pasteurized. This means in processing it was heated to a level to kill most nutrients found in living foods. You will only get a fraction of the nutrients needed in juice from the store. To be successful, you will have to make your own juice with a juicer. I personally love the Breville juicer, but there are other great choices. You just want one that is easy to clean and juices vegetables and leafy greens.
Got all of that? Good! Now you’re ready to juice! Just because I love giving you lists, here’s ten more things to remember.
- Do try lots of different recipes for variety. You want as many colors of fruits and veggies as possible. Taste the rainbow! There are great sites with amazing recipes. Some surprising things that worked well in my juicer were sweet potatoes. Some things that didn’t – avocados. Take it from me, it was an epic and messy fail!
- Get creative and salty! Try to do the more fruit-intensive juices in the morning. Focus the rest of the day on more vegetable-heavy juices with minimal fruit added to sweeten it up. Your veggie juices are where you get the most health benefits. Also, don’t be afraid to add sea salt to your veggie juice. You are not getting sodium in your diet. If you are sweating or exercising, you still need electrolytes found in salts as you lose those in your sweat. While most people try to limit sodium, you don’t need to be concerned with this as much during a juice fast. Hyponatremia, or sodium depletion, is nothing to mess around with.
- Expect the first three days to be tough. You will miss eating and may feel hungry and sorry for yourself watching everyone else enjoy food. This will pass. At the end, I felt empowered that I had conquered my appetite. It gave me more willpower later on in my daily eating habits.
- Drink as much fresh juice as you want. Whenever you are hungry – juice! I usually drank 16 ounces three times per day, but some people like to do 8 ounces six times per day. I have also helped some guys juice that drink over double this amount to feel full. Make sure to increase your water consumption during this time, just in case your body really is purging toxins. You will only drink three things: fresh juice, lots of fresh water, and green or herbal teas during this fast. Just reserve the bathroom in your name… you will spend a lot of time in there.
- You can store juices if you can’t get home to make fresh juice for lunch or dinner. My father is a busy attorney. He did a nine-day fast with me while we were home over Christmas. I would juice his breakfast and lunch for him every morning and would store his lunch in glass mason canning jars. He would keep them in the refrigerator and drink his lunch in the office or outside the court room. However, I never stored juices for longer than 12 hours as I noticed they lost their taste after this. I know some people store them longer, but I didn’t have success after this time period even when I got all the oxygen out of the jar.
- While you shouldn’t stop medications prescribed by your doctor, you should stop taking any other pills if at all possible. You don’t need to take vitamins during this time. You are getting plenty from your food. Many pills are made to take with food, and it can irritate your GI track if you take them while juicing. The one exception to this is vitamin B12. I would urge you to continue to supplement with a daily B12 sublingual (to avoid irritating the GI with pills) throughout your fast.
- If you are hooked on caffeine, decided if you want to get off it during this time. If not, you can drink green tea to prevent caffeine-withdrawal headaches and symptoms. I don’t drink caffeine, but I will drink hot herbal teas before going to bed to prevent hunger. The hot liquid is a great trick to make you feel full.
- Don’t expect as much from your body. You are on a limited-calorie diet. While it is packed with nutrients, you are not getting as much fuel, so be kind to yourself. For example, I noticed that my running times slowed considerably and I couldn’t go as long. I didn’t push myself and kept my exercise lighter than normal. Do not try to do a juice fast while ramping up an intense training schedule. You will set yourself up for failure. However, even if your fitness is non-existent, try to at least take relaxing walks outside to get your mind off food and on the beauty and peace of nature. Don’t abandon exercise, just intensity.
- Organic vs. non-organic: For me, if you have the money to do so, go organic! It is so much better for you and you don’t have to worry about the pesticides, chemicals, and GMO produce. However, depending on your suppliers, it could cost a bit more. I wouldn’t want someone to not experience the benefits of juicing just because they feel they can’t afford it. Just make sure to wash all produce well. Wal-Mart has also started to carry organic produce for a decent price, so you can do a mixture of the two if you need to watch your budget.
- Expect that one temptation to come! The one temptation that almost breaks you. For me, it was during the 14-day juice fast. I was about halfway through my fast, and I threw a birthday party for my husband. I had been cooking dinners for him every evening (which was hard enough), but for his birthday I made him an Oreo cheesecake and a red velvet birthday cake. I also made a huge spaghetti dinner with bread, a side salad, soda, and chips. I had to make all of this food unsupervised in the house while he was at school studying. I literally had to go to social media (as no one was juicing with me locally), tell people of my struggles, and ask them to keep me accountable to my pledge. I knew if I just took one taste, I would dive into that yumminess like an entire pack of rabid hyenas. The smell was intoxicating. But, my support group came through and I never tasted any of it. We had about 20 med and vet students over to our house eating all that amazing food to celebrate. I just made myself a big juice for dinner and joined in the fun at the party while silently grateful for the support.
How Long to Fast?
That’s up to you! Just decide before you start the fast how long you would like to try it. I would recommend longer than three days so the entire experience isn’t negative, as you really don’t feel better until after day three. However, if this is your first time, I wouldn’t go much longer until you know how your body will react to the experience. My first fast was five days.
When you decide to come off the fast, you must break it slowly. You will be tempted to drive to the closest all-you-can-eat buffet bar and chow down. If you do this, you will be sick – trust me. Instead, you need to slowly introduce food back to your system. The first day or two after a fast, depending on how long it has been since I have eaten, I only eat raw fruits and vegetables. I then slowly introduce cooked foods back into my diet around the third day. Eat slowly and enjoy your food experience. You earned it!
Please realize, I have only done a top-line post of my experience with juice fasts. I recommend you do your own research on the topic to decide if it is right for you. Again, when I was introduced to juicing, I was already very healthy so I didn’t have drastic wellness improvements. But, juicing (in both longer fasts and as a supplement to my diet) is a tool I use to continue to keep my health at its peak. If you would like to watch an inspiring free documentary of how juicing reversed some debilitating autoimmune issues in several people, use the below link to witness other stories more powerful than my own. You will be inspired!
If you need additional inspiration, here is a recipe site I frequent often.
So, with a leaner body, increased mental clarity and energy, athletic improvements, and the many healing properties of juicing, is it any wonder why you can’t quite squeeze every drop of juice out of life without it? Want to give it a try? Contact me or others who have some experience with juicing to support you on your journey! I will help in any way I can. After all, others helped me once! All I ask is that someday you pay it forward too!
Enjoy the adventure, my friends! Raise your juice glasses with me! Let’s have a toast to your health, for that is where you always find your true wealth!