Last week I committed to a three day juice cleanse with 4 other people from my Remote Year crew. Though I'm a somewhat regular green juice drinker (with a meal or as a snack), I NEVER forgo chewing. I did a 5-day juice cleanse a few years ago, but many of the juices were filled with chia seeds and I was allowed to eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as I wanted. I felt great. This is the first time I committed to 3 days of no chewing. So yeah, not really the same thing.
The night before D(etox)-Day I picked up my Fresh Brothers juices, which are 100% handmade in Bulgaria. Any intelligent person would start to hydrate and cut back on caffeine and alcohol pre-cleanse. Well I did none of that and to ease my fear of starvation I had a post-dinner snack at 11:45 pm. So all in all my cleanse was off to a great start!
I woke up around 8 AM and started my day with hot water, lemon and turmeric (which I do most days). When 9 AM rolled around I slowly sipped my first juice. At 10 AM I went for a deep tissue massage before gulping down my second juice at 11 AM. I felt great until about 3 pm at which point I began to feel progressively more shaky and a dull, but constant headache kicked in. These juices, even the green ones, definitely seemed more heavy on the fruits than vegetables and were wayyyyy sweeter than what I'm used to. The 3:30 pm juice made me feel temporarily better (because of the sugar spike I presume), but by 6pm I was feeling ravenous. I went for a walk in the park with my friend after the 6pm juice and started to feel light-headed. I talked to my mom on the phone shortly thereafter and felt like a total space cadet. I finished off the last 'juice', the Raw Nut Milk, which surprisingly quelled my hunger, and put myself to bed so I'd stop thinking about solid food.
I woke up around 8 AM (shocked I had slept through the night!) a bit sweaty, achy from my deep tissue massage (in hindsight double the detox from the massage AND the juice on day 1 probably wasn't the best idea...), with a mild sore throat and congestion and a dull headache. I begrudgingly sat down for my hot water and lemon and then drank my first juice on the way to this Ayurvedic lecture I had signed up for. I could barely keep my eyes open during the presentation (how is that possible after 10 hours of sleep!) and I had zero ability to focus. I went home immediately and spent the better part of the afternoon in the supine position, drifting in and out of sleep when I wasn't perusing recipes of Garlicky Brussel Sprout Tacos. I was starting to feel very irritable and decided I needed to hibernate the rest of my cleanse. I debated calling it quits, but I already paid for all those fresh juices. I momentarily woke up from my haze and sauntered out into the kitchen where my roommate was making a vegetable soup. Vegetable soup has never smelled so good. By the end of day 2 I felt motivated for the first time in the prior 36 hours to sit down and bang out some work before going to bed at 10pm.
All that sugar had my teeth feeling like they were about to rot. I reflected on the old adage 'if you don't use it, you lose it' and I suddenly feared that my teeth would fall out one at a time if I couldn't chew soon!
I woke up several times throughout the night, but woke up at 7:30 AM feeling MUCH better than the previous 2 days. My skin had a bit more of a glow, but perhaps that was due to the hydrating mask I put on the prior night. I felt equal parts happy that this was the last day of the cleanse and sad that I still had one full day. I downed my first juice and headed out for a 2 hour Free Sofia Walking Tour. I felt pretty good- although far from the feeling of euphoria that some juice devotees describe during a cleanse. Still in a fog, but coming back down to planet earth, I was able to get some writing and work done.
There were still highs and lows throughout the day (namely highs after that trusty juice sugar rush and lows from the insulin spike and hypoglycemia that kicked in shortly thereafter), but I managed to stay awake all day. I went to the grocery store to get food to break my fast the following morning and salivated my way down every aisle. I drooled while my roommate ate solid food, I polished off my third and last nut milk and then put myself to bed very early again. I woke up several times throughout the night to pee, despite the fact that I hadn't had any more to drink than the previous days. I also woke up with some stomach pains (probably because I didn't poop at all during the 3 days on the cleanse....sorry, TMI?).
I woke up at 5:45 AM extremely parched, despite having water at my beside and drinking 250 mL over the course of the night. I still had a dull headache and suddenly a white coating on my tongue. My stomach was noticeably flatter (because, well, water weight), my inner thighs seemed a tad slimmer and my skin tone a bit more even. I kicked off the morning with my hot lemon water again and then quickly dove into a bowl of muesli with blueberries, bananas and almond milk.
I had planned to do a 12-mile training run, but my heart was beating noticeably faster and I caught a whiff of that ammonia smell (indicative of protein breakdown) I used to get when I started training for my first marathon and hadn't yet learned how to fuel appropriately. I decided to cut the run short at a sweaty, slow 6 miles.
The Million Dollar Question...
Would I do the cleanse again? Probably not, especially when I'm in the middle of marathon training. I walked between 11,761-15,017 steps each day during the cleanse, but otherwise was very lethargic and sedentary. I have to wonder if my headaches, foggy headedness and lethargy were from caffeine withdrawal and detoxification or from the sugar and insulin spike countered by hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) because my body simply isn't used to taking in that much sugar in a day.
I participated in the cleanse for the detox, not weight loss. While I never stray from my vegan lifestyle, admittedly there have been more indulgences (sweets, caffeine and alcohol), a more erratic sleep schedule, and less intensity and duration of exercise over the last 8 months of travel (I have been getting more frequent massages though- go me!), so I was attempting to reboot. While there are a lot of evidence based health benefits to intermittent fasting (no calorie intake), mostly I think juice cleanses are the quick fix we are always looking for, analogous to taking a pill rather than making lifelong lifestyle changes. Three days of juicing will do nothing to resolve otherwise poor choices in the long-term, especially if you are downing spare ribs the night before your cleanse and breaking the fast with a juicy burger- which is often what happens when your ravenous stomach takes over. I think the better alternative is to incorporate regular green breakfast smoothies into your lifestyle. Not only do green smoothies have loads of nutrients and provide our bodies a much need break from digestion, but they also contain fiber to help regulate the absorption of the fruit sugar in the smoothie- this means we stay fuller longer and avoid the energy dips that come with juices. Try this green smoothie recipe!
I was waiting in the workspace to leave for a yoga retreat the day my cleanse ended. One person commented on my glowing skin. 'You look very happy today', commented another friend. 'Well that's because I got to eat again today!', I responded. 'So you juiced to detox from your happiness?', he said. Well, when you put it that way....
Juice cleanses are not a good substitution for making regular healthy lifestyle choices and if you are prone to hangrability (like me), should be avoided!