At THR1VE we are fortunate enough to engage in ongoing conversations with our customers regarding their health and fitness objectives, and how to best eat and train to maximise their success.
One question that crops up often, and seems to be on the increase as we approach Spring, is the prospect of juice based diets and cleanses for losing body fat. Juices based diets are heavily promoted by a variety of self interested sources, ranging from multi national centrifugal juicer brands and their paid spokespeople, through to independent nutritionists offering one to seven day plans.
As most of you already know, we subscribe to the extensively researched, clinically proven, and anecdotally persuasive, ancestral health movement. So the idea of consuming nothing but juice for multiple days to simply antithetical to us. The sheer volume of fruit consumed would have been inconceivable in almost every imaginable evolutionary setting, and the predictable negative results have been borne out not just in the data of multiple studies, but also in the observed effect such diets have had on our customers in the past.
You may lose weight, but a simple body fat measurement will demonstrate that the bulk of the loss will be muscle and water, you will likely suffer massive highs and lows riding the sugar roller coaster, and you will most probably regain most if not all weight when you finish. Indeed many we have spoken to actually ended up heavier within a month of finishing than they were before they started. There are always exceptions of course, particularly if you start the juice cleanse in an obese state, but there are much healthier and more sustainable ways to make that shift if you are obese. Just ask us.
If you’d like to stop reading here, let me make it super simple:
DON’T drink juices if you are looking to lose body fat, eat whole fruit, and customise a low sugar smoothie.
DO drink juices if you are at your ideal body weight, consider it a high sugar indulgence, and use as a occasional treat.
Robb Wolf’s take in a grocery store tour – see it here.
For more detail, particularly the importance of choosing a juice or smoothie based on your individual situation and objectives:
Juices v. Smoothies
At THR1VE we don’t recommend juices for those engaged in a fat loss program.
While delicious, they are extremely high in sugar, stripped of the fibre that partly moderates the insulin response to whole fruit, and the specific sugar they contain (fructose) is particularly tricky for those trying to manage their weight due to the way it is processed by the body. All vitamins and minerals contained in juices can be obtained at a much lower caloric cost through fresh vegetables. Juices are sugar, water, and some easily replaced nutrients – they are natures candy, enjoy as a treat accordingly.
On the other hand, THR1VE smoothies can be endlessly customised and alchemised to adjust macro and micro nutrient profiles according to the customers specific objectives. Always nutrient dense, the ratio of protein, fat and carbs alters significantly based on the ingredients chosen, allowing smoothies to act as a meal replacement, pre or post workout fuel, or a between meal snack. Further, a well designed smoothie can be used to assist in fat loss, weight maintenance, or muscle gain. We particularly like smoothies based on our naturally low in sugar almond milk, made in store fresh daily, and containing nothing but almonds and filtered water.
As a rule, all other things being equal, drinking calories provokes a sharper blood sugar spike and thus insulin response than eating the same calories – it is simply a matter of the speed of ingestion. A sharper insulin response means all sorts of potential negatives, but most relevantly for those engaged in a program of weight loss, the likelihood of sugars being transported into fat cells by insulin is increased.
Both juices and smoothies absolutely have a delicious and convenient place in your THR1VE diet, they just need to be used appropriately, according to your situation and objectives.
Juices are almost always very high in sugar, as the fruits and vegetables most often used are very high in fructose, a particularly tricky form of sugar for those wanting to manage their weight or lose body fat.
In whole fruit the fibre content partly mutes the blood sugar spike and thus to some extent reduces the insulin response, but juices made with a centrifugal juicer are stripped of fibre. Additionally juices typically contain a lot more fruit than most of us would consume if it was whole fruit, and are consumed much faster than we would consume whole fruit. What you are left with is water, sugar in the form of fructose, vitamins, minerals, some electrolytes (depending on the fruit used), and some useful phyto nutrients. From a macro nutrient profile perspective, this makes the juice almost totally carbohydrate, and of that, almost totally sugar in the fructose form. This is NOT what you want if trying to lose body fat. And from a micro nutrient perspective, there is absolutely nothing you can’t get from vegetables.
Having said that, if you are a juice lover…
The ideal way to consume juice would be to blend the whole fruit in a powerful blender, retaining fibre, and remaining mindful of the total volume of fruit and fructose being consumed. Another option, not quite as good as blended whole fruit but better than a typical centrifugal juiced drink, would be the so called ‘cold press’ method. Most of the fibre is removed, but a higher percentage remains than via the centrifugal juicer.
To stress – regardless of the juicing method, we don’t recommend juices to anyone on a weight loss program, and would only recommend utilising juices in the post work out window for some one looking to maintain their ideal weight, or more likely seeking to gain muscle via a carb re-feed when on a carb cycling protocol. Having said that, a low GI / non fructose boasted carb would be much better for this purpose, for example a sweet potato. They really should be considered a treat – enjoy accordingly.
Weight loss on a juice ‘cleanse’ is typically a mix of muscle, water and a little fat due to calorie restriction, and the fatigue usually blamed on the ‘detoxification process’ is more often a sugar / insulin roller coaster.
When / how to use?
Weight loss = never.
Weight maintenance = post workout ideally. Eat whole fruit only at other times, customise a smoothie for your specific individual objectives.
Alternatives = all vitamins and minerals in fruit can be obtained at lower caloric cost via vegetables, and low sugar smoothies are superior for almost all objectives.
Smoothies allow a much lower sugar base to be used, such as unsweetened almond milk (we make our own, fresh every day, at THR1VE), coconut water, or filtered tap water.
By utilising a wide range of ingredients you can tweak the protein, fat and carb content, not to mention micro nutrient profile, to meet your objectives with a much higher level of control. The ability to customise and alchemise smoothies at THR1VE, utilising different base liquids, fruits and vegetables, super foods, nuts and spices, allows you to design a smoothie that directly addresses your objectives. Unlike juices, which are essentially always moderate to very high in sugar, with basically no protein or good fat content, a smoothie can be a legitimate meal replacement when designed appropriately. All staff at THR1VE are trained to assist you in designing your ideal smoothie, and additionally we have a nutritionist on staff to answer questions posted to Facebook.
When / how to use?
Weight loss = as a meal replacement, designed for high protein and low carb / low sugar, additional good fats for satiety e.g. coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds etc.
Weight Maintenance = tweak ingredients, and thus macro and micro nutrient profile, to best achieve your objectives, most objectives would be best served with at most a moderate natural sugar content.
Alternatives = a well designed smoothie can be an excellent meal replacement, post workout carb reefed, or snack. However, if weight and health optimisation are the objective, there is simply no substitute for whole food, chewed properly, and consumed leisurely.