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Friday, January 3, 2014

7 Reasons Your Detox or Cleanse Could Make You More Toxic

Considering a "juice fast" for a cleanse? Not so fast....
“Screw it, I can’t do this any more!” my friend snapped as we drove to The Grove one unseasonably chilly day (at least for Los Angeles) last January. “Let’s get chocolate chip pancakes and mimosas before we hit Barneys.”

I sighed, bit my tongue, and gave her an I told you so look.

You see, my friend’s New Years resolution was to lose fat fast, and a detox proved the perfect way to legitimately do that. Tell people you’re on an 800-calorie starvation diet and they wince, but call it a detox or cleanse and suddenly everything’s cool.

My friend was basically starving herself. A popular weekly tabloid had promoted this new juice cleanse, endorsed by a famous waif-thin actress, and so of course these juices became all the rage for people like my friend who desperately wanted to shake her post-holiday weight gain.

But nearly three weeks later, my friend’s detox had finally gotten to her. She lost some weight initially, her skin got a little better, but constant fatigue and lightheadedness trumped any good coming out of this near-starvation diet.

She also constantly struggled with hunger and cravings, oscillating about whether to surrender to pancakes or stalwartly trudge on hungrily.

Sadly, none of her misery proved necessary. Not the cravings and hunger, not the sluggishness and deprivation, and certainly not the potentially irreparable damage this juice cleanse could do to her body. Ultimately she was creating more damage than good.

I had a better way to detoxify. But first, let me explain why her plan – as well as the plan you might be considering or even doing – has it all wrong.

Why You’re Really Detoxifying
Why are you looking for a detox plan? Dumping toxins is all well and good, and too many nights becoming inebriated may have taken its toll on your liver. You can develop some perfectly legitimate reasons to detoxify.

But be honest. You’re detoxifying to get into your skinny jeans. If you’re like most people, countless holiday temptations took a serious hit on your waistline. You want to shed those pounds fast.

So here’s the good news. You will lose weight on pretty much any detox or cleanse. No question there. Just know most of that weight loss will come from muscle, not fat. Oh yeah, that’s the bad news. You don’t want weight loss; you want fat loss.

Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with detoxifying to lose weight. In fact, excessive toxins could be the reason you’re not losing weight. The key is to detoxify correctly.

Do the right plan and you’ll burn fat, build (or at least preserve) muscle, and never be hungry. Unfortunately, most detox plans get it entirely wrong with one and probably more of these seven problems:

1.     They have way too much sugar. Most detoxes and cleanses are nothing more than sugar water. Think about the master cleanse. You’re basically drinking maple syrup, which is pure sugar. How can loading your body with sugar possibly aid detoxification? (It can’t.) Worse still, excessive sugar drains many of the nutrients your body needs to detoxify. Juice cleanses especially are high in fructose, a sweetener that goes straight to your liver and ultimately creates inflammation as it converts to fat. Rather than aid your liver, fructose just makes your hardest-working organ work harder.

2.     They offer way too little protein. Detoxification happens in two phases. Fat-soluble toxins get converted to water-soluble toxins in phase one, and then those toxins get excreted in phase two. Almost all of the seven pathways in phase two detox demand amino acids. Most detoxes and cleanses provide little if any protein. Without sufficient dietary protein, you can actually become more toxic.

3.     They neglect vital nutrients. A wide array of nutrients contributes to detoxification. Besides insufficient protein, most detoxes and cleanses provide few if any nutrients like milk thistle and sulfur-rich lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine that help your liver detoxify.

4.     They contain too few calories. I have no idea when detoxifying became I’m going to become a starving, raging bitch for three weeks, but like my friend’s juice cleanse, most plans put you in near-starvation mode, setting the stage for hunger, cravings, and crankiness. Because you’re replacing several meals – and on some plans, nearly all your meals – every day with juices or other meal replacements, you’re dramatically cutting calories, sometimes to dangerously low levels.

5.     They’re poorly designed. You don't need a PhD in nutrition to design an optimal detox, but you do need a basic understanding about biochemistry and how your body detoxifies. A smart plan provides optimal nutrients – protein, for instance, but also micronutrients – in correct, efficacious doses so your body has the correct building blocks to detoxify. Many commercial detoxes and cleanses overlook these and other details because whoever designs them – usually a manufacturer that has money, not your health, as the bottom line – has a poor understanding about how detoxification works.

6.     They’re expensive. My friend was spending nearly $100 a day on freshly squeezed juices. “You’ve spent over two grand to become miserable, cranky, and more toxic,” I told her half jokingly. I get it: Having juices delivered to your office daily is kind of cool, but you’re better off spending that money on food and nutrients. After all, you can get a heck of a lot of organic broccoli for $100!

7.     They don’t address long-term issues. You’ve probably done a three-week crash diet to prepare for a wedding or other special event. You likely lost weight (note I said weight, not fat) but then gained it all back and then some. Likewise, detoxing is not something you do twice a year and otherwise return to your normal, probably horrendous eating pattern. Your cells constantly detoxify, so you want to consistently get the right foods and nutrients to help that process.

Like I said before, I’m all for detoxification. The New Year makes a great time to get a jump on spring-cleaning to dump toxins, perform better at the gym, feel your best, and shed that holiday fat.

Many of my esteemed colleagues promote detoxification, and a substantial amount of science supports doing it. But there’s a correct way to detoxify, and as I’ve shared, most plans get it entirely wrong.

This week I’ve discussed how not to detoxify. Next week I’ll give you my seven-step plan to detoxify effectively and affordably. With this plan, you can have it all: Burn fat, feel better, and ditch toxins without cravings, hunger, deprivation, and other misery.

If you’ve ever done a detox or cleanse, what kind of results did you get? Did you ever feel hungry, lightheaded, deprived, or struggle with cravings?
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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  1. Thanks great info!!! Going to pass to my friends detoxing now lol

  2. Thanks for reading! Stayed tuned next week for HOW to detox correctly.