Juice cleanses have become increasingly popular in recent years as a quick way to lose weight and “detox” the body. During a juice cleanse, you consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for a set period of time, usually 3-5 days. Proponents claim that juice cleanses can help you lose weight quickly, eliminate toxins, and improve health. But do juice cleanses really work for weight loss? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.
How juice cleanses work
There are a few different types of juice cleanses, but they typically involve drinking anywhere from 4-6 servings of vegetable and fruit juices per day and eliminating all other foods. Some cleanses include herbal teas or water along with the juices. Juice cleanses are typically low in calories, carbohydrates, and protein and high in micronutrients from fruits and veggies. By providing only juices, cleanses aim to give the digestive system a “break” from solid foods. Proponents claim this facilitates detoxification and weight loss.
Here are some of the proposed mechanisms by which juice cleanses may promote weight loss:
- Low calorie intake – Since juices are low in fat and protein and you’re consuming no solid foods, calorie intake is typically very low during a juice cleanse. This can promote a calorie deficit and temporary weight loss.
- Reduced sodium – Eliminating processed foods and salt during a cleanse reduces bloating and water retention.
- Increased nutrients – The high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in cold pressed juices may help increase fat burning and metabolism.
- Reduced hunger – The liquid diet provides constant nutrients and hydration, which may help reduce hunger and cravings.
Does juicing lead to weight loss?
Several studies have looked at whether juice cleanses and juicing in general are effective for weight loss. Here is some of the research:
Short-term studies on juice cleanses
- One study followed 25 healthy participants on a 3-day juice cleanse. Participants consumed 6 16-ounce bottles of juices and herbal tea or water per day. After 3 days, participants had lost an average of 3.9 lbs and reduced their fat mass by 1.1 lbs.
- Another study had 29 participants follow a 4-day juice cleanse while also drinking 64 oz of water per day. Participants lost an average of 5.4 lbs and reduced body fat by 1.5% over 4 days.
- However, these studies show that the weight lost is likely mostly water weight rather than body fat.
Longer-term juice diet studies
- One study had people with obesity follow an all-juice diet providing fewer than 1000 calories per day for 4 weeks. Participants lost an average of 14 lbs and reduced body fat by 3.6% after 4 weeks.
- In another study, participants consumed only juice 6 times per day for 3 months. They lost an average of 25-30 lbs during this time.
Overall, these studies suggest juice cleanses and juicing plans can promote weight loss, especially when they are followed for longer than just a few days. The majority of weight lost appears to be water weight in the first few days, followed by loss of body fat as the cleanse continues.
Potential downsides of juice cleanses
Despite the potential for weight loss, there are also some potential downsides to juice cleanses:
- Nutritional deficiencies – Juice cleanses are lacking in protein, fat, and other important nutrients. The lack of protein may cause muscle loss if cleanses are followed long term.
- Hunger – After the first couple days, juice cleanses typically leave people feeling very hungry due to the low fiber and protein content.
- Headaches – Low calorie, low protein intake can cause headaches in some people.
- Fatigue – The dramatic calorie deficit may lead to tiredness and low energy.
- Loss of lean muscle – Extended juice fasts often cause lean muscle breakdown, as the body burns muscle along with fat for fuel.
Furthermore, any weight lost during a juice cleanse is often quickly regained once you resume your normal diet. So the weight loss effects may be temporary.
Tips for safe and effective juice cleansing
If you do decide to try a juice cleanse, here are some tips to maximize safety and effectiveness:
- Keep it short – Stick to 3-5 days max.
- Include protein – Add plant-based protein powders or nuts/seeds to some juices.
- Eat light – Have small snacks like raw veggies to support your energy.
- Supplement – Take a multivitamin and other supplements to prevent deficiencies.
- Listen to your body – Stop if you feel faint, fatigued, or unwell.
- See a dietitian – Get personalized advice to meet your nutrient needs.
Healthier weight loss alternatives to juice cleanses
While juice cleanses may lead to short-term weight loss, you may lose more lean muscle than fat. There are also healthier, more sustainable ways to reach a calorie deficit and lose weight. Here are some options:
Intermittent fasting involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting, such as 16:8 or 5:2 patterns. This approach allows you to consume nutrient-dense meals while achieving a calorie deficit.
Consuming a calorie-controlled, nutritious diet with lean protein, produce, whole grains, healthy fats and low-fat dairy can promote gradual fat loss without deprivation.
Eating slowly, minimizing distractions, paying attention to hunger cues, and filling half your plate with veggies can all help reduce calorie intake and manage weight.
Starting or increasing your cardio and strength training workouts provides a healthy calorie burn while building metabolism-boosting lean muscle.
Should you try a juice cleanse?
Based on the evidence, juice cleanses can potentially lead to short-term weight loss. However, the majority of weight lost appears to be temporary water weight and lean muscle rather than fat.
For lasting weight loss and health benefits, you’re likely better off eating a diet rich in whole foods, nutrients, and fiber paired with regular exercise. But an occasional short juice cleanse is unlikely to be harmful for most healthy individuals. As with any diet, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider, especially if you have any medical conditions.
The bottom line
Here’s a quick summary of whether juice cleanses can lead to weight loss:
- Juice cleanses typically provide a very low calorie intake, which can create a calorie deficit and temporary weight loss.
- However, much of the initial weight lost is water weight. Healthier, lasting fat loss requires long-term diet and lifestyle changes.
- Juice cleanses come with potential downsides including hunger, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, and loss of lean muscle mass.
- For lasting weight loss and health, focus on developing sustainable, healthy eating habits paired with regular physical activity.