Do you lose fat on a juice cleanse?

Juice cleanses have become increasingly popular as a way to detox, lose weight quickly, and “reset” your diet. Proponents claim that going on a juice cleanse can help you shed pounds and eliminate toxins from your body. But do juice cleanses really help you lose fat? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

What is a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse involves consuming only fresh fruit and vegetable juices for a period of time, usually from 3-7 days. On a typical juice cleanse you would drink anywhere from 6-10 glasses of cold pressed juice per day and eat no solid foods. Juices are made from a variety of fruits and vegetables like kale, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, apple, lemon, ginger, beet, carrot, and more.

Some cleanses also include nut milks, broths, or smoothies in addition to juices. The goal of cleansing is to flood your body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants while eliminating processed foods, dairy, meat, and other common dietary culprits. This is said to give your GI tract a break and allow your body to expel toxins.

Why do people go on juice cleanses?

There are a few main reasons people try juice cleanses:

  • Lose weight quickly – Not eating any solid foods can lead to a dramatic but temporary drop on the scale.
  • Detoxification – By abstaining from certain foods and flooding your body with produce, you can supposedly purge toxins from your system.
  • Improve nutrition – Juice cleanses pack pounds of fruits and veggies into each glass, letting you consume far more produce than you could typically eat.
  • Energize and heal – The nutrients in juices are said to deliver an energy boost and aid digestion.
  • Reset habits – Going on a cleanse may help you break bad eating patterns and inspire healthier food choices going forward.

Many people also cite health issues like bloating, fatigue, skin problems, and bowel irregularity as reasons for trying a juice cleanse.

Do you lose fat on a juice cleanse?

When it comes to fat loss, proponents of juice cleansing claim that going on a juice diet gives your body a chance to burn stored fat for energy while cleansing itself of toxins. They say that drinking juices provides nutrients without calories, so you can nourish your body while creating a calorie deficit that forces fat burning.

But what does the research say about losing fat on a juice cleanse?

Very low calorie diets can lead to fast weight loss

It’s true that subsisting on juices alone generally provides very few calories – often in the realm of 600-1000 per day. Consuming so few calories is considered a very low calorie diet (VLCD).

Studies show that VLCDs can lead to rapid weight loss. In one study, obese subjects lost around 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) per week over 12 weeks on a VLCD providing 700 calories per day from milk, juice, and other liquids (1).

Other studies found that very low calorie plans providing 400-800 calories per day from liquids led to around 22-26 lbs (10-12 kg) of weight loss over 4-12 weeks (2, 3).

So in terms of the numbers on the scale, juice cleanses will generally lead to fast weight loss.

But much of the weight lost is water and lean mass

While juice cleanses can take off pounds quickly, research shows that a large portion of the initial weight lost is water weight, not fat.

In one study where subjects consumed a very low calorie liquid diet, almost half of their total weight loss after 4 weeks came from loss of lean muscle mass and body water (4).

The same holds true in longer term studies of liquid meal replacement plans. In a study lasting 12 months, liquid meal replacements led to 6.4% loss of total body fat and 23% loss of lean mass (5).

Losing water weight and muscle on very low calorie liquid diets is common. Juice cleanses are essentially an extreme form of a liquid diet. Although you may see the number on the scale go down, much of the weight you lose on a juice cleanse will not come from fat.

You may gain back the weight quickly

Weight that’s lost rapidly through severe calorie restriction can often be regained just as quickly once normal eating resumes. This phenomenon is common in cleanses and crash diets.

In a study of people who lost large amounts of weight on VLCDs providing 400-500 calories per day, around 30% of the lost weight was regained in only 2 weeks once normal eating resumed (6).

Other studies show that nearly all weight lost on VLCDs tends to return within 1-5 years (7). This is likely because severe calorie restriction causes your body to adapt and hold onto fat when food intake increases.

If you aren’t focused on making lasting improvements to your diet, you’ll likely gain back whatever weight you lose shortly after ending a juice cleanse.

You may lose some fat, but also precious muscle

Research clearly shows that juice cleanses and other VLCDs lead to inadequate protein intake, resulting in loss of lean muscle mass as well as fat (8). Losing calorie-burning muscle can also slow your metabolism, making it even easier to regain weight later.

So while you can expect to lose some fat on a juice cleanse due to calorie restriction, a large portion of your weight loss will be water and muscle instead of just fat.

Type of Weight Loss Percentage Lost
Water weight 20-50%
Muscle mass 25-30%
Fat 20-40%

Is losing fat on a juice cleanse healthy?

Losing fat rapidly by starving yourself of solid food may lead to fast weight loss at first, but it is not an effective or healthy long-term fat loss strategy. Here are some downsides of trying to lose fat through a juice cleanse:

  • You tend to lose more muscle than fat, which is unhealthy and can slow your metabolism.
  • Without protein from solid foods, you may not feel full or satisfied on a juice cleanse.
  • Nutrient deficiencies can develop over time when eating only juices.
  • Once you resume a normal diet, your body will likely regain much of the weight lost by overstoring fat.
  • Detox claims are not scientifically proven and your body already clears toxins on its own.
  • Dramatically cutting calories can trigger binge eating once the cleanse ends.

For lasting fat loss without muscle loss, most health experts recommend moderate calorie reduction combined with more physical activity and a focus on whole, minimally processed foods.

Tips for healthier, sustainable weight loss

While juice cleanses may lead to rapid but unsustainable weight loss, there are healthier ways to lose fat without jeopardizing your muscle mass and metabolism. Here are some research-backed tips:

  • Aim for no more than 1-2 lbs lost per week by creating a modest daily calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories.
  • Include protein with each meal and snack to help preserve muscle.
  • Engage in strength training 2-3 times per week to build calorie burning muscle.
  • Eat plenty of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
  • Include healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts for satiety.
  • Develop consistent meal timing and activity habits.
  • Weigh yourself weekly rather than daily.
  • Get enough sleep and manage stress.

With patience and consistency, these strategies can lead to sustainable fat loss over time without the risks that come with rapid weight loss from cleanses or crash diets.

The bottom line

While you may lose pounds quickly on a juice cleanse, much of the weight you shed will be water and muscle rather than fat. However, you can expect to lose some fat on a juice cleanse due to the very low calorie intake. Still, most health experts would not recommend an all-juice diet for healthy long-term fat loss, especially since the weight is often regained once normal eating resumes. For sustainable fat loss without sacrificing your muscle mass and metabolism, go with more moderate calorie reduction combined with whole foods, strength training and lifestyle changes.

References

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18379217/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11706547/

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22709704/

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8637062/

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25886933/

6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7598063/

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764193/

8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15806539/

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