Juice fasts are becoming more popular as a way to “cleanse” the body and reset physiological processes that have been riddled with pollutants, toxins, and food that’s laced with preservatives.
But of course they make a lot of people squeamish. Will I get hungry? Will I be glued to the toilet? What groceries should I buy?
Let this guide give you a brief rundown of all the major points you need to consider before trying one.
Reasons To Do It
Many people go on a juice fast hoping that it will be a quick fix to their weight and health problems. This is not a good idea. Instead, it’s best to think of juicing as a “gateway drug” to better health and eating clean.
A juice fast all by itself is a bit of a challenge, and frankly, too expensive to make it a one-time event.
Instead think of it as a lifestyle “jolt” that will give you a quick glimpse to the benefits of eating green. Many people note how they have increased energy and vitality after juicing, and doing it consistently for 2-3 days will whet your appetite for the energized feeling that comes with better health and a good diet.
What You Eat
The “juice” you drink on a juice fast isn’t the kind you buy in the store. It’s made with a juicer that compresses fresh fruits and vegetables and extracts the pulp. Most juice fasts consist only of drinking this type of juice and nothing else.
Depending on the length of your fast and your activity levels an occasional meal may be necessary, but it’s important to keep these foods “clean” and unprocessed.
How Long to Fast
The length of people’s juice fasts can vary widely, anywhere from 2-60 days. However, for a newcomer, it’s most definitely a good idea to start small. Juice fasts can be fairly intense, and lifestyle circumstances can make longer ones all but impossible. Completely breaking your fast is worse than going on a small one successfully, so as a rule of thumb a 2-3 day fast is a good stepping point.
Beyond 7 days isn’t a particularly good idea. While the benefits of a juice fast can be remarkable, they can have certain deficiencies when practiced for a prolonged amount of time.
For most people a Friday-Saturday-Sunday fast is a good place to start. The short period of time will allow you to “break in” to the diet, and the weekend will give you ample free time and a flexible schedule. Juicing is extremely healthy, but also a very labor intensive way of eating, so a flexible schedule is usually key.
The only equipment you really need is a juicer. Here the selection has become much more varied over the last 5 years. At the low end are juicers such as the Black & Decker JE2200B or Hamilton Beach brands, and higher end models are made by companies like Breville and Omega.
If you plan on making juicing a part of your daily routine (a good idea), I’d recommend going with a higher end juicer. If you only plan on doing it for the fast, then going with a less expensive option is okay. But be aware that smaller juicers are not designed for intense juicing and may be wheezing by the end of the week due to heavy use.
A surprising benefit of a juice fast is that grocery shopping actually becomes quite simple! Just buy produce!
The produce that juices the best are fruits and vegetables that are hard and have a high water content. These include but are not limited to: carrots, apples, celery, beets, ginger, oranges, lemons, and leafy greens. Soft foods like bananas and avocados don’t contain much water.
As a rule though, it’s okay to experiment. Berries, herbs, and vegetables of most types can be juiced, and often unusual concoctions will taste surprisingly good.
I firmly believe that a little bit of curiosity and experimentation will get you as far as you need to go for 2-3 days. However, if you feel a little bit intimidated by the wide variety of food to choose from, there are plenty of juicing books to choose from which will help guide you to making tasty concoctions.
Understandably the most common question about a juice fast is “how will it make me feel?”
Over the long run, juice fasts will almost certainly help you feel better and more vital. Over the short run the results can be a little bit more varied. Depending on where your body is when you start the results can range from highly energized to slightly sick and bed ridden. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to only do it for a few days at a time and over the weekend.
However, there are a few good rules of thumb to make your fast as comfortable as possible:
- Drink lots of water
- Keep your calories up
- Don’t go overboard with physical activity (moderate activity is fine)
A juice fast is much more work than regular eating. Juicing takes a while, and juicing enough to sustain you for an entire day. A good practice is to juice as much you can in the beginning of the day. Ideally a small or medium sized pitcher. This will take a while. Probably an hour or so, and you will probably have to do a little more in the evening as well.
For most people the biggest challenge on a juice fast is keeping your calories up to avoid hunger and fatigue. This will mean anywhere from 9-12 cups of juice a day.
This is a lot of produce, and you should be prepared to go to the grocery store every day or every other day. To save on food costs make apples and carrots the base of your juices. They’re fairly cheap and give you a lot of juice.
If you go on a fast longer than 3 days it’s best to supplement your fast with a condensed greens powder. They’ll help fill in some of the missing gaps in your diet and provide additional nutrients you might not typically get during a prolonged fast. Popular brands include Vitamineral Green, Green Vibrance, Incredible Greens, and Macro Greens.