With the holiday season still fresh in our memories, many of us had a great time celebrating, including plenty of party food and drinks, with our family and friends. But now that the holiday fun is over, it’s a good idea to get your eating and healthy lifestyle back on track. Perhaps you even gained a few pounds over the holidays and are considering weight loss detox. But do detox drinks really work?
Among the many weight loss and new year’s resolutions, detox drinks, weight loss cleanses and nutritional cleansing are certainly popular around this time of year. They claim to flush toxins out of your body and cleanse your system. They also promise rapid weight loss, improvements in digestion, increased energy and other amazing results (including improved brain function). But do they actually work? And can a weight loss detox actually detox your body? Let’s have a closer look.
The word “detox” means “to abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.” Detox diets involve following a very strict dietary regimen, often with fasting, only veggies or the elimination of entire food groups. This could also mean no alcohol or coffee along with the addition of detox drinks and expensive supplements or herbs. The end goal is to detoxify the body by removing toxic substances.
Some people do report losing weight and feeling more energetic and mentally alert when consuming detox drinks or doing a weight loss detox. However, the whole idea that our body’s need to be detoxed is flawed, and there is surprisingly little scientific evidence that detox drinks actually work! Let me explain why.
The Detox Myth
The notion that our bodies need to be cleansed of toxins by detox diets and detox drinks is simply not accurate. Our bodies have many in-built systems, organs and processes that naturally eliminate “toxins” on a daily basis. Our liver, kidneys, immune system and gut do this job for us every single day. They effectively make toxic substances (like alcohol, medications, environmental toxins and bacteria) harmless, converting them into products that can be released from our body through urine, faeces/feces and sweat. As such, detox diets and detox drinks are usually not necessary (at least for their stated purpose) and more or less ineffective.
So why do people claim to lose weight when following a weight loss detox and drinking detox drinks? It’s mostly due to the fact that they are fasting or reducing their carbohydrate and overall calorie intake.
When you restrict your carbohydrate intake, you lose water weight. Once carbohydrates are stored in your body as glycogen, they hold onto water in your muscles. When you eliminate carbohydrates, you lose water along with it, resulting in water weight loss. This will also cause you to feel weak, headachy, dizzy, tired and lethargic. Detox diets might claim that this is your body detoxing itself and getting rid of toxins. However, it is simply a result of you not consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your brain and muscles. And because your body requires carbohydrates to live, eliminating them is not sustainable. So as soon as you stop drinking the detox drinks and re-introduce carbohydrates into your eating, you will put the weight you lost back on (or possibly even more weight).
What Should You Do Instead of Detoxing?
The key to feeling more energised/energized and losing weight is not a detox drink, nutritional cleanse or weight loss detox but rather a plan that you can maintain long-term to include plenty of healthy nutritious foods each day, lots of water, exercise, sleep and the avoidance or reduction of toxins like alcohol and cigarettes. Consuming foods that support a healthy gut is important too. This will help nourish and support the organs that are involved in eliminating toxins from your body by allowing them to do their job effectively.
Here are some ideas you can incorporate:
1. Reduce the toxins going into your body
This includes alcohol, tobacco, exposure to environmental toxins and highly processed foods. This will place less strain on your organs that are working to detox your body naturally.
2. Eat lots of plant foods
Base your diet around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If your diet is based primarily around plant foods, this will automatically reduce your intake of highly processed foods full of saturated and trans fats, refined sugars, salt and additives. High fat foods place stress on your liver, while high salt foods place stress on your kidneys. Additionally, high sugar foods place stress on your pancreas, as more insulin needs to be produced. Plant foods are also rich in fibre/fiber and prebiotics, which aid your body in naturally eliminating toxins, are also needed to keep your gut healthy. If you want to learn more about plant based eating and its benefits, you can download our free ebook on The Beginner’s Guide to Losing Weight with a Plant-Based Diet.
3. Drink more water
Water should be your primary choice of drink. Your kidneys and other detoxing organs need water to work in effectively flushing the toxins from your body. Aim for at least two liters (or approximately eight cups) of water per day. If you work out regularly, live in a hot climate or are breastfeeding, this number should be even higher. You can also tell if you are drinking enough water by the color of your urine: if it’s bright yellow, you are dehydrated and need to drink more; on the other hand, if it’s pale yellow or clear, you are adequately hydrated and drinking enough water. Staying hydrated will also help you feel alert, energized and awake.
4. Don’t eliminate carbs, choose healthy ones instead
Instead of cutting out carbohydrates all together, choose to eat healthy carbohydrate foods in place of highly refined processed ones like cakes, biscuits, white bread and refined cereals. Foods with healthy carbohydrates include legumes like lentils or beans and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats or buckwheat. Other crops like fruit, potato or sweet potato are also great choices. These healthy carbs will provide your body and organs with energy to work and keep you feeling energised/energized. Choosing to eat these carbohydrate foods will also help manage sugar cravings when you get them.
5. Include lean protein and healthy fats
Both protein and fats are important for making you feel satiated and for aiding weight loss. Healthy sources of protein that are great for weight loss due to their fibre/fiber content include lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and tofu. Good sources of fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil and oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines. Instead of following a strict detox diet, you could try these 6 Vegetable Smoothie Recipes that are high in protein to add some healthy protein, fats and nutrients into your day in a balanced (and tasty!) way.
If you do try a weight loss detox diet and find it makes you start eating better or helps you lose weight, then that’s great! You can then take some of the dietary changes you have made like eating more green vegetables, reducing your refined sugar intake, drinking more water and cutting out alcohol and continue these long-term. But the important thing to remember is that if you actually want to improve your health, you will need to make dietary and lifestyle changes that go beyond the few days or weeks of a detox program; these need to be long-term, sustainable and healthy changes.
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