I Did a 3-Day Juice Cleanse—Here’s What Happened
There's controversy around "detoxes," even though potential benefits exist. A reporter comes clean about her three-day juice cleanse experience after speaking with health professionals about the effects she observed.
My mother is one of those people who can moderate and eat one cookie, but I inherited my sweet tooth from my grandmother. Once I get a taste of sugar, it can be hard to stop the cravings. The start of a new year usually finds me over-sugared, over-caffeinated and needing a reset with some very clear guidelines.
My goal of the juice cleanse wasn’t weight loss, but my yoga pants had started to feel a little snug and my habits had gotten out of hand. I also knew from previous experience that some great shifts can happen during a cleanse, and I wanted those feelings again. I tried a three-day juice cleanse. Here’s what happened.
How I prepared to do a juice cleanse
Doing a juice cleanse in winter can be challenging if you live in the North, as I do. Grocery produce can be iffy, while local produce is non-existent for many months of the year. When I can stock up on fresh, local fruits and veggies, I’m a big fan of my Hurom Slow Juicer, but for this cleanse I decided to leave the juicing to the pros.
I stocked up on fruit and vegetable juices, along with some “heartier” plant-based, protein-rich shakes that contained fats and other nutrients you can’t get from pure juice. I also suspected a winter cleanse might have me craving formulas with protein and fiber to help me feel full.
My juice-cleanse goals
“Yoga pants lie,” says Errick McAdams, CPT, a Washington D.C.-based personal trainer, “but jeans don’t.” Again, my primary goal of this cleanse wasn’t to lose weight—I don’t even own a scale or full-length mirror—but with my stretchy clothes feeling a little constrictive, that was the sign I needed to get things back in balance.
That said, my primary goals for doing a three-day juice cleanse were to reset my relationships with sugar and coffee, and I was confident that would create a space for me to experience other benefits.
I slept better
My first day without coffee, I struggled a little bit, but I drank a Remedy Organics matcha shake. While the green tea in it kept the dreaded “caffeine withdrawal headache” at bay, it didn’t keep me awake, which was more than great. The first night of the cleanse, I fell asleep quickly, and—even better—I stayed asleep.
Many modern-day factors disrupt our sleep, and one of those is how hard our bodies have to work to digest the typical American diet. “When you do a juice cleanse, toxins get flushed out of your body while real nutrients pour in,” explains Lisa Testa, MS, an in-house holistic nutritionist with Raw Generation. “These nutrients are in a super easy-to-digest form because they are juiced. Only a small amount of digestive activity is required, thus giving your digestive system a break. This break, along with the lack of sugars and chemicals, is why a cleanse improves the quality and quantity of your sleep.”
I felt energized
Giving the body a break from digesting the typical American diet and flooding it with nutrient-dense juices is extremely energizing, and you might think you’re missing something, but when your nutritional needs are met, it’s amazing how good you feel. “Eating foods rich in nutrient density helps our body work optimally, keeps us satiated, energized and protects our immune system,” explains Cindy Kasindorf, certified nutritional health coach and founder of Remedy Organics.
I experienced mental clarity
Along with the energy came terrific mental clarity, but it wasn’t just feeling mentally sharp. I had a shifted perspective on some things that had been bugging me, and I also noticed increased patience and tolerance. This could have been from the improved sleep, but that’s not all.
When you cleanse, Kasindorf explained, “you supply your body with essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—and you also eliminate inflammatory foods, which cause brain fog.”
I didn’t feel hungry
If you haven’t done a juice cleanse, it’s hard to believe that while you feel a little hungry in the first day or two, feeling famished goes away by the third day. There’s a chemical reason this happens. “When you’re eating normal food, it is full of excitotoxins, which are added to most processed foods to cause our taste buds to expand to an unnatural size, thus increasing the flavor experience with a food,” Testa explains. “These excitotoxins serve to ruin the flavors of natural foods for most people, making it difficult to prefer an apple over an Oreo.”
I love apples. And I love Oreos. I technically prefer whole foods over “junk food,” but I can also eat an embarrassing number of Oreos in a sitting. “Along with the addiction that accompanies refined sugar intake, excitotoxins are a main reason why people have intense cravings that cannot be easily satiated,” Testa says. “The ‘hunger’ you feel during the beginning of a cleanse is your body missing those addictive substances, but after two days of being provided real, easily absorbable nutrition, your body starts to realize that it is no longer nutritionally deficient.”
I got myself together
Using prepared juices and smoothies helped me balance my nutrition. Leaving the juice prep to the pros also helped me balance my days.
I used this period of reset to sort through my closets and get rid of items I don’t wear. I spent more time taking leisurely walks in the woods and sitting on my meditation cushion. I didn’t worry about strength training, but I focused on stretching.
I’m always big on self-care, but that commitment increased when I did this cleanse. I took long baths, used body scrubs and face masks, and was happily reminded that the better I take care of myself, the better I want to take care of myself.
At the end of my cleanse, one of the best gifts I gave myself was easing back into regular food. I spent another two days sipping chicken bone broth to break the fast. I had frozen packets of pasture-raised chicken bone broth from REP Provisions delivered frozen straight to my door. The Healthy @Reader’s Digest’s Medical Review Board co-chair Latoya Julce RN, BSN says easing your body and your metabolism back into eating regular foods is super important. “After cleansing, giving the body easy and digestible foods is ideal in order to avoid constipation and an upset stomach,” she explains.
After three days on a juice cleanse, I’ll tell you the honest truth: I’m reaching for an apple, not a cookie. My skin is glowing—even in January—and I want to keep it if I can.