Skip the Juice Cleanse (and Consider One of These 3 Programs Instead)

If you’ve ever attempted a juice cleanse, you know it’s one of those ideas that might sound nice in theory, but is actually terrible in practice. 

“My husband and I decided to do our first-ever three-day juice cleanse together — we lasted eight hours and then ate a whole pizza,” Tori Gregson, a Barre3 instructor who also moonlights as a Radio City Rockette, tells Yahoo Health.

But it’s not lack of willpower that led Gregson and her beau to snarf down that pizza, experts say: it’s the fact that many popular juicing programs set the body up for failure. By alternately dropping and skyrocketing blood sugar levels and launching the metabolism into starvation mode, some cleanses can lead you to crave exactly the type of foods you’re trying to eliminate, doing more harm than good. (To clarify: We are referring to ingesting only juice for multiple days, and not to that single, occasional green juice you may grab with breakfast or after your workout for a pick-me-up.)

When consumed without other foods that contain protein, fruit juice and veggies that contain higher amounts of sugar (like carrots) will combine into a big sugar dump into your bloodstream, nutritionist Denise Garbinski, RDN, who specializes in plant-based nutritional therapy, explains to Yahoo Health. The roller coaster can result in headaches, severe cravings, and brain-fog-inducing slumps. “If you continue to drink juice for a few days, your body will begin to break down muscle to get the amino acids it needs,” Garbinski adds — which means that you’ll be losing muscle, and not the fat that is likely your goal to trim.

While you may lose some body fat while juicing, consuming calories below your metabolic needs will also cause your body to hold on to whatever calories and fat it can for self-preservation. Any pounds you’ve shed will quickly come back on once you go back to eating normally again, warns Garbinski. “Sustained weight loss comes from adopting a sensible whole-foods meal plan, combined with fitness, stress management, and improved sleep,” she recommends.

Related: 27 Foods Nutritionists Are Obsessed With

If you still want to join a cleansing program because you like the idea of regimen and not having to think about what you should eat, Garbinski recommends looking to programs that incorporate whole foods (and the delightful pastime of chewing) to help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day and give the body the nourishment it needs. 

However, don’t head into any cleanse with the mindset that this is temporary; Garbinski says that will only set you up for failure and fleeting results. Screen programs by keeping in mind what is realistic for you in order to adopt longer-term habits, so you can experience real, lasting results.

Here are three approaches that incorporate whole foods with long-term results in mind.

Barre3 Challenges

Chicken tikka masala, one of the meals you can prepare using the Barre3 menu plan. (Photo courtesy of Barre3)

Combining elements of ballet barre, yoga, Pilates, and cardio strength, Barre3 has over 90 studios in the USA, and also offers streaming workouts at home. As part of the brand’s “reset” challenges — including the January challenge currently running — these programs incorporate detailed cleanse menus and workouts curated by nutritionists and fitness experts. The menu and shopping lists that guide shopping on your own emphasize a balance of whole foods, fiber from vegetables and some fruit, protein from legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and coconut butter. 

“Our goal is to show people that you can cleanse your body and find great joy in food,” says founder Sadie Lincoln. Expect a satisfying smoothie for breakfast, a hearty soup or salad for lunch, and a flavor-packed dinner that includes protein and veggies, as well as energy-boosting snacks. “I personally test these recipes with my whole family, including picky 10- and 11-year-olds! I don’t want cooking to be a drag — you can prep a big batch and enjoy it for multiple meals if you need to,” adds Lincoln.

Price: Budget-friendly; monthly membership ranges from $10-$15 per month and gives you access to a full menu plan, accompanying workouts, affordable shopping lists ,and a digital community of other members; you must purchase your own groceries.

Related: 16 Healthy Eating Rules You Should Always Follow

DL revAMP

(Photo courtesy of DL revAMP)

This do-it-all-for-you, USDA-certified-organic company provides everything you need for a plant-based diet revamp. It’s free of the most amount of potential allergens of any cleanse we encountered, and the menu is vegan and contains no nuts, gluten, dairy, wheat, grains, onion, garlic or nightshade plants. With tasty salads, energizing snacks (the raw cacao truffles are to die for!), super fresh juices, and juice power shots, this is a program that’s both doable and engaging to follow. Even the creamy dinner soups were surprisingly satisfying, considering they are “liquid” food.

“People are looking for a way to cleanse other than juice or shake programs that leave you feeling cranky and hungry,” explains founder Scott Harris. “I saw a void in the market and wanted to solve the problem.” The program also comes with instructions that urge a 10 p.m. bedtime and 7 a.m. rise (meant to prevent pesky late-night snack cravings). Bonus: a beauty kit that makes skin glow with goodies like bath salts, a dry skin body brush for lymphatic stimulation, and herbal bedtime tea all come complimentary. 

Price: Moderate for a cleanse of this nature; starts at $125 a day, with three-day, five-day, seven-day, and 10-day plans offered; everything you need is fully prepared and included.

Nykki’s Cleanse

(Photo courtesy of Nykki’s Cleanse)

Popular among beauty and fashion editors, Nykki’s Cleanse is a 14-day program that comes with a personal coach (and unlimited email support) who designs a menu plan customized to your specific goals and challenges. “Most people are caught in the chemical and psychological addictions that have been created by food choices they have made,” founder Nykki Hardin tells Yahoo Health. A proper nutrition regimen “breaks cravings to help them form new concrete habits by retraining the palate to crave healthy foods.”

Your menu is filled with meticulously chosen salads, soups, fruits and veggies, and it’s your job to get the ingredients and cook according to plan so that you truly learn how to create a healthier kitchen. While some people who go on the program report weight loss, even more report increased self-esteem, greater confidence, and positivity due to their forming a healthy relationship with food. Nutritional supplements are a cornerstone of the approach (not the kind marketed for weight loss — rather, to promote gut health, etc.).

Price: Luxury; starts at $425 for a 14-day program that includes supplements, custom meal plan, and shopping lists, over 100 recipes, unlimited email support and coaching.

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