Lose Fat

The Skinny on Cleanses and Detox Diets

Time, effort, money. Are cleanses worth any of these things? What is the truth behind this growing health and fitness trend?

David Sandler, MS, CSCSD thumbnail by MS, CSCS*D
Diet - empty plate

In a health and fitness trend that crosses gender lines, athletes looking for quick weight loss are increasingly turning to cleanses and detox diets. These rituals are highly touted by big (and small) name celebrity endorsers and espoused by experts claiming to have found the ultimate solution for slimming down. But how much is fact and how much is fiction?

Putting it right up front, these trends are simply another way to leach money out of your wallet. While there may be some merit to simply avoiding some foods to clean out the bowels and other organs, you will, without fail, rob your body of vital nutrients, especially if done for a prolonged period of time. And for hard-training athletes who already have to fight to keep nutrient levels balanced, this is a dangerous and unnecessary step.

The diets “work” – i.e. provide some weight loss – simply because of the severe caloric restriction that is usually called for. Unfortunately, that weight loss will no doubt be an unfriendly mix of muscle, possibly a little fat and the excess water your body is storing at any given time.

Severely restricting your calories can be more damaging than the so-called toxins these gimmicks claim to cleanse because they change the body’s cellular process and leaving the body looking for help. The reset of the body may actually be detrimental in that it will want to store, rather than utilize that food energy when it gets back to normal nutrition.

Also, cleanses and detoxes have very little, if any, legitimate, peer-reviewed scientific research to back up their claims, so the mechanisms and outcomes are largely unknown.

If it’s a cleanse, what is the actual “cleaner” and how does it actually work? Is it “working” because your calories are so limited? Is it really attacking grime and build-up like a chemical you use on bathroom tiles? Doubtful.

On that same note, the evidence is shoddy at best that toxins even exist in the way they are claimed. Sure there are toxins in general but do these so-called toxins really do any damage to the body? Again, you’d be hard-pressed to find any research to support that notion.

Those who practice cleanses or detoxes are essentially applying non-evidenced-based information – not treating an actual physiological known ailment.

In the absence of known digestive issues or physical maladies, it’s safer to assume that your intestines and colon are functioning normally, processing food for energy and excreting what is not needed.

Change Your Eating Habits

If you’ve eaten poorly for some time, it’s natural to want to flush it all out. But that’s what your body does, in a very efficient manner. A more prudent approach would be to simply eat cleaner. Take in more vegetables and fruits and clean sources of protein.

If you are really insistent on grabbing on to a trend, there are plenty of more heavily researched diets like the Mediterranean Diet (to name one) exist that are really about cleaner eating altogether.

Cleanses – which are unpleasant to begin with – or detox diets are a fad not worth following. Do yourself a favor and take a good look at your diet. Then stop for a moment and think how you can change it. Then get exercising if you are not, as that without doubt, and backed by solid evidence, supports better, cleaner body function.

 

David Sandler, MS, CISSN, CSCS*D, RSCC*D, HFD, HFI, FNSCA, FISSN has been a consultant, educator, researcher, and strength and conditioning coach for the past 25 years. He is the Director of Science and Education for iSatori and the President of StrengthPro, a training and nutrition consulting group. 

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