Using a juice cleanse to slim down for a big event? Here's a better alternative.


Juice cleanses claim to help you lose weight fast, so it's no wonder they've become so popular with summer vacationers and others who want to slim down for a special event coming soon. But the cold-pressed truth, says a UCLA dietitian, is that a juice cleanse – sometimes referred to as juicing – probably isn't the quick-fix for which you're looking.

"I would not recommend juicing if someone wants to lose fat from their body and keep it off,” says Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "Juicing may be effective for a quick loss of water weight, or bloat. But you'll likely also lose muscle, which is the powerhouse calorie-burner of the body."

During a juice cleanse, a person consumes much less sodium than they likely would from food. Because sodium retains water in the body, a loss of sodium in the diet means your body won't carry as much water.

But losing water is different from losing fat. And if you're juicing for days at a time and not getting enough protein and other nutrients, you can also lose muscle – resulting in a lower number on the scale, to be sure, but likely not due to fat loss.

Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

"When most people say they want to slim down or get in shape for the summer, they typically mean they want to shed fat and look toned," says Hunnes. "Losing muscle won't get you there – not to mention it'll cause your metabolism to slow down."

So, what can you do if you have a vacation coming up in a couple weeks?

Exercise using high-intensity interval training and switch to a plant-based, whole foods diet, says Hunnes. This means eliminating processed foods, foods with a lot of salt, and foods with added sugars.

"I recommend a holistic plan of increasing exercise intensity and switching to a diet high in fiber and low in sodium that can sustain your workouts, energy level, and lean muscle mass."

It's important to keep to a well-rounded diet even when – and especially when – you're trying to shed fat. Hunnes notes that we need a wide variety of foods – including whole grains, legumes, and fats from healthy sources – for a sustainable diet that provides essential nutrients and preserves muscle.

With an all-juice diet, Hunnes says, you’re missing out on a myriad of other extremely beneficial and much needed sources of nutrients.

But if you just can't keep yourself away from the idea of juicing, doing so in moderation can potentially have health benefits under certain circumstances, says Hunnes.

"If a person isn't getting enough fruits and vegetables from their normal diet, having a juice as a replacement for one meal or as a supplement to a diet can help give you those nutrients. Still, you're better off eating the sorts of ingredients made into juices, rather than drinking them."