One of the more common questions I get as a dietitian is about fasting. Forgoing food for several days or a week seems to be a popular choice for many with hopes of detoxing, losing weight or somehow finding a more energetic version of themselves. My typical response is rather cautionary, so I was intrigued when I was offered a free 3-day juice cleanse from Suja after attending the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC). I figured this was my chance. Even though it wasn’t very scientific, since I’m only a sample size of one, I thought I could speak more accurately about the whole process if I put myself through the paces.
So, I ordered my Suja juice and waited. Since they’re fresh, the company wants to get them into your hands as quickly as possible, so they were delivered 2 days later. The poor Fed Ex guy had to carry the 35 lb. box up three flights and I think we were both kind of shocked at the size and heft of the cardboard and Styrofoam necessary for 18 bottles of juice and their requisite ice packs.
The directions outlined a plan of 6 bottles per day, in a prescribed order. The way my schedule worked out, I drank 16 ounces (1 bottle) at 6:00 am, 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Full disclosure here: I did stray a bit. The bottles were delivered on a chilly day in October and I found myself craving warmth. So I added green tea in the morning, and on the third day I added 8 ounces of soymilk to boost my protein intake.
A nutrition assessment of the daily intake is what gives me pause. If I followed their plan as recommended, it would provide 1100 calories, 12 g protein, 9 g fat (exclusively from Vanilla Cloud), and 232 g carbohydrate. According to the personalized My Plan on the USDA website for my age, activity level, etc. my daily targets are 1800 calories, 46 g protein, 40-70 g fat, and 200-300 g carbohydrate. It just doesn’t measure up for anything but carbs. I’d say my tea’s contribution was negligible but the soymilk on day 3 did bring my totals up a bit.
From a metabolism standpoint, it’s my understanding that reducing calorie intake too much can actually backfire. If the deficit is big enough and lasts long enough, your body responds by getting more efficient: it will adapt and learn to get by on less. Essentially, that means your basal metabolic rate slows down…which is sort of the last thing anybody wants who’s trying to manage their weight. Most of us wish for a faster metabolism so we can eat more calories without gaining weight, not less, so fasting seems like a step in the wrong direction. What the effects are over the short-term (like 3 days) I’m not sure, and the impact would likely vary depending on the individual and the type of fast.
My other concern has to do simply with nutrient intake. As absolutely fantastic as vegetables and fruits are, they are but two food groups, meaning they do not provide all necessary nutrients to the human body. While falling short of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for a couple of days won’t have significant health consequences, I’m hesitant to try it for much longer.
But enough of this long-winded nutrition lecture. Let’s look at the simple pros and cons of my Suja experience:
- With a minimum of 96 ounces, I feel sure I met my fluid goals for the day.
- The juices are certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan, kosher, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.
- I loved the convenience of not having to meal plan, shop or cook. That was a real time-saver.
- I met my recommended intake for fruits and veggies and then some. My target is 4 cups total, and I easily surpassed that with 10.
- I’m pretty sure the antioxidant levels in my blood have never been higher. I was pouring in a nonstop rainbow of protective pigments.
- The cleanse is low sodium.
- The juices did a bang-up job providing the easily-trackable vitamins and minerals listed on the nutrition facts label: almost 800% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, 78% DV for calcium, and 710% DV for vitamin C.
- Unlike some other bloggers have noted, I had no “detox” headache. It may be because I already consume very little alcohol, processed foods, salt, and refined sugar, which they recommended weaning yourself off from before the fast.
- There were no noticeable health effects except that my sense of smell was heightened, which was a little freaky. It kind of felt like a food-related superpower.
- One of the drawbacks of juicing is that fiber content from the plants isn’t preserved. This was evident with only 2 grams for the whole day when my goal was 25 g.
- The daily total for iron intake was a mere 16% DV.
- There’s not a lot of science to support the idea of fasting or the process of detoxing, so I’m not sure cleanses are necessary or that they offer any lasting health benefits.
- I wouldn’t be able to do this in real life with a cost of $162 for the 3-day supply.
A Little of Both:
- I love and hate the packaging. It’s beautiful and colorful and wonderful to look at and as a label aficionado I was thrilled to read every inch of the bottles. But the whole project put a lot of empty plastic into my recycling bin. It makes me wonder what the comparison would be with waste from preparing regular meals…
- Because weight loss is often a claim made by supporters of fasting, I thought it would be interesting to track my progress. I started the fast at 133.6 lbs. Friday morning. I was 131.8 on Saturday, 130.4 on Sunday and 131.2 on Monday. Any weight I did lose was unlikely fat loss. The overall loss wasn’t too significant, and also not surprising considering I was 700 below my target calorie intake. Once I went back to eating normally, I popped right back up to 133.
- The Vanilla Cloud contains honey, so wouldn’t be acceptable to many vegans. But, they’ll happily substitute another juice in its place.
Now let’s talk about what really matters. If this is supposed to be your sole source of nourishment for 72 hours, then taste is a pretty significant part of sticking with it. By far Vanilla Cloud was my favorite. It was the one Suja juice product I’d had before and what got me excited about their stuff in the first place. The creamy almond and coconut flavor really reminded of me horchata (and actually inspired this recipe). According to the recommending drinking schedule, it was the last guzzle of the day and it really did feel like dessert. The Green Supreme made me very happy because it tasted like fresh apple cider, but I was a bit turned off by the overwhelming celery flavor of Purify and the ginger in Fiji.
Here’s the official tasty breakdown in order of yumminess:
1. Vanilla Cloud: 1/2 a coconut’s meat, a spoonful of honey, 12 almonds, a teaspoon of acerola cherry, and a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and camu camu (a fruit from the Amazon)
2. Fuel: 9 carrots, 1 orange, 1 apple, a slice of pineapple, 1/2 a lemon, and an inch of turmeric
3. Green Supreme: 5 apples, 1 bunch of kale, and 1/2 a lemon
4. Glow: 2 apples, 6 celery stalks, 1/2 a cucumber, handful of spinach, 3 collard leaves, 3 kale leaves, and a sprig of mint
5. Purify: 7 carrots, 1 apple, 2 celery stalks, 1/4 of a cucumber, 1/2 a beet, and 1/2 a lemon
6. Fiji: 2 apples, 6 celery stalks, 1/2 of a cucumber, handful of spinach, 3 collard greens, 3 kale leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a hint of ginger
So, overall my experience was a good one and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have tried something new. I enjoyed the juices and I commend Suja on using extremely healthful ingredients and offering beverages that are far superior to soda and energy drinks. I’m still not sold on the advantages of fasting, so until I see some strong science that supports solely sipping my day away, I’ll stick with a sensible balance of food and drink that’s heavy on the vegetables and fruit, with a Vanilla Cloud slipped in here and there for a creamy almond and coconut indulgence.
What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of fasting?
Disclaimer: The products mentioned here were given as free samples to conference attendees but I don’t have any relationship with the company and didn’t receive any monetary compensation for this post. However, I am mentioning IFBC to take advantage of a discounted registration fee for the conference.